A step by step process breakdown of immigrating to Canada through the Startup/Entrepreneur Visa Program 

Startup Visa Program

The Startup Visa Program or otherwise written as Start-up Visa Program was created by the Government of Canada to allow immigrant entrepreneurs with skills and potential to launch or build their Startup business in Canada. This program is available everywhere there is a designated organization to issue authorization for your Startup company apart from Quebec, which has its own immigration program. The Startup Visa program is geared towards entrepreneurs and companies that are innovative, can create jobs for Canadians, and can compete on a global scale. 


Startup Visa Program Steps

If your Startup Business receives approval through a Designated Organization for the program, you are eligible to apply for a work permit and visa to work in Canada and travel in and out of the country. Approval in the Startup Visa program also gives you the ability to apply directly for permanent residency using a paper-based application. The process is broken down into 5 simple steps and with the support of an authorized immigration professional such as with Sean G. McKinsley with Canada Immigration & Visa Services and move your application through as quickly as possible. 

*Please note, the timeline outlines the process from start to finish of the following 5 steps and does not include work permit and permanent residency processing times from the Government of Canada . 

1) Create or Own (fully or partially) an Eligible Startup Business 

2) Meet the Language Requirements for Immigration to Canada 

3) Prove that you have enough funds to settle in Canada 

4) Receive a Letter of Support (or Commitment) for your Startup Business from a Designated Organization 

5) Submit a Work Permit Application and Permanent Residency Application 

If you have an existing business or want to start one in Canada but you do not meet the requirements for a Startup Business or cannot get approval from a Designated Organization, your business may be eligible for an Owner/Operator LMIA Pathway to immigrate to Canada. For more information on the Owner/Operator LMIA Pathway, please visit this link: Owner/Operator LMIA Federal Stream

Step 1: Own or Create a Qualifying Startup Visa Business 

According to the Government of Canada’s information on the Startup Visa program, to have a qualifying business, your incorporation must meet the following conditions at the time you receive your Letter of Commitment from the Designated Organization. 

  • For every applicant wishing to immigrate to Canada through the Startup Visa program, each applicant must hold at least 10% voting rights attached to all shares in the corporation at the time of application. Up to 5 people on the same corporation can apply to immigrate to Canada under the Startup Visa program 


  • Applicants for the Startup Visa program and the Designated Organization which a Letter of Commitment must be obtained for jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time. 

At the time you receive your permanent residence: 

  • You must provide active and ongoing management of this business from within Canada and be an essential part of the operations of the business happenings in Canada 
  • Your Startup business is incorporated in Canada 

At CIVS (Canada Immigration & Visa Services), we will help you incorporate your Startup business in Canada to qualify as an eligible Startup Business Corporation which will give you best chance at being approved by a Designated Organization. 

Step 2: Meet the Language Requirements 

You must be able to prove that you meet a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of at least 5 for French or English in each of the 4 categories: speaking, reading, listening, and writing. If you do not complete an approved language test, your application will not be processed. 

For reference, a CLB 5 in IELTS scores for the following 4 categories are listed below: 

  • Speaking: 5.0 
  • Reading: 4.0 
  • Listening: 5.0 
  • Writing: 5.0 

At CIVS (Canada Immigration & Visa Services), we will advise you on the appropriate English and French language testing programs available in your home country to make sure you can achieve the minimum CLB level 5 in each category. 

Step 3Proof of Funds 

As an applicant to the Startup Visa program in Canada, you must prove that you can support yourself and your dependents by proving you have enough funds to support living in Canada. This is especially important because most Startup companies are pre-revenue and you need to be able to support yourself in Canada. The fund requirements usually increase every year but for one person are typically as low as $13,000 per year. 

At CIVS (Canada Immigration & Visa Services, we can support you on what the Designated Organization and what Immigration Canada considers proven funds.  

Step 4: Get a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization 

After you have a business that meets the criteria above, you must obtain a Letter of Support (Letter of Commitment) from a Designated Organization. A Designated Organization is a business group that has been approved by Immigration Canada to invest in or support possible startups in Canada. There are 3 different broad characterizations of these business groups that can issue a Letter of Support for your Startup. They will be one of the following 3 types: 

A Venture Capital Fund

  • A venture capital fund must agree to invest a minimum of $200,000 in your Startup business. 

An Angel Investor Group 

  • An angel investor group must agree to invest a minimum of $75,000 in your Startup business.

A Business Incubator or Business Accelerator 

  • A business incubator or business accelerator must approve you to take part in their program. Typically, an incubator will charge a yearly fee to use and incubate your business within their space, and an accelerator will take an equity stake in your startup to accelerate your business

For a full directory of approved Designated Organizations, please visit the list on the Government of Canada website here

At CIVS (Canada Immigration & Visa Services) we can help you with the process of obtaining a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization based on your business type and where you want to settle in Canada amongst other factors. This involves a business case, plan, pitch deck, and more depending on the organization. 

Step 5: Apply for a Work Permit and Permanent Residency 

Now that you have the Letter of Support or Commitment from a Designated Organization, and meet the other requirements: business, funds, language, and most importantly, support or commitment from a Designated Organization, you are eligible to apply for your Work Permit to work on your business in Canada. Work Permit processing times vary, but typically are processed in under 4 months. Your Work Permit will be valid from 1 – 2 years depending on your proof of funds and how long of a Work Permit you apply for. In tandem, you can apply for your Permanent Residency using a paper-based application.  

If you have a positive response on your Work Permit and have a high CRS score, it may be more time efficient to apply for Express Entry and obtain your Permanent Residency through the Federal Skilled Worker Program which is usually processed and approved in less than 6 months. We will advise you on the best possible pathway to resettlement in Canada and obtaining your Permanent Residence. 

At CIVS (Canada Immigration & Visa Services) we are authorized immigration professionals and we can assist you with the process of applying for your Work Permit and Permanent Residency.