Immigrate to Canada as an Entrepreneur With a Start-Up Visa

June 4, 2024


  • Shireen Fisher

Canada provides favourable conditions for entrepreneurs to establish a new business or expand an existing one. If you have a promising and innovative business idea, you stand a good chance of being able to immigrate to Canada with the Start-up Visa Program.

The Canadian Business Environment and Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs play a vital role in the Canadian economy. They provide the element of competition and the availability of broader options for consumers. Immigrant entrepreneurs and business giants have and continue to contribute significantly to the country's economic growth.

According to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data, immigrants make up around 33% of business owners with paid employees across sectors in Canada, making a huge contribution to the Canadian economy. In addition, the country has over 600,000 self-employed immigrants spread throughout its provinces. More than a third of them have people they have employed.

Immigrant entrepreneurs have established themselves in several sectors. These include:

  • Dentistry
  • Restaurants
  • IT
  • Retail, especially grocery stores
  • Trucking/ transport sector

Immigrant Contributions to the Canadian Economy

  • Moroccan-born, Aldo Bensadoun, is the founder of the footwear and accessory empire, ALDO. His Montréal-based company has stores in over 100 countries across the globe. Bensadoun earned the honour of Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012 and in 2014. In addition, he was named a knight of L'Ordre National du Québec.
  • An immigrant from the United Kingdom, John Molson earned his fortune by establishing his brewery in 1786. He was part of Canada's early banking system, as well as steamship and railway companies.
  • Iraninan-born Karim Hakimi is the owner of Hakim Optical. His optician chain, which has been running for more than four decades, employs more than 600 employees, with over 161 stores throughout Canada.
  • Indian-born Ajay Virmani is the President and CEO of Cargojet, Canada's largest cargo airline. The company provides services on a national and international level and has more than 800 employees.

The Canada Start-up Visa

If the entrepreneurs mentioned above inspire you, the floor is wide open for you to make your mark as a business owner in the Great White North. The Canada Start-Up Visa Canada Program is for immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada that bring about innovation, job creation and the possibility to participate in a global market.

If you have an innovative business idea, you could get your idea supported by a Canadian designated organization. This could be your ticket to immigrating to Canada. To be considered eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, you will have to meet some requirements.

You Must Have a Business That Qualifies for the Program

For your business to be recognized as a qualifying business, it must meet certain criteria When you obtain get a commitment from a designated organization:

  • Each candidate that applies must own 10% or more of the voting rights onto all shares of the corporation.
  • Together with the designated organization, as the owner or owners, you must hold more than half of the voting rights on all business shares.

When you obtain permanent residency:

  • You must continue to manage the business in Canada
  • The main business functions must be carried out in Canada

Obtain a Letter of Support From One of Canada's Designated Organizations

You will need a support letter from a designated organization (a business organization with approval to invest in or support start-ups). Connect with the organization to learn more about how it works. Then, pitch your business to them. If successful, you get a letter of support. You will have to include this proof of support with your application.

Prove That You Meet the Language Requirements for Canada

You must demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively in one or both of Canada's official languages - English or French. This will show that you can properly conduct business in Canadian and other markets.

A language test like IELTS is preferred. You will have to meet the minimum score requirement of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in either English or French in four areas: speaking, reading, listening and writing. You must meet the minimum language requirements to ensure your application is accepted.

Prove That You Have Sufficient Settlement Funds For Canada

There is no financial support for new start-up visa immigrants. You'll need to prove that you will be able to be financially independent after you arrive in Canada. The amount of settlement funds you will need will depend on how many dependents you're bringing.

How to Apply for a Canada Start-up Visa

Step 1: Apply Online

On October 14, 2022, submitting all Start-up Visas online became mandatory. If you cannot do so, you may request a different application format. Start by creating a Permanent residence online application portal account. Once signed in, follow the instructions to complete all relevant forms. Ensure that all paperwork, including supporting documents, signatures, test results and proof of fee payment, is submitted. Incomplete applications will be returned.

Find out more about the relevant documents for your application.

Step 2: Add a Photo to Your Application

You must submit a photo of yourself and each dependent on your application. The online application will provide instructions on how to scan and upload your photos.

Step 3: Make Your Application Fee Payment

Fees included:

  • The processing fees for you and your dependents
  • A Right of Permanent Residence Fee (RPRF)
  • Biometrics fees: photo and fingerprints
  • Any third-party fees: medical exams, police certificates and language tests

Step 4: Submit Your Application

All business partners involved must apply. Should there be someone who is no longer applying for Canadian permanent residency, you must let the IRCC know via a web form. It is important to note that if you apply for Canadian permanent residency with your business partners, if there are several people applying for permanent residency, the IRCC will not process your application if there are still outstanding applications.

Get Your Start-up Visa Today

Now that you know more about the possibilities for immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada, you are probably ready to immigrate to Canada via the Start-up Visa program. Remember to fill out each form required, as truthfully and accurately as possible. You do not want to waste any time. Your chance to become a major business contributor to the Canadian economy is within reach.


What are my Options if I need to be in Canada While my PR Application is Being Processed?

You will be able to apply for a bridging open work permit that will allow you to enter Canada and get your business going.

Are There Any Other Options for Entrepreneurs Who Want to Get to Canada?

There are many provincial programs for foreign entrepreneurs wanting to start, acquire or invest in a business in Canada:

  • Alberta: International Graduate Entrepreneur Immigration Stream and Self-Employed Farmer Stream
  • British Columbia: Entrepreneur Immigration Stream (Regional Pilot)
  • Manitoba: Entrepreneur Pathway and Farm Investor Pathway
  • New Brunswick: Business Immigration Stream
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: International Entrepreneur Stream and International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream
  • Northwest Territories: Business Stream
  • Nova Scotia: International Entrepreneur Stream: International Graduate Entrepreneur Stream
  • Ontario: Entrepreneur Stream
  • Prince Edward Island: Entrepreneur Work Permit
  • Yukon: Business Nominee Program

What Does it Mean to be Inadmissible to Canada?

Certain people will not be allowed to enter Canada. They are considered "inadmissible" in terms of Canada's immigration law. An immigration officer will determine whether you are suitable for entry to Canada when you apply for your visa or arrive at a border. Reasons for not being allowed into the country could fall under the following categories:

  • Security reasons
  • Criminal
  • Medical reasons