Business Visas Provide Alternative Paths to Citizenship

Canadian immigration law provides for a class of immigration that is specifically reserved for people who have experience in business management, ownership or who otherwise have special business skills. The requirements for qualifying are stringent, however, it is an effective means of entering Canada for individuals seeking to live and do business here in Canada as permanent residents.

The Start-Up Program

The Start-up Visa Program targets foreign national entrepreneurs who can start an innovative business in Canada that not only creates jobs for Canadian but also competes on a global scale.

The business idea needs to be supported by a venture capital fund, angel investor group or business incubator. The Canadian government provides lists of designated organization that can act as the investors for the Start-up Visa Program.

The level of investment required from the designated organization depends on the type of investor, for example, a commitment of $200,000 is required for venture capital funds, while angel investors have a lower threshold of just $75,000.

In addition, each designated organization may have their own application and funding requirements. Some may require just written proposals, while others may require in-person presentations to show that you have a business that is worth their investment and support.

If your business is accepted into a designated business incubator, you will not have to pursue any other investments or secure any financial commitments.

Once you get a financing commitment from an investor, you will get a letter of support, which is also sent to the Canadian government. You must make sure that each applicant holds 10% or more of the voting rights in the corporation and the applicant(s) and the investor jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights in the corporation.

Additionally, in what may seem obvious, as a business owner, you must demonstrate that the business will be managed within Canada, and that most of the operations of the business will happen in Canada once you obtain permanent residency.

You will also be required to demonstrate that you meet that language requirements set out by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada by scoring a CLB5 on a language test from an approved agency. In addition, you must demonstrate that you have settlement funds available for you and your family to live off of while you are settling in and establishing your business. Funds provided by your business investors, loans or borrowed money cannot be used as settlement fund.

Just remember you must declare any currency or monetary instruments valued at CAN $10,000 or more when entering Canada or it is subject to seizure. On a positive note, if your business is ultimately not successful, you will not lose your visa or permanent resident status.


There is a separate business visa available for those who are self-employed. Applying only requires demonstration of intent—you do not actually have to own any part of any business. You must demonstrate the intent and the ability to purchase (or start up) a Canadian business that will keep you employed, and that you will earn enough to support you and your family. You must also show that you have at least two years of experience in the area in which you will work.

The catch here is that you must be self-employed (or intend to be) in an area that can contribute to either cultural activities or athletics in Canada, and applicants must have done so at what the government calls a “world class level.” Applicants can be musicians, artists, writers, or designers, and they can also be professionals who contribute to cultural activities indirectly.

Applicants also must score at least 35 of a possible 100 points on a special grid that grades you on things like education, experience, your age, and your language proficiency. For example, those individuals ages 21-49 score the most points—10. Those under 16 or over 54 do not score any points. Up to 25 points are available for those with an advanced degree and 17 years of relevant work experience. At the lower end, those with just a high school degree will only score five points.

Other Programs and Suggestions

Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship had launched a pilot program, namely the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program. This allowed international investor with a personal net worth of CDN $10 million or more to immigrate to Canada after investing an at-risk investment (non-guaranteed) of CDN $2 million for approximately 15 years. However, the application period is now closed.

Various provinces, including Quebec, have tailored business immigration programs to their provincial needs. It is important to note the provinces have their own set of requirements and maintain their own provincial programs.

Also remember we have only touched base on only a couple of the business visas in Canada. There are numerous other programs, whether business class or personal non-business owners, that can help you and your family gain entry into Canada as permanent residents.

If you have any questions about immigrating to Canada, seek the assistance of a qualified immigration lawyer immediately. Contact the Preszler Immigration Lawyers today for help or answers to all your immigration questions.

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