The Canada Startup Visa Program (SUV Program) is a pathway for immigrant entrepreneurs who want to establish their startup businesses in Canada.

Launched in 2013, it’s one of the most popular business immigration programs in the country.

It aims to attract innovative entrepreneurs from around the world and facilitate their entry into the Canadian market.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Canada’s Startup Visa, including requirements, eligibility criteria, application process, and more.

What is the Canada Startup Visa?

canada start up visaThe Canada Startup Visa, also known as the Canada Investor Visa or the Canadian SUV Program, is a unique Government of Canada program designed to attract innovative immigrant entrepreneurs from around the world to establish their start-up businesses.

The government hopes that the program will provide significant economic benefit, create jobs with positions for technical staff, and drive economic growth.

If you’re interested in starting your own business in Canada that could compete on a global scale and immigrating to the Great White North, this could be an ideal pathway.

Benefits of the Startup Visa

  • The Startup Visa program has streamlined processing, ensuring your application is handled promptly, giving you more time to focus on building your start-up business.
  • Your spouse or common-law partner and dependent unmarried children under 22 will receive permanent residency status and be able to work and study in Canada. They’ll also have access to public healthcare.
  • You and your family can live anywhere in Canada (other than the province of Quebec). You will also have a 10-year membership of an angel group, which provides excellent networking opportunities and access to additional investments in start-up businesses.
  • This visa provides a direct path to permanent residence. Successful entrepreneur applicants and their family members become permanent residents, gaining access to social benefits and a high standard of living.
  • This visa doesn’t link your permanent residence status to the performance of your start-up business. Once you receive permanent residency, you’re free to pursue any entrepreneurial or professional opportunities within Canada.
  • As a permanent resident, you may qualify for Canadian citizenship after residing in Canada for three years. Canadian citizenship offers benefits, including the right to vote and unrestricted access to work and study.
  • Canadian citizens can enjoy visa-free travel to 187 countries.
  • An entrepreneurial team can immigrate together through the Start-Up Visa program as owners of a single business. The entrepreneurial team can include up to five people.

Canada Startup Visa Eligibility Requirements

The Canada Startup Visa eligibility requirements are: Having a qualifying business, getting a letter of support with a commitment certificate from a designated organization (venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator), meeting the language requirements, and bringing enough money to settle (there is no specified net worth requirement).

Have a qualifying business

In order to be deemed a qualifying business, your start-up must be innovative, scalable, and have the potential to create significant economic benefits for Canada. A panel of designated organizations will assess your business concept, viability, and growth prospects.

A “qualifying business” must fulfill the following criteria:

— When you get a commitment certificate from a designated organization:

  • Each applicant holds 10 percent or more of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time (up to five people can apply as owners)
  • Applicants and the designated organization jointly hold more than 50 percent of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time

— When you receive your permanent residence:

  • You provide active and ongoing management of this business from within Canada
  • An essential part of the operations of the business happens in Canada
  • This business is incorporated in Canada

Get a letter of support from a designated organization

Obtaining a letter of support (and an accompanying commitment certificate) from an Authorized Government Designated Organization (a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator) is an essential part of your application process. This letter, typically accompanied by a commitment certificate, demonstrates that your business idea has been endorsed and supported by a recognized entity in the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The minimum investment required for your entrepreneurial venture depends on the type of designated organization that endorses your business idea.

  • Venture capital funds: You must get at least one designated venture capital fund (VC fund) to agree to invest a minimum of CAD 200,000 ($148,000) in your business.
  • Angel investor groups: You must get at least one designated angel investor group to agree to invest a minimum of CAD 75,000 ($55,000) in your business.
  • Business incubator: There are no minimum investment or funding requirements for a designated business incubator; the applicant’s ideas only need to get an endorsement by a designated incubator and be accepted into their business incubator program to proceed with investment visa applications.

Meet the language requirements

Proficiency in English or French is essential to succeed in Canada’s business environment. You will need to provide language test results from an approved testing agency to prove your language skills.

You must meet the minimum level of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in either language in all of these four areas: Speaking, reading, listening, and writing.

Bring enough money to settle

The Canadian government does not provide financial support to Canada investment visa applicants, so you must show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and your family members before you arrive in the country.

This sufficient financial means requirement ensures that you can settle comfortably and focus on growing your start-up.

The family members’ funds required depend on the number of family members who are moving to Canada, increasing with each additional family member. If you move by yourself, you’ll need to demonstrate you have at least CAD$ 13,757 in your bank account.

The family members’ funds required increase to CAD$ 17,127 for two people, CAD$ 21,055 for three, and so on.

Family Eligibility

Your immediate family members, including your spouse or common-law partner and dependent unmarried children under the age of 22, can accompany you to Canada and also receive permanent resident status.

You can add your spouse as a dependant. Like you, they must be over 18 years of age, gain security clearance, and pass a medical examination. You can also include dependant, unmarried children under 22; they also need to gain security clearance and pass a medical exam.

Canada Startup Visa Application Process

application processThe step-by-step process of obtaining a Canada Start-Up Visa is:

1. Develop the business concept and prepare your business plan: Refine your business idea and create a comprehensive, detailed business plan that showcases its potential.

2. Obtain a letter of support from an authorized government designated organization: Connect with designated organizations and secure a supporting letter and a commitment certificate, demonstrating their belief in your start-up business.

3. Prepare your file and application: Gather all the necessary documents and forms to prepare your application for submission.

4. Submit an application for permanent residence: Submit your permanent residence application for the Start-Up Visa program through the Canadian immigration authorities. There is also an option to apply for special work permits at this stage.

5. Attend the medical and security verification: Undergo medical examinations, security background checks, and biometrics appointments as part of the PR application process. If you’re between 14 and 79 years old, you need to provide fingerprints and photos (biometrics) for every application for permanent residence you submit.

6. Receive Permanent Visa: Once your application is approved, you’ll be issued a Permanent Resident Visa.

Required documents

  • Detailed Resume (CV) of the candidate
  • Draft Business Proposal
  • Copy of Passport or Legal Travel Document
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate (if married)
  • Police Clearance Record from your country of origin and residence
  • Proof of Sufficient Funds: a recent Bank Statement covering at least six months
  • Bank Reference
  • Letter Language Test Results (IELTS CLB Level 5 or NCLC Level 5)
  • Medical Examination Confirmation from a certified health institution
  • Letter of Support from a designated entity

All documents must be legally translated to English or French and certified or apostilled from the corresponding country. This list isn’t exhaustive; the immigration office may request additional documents if necessary.

Canada Startup Visa Processing Time

The SUV program takes approximately 18 to 24 months to process, and the client and family receive PR upon arrival in Canada. However, for those wanting to arrive sooner, it is possible to apply for a work permit and relocate to Canada within approximately three to six months.

While your application is being processed, you may be eligible for a temporary permit. If you receive this permit, you can come to Canada and work on your start-up while awaiting permanent residence. The permit was originally valid for just one year, but Canadian immigration minister  Sean Fraser announced in July 2023 that a three-year open permit would be made available for each member of an entrepreneurial team.

Canada Startup Visa Fees and Costs

The application fees for the Start-Up Visa program you must pay can vary depending on your circumstances. The permanent residence application fee is CAD$ 2,140 for the main applicant, CAD$ 1,365 for your partner, and CAD$ 230 for each dependent child. The biometrics appointment costs CAD$ 85 for a single person or CAD$ 170 for a family of two or more people applying together.

Please note that there are additional costs for medical exams, language tests, authentication and translation of documents (when necessary), legal assistance, and so on.

Canadian Permanent Residency and Citizenship

While Permanent Residency (PR) is provided from when the application is approved, it is necessary to reside in Canada for 730 days (two years) within a five-year period to maintain PR status.

Investors and their family members are eligible to apply for citizenship if they live in Canada, while holding PR status, for three out of the five years (1,095 days) preceding their citizenship application, have an adequate knowledge of English and/or French, and have no criminal record.

Tax Considerations

Canadian residents are taxed at the federal and provincial levels on their worldwide income. Non-residents are taxed on Canadian-sourced income and on gains from the disposition of taxable Canadian property.

An individual is resident in Canada if he/she resides there or is ordinarily resident in Canada. A non-resident individual will be deemed to have been resident in Canada if he/she spends at least 183 days in Canada in a calendar year.

Provincial income tax rates are determined separately and added to federal rates. Capital gains taxes are levied, but at a reduction of 50 percent of capital gains, less allowable capital losses, and are included in the income being taxed at the individual’s applicable rate

How Can Global Citizen Solutions Help You?

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique migration consultancy firm with years of experience delivering bespoke residence and citizenship by investment solutions for international families. With offices worldwide and an experienced, hands-on team, we have helped hundreds of clients worldwide acquire citizenship, residence visas, or homes while diversifying their portfolios with robust investments. 

We guide you from start to finish, taking you beyond your citizenship or residency by investment application. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Startup Visa Canada

Can I apply if I'm in Canada on another visa?

Yes, Canada immigration law allows you to apply for this startup visa while on another visa in Canada. You must have valid status as a visitor, worker, or student when applying.

How long does it take to get the Canada Startup Visa?

The processing time for the Start-Up Visa Canada varies based on individual circumstances and the number of applications received. The SUV program takes approximately 18 to 24 months to process, and you and your family receive PR upon arrival in Canada.

If you want to arrive sooner, you can apply for a temporary work permit. This permit allows you to move to Canada within three to six months and start working on your own startup while you wait for your permanent residence application to be processed.

Can I travel in and out of Canada on the Canada Start-Up Visa?

Yes, Canada immigration law allows you to travel in and out of the country with this visa. This is a multiple-entry visa, meaning you can leave and re-enter as long as the visa is valid. Ensure you maintain compliance with the residency obligations of your permanent resident status once it’s granted.

Can I apply if I've previously been denied a visa?

If you’ve been previously denied a Canadian visa, immigration law doesn’t automatically disqualify you from applying for the Start-Up Visa. Each application is assessed on its own merits, and previous visa refusals shouldn’t impact your eligibility, as long as you meet all the program requirements.

Who reviews Canada Start-Up Visa program applications?

The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department, a Government of Canada department, reviews applications. The IRCC assesses the applicant’s eligibility, the business concept and detailed business plan, and the letter of support and commitment certificate from the designated organization to decide whether to grant permanent residence.

A peer review panel may be asked to assess an application to ensure it meets industry standards. If, for example, the application involved an angel investor group, the National Angel Capital Organization would perform the review. Meanwhile, if the application involved a venture capital group, the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association would perform the review.

The peer review would include investigating whether the appropriate level of due diligence has been performed, as well as determining whether the investment and the services to be provided meet industry standards.

Is there a language test for a Canada Startup Visa?

Yes, to apply for this visa, foreign nationals must meet the language requirements in either English or French. You’ll need to take a language proficiency test approved by the Canadian government to demonstrate your language skills. You must meet the minimum level of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in English or French in speaking, reading, listening, and writing.

How can foreign entrepreneurs apply for the Canada Start-Up Visa Program?

The eligibility requirements for immigrant entrepreneurs who plan to obtain permanent resident status by setting up a start-up venture are: Having a qualifying startup business, and being supported by one of the designated organizations defined by the Canadian government.

You’ll need to create a business plan and then secure support from either angel investor groups (minimum investment of CAD 75,000) or a venture capital fund (minimum of CAD 200,000), or you’ll need to be part of a Canadian business incubator program to demonstrate your startup is an innovative business venture that will contribute to the economic growth of the country.

Once you are in Canada with permanent residence, you must provide active and ongoing management of the business.

How do I obtain a work permit under the Canada Startup Visa Program?

To obtain this permit, you must be accepted into the Startup Visa Program. Once accepted, you can apply for a permit (to work on your own startup business) through the regular immigration channels, which include online applications or applying at a Canadian visa office in your home country.

The permit was originally valid for just one year, but Canadian immigration minister  Sean Fraser announced in July 2023 that a three-year open permit would be made available for each member of an entrepreneurial team. The open permit will allow you to work on your business while waiting for your Start-Up Visa application to be processed.

Should you need to extend your permit, go through the regular work permit extension process.

What is Canada's start up visa program?

The Canada Startup Visa program is designed to allow innovative entrepreneurs the opportunity to run a company in Canada, and grants them an investment visa, provided their startup is a qualifying business.

Those innovative entrepreneurs can apply for permanent residence in Canada.

How much investment do I need to receive support from a designated venture capital fund?

Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program applicants must secure an investment of at least CAD$ 200,000 if their application is supported by a designated VC fund.

How is the National Angel Capital Organization involved in securing a Canada SUV?

The National Angel Capital Organization identifies and recommends top angel groups and incubators, ensuring your startup connects with valuable mentors and funding for Canadian visa approval.

What is the success rate of Startup Visa in Canada?

The overall success rate is above 75 percent but varies on support type. Strong applications backed by designated organizations have higher chances of success.

What is the Canada Start-Up Visa processing time?

According to IRCC’s processing times tool (as of December 2023), the average processing time for a Start-Up Visa work permit is 16 months, while the average processing time for the Permanent Residence Visa is 12-16 months.

How much money required for Canada startup visa?

You’ll need to demonstrate you have at least CAD$ 13,757 in your bank account.

How can I get Canada startup visa?

You need to meet certain requirements, including:
  1. Gave a qualifying business.
  2. Get a letter of support from a designated organization.
  3. Meet the program’s language requirements.
  4. Bring enough money to settle.

What are Canada's business immigration programs?

The most popular Canada’s business immigration programs are the Startup Visa Program and the Federal Entrepreneur Program.

The Canada Startup Visa Program is for immigrant entrepreneurs who want to establish their startup businesses in Canada.

The Federal Entrepreneur Program is designed to attract experienced entrepreneurs who intend to own and actively manage a business in Canada.