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Fast Passage to Permanent Residence for International Graduates: Canada’s Start-Up Visa

International graduates who did not apply Canada’s new pathway to permanent residency should consider the Start-Up Visa alternative.

Canada’s one-time pathway to permanent residence for 40,000 international graduates went live
While more slots may or may not become available under the stream, presently many thousands of international student graduates are looking for faster ways to transition to permanent residency.

Canada already has an established route to permanent residency for international graduates, but it’s a long process and consumes a lot of time. First the foreign student studies and graduates from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI).

Secondly, they can obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which varies on the length and type of study. Experience gathered while holding a PGWP counts towards an application for permanent residency through the Express Entry system.

This whole process takes a lot of time, it can even take many years, with COVID-19 leaving many international graduates out of work and unable to gather that valuable work experience.

All hope should not be lost, there is still a solution. There are lots of other avenues to permanent residency in Canada, and one of the fastest ways is the Start-Up Visa.

The Start-Up Visa program does not need previous management experience unlike almost every other federal and provincial-level entrepreneur program which requires at least one or two years of previous experience either owning a business or in top-level management.

The support of a government-designated entity is enough. And that support can be either financial or in the form of accepting the candidate into a business incubator program. Candidates for the Start-Up Visa program consistently report that it is quick, both for the initial work permit and permit residence application.

With a feasible start-up business project, an immigrant entrepreneur can expect it to take about four to six months to secure a commitment certificate or letter of support from a designated entity. Once that letter of support is received, the application for permanent residence can be submitted.

It will probably take up 18-months or less from submitting an application to transitioning to a permanent residence visa.

Below are the eligibility criteria for a candidate to qualify for permanent residence:

  • The intended business must be listed and carrying on business in Canada;
  • The candidate must possess a minimum of 10 percent of the voting rights in the corporation, and;
  • No other person can hold 50 percent or more of the voting rights in the corporation.

Start-Up Visa Growth

The Start-Up Visa program is growing in popularity. In 2019, the total number of new permanent resident-approved admissions reached 510, more than double the 250 welcomed in 2018. The figures were increasing steadily over the five years prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the Canada Start-Up Visa program, three types of private-sector investors are considered:

  • angel investors
  • venture capital funds
  • business incubators.

A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 into the qualifying business.

Candidates can also qualify with two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totaling $200,000. A designated angel investor group must invest at least $75,000 into the qualifying business.

Candidates can also qualify with two or more investments from angel investor groups totaling $75,000. A designated business incubator must accept the applicant into its business incubator program. It is up to the immigrant investor to develop a feasible business plan that will meet the due diligence requirements of these government-approved designated entities.

That’s usually done with the help of business consultants in Canada’s start-up ecosystem with oversight from experienced corporate business immigration lawyers who can ensure a start-up’s business concept meets all industry-required terms and conditions.

The basic government-imposed candidate eligibility requirements for the Start-Up Visa program are:

  • a qualifying business;
  • a commitment certificate and letter of support from a designated entity;
    adequate unencumbered, available, and transferable settlement funds to meet settlement funding, and;
  • proficiency in English or French at the minimum Canadian Language Benchmark level 5. However, it frequently occurs that higher levels of English are needed to meet due diligence requirements imposed by designated entities.

Ottawa does not give financial support to new Start-up Visa immigrants. When candidates apply, they need to show evidence they have the finances to support themselves and their dependents in Canada. This money cannot be borrowed.

Additionally, it often occurs that candidates will need to show additional, sufficient funding to meet start-up costs of their business project, as a condition of investment by a designated entity (VC or Angel).

This is an area where experienced legal consulting will prove invaluable. The amount of settlement funding needed depends on the size of the candidate’s family.

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