Start up visa application

The Start-Up Visa: Helpful Tips and Procedures

Canada has one of the fastest growing tech sectors in the world according to the BDC. Canada’s tech sector grew twice the rate of Canada’s economy, with 27.6% of 2020’s revenue in the tech industry driven by foreign clients. The booming industry is attractive to foreign entrepreneurs who are identified as Business Immigrants in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) under Section 98.01 (Start-Up Business Class). The Start-Up Visa, or SUV, is an application that Business Immigrants can submit to obtain Permanent Residency status in view of setting up a start-up in Canada. This article will go through the steps involved in preparing, submitting, and waiting on the application to go through, as well as practical and legal considerations.

Preparing for the Start-Up Visa Application

When considering a move to Canada, there are many important questions to ask to ensure that your application for the SUV will be successful.

1) Does my business qualify?

For your business to be eligible, you must comply with these terms:

  1. A maximum of 5 applicants from your business may apply for the SUV
  2. The applicants must own at least 10% of the voting shares in the business
  3. The applicants and a Designated Organization must collectively own at least 50% of the voting shares in the business

 Why? The restriction on the number of applicants will help ensure that the visa will aid start-ups and not bigger businesses––it encourages only founders to apply, as well as potential early-stage investors. The voting share requirements ensure that if your business is allowed to continue in Canada, it will be a Canadian-controlled business, which is also why simply equity it not sufficient.

2) What is a designated organization, and how do I find one?

The Designated Organization can be a Venture Capital, an Angel Investor, or an Incubator. You can also apply to more than one of these organizations however, there are several restrictions that apply:

  1. The organization must be from this list of government approved entities
  2. The organization must substantially support your business, which means:
  • A Venture Capital must invest at least $200k into your business; or
  • An Angel Investor must invest at least $75k into your business; or
  • A Business Incubator must accept your business into its program

You are always free to gather multiple sources of funding, but at least one of the organizations must meet the threshold stated above.

3) How long does the Start-Up Visa application take to get processed?

The SUV takes between 12 to 16 months before a decision is reached. However, you can apply for a Temporary Work Permit, which will allow you to start working on your start-up in Canada while waiting on the SUV. This process is outlined later in the document.

4) What are my chances of being approved?

Applicants are judged on a case-by-case basis, so not every applicant from the same business will be treated identically. However, if an applicant is rejected, all related members to the rejected applicant will also be rejected for the visa (usually family members).

Here are some tips to increase your chances of being approved for the SUV:

  1. Make sure your role is managerial. According to IRPA, the applicant for a SUV must provide “active and ongoing management from within Canada”
  2. Make sure you fulfil your role in Canada. The IRPA also states that “an essential part” of the SUV applicant’s services operations must be done in Canada. This does not mean that your role must be essential to Canada, just that a substantial part is done from within Canada.
  3. Make sure the ownership requirements are met. The distributions of voting shares must meet the requirements mentioned in question 1 to ensure it is a Canadian controlled start-up.
  4. Make sure you have enough income. This might be the hardest item to show as the IRPA has created several guidelines and restrictions on funds.

The funds themselves must be:

  • From a source other than investments by designated organizations
  • Readily available and transferrable (try to avoid a future promise for money such as a maturing debt or an asset that has no value without first converting e.g., a share)
  • Not a debt or similar obligation (try to avoid loans or lines of credit)
  • A minimum amount of half the applicable and most recent Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) Threshold. This threshold comes from the Statistics Act, which calculates the minimum a family needs to live in Canada for a year. A SUV applicant must be able to meet half of the minimum for a family living in an urban area of a population of 500,000 or more.

For 2021, the following numbers apply:

Number of family membersFunds required (in CAD)
For each additional family member$3,560

From the amounts listed in the table here

Putting your Start-Up Visa Application Together

Once you have determined that your business is set up properly to join the Canadian market and that you have enough funds to move to Canada, it is time to begin the process of applying! Below are some steps to help get your affairs in order.

1) Start the process of obtaining a Letter of Support

Each Designated Organization will have its own requirements and application process, but it is important to get started on this process early as you must obtain a Letter of Support from the organization. This letter will indicate that the organization is willing to provide you the investment (for Venture Capitals and Angel Investors) or accept you into its program (for Incubators).

Here are some general tips:

  1. Start Researching. Look up requirements for applying to identify important deadlines, assess whether you need to open a Canadian bank account, who you might need to contact, and if you can get an investment estimate.
  2. Prepare your Pitch. Identify the market in Canada and address why are you moving and how your business will be profitable. If there is a time limit, practice your pitch to ensure it falls within.
  3. Connect to People. You want to establish a network as early as you can. Analyze how others obtained their investments or SUVs and who the key suppliers are that you might need for your business.
  4. Ask for your Letter of Support early. The Letter of Support needs to be part of your application, and it could take time to obtain depending on your chosen organization. It is important that you know the requirements to obtain that letter beforehand and have an official copy ready as soon as possible.

2) Get your Language Tests completed

If you are not a citizen of a predominantly English or French speaking country, then you must submit proof that your English or French fluency is sufficient to do business in Canada. This means that your language skills in English or French must meet the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 5 or higher. The requirements for obtaining a valid proof of language can be found here, which also provides the CLB 5 equivalent scores for each test. Below is a summary of the tests that are considered valid.

For English, the accepted tests include:

  1. CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program

                  Test accepted: CELPIP-G (General)

                  Administered by: Paragon Testing Enterprise Inc

  1. IELTS: International English Language Testing System

                  Test accepted: IELTS General Training

                  Administered by: Cambridge Assessment English, IDP Australia, or The British Council

For French, the accepted tests include:

  1. TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français (Note: TEF written before Mar 2020 accepted, any test after Mar 2020 must be from TEF Canada)

                  Administered by: The Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry

  1. TCF Canada : Test de connaissance du français

                  Administered by: France Education International (FEI)

Note: All tests are only valid for 2 years.

3) Review the Documentation Checklist and fill out all required forms

The government provides a checklist for the documents required in the SUV application package. Many of the forms overlap with General Immigration, but some important elements for the SUV application include:

  1. IMM0008 – General Immigration Form (SUV applicants must also fill out Schedule 13)
  2. Letter of Support from a Designated Organization
  3. Proof of Language Sufficiency (applicants must show sufficient fluency in English or French)
  4. Proof of Funding
  5. The Mailing Address:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Centralized Intake Office – Start Up Business Class

P.O. BOX 8700
Sydney, NS  B1P 0G2

           Unless the applicant uses a Courier Service, then:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Centralized Intake Office – Start Up Business Class
49 Dorchester Street
Sydney, NS B1P 5Z2

4) Pay your fees and submit your Start-Up Visa application

All the applicable immigration fees regarding your application can be found here. The important fees are:

  1. $1,575 – Application Fee
  2. $500 – Applicant’s Right of Permanent Residency Fee
  3. $1,325 – Applicant’s Spousal Fee ($825) and Applicant’s Spousal Right of Permanent Residency Fee ($500)
  4. $225 – For each dependent

Please note that the Right of Permanent Residency Fees are the only refundable fees if the application gets refused.

5) Submit other tests

Other tests are required to immigrate to Canada, and you will likely have to pay out of pocket for them. These include:

1. Biometrics (fingerprints and photo) – If you apply from certain countries, you may need to provide Biometrics. You can find out if you need to here. Please keep in mind that:

                  a. If your citizenship requires you to provide biometrics, you must provide new Biometrics:

                              i. For each new application

                              ii. Only if you are between ages 14-79

                  b. The costs associated are lump sums:

                             i.  $85 – 1 person

                             ii.  $170 – 2 people

                             iii.  $255 – 3 people+

2. Medical Examination – this includes mandatory vaccinations and COVID-19 tests

3. Police Background Check – this is usually run by your domestic agency and provided to the Canadian government

Temporary Work Permit

After applying for the visa, you can still come to Canada and work while waiting on the visa to go through since it can take 12-16 months after submitting the application for such an approval. In the interim, a Temporary Work Permit (TWP) can be given to any of the applicants who meet the criteria outlined below.

The government provides a comprehensive guide on obtaining the TWP for a SUV applicant. There are many steps involved in getting the TWP for the SUV, and although many of the documents will overlap with the SUV application, you must provide them again as each package is considered separately!

1) Become self-employed

The process of becoming self-employed can be found here. You should note that this process may change depending on whether the business registered for a CRA Business Number considering you cannot access the Employer Portal without a CRA Business Number. Once completed, you should present a Letter of Employment (from and to yourself) and pay a $230 Employer Compliance Fee which will validate your employment.

2) Put together your documents

The below documents would already be obtained from the Start-Up Visa application:

  1. Letter of Support from Designated Organization
  2. Proof of funding
  3. Proof of Language Sufficiency
  4. Medical Records
  5. Police Background Check

Additional documentation that will need to be obtained include the following:

  1. Commitment Certificate
  2. Letter of Employment
  3. Biometrics (if you had to give one for the SUV and are applying from outside of Canada)
  4. Immigration Forms

The immigration forms are explained step-by-step here, but the important steps include:

  1. If you are applying from Outside Canada, you must fill out the below form:

                      Application for work permit made outside of Canada form (IMM 1295)

  1. If you are applying from Inside Canada, you must fill out the below application:

                      Application to Change Conditions, Extend Your Stay or Remain in Canada as a Worker (IMM 5710)

  1. In the forms above, for “Details of Intended Work in Canada” fill in the following information:

                     Q 1a (Work Permit Type): Exemption from Labour Market Impact Assessment.

                     Q 2a (Employer Name): Name of Business (if known), or your own name.

                     Q 4 (Job Title): Entrepreneur.

                     Q 4 (Job Duties): Starting up a new business with a designated entity under the Start-Up Visa program.

                     Q 6 (LMIA No.): Enter the number found under “Employment queue” in the Employer Portal OR if authorized to                               use  the IMM 5802 form, use the number A9999999 and include include a copy of the completed form.

  1. For mailing purposes, you should write on the outside of the envelope: “Urgent: Start-up Business Class Work Permit

3) Get your designated organization’s support

Assuming that your Designated Organization will already be providing a Letter of Support, they must also:

  1. Provide a Commitment Certificate

                  a. The Canadian Government defines the Commitment Certificate as a certificate “issued to an applicant by a                                  designated private sector business, confirming their agreement.” (See: Glossary)

  1. Support the Work Permit

                  b. The Government states that to be an “essential person”, the applicant must be “considered to be critical to the                          business and will be specifically identified as essential by the designated organization on the                                                                  commitment certificate and letter of support.” (See: Help Page)

This essentially requires the Designated Organization to:

  1. Complete Section 8.0, and
  2. Confirm that the Applicant is essential to the business and must arrive earlier to Canada for the business via supporting documents

4) Pay your fees

As stated before, all the applicable immigration fees can be found here. For the Temporary Work Permit, the same fees as the Start-Up Visa will apply:

  1. $1,575 – Application Fee
  2. $500 – Applicant’s Right of Permanent Residency Fee
  3. $1,325 – Applicant’s Spousal Fee ($825) and Applicant’s Spousal Right of Permanent Residency Fee ($500)
  4. $225 – For each dependent
  5. Biometrics fees

Biometric fees information:

                   i. $85 – 1 person

                   ii. $170 – 2 people

                   iii. $255 – 3 people+

As well as the following fees:

  1. $240 Employer Compliance Fees
  2. Fees owed to Designated Organization for Work Permit Support
  3. CRA Business Number registration (Optional)

Any valid language tests and police background checks for the Start-Up Visa can be used again for the Temporary Work Permit.

A special thank you to Sung Samson An for his help and contributions to this article!

The content of this article is written for general information purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer. Please contact us at 416-238-5527 if you’d like to speak to an Emerge Law lawyer.