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Start-up Visa

Updated: August 15th, 2023


Reviewed by David Allon

With its robust economy and high quality of life, Canada has always been an attractive destination for entrepreneurs worldwide. Recognizing this, the Canadian government launched a novel initiative to attract and retain the best entrepreneurial talent globally - the Start-Up Visa Canada program. This article delves into the program's specifics, eligibility requirements, and application process.

The Start-Up Visa Canada program is a unique immigration pathway that targets global entrepreneurs with the capabilities and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada. These businesses are expected to create jobs for Canadians, strengthen the country's economy, and position Canada at the forefront of the global innovation race. The program offers many benefits, including business immigration to Canada, a supportive start-up ecosystem, and the opportunity to gain permanent residence.

The Start-Up Visa program is more than just a visa - it is a comprehensive package designed to support entrepreneurs in their journey from concept to commercialization. It provides access to key resources such as mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities, which are crucial for starting a business in Canada, especially for foreigners.

What is the Start-Up Visa Canada?

The Start-Up Visa Canada is an immigration visa that allows foreign entrepreneurs to establish their businesses in Canada. It is part of the broader business immigration to Canada initiative, which aims to attract global talent to contribute to economic growth. The program is unique as it offers permanent residency to successful applicants, which is a major advantage for entrepreneurs looking to establish their roots in the country. It's a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs like you who have the potential to build innovative businesses that can scale internationally.

The Start-Up Visa Canada is not just about starting a business in Canada; it also offers a pathway to buying a business in Canada. This flexibility allows entrepreneurs to choose the best strategy for their business, starting from scratch or building on an existing business. It's an innovative twist to the common narrative of business immigration, making it one of the best ways to buy a business in Canada or establish a new one.

Eligibility Requirements for the Start-Up Visa Program

Before you get too excited about the Start-Up Visa Program, it's essential to understand the eligibility requirements. These requirements ensure that only the most promising entrepreneurs, capable of significantly contributing to Canada's economy, are granted this visa.

Have a Qualifying Business

The first step towards eligibility is to have a qualifying business. A qualifying business for the Start-Up Visa Program means meeting certain conditions set by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The criteria are as follows:

  1. The business must be incorporated in Canada, and the applicant must own at least 10% of the voting rights in the corporation.
  2. The business must pass the ownership test. One or more designated organizations can own no more than 50% of the business.
  3. The applicant from within Canada must actively manage the business.

Get a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization

The following requirement is to obtain a letter of support from a designated organization. A designated organization is a business group approved by the Canadian Government to invest in or support start-ups through the Start-Up Visa Program. These include venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators. You can get a letter of support in four steps:

  1. Research the list of designated organizations and identify one that is a good fit for your business idea.
  2. Prepare a detailed business proposal and submit it to the organization for review.
  3. If the organization finds your business proposal promising, it will provide you with a letter of support.
  4. You ensure the letter of support confirms the commitment, which can be an investment or acceptance into a business incubator program.

Meet the Language Requirements

Language proficiency is another important eligibility requirement for the Start-Up Visa Canada. The Start-Up Visa Program requires applicants to meet the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 5 in English or French. The CLB is a national standard used in Canada for describing, measuring, and recognizing adult and prospective immigrants' language proficiency. You must take a language test such as IELTS or CELPIP approved by IRCC and score the minimum required in each ability.

Bring Sufficient Settlement Funds

You must also demonstrate that you have enough money to support yourself and your dependents after you arrive in Canada. The amount of money you need to bring depends on the size of your family. Here are the current minimum funds required, according to the Government of Canada:

Number of family members Funds required (in CAD)
1 13,757
2 17,127
3 21,055
4 25,564
5 28,994
6 32,700
7 36,407
7+ per family member 3,706

Learn more about settlement funds for Canada.

How to Apply for the Start-Up Visa Program

Applying for the Start-Up Visa Canada program is a multi-step process that involves a fair amount of paperwork and preparation. Here's how to navigate this process:

Step 1: Sign in or Create a Permanent Residence Online Account

The first step is to create an account on the Permanent Residence online application portal. This is where you will submit your application and any supporting documents.

Step 2: Read the Instruction Guide

Read the instruction guide (IMM 5759) before applying. It provides detailed information about the application process, including the fees, forms, and supporting documents you need. You must read this guide carefully before filling out your forms.

Step 3: Fill Out Your Forms

The next step is to fill out your application forms. Ensure that you provide accurate and complete information. This includes personal details, business details, and information about your designated organization. The forms you must fill out are as follows:

  • Generic Application Form for Canada (IMM 0008)
  • Schedule A – Background/Declaration (IMM 5669)
  • Additional Family Information (IMM 5406)
  • Supplementary Information - Your travels (IMM 5562)
  • Document Checklist (IMM 5760)
  • Schedule 13 – Business Immigration Programs – Start Up Business (IMM 0008 SCHEDULE 13)
  • Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union (IMM 5409), if applicable
  • Separation Declaration for Minors Travelling to Canada (IMM 5604), if applicable

One of the ways you can make the application process far easier and maximize your chances of being accepted into the Start-Up visa program is to work with a representative like a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). You must also submit the Use of a Representative (IMM 5476) form if you do. 

Step 4: Submit Your Documents, Biometrics, and Fees

Once your forms are completed, submit your supporting documents and biometrics and pay the application fees.

Biometrics include fingerprints and a photo. Biometrics are used to confirm the applicant's identity, make it more difficult for someone to forge, steal or use their identity, and resolve problems or errors that may happen if the applicant's name, date of birth, and/or place of birth are similar to those of someone else. 

The documents you must submit are as follows: 

  • Travel documents and passports
  • language proficiency test results (no older than two years at the time of application)
  • Letter of Support
  • Birth certificates;
  • Legal documents showing name or date of birth changes (if applicable);
  • Marriage certificate(s), final divorce, or annulment certificate(s). If married more than once, include certificates from each
  • marriage and divorce or annulment you, your spouse, or common-law partner have had;
  • Death certificate for former spouse(s) or common-law partner(s) (if applicable);
  • National IDs, family/household registry/book (if applicable);
  • If you have a common-law partner, complete and include the Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM 5409 – original) and provide evidence that you have cohabited with your partner for at least 12 months, such as:
    • copies of joint bank account statements,
    • copies of leases,
    • utility bills, etc.
  • Children's birth certificates with parents' names on them (if applicable)
  • Adoption papers issued by recognized national authorities showing the legal, approved adoption of adopted dependent children;
  • Proof of full custody for children under the age of 18
  • Police Certificates and Clearances
  • Proof of sufficient settlement funds

Currently, the fees required for a Canadian Start-up visa are as follows: 

Fees CAD
Right of Permanent Residence 515
Your application (without right of permanent residence) 1,625
Include your spouse or partner (without the right of permanent residence) 850
Include a child 230

Step 5: Submit Your Application

After you have completed all the previous steps, you can submit your application. To ensure that your application is not rejected, make sure to complete the following steps before submitting it:

  • Answer all questions.
  • Electronically sign your application by typing your full name on your passport.
  • Include your processing fee receipt.
  • Upload all the supporting documents.

If your application is incomplete, it will be rejected. You will need to correct any errors and resubmit it. One of the best ways to avoid this is to have a certified immigration professional like an RCIC help you prepare and check your application before you submit it.

After You Apply

Once you have submitted your application, several steps follow.

IRCC will assess your application based on the eligibility requirements for the Start-Up Visa Canada program. IRCC will evaluate your application based on factors such as the viability of your business idea, your potential to establish a successful business in Canada, and your ability to contribute to the Canadian economy.

The processing time for the Start-Up Visa Program can vary, but it takes about 12 to 16 months on average. This time frame can change depending on the volume of applications received or your circumstances.

If your application is successful, you will receive a COPR. This official document issued by IRCC signifies you've been granted permanent residence in Canada.

The Start-Up Visa Program is not just about starting a business in Canada; it's about building robust businesses that compete globally, creating jobs for Canadians, and driving economic development. It's a win-win situation for entrepreneurs and Canada, making it an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to start or buy a business in Canada. 

It not only provides an immigration pathway but also offers a supportive ecosystem to help your business thrive. If you have a business idea and the drive to succeed, this program could be your ticket to establishing a successful business and making Canada your new home. While the process may seem complex, with the right guidance and attitude, it's a journey well worth taking.


Starting a business in Canada for foreigners can be a complex process with many questions. Here are answers to three common questions:

What are the Best Business Opportunities in Canada?

Here's a breakdown of Canada's best business opportunities:

What Support is Available for Starting a Business in Canada?

Canada has a vibrant start-up ecosystem with numerous resources available to entrepreneurs. This includes incubators, accelerators, funding opportunities, and mentorship programs.

Can I Buy an Existing Business in Canada?

Yes, the Start-Up Visa Canada program also provides a pathway to buying a business in Canada.

Can I Bring My Family to Canada?

The Start-Up Visa Canada program allows you to bring your spouse and dependent children to Canada. Learn more about moving to Canada with your family

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