Startup and video game law, from a Canadian and U.S. perspective
Canada’s Start-up Visa Program
To attract foreign entrepreneurs to work in Canada, Canada has implemented the Start-up Visa Program. The program gives qualified business owners and their families an expedited track to permanent residency if they can meet the requirements.
To be eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, you must (1) have a qualified business, (2) obtain a letter of support from a designated organization, (3) meet the language requirements, and (4) have enough money to settle in Canada.
1. To have a qualified business, you must show that you own more than ten percent of the voting rights attached to all company shares. Additionally, applicants and the supporting designated organization must jointly own at least fifty percent of the voting rights shares. Upon receiving permanent residency, you must incorporate your business in Canada, an essential part of your business must take place in Canada, and you must provide active management of your business from within Canada.
2. Applicants must also obtain a letter of financial support from a designated organization. These can be venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators that are pre-approved by the Canadian Government. You can find a list of these organizations here (https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/start-visa/designated-organizations.html). The letter of support:
- describes the business structure;
- identifies the applicant and their role in the business;
- describes the nature of the business;
- confirms the applicant has control over the company’s intellectual property;
- specifies the amount of the investment; and
- that the organization performed a due diligent assessment of the applicant.
Lastly, the designated organization will send a commitment certificate directly to Citizenship and Immmigration Canada (CIC) that outlines its financial support. The CIC will use both the letter of support and the commitment certificate to assess your application.
3. To be eligible to apply, you must also take a language test from an approved agency. To be considered for the program, you be able to show minimum proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, and listening in either English, French, or both languages. Upon receiving a score above Canadian Language Benchmark 5, an applicant should submit the results along with their application.
4. Finally, applicants will not receive financial support from the Canadian Government, so they must provide proof of sufficient funds. You must show that you have enough money to support yourself as well as any dependents you plan on bringing to Canada with you. There are minimum requirements but the Canadian Government recommends that any applicant brings as much money as possible with them.
If an applicant meets the eligibility requirements and submits and pays for a successful application, the process should take approximately twelve to sixteen months to complete. However, interested applicants can also apply for a temporary work permit while their start-up visa application is pending so they can start building their business in Canada. There are more specific requirements for such a work permit, but an applicant must have already received a letter of support from a designated organization. Finally, temporary work permits can typically be complete in a few weeks but times can vary depending on the country and other circumstances (Covid-19).
If you can meet the criteria, the Start-up Visa Program can be an excellent opportunity to move your business into Canada while concurrently obtaining permanent residency.