Start-up Visa (SUV) in Canada – Step by step guide

Canada has a special visa program for eligible entrepreneurs who are interested in immigrating to Canada. The program is called Canada Start Up Class, but it is also commonly referred as Start-Up Visa (SUV) program.

The aim of the program is to link innovative and qualified entrepreneurs with private sector investors in Canada. The program looks for applicants who possess the skills and have a potential to start a business in Canada with the following attributes:

  • The business idea is innovative
  • The business, once set up, can create jobs in Canada
  • The business can compete on a global scale

Candidates can visit Canada on a Work Permit supported by their designated investor in Canada. Once their business is launched, they can qualify to apply for Permanent Residency (PR).

Eligibility requirements to qualify for SUV?

The minimum requirements to qualify for the Canada SUV Program are:

  1. Should have a qualifying business
  2. A Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support from the designated investor in Canada
  3. Proof of sufficient settlement funds
  4. Language proficiency at minimum CLB (Canadian Language Benchmark) of Level 5 in English or French


Types of investors in Canada

The SUV Program recognized three types of investors in Canada. The investors under each category, had already met the eligibility requirements set by IRCC. These investors have the authority to invest in start-up businesses and work with entrepreneurs who wish to apply for SUV.

  • Angel investors

An Angel Investor group must invest at least $75,000 in a business to qualify for the program. If more than two groups are investing, their total combined investment should be at least $75,000.

  • Venture capital fund

A designated venture capital fund must confirm that they are investing at least $200,000 in the business. If more than one venture capital fund is investing in the qualifying business, their commitment to invest should total to at least $200,000.

  • Business incubator

A designated business incubator must commit to let the qualifying entrepreneur into their business incubator program.

To qualify, the intended business must be incorporated and carrying on business in Canada when the commitment is made. The applicant should own at least 10% of voting rights in the corporation. Also, no other person should hold more than 50% of the voting rights in the corporation.

A designated business entity can show support for up to 5 applicants. Out of these 5 applicants, some are designated as “essential to the intended business”. If any of the essential applicants are rejected during the process or choose the withdraw their application, the other application(s) are automatically terminated.

To get the Letter of Support from the designated investor, the below actions need to be taken.

  • Contact the designated investor to find out how they can support the business idea.
  • Convince the designated investor that your business idea is worth investing in.
  • Get a letter of support from the designated investor.

After contacting the designated investor, the applicant has to pitch the business idea. How to pitch the business idea depends on the organization. Some might want the applicant to personally pitch the idea while others might want the applicant to submit a detailed business plan.


How to apply for the SUV?

The steps to apply for the Start Up Visa Program are:

  1. Get the application package
  • The application package consists of an instruction guide and a document checklist. The application form needs to be duly filled and validated online. The form is to be printed and signed.
  • All documents according to the checklist should be gathered and arranged in the order as stated in the checklist.
  • All identifying and supporting documents should be arranged.
  • The document checklist needs to be printed and duly signed by the applicant. The signed checklist needs to be attached to the cover letter of the application.
  1. Pay the fees

The application fee needs to be paid online. Along with the application fee, a Biometrics fee also needs to be paid. The proof of fees payment needs to be submitted along with the application. Depending on the applicant’s situation, other fees such as for medical exams, police verification, and language tests also need to be paid.

  1. Give the Biometrics

After receiving the confirmation of Biometrics fee payment, the applicant will receive details on when and where to give their biometrics. The applicant needs to go personally to give the biometric details. It is advisable to take a proper appointment at the Biometrics collection center before visiting.

All forms need to be duly signed by the applicant. After completing all this process, the application along with all the documents as per the checklist and any other supporting documents need to be sent by mail.

Qualification requirements to obtain a Work Permit in Canada

Applicants who have already received the Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support from the designated entity and wish to start working on the business in Canada before their PR is processed, can do so by applying for a short-term work permit, supported by the designated entity. To apply for a work permit, the applicants need to show they have settlement funds of minimum $13,000 for the applicant and $3000 per family member.

The entrepreneur’s spouse can also apply for an open work permit, and their children can go to school at no cost. The applicants and their families also qualify for health coverage a few months after landing in Canada.


Requirements for Canadian Permanent Residency

The candidates must fulfill the below requirements.

  • Candidates must be actively involved in management of the business in Canada, and have minimum of 10% of voting shares.
  • The operation of the business or at least an essential part of it must take place in Canada.
  • The business must be incorporated in Canada.


What happens after the application is submitted?

After the application is submitted, it is checked by the authorities and all documents are verified. If any information is found to be missing, the application is sent back for correction and resubmission.

If the application is found to be in order, it is processed further. The applicant needs to undergo a medical exam. The applicant’s family members also need to undergo the exam even if they are not planning to move to Canada with the applicant. People who pose a threat to Canada’s public health and safety and those who would cause a great demand on Canada’s health or social services are not accepted.

Applicants who have a history of a criminal records or those who pose a threat to Canada’s security are also rejected. Thus, the applicant and their family members need to submit police verification certificates to the visa office when asked to do so.


Arriving in Canada once the application is accepted

If the applicant is outside Canada, they are accepted to carry the below when they arrive in Canada:

  • A valid passport and/or travel documents. The applicant should possess a private passport. Applicants with a diplomatic government service or public affairs passport are not allowed to immigrate to Canada.
  • A valid PR visa and the confirmation of PR (COPR). The date of entry into Canada should be before the expiry date on the visa.
  • Proof that the applicant is capable of supporting themselves and any family members once they arrive in Canada.

Once the immigrant arrives at the airport in Canada, an officer from Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) checks and validates all these documents. The officer might also ask certain questions to ensure that all the eligibility criteria for immigration are met.

If at any point the information furnished by the applicant is found to be false or misleading, entry into Canada is denied. Similarly, if the applicant fails to give satisfactory answers to the officer from CBSA, entry into the country is denied.

If the applicant is already in Canada, they are contacted about the next steps once their application is approved. Typically, they are required to appear for a short interview with an immigration officer. This can be done by making an appointment at one of the immigration offices in Canada. Alternatively, an applicant can go to a Canadian port of entry and present their documents.

During the interview, the immigration officer makes sure that all the documents provided are valid. They ask a few questions to ascertain that the applicant fulfills the eligibility criteria to enter into Canada.


How long does the entire process take?

If the applicant already has a viable business idea for start-up, it can take about 4 to 6 months to get the Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support from the designated entity. Once these documents are received a PR can be filed. It can take another 18 months to finalize the application and to issue the visa.