Start-Up Visa Pilot program launched on April 1, 2013, as the first pilot program implemented through Ministerial Instructions. The Start-Up Visa is designed to attract innovative foreign entrepreneurs who would contribute to the new and innovation needs of the Canadian economy and facilitate entry of innovative entrepreneurs who would actively pursue business ventures in Canada[1].

While ‘innovation’ has not be explicitly defined in the context of the SUV pilot, the IRCC defines as the creation of a “new or significantly improved products or process and doing business differently”.

As per the Evaluation of the Start-Up Visa (SUV) pilot published by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in 2016 and the latest update there are currently 23 venture capital funds, 9 angel investor groups and 29 business incubators that have been designated to participate in the Start-Up Visa program. These designated organizations are represented by their respective industry associations: the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA), the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO), and the Canadian Acceleration and Business Incubation Association (CABI). These industry associations recommend entities for designation to the Minister and convene peer review panels to assist IRCC visa officers in case determinations[2].

From 2013 to 2016, SUV pilot entrepreneurs received only $3.7M in investment capital from designated organization, and Canada immigration authority has received only 113 applications for permanent residency and 107 of them were admitted over three years under the SUV pilot which indicates 80% success rate. The average processing time was five months.

In June 2016, while there was a requirement for all commitments from business incubators to undergo a peer review, this requirement was removed in June 2016. A peer review is an independent assessment of a commitment by a panel of experts. The Canadian Acceleration and Business Incubation Association (CABI) would be responsible for organizing a peer review panel to evaluate the commitment certificates from the business incubators.

In April 2018, The IRCC introduces some significant changes for processing under SUV that includes (a) a prohibition on charging fees to review a business proposal, (b) amendments to the definition of a qualifying business, (c) the applicant to provide active and ongoing management of the business from within Canada, (d) an essential part of the business operations to be conducted in Canada, (e) substituted evaluation for those cases where the applicant did have a valid commitment at the time they submitted their application and their designated entity was subsequently de-designated.[3]

Based on three years evaluation of the IRCC, successful candidates under SUV are those with age between 25 and 44 years old, they have more post-secondary education, and they have a greater knowledge of English or French. Although having business experience is not explicit criteria under the program, most of admitted SUV immigrants had previous business experience either by operating their own business or working for a business in a managerial or senior role.

Eligibilities and Restrictions

According to IP 13 / OP 27 Start Up Business Class published by the IRCC [4] the SUV program is intended to facilitate processing of permanent resident applications for:

a)      no more than 2750 applications per year;

b)      no more than five persons per business proposal;

c)      persons who intend to reside in a province or territory other than Quebec;

d)      A start-up business must be a new business intended to be operated in Canada and must meet the criteria to have a qualifying business[5];

e)      persons who have the support of a Canadian business entity, in the form of a Commitment Certificate; and get a letter of support from a designated organization;

f)        persons who meet or exceed the minimum language proficiency level CLB 5;

g)      persons who have completed at least one year of post secondary education;

h)      persons who bring enough money to settle and have sufficient funds to economically establish themselves in Canada; and

i)        persons who are admissible to Canada.

Letter of Support and Commitment Certificate

A Commitment Certificate is a document which records important information regarding the agreement between the applicant and the designated organization, whereas A Letter of Support is provided to the applicant by the designated entity confirming their agreement.

The standard procedure is that the designated entity sends a commitment certificate directly to the IRCC by email or courier, and sends a letter of support to the applicant, both with the same validity period.

Then the applicant must include the letter of support in their PR application. The commitment certificate and letter of support both have validity dates and the applicant must submit a complete application for permanent residence within 6 months on or before the expiry date of the commitment certificate and letter of support.

It is important to understand that if a commitment certificate or letter of support expires while an application is being processed, no extension is required. Meanwhile the applicant can resubmit the application if it was submitted after the commitment certificate and letter of support have expired. For resubmission there must be a valid letter of support.

In any circumstances the designated entity may not issue an extension, but can issue a new commitment certificate after ensuring that the details of the commitment, including ownership structure, are still accurate.

Receive a Letter of Support from the Designated Organization

The steps must be taken to Receive a Letter of Support from the Designated Organization are as follow: The innovative ideas and the business potential in Canada must be assessed by professionals such as patent agent or analyst, business immigration lawyers; then must conduct a search on the business model and perform a mock peer review by professionals. Then must prepare a business plan and incorporate the business in Canada before identifying one or more relevant Designated Organization(s). at this stage must submit the application along with the business plan to Designated Organization(s) and communicate with them to receive an Acceptance Letter for the innovative business proposal, and eventually to receive a commitment and a Letter of Support.

The chart below demonstrates the process of an SUV application by the YLG Yazdani Law Group:


Permanent Residence Application under Start-Up Visa

All applications for permanent residence under the Start Up Business Class are sent to the Centralized Intake Office in Sydney, N.S. (CIO-Sydney). The following required forms, fees, information and documents must be sent:

a)      a signed and completed immigration forms such as IMM0008, Schedules 13 and 8;

b)      the biometrics if need it based on nationality;

c)      certify copy of travel documents, Identity documents, and photos;

d)      the original results of the principal applicant’s English or French language test;

e)      the original receipts for the application fee of $1,540 for the main applicant and $1040 for the spouse, and $150 for each dependent child;

f)        the original of the Letter of Support;

g)      the original of the valid police certificate;

h)      proof of medical examination results;

i)        proof of post secondary education; and

j)        proof of readily transferable funds.


Work permits Application under Start-Up Visa

An entrepreneur who has received a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support issued by a designated organization can apply for a work permit under the International Mobility Program even before submitting an application for permanent residence, therefore do not need to apply for permanent residence first. The work permit is LMIA exempted under “Significant benefit” R205(a).

The applicant may be eligible to apply for work permit from inside Canada, which then must complete the Application to Change Conditions, Extend Your Stay or Remain in Canada as a Worker.

To meet the eligibility requirement the applicant must again not to plan to live in a province of Quebec, and pay the employer compliance fee of $230 online through the Employer Portal. The most importantly must have received a Commitment Certificate and a Letter of Support from a designated entity indicating that the applicant is “essential” and there are urgent business reasons for your early entry to Canada, and must have sufficient funds to meet the low income cut off for his/her family for 52 weeks.

The application can be submitted online or on paper and the following required forms, fees, information and documents must be sent:

a)      a signed and completed immigration forms;

b)      the biometrics if need it based on nationality;

c)      certify copy of travel documents, Identity documents, and photos;

d)      a Letter of Support from a designated entity, which shows that the applicant is “essential” and that needs a work permit;

e)      proof of readily transferable funds that proves having enough money to support for a 52-week period;

f)        an offer of employment number (this number is generated after the submission of an offer of employment online through the Employer Portal and can be found in the “Employment queue”) or the completed IMM 5802 and the payment receipt for the employer compliance fee

g)      proof of medical examination results, if needed;

h)      a valid police certificate, if needed.

i)        The receipt for the application fees of $155 for the work permit application.

[1] Research and Evaluation Branch, Evaluation of the Start-Up Visa (SUV) pilot, November 10, 2016, read online

[2] Ibid

[3] Program delivery update: Start-up business permanent program instructions – April 13, 2018, read online 

[4] IP 13 / OP 27 Start Up Business Class, read online file:///C:/Users/yazda/Desktop/Immigration%20-%20references%20and%20manuals/Immigration%20rules%20and%20forms/ip13-eng.pdf%20-%20Start-UP%20Visa%20IP%2013%20.pdf

[5] A qualifying business means you created a business that meets the following conditions:

1)      At the time the applicant receives a commitment certificate from a designated organization:

a)      each applicant holds 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time (up to 5 people can apply as owners)

b)      applicants and the designated organization jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time

2)      At the time the applicant receives the permanent residence:

a)      you provide active and ongoing management of this business from within Canada

b)      an essential part of the operations of the business happens in Canada

c)      this business is incorporated in Canada

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