Start-Up Visa Program

is Our Specialty

Business Perspective

Canada is without a doubt on a steady path to become an innovation powerhouse. Based on growth, performance, funding, and exit values, Canada is ranked among the best startup ecosystem in the world. In fact, outside of Silicon Valley, Waterloo has the highest startup density of any area in the world. And with a combination of economic freedom, low startup costs, government funding, accessible business tools, and plenty of talent, Canada is one of the best places to launch and/or grow your venture.

Immigration Perspective

The Start-up Visa (SUV) program is an integral part of the overarching policy of bolstering innovation economy in Canada. This program attracts foreign entrepreneurs who can contribute to the new and innovative needs of the Canadian economy, and facilitates their entry and permanent settlement in Canada.

In contrast to the Entrepreneur (EN) Program which the SUV replaced in 2014, the decision on applicant’s qualification in the SUV program is delegated to Designated Organizations rather than immigration officers. If a Designated Organization approves the applicant for the program, it will issue a Letter of Support that will then enable the applicant to apply for and receive Permeant Residency.

In short, SUV will enable up to 5 entrepreneurs and their families to become Canadian Permanent Residents with a single innovative venture. Although the federal program does not specify any requirement other than obtaining a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization and having a Language proficiency level of CLB 5, each Designated Organization has its own criteria for endorsing innovative ventures.

SILAW Start-up Services

Regardless of where you are in your start-up journey, our team will help you bring your venture to Canada, navigate its legal and business landscape, and plan for your permanent settlement. Our perfect blend of legal and business expertise will help you reach your next milestones expeditiously.

If you are an innovator working on an existing venture, among other services we can:

  • Provide you with a complimentary assessment on your venture’s potentials both from an immigration, and business perspective;
  • Advise you on identifying the most suitable Designated Organization;
  • Represent you in negotiations with Designated Organizations on funding and/or service agreement;
  • Help you obtain the Letter of Support from the Designated Organization;
  • Advise you on your venture’s formation and structuring;
  • Prepare all your immigration related applications and submissions to IRCC (SUV work-permit and PR);
  • Advise you on becoming eligible for and receive government funding (SR&ED, IRAP and etc.);

If you are an active investor with the intention and ability of running an innovative business, we can help you identify/acquire or start a new qualified venture that matches your experience, and risk appetite.

Start-Up Visa Program at a glance

Legal Ground Section 98.01 of Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations
Net Worth No minimum net worth required
Investment No minimum investment required
Experience From none to +10 years (depends mainly on Designated Organizations)
Education From none to post-secondary (depends mainly on Designated Organizations)
Language CLB 5
Business Proposal Required (for Designated Organizations)
Ownership in Proposed business Each applicant must hold 10% or more of the voting shares of the venture company
Job Creation Not required
Location Anywhere except Quebec
Scope of Business Depends on Designated Organizations (IT, ICT, IOT, AI, Fintech, Cleantech, Energy, manufacturing, medical and treatment, etc.)
Exploratory Visit Not required
Interview Depends on Designated Organizations (some conduct 3 rounds of interviews)
Path to PR Direct
Processing Time 12-16 months
Performance Agreement Highlights NO Performance Agreement
Remarks – Requires proof of settlement fund for PR application that will range from $13,000 to $30,000 depending on applicant’s family size

– Possibility of obtaining a specific work-permit while waiting for PR decision only for Essential Persons

– Allows up to 5 individuals and their dependent family members to obtain PR with a single business venture

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Designated Organizations?

They are business groups that are approved by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to invest or support foreign start-ups. Their support is the most important condition of eligibility for permanent residency under the SUV program.

There are three categories of Designated Organizations:

Angel Investor

  • Typically angel investors are high net worth individuals or a group of high net worth individuals who invest in start-up companies at early stages, and in exchange of convertible debt or equity. Angel Investors invest their own money that can come from a variety of sources. In Canada Angel Investors must be Accredited Investors as defined by the Securities Commission in their province;
  • Not all Angel Investors in Canada are qualified to participate in the SUV program. Currently there are 9 Angel Investors designated by IRCC and therefore qualified for the SUV program;
  • As a legal requirement, designated Angel Investors must commit to an investment of at least $75,000 in the start-up company they choose to support for the SUV program;

Venture Capital

  • VCs are professionally managed funds designed to invest in high risk high potential start-up companies or other small businesses. As opposed to Angel Investors, VCs often use money entrusted to them for investment and as such their intake procedures are more onerous than Angel Investors. Similar to Angel Investors the VCs take stake in their target companies;
  • Not all VCs in Canada are qualified to participate in the SUV program. Currently there are 23 VCs designated by IRCC and therefore qualified for the SUV program;
  • As a legal requirement, designated Venture Capitals must commit to an investment of at least $200,000 in the start-up company they choose to support for the SUV program;

Business Incubator

  • In contrast to Angel Investors and Venture Capitals, Business Incubators do not usually invest in start-up companies. They however are organizations that help start-up companies grow and succeed. They are often seen as a good path to capital from Angles or VCs. Incubators vary in services they provide to their start-ups. These services can range from workspace and operating resources, management training, advisory and mentorship, access to capital sources, assistance with core business operations and etc. While some Incubators charge for their services, some provide these services either free or very inexpensively;
  • Not all Business Incubators in Canada are qualified to participate in the SUV program. Currently there are 29 Incubators designated by IRCC and therefore qualified for the SUV program;
  • There is no legal requirement for designated Incubators to invest in the start-up company they choose to support for the SUV program;
Which Designated Organization is right for our business?

Every start-up is different and the decision to seek support from a Designated Organization (i.e. Angel, VC or Incubator) requires a multi factored evaluation that identifies, amongst other things: the stage of the start-up company (i.e. formation, validation, or growth), its needs and peculiarities, its growth potential, its field, and its compatibility with the target organization’s portfolio. We can help you make an informed decision about which organizations to approach by providing you with a Complimentary Assessment.

What if our supporting Designated Organization is de-designated?

If this happens before you submit your application to IRCC then your application will be refused if submitted. However, if De-designation happens after you have submitted your application to IRCC, there is a small chance that your application will be approved. It is therefore very important that you conduct your own due diligence about the Designated Organizations that you want to target for support to make sure that their practices are in line with IRCC requirements and regulations and more importantly to avoid a refusal on your application.

Does the business have to be incorporated in its home jurisdiction?

From IRCC’s perspective there is no such requirement. However, some Designated Organizations require that your venture be legally organized and/or incorporated before they support it.

Does the business need to be incorporated in Canada?

Yes. Section 98.06(1)(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) requires that the venture be incorporated in Canada and be structured in a certain way. The regulations also allow for incorporation after the applicant(s) receive PR status. However, you have to bear in mind that some Designated Organizations require Canadian incorporation before they support your venture.

How should the Canadian corporation be structured for qualification under the SUV program?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) requires the Canadian corporation be structured such that:

  • Every applicant holds at least 10% of the voting rights attached to all outstanding shares of the corporation; AND
  • The aggregate ownership of the Applicant(s) and the supporting Designated Organization be more than 50% of the total amount of the voting rights attached to all outstanding shares of the corporation;
What if I only have an idea?

It really depends on the idea. Albeit most of Designated Organizations only support ventures that have passed the ideation phase, there are a few that support ventures still in early stages. If your idea meets the intake criteria of those Designated Organizations then you can get a Letter of Support. We can provide you with a Complimentary Assessment on the qualifications of your idea for the SUV program.

What if I don’t have a start up business or idea?

We can help you establish or acquire qualified start up ventures if you meet certain conditions. Most importantly you need to have the intention and ability of running an innovative business.

In accordance with section 89(b) of Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), we cannot and will not provide these services to individuals whose primary intention for starting/acquiring a start-up is to gain Canadian permanent residency. On the contrary we are proud to provide these services to entrepreneurs who have the legitimate intention of owning and running a high potential business in Canada and live here permanently.

Who are Essential Persons?

An “essential person” is a person among the start-up group who is considered to be essential to the business and who has been identified as such by the Designated Organization providing the letter of support. At least one applicant in the group must be Designated as Essential. Also all group members can be designated as Essential.

Essential Persons are designated as such when there are urgent business reasons for their early entry into Canada (i.e. to start working on the start-up venture). Therefore, these persons are eligible for a work-permit specific to their role at the start-up company and come to Canada before a decision on their PR application is rendered.

If an applicant who is deemed an “essential” person withdraws their application or their application is refused, all applications linked to the same start-up business will be refused.

Do I/We have to move to Canada after getting a Letter of Support?

To the very least the Essential Persons of the business shall come to Canada after getting their letter of support. Regardless of the agreed upon terms between your venture and the supporting organization, your group’s delay in coming to Canada and starting the work can lead to negative inferences drawn about your intentions. This can jeopardize your PR application. Nevertheless, questions of intention and eligibility are complicated and must be assessed on a case by case basis.

What are my responsibilities after getting a Letter of Support?

From a business perspective your responsibilities are to work towards the success of your start-up venture. From an immigration perspective you will need to abide by the terms of your letter of support. Otherwise the designated organization may withdraw its support and report you to IRCC. This will result in the refusal of your PR application.

Does the Letter of Support guarantee permanent residency?

No. If you do not abide by the terms of your letter of support, the Designated Organization will have to report you to IRCC and your application will be refused. Also, if your supporting Designated Organization is de-designated your PR application will most likely be refused.

Is permanent residency conditional on the success of the start-up business?

No. SUV program is designed in light of the realities of the start-up context where the rate of failure is incredibly high. Therefore, the success of your venture is not a factor for your PR eligibility.

What if a member of our start-up group is refused?

If that person was an Essential Person, then every one’s applications will be refused. But if that person was not an Essential Person, other applications can survive and be approved.

How can I retain SILAW for my Business Immigration needs?

It often starts with a Complimentary Business Immigration Assessment that we will conduct for you free of charge. In this process we will evaluate the information you provide to formulate tailored strategies for your needs and expectations. We then will schedule a Complimentary Consultation Session wherein we share the results of the assessment with you and will determine if we are the right fit for each other. If we mutually reach a decision to form a professional relationship, we will send you a retainer agreement and when you accept and sign, we will begin working for you.

What can I expect from the Complimentary Business Immigration Assessment?

There are many different business immigration programs and they are often complicated to navigate, and determine whether they are a good match for your needs. We fill that gap by providing you with an assessment that will analyse your situation against many different business immigration programs to identify the one(s) that best suit your needs and expectations.

The results of this assessment, among other things, will be discussed with you during a scheduled Complimentary Consultation Session.

What can I expect from the Complimentary Consultation Session?

Please note that for our Business Immigration section, no Complimentary Consultation Session is scheduled unless you complete the Business Immigration Assessment Questionnaires.     

Our Complimentary Consultation Session is a half-hour meeting (in-person or remote) with one of our lawyers to discuss the results of your Business Immigration Assessment, your needs and expectations,  and to decide whether we are a good fit for each other. The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that we can actually help you achieve your goals and it is not to address all of your concerns and questions.

There is no obligation on you and no obligation on us to continue our relationship and the complimentary consultation session will not, on its own, form a lawyer-client relationship between you and our firm.

What type of Fee Arrangement can I expect from SILAW?

For all Business Immigration services we will charge you a Flat Fee. In this arrangement we will charge you a single fixed fee for services that we specify in your Retainer Agreement. The fixed (flat) fee is divided into different installments that will be due once certain milestones are met.

Why should I trust SILAW?

There are many reasons. You can read about some of them here or here. Also SILAW Professional Corporation is a licensed corporation by the Law Society of Ontario and as such it is held to its professional and ethical rules of conduct. You can read about these rules here.

But the BEST way to answer this question is to see us in action. For better insights to judge our value, consult as many professionals as you can, then Contact Us and decide for yourself.

Do you guarantee results?

Based on the rules of our governing body (the Law Society of Ontario) we cannot use contingency billing or guarantee results in an immigration matter. But we can, and we do guarantee that we will provide the best possible client service and legal representation.

We will always honestly assess your case (both good and bad) and set realistic expectations during your consultation. We’ll discuss our goals and objectives but no duly licensed attorney can ever guarantee how a case will conclude.

As an alternative to looking for guaranteed results we recommend you look for an attorney who most likely will succeed. Because in immigration matters your life and future is at stake, and getting a refund is little consolation. Mistakes and omissions in this area of law will gravely jeopardize your future chances. Therefore it is very important you choose your representation carefully.

Start Complimentary Business Immigration Assessment now

Please Contact us if you have question

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SILAW Professional Corporation (“SILAWPC”) is an Ontario corporation authorized by the Law Society of Ontario pursuant to Part II of By-Law 7 and section 61.0.1 of the Law Society Act to provide legal services and services ancillary to its legal services.

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