How to Qualify for Canada’s Startup Visa Program: A Step-by-Step Guide

Upasana Sharma Vice President of TiE Toronto podcast with Anshuman Sinha Co-founder and CEO of Startup Talent and Startup Steroid.

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Upasana Sharma, Vice President of TiE Toronto, to our Startup Pulse podcast with Anshuman Sinha, our mentor, Co-founder and CEO of Startup Talent, and the Co-founder of Startup Steroid. 

In her interaction with Anshuman Sinha, she shares insights into TiE Toronto’s 19-year journey fostering entrepreneurship and how startup founders can take advantage of it and launch their ventures in Canada.

Upasana Sharma is also the Managing Director of the Startup Visa program in Canada and Co-Managing Partner of Tangentia Ventures. 

Here, Upasana breaks down the intricacies of the Canada Startup Visa program, divulging more details about eligibility criteria, individual founder requirements, and the pathway to Canadian permanent residency.

She also highlights factors like startup visas vs. investment visas to clarify the distinctions between Canada’s startup visa and investment-based visas like the US EB-5. 

Canada’s startup visa program targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skill set and caliber to build businesses in Canada. The purpose of the visa program is to bring immigrant entrepreneurs to Canada so that they can create more job opportunities for Canadians. 

The startup visa program is a federal immigration program that provides entrepreneurs with direct access to Canadian permanent residency. With the help of the startup visa program, interested entrepreneurs can directly apply for Canadian PR as long as their business meets the requirements associated with the startup visa program. 

You Can Watch The Full Podcast On YouTube

This blog will present a step-by-step guide on how to qualify for the Canada startup visa program.

Qualification Requirements

Before applying for the startup visa, it is necessary to understand the qualifying requirements that will make you eligible for the program. 

In the ensuing conversation with Anshuman, Upasana highlights the following key eligibility criteria that startups should meet if they wish to expand their business in Canada.

  • One of the primary eligibility criteria is your business’s purpose. While your business can be a big enterprise in your home country, its purpose will be evaluated based on what it can do once it enters the Canadian market.
  • The startup visa program targets entrepreneurs with innovative products or services whose companies lack a Canadian footprint, enabling them to introduce new elements to the Canadian market.
  • This is why, under this program, any company, despite having a big enterprise in its home country, is considered a startup as long as it is entirely new to the Canadian market. Companies in the ideation stage of their business are also eligible for the program as long as their idea is innovative and has global potential. 
  • While there is no specific age or education bar, the country’s government will evaluate whether you have the educational background and skill set to support the growth of your business and successfully compete on a global scale.

Purpose of the Program Regarding Startup Founders

  • Through this program, up to five founders of one particular company can apply for direct permanent residency. To qualify, the program suggests that the founders hold a minimum of 10% of the voting shares in the company that they are choosing to enter the Canadian market with. However, some other eligibility criteria must be met. 
  • The most prominent criterion is English proficiency. Since the founders and their families are given direct access to apply for permanent residency, they must have English proficiency to survive in Canada with a level 5 band in IELTs. 
  • Families must also have the funds to support their daily lives. The startup visa program aims to aid companies in flourishing in the Canadian market. To move permanently, the founders and their families must have the funds to support their lifestyles in Canada, which will include their rent and food and fall under their settlement funds. The founders will have to justify their settlement fund by providing bank statements for up to six months to prove their ability to support their daily lifestyles. 
  • Finally, the last qualification criteria is to evaluate their investment funds. This refers to the funds the founders will have in their bank accounts that justify the possibility of growth in the business entering the Canadian market. The exact amount of this investment fund might vary. The Government of Canada has yet to determine a specific amount for this aspect, as they believe the funds should justify and align with your expansion plans. This will help you qualify for the initial eligibility round and equip you to apply for the startup visa program in Canada.

Free People Gathered in Front of Toronto Freestanding Signage Stock Photo

Designated Entity and Letter of Support

The government has designated certain entities to conduct due diligence on applicants for the Canadian startup visa program. These designated entities will judge you as they evaluate your business plan and determine whether you qualify for the program. 

Finally, the selected entities will also provide a letter of support to help you become eligible for the program and apply for permanent residency in Canada.

Evaluation Rounds: The Process

Being an incubator for a designated entity such as TiE Toronto makes their evaluation rounds slightly different than others. You must pass through four rounds before the letter of support is provided. 

  • The first round is the interest form round, where applicants can fill out the interest form from their home countries through the company website. The interest form consists of preliminary questions regarding the nature of the business and its purpose. Once answered truthfully, TiE Toronto evaluates the applicant’s credibility.
  • If initial requirements are met, the applicants proceed to the second round, the intake round. During this round, applicants answer more questions in great detail about their business, its purpose, and its innovative idea. 
  • After qualifying in the second round, applicants go to the third round, an interview round available on Zoom. All the company’s founders attempting to enter the Canadian market are present during this round. In the 45-minute Zoom session, the applicants present their company and a pitch deck, followed by a Q&A session. 
  • After completing the third round, the fourth round is the due diligence process. The applicants must provide financial documents supporting their expansion claims during this round. Once the papers are evaluated and support the claims made by the applicants in the meeting, they qualify for the application process.

After the four steps have been achieved, the designated entity provides them with a letter of support and qualifies them to enter the incubation program.

  • This incubation program is necessary to qualify for the startup visa program. This equips them to successfully develop skills that will enable them to run their startups in Canada. TiE Toronto provides a 6-month program where the first three months focus on developing essential skills to function in the Canadian market. The remaining three months are not scheduled as they are personalized to the needs of the business. Applicants must apply for the incubation program within eight months of completing the due diligence round.
  • This is followed by issuing a letter of support to the immigration lawyer, which begins the process of applying for permanent residency in Canada. The process takes up to 1 ½ to two years to complete and equips entrepreneurs to enter the Canadian market directly via permanent residency.

Free Scenic View Of Bridge During Dawn Stock PhotoConclusion

The program endeavors to equip entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to enter the Canadian market and compete globally while creating job opportunities in Canada. This will not only prepare startups to function on a global scale but also provide opportunities for established enterprises in their home countries to enter an entirely new market and flourish globally. 

Incubators such as TiE Toronto make the program application process extremely easy. By applying via TiE Toronto, the startup visa program application process can be completed in four simple steps that take place online. However, certain exceptions can be made for people wanting to apply for the program on-site with a work permit before permanent residency is confirmed.

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