Participate in the Start-up Visa Program as a designated organization

The Start-up Visa Program connects Canadian business organizations with immigrant entrepreneurs who have the skills and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada.

With the support of a designated organization, immigrant entrepreneurs can apply for permanent residence in Canada and launch their start-up here. Designated organizations include venture capital funds, angel investor groups and business incubators that have been approved to support these start-ups.

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Get the designation

To become a designated organization, you must be a member of and be recommended by one of IRCC’s partner industry associations: the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) or the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO).

CVCA makes recommendations for venture capital funds while NACO makes recommendations for angel investor groups and business incubators. Recommendations are based on criteria developed by IRCC and industry associations.

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship designates organizations based on these recommendations. You will be considered designated on the date your organization name is added to the list of designated organizations.

Find a start-up to support

As a designated organization, you can develop your own process for receiving proposals from immigrant entrepreneurs. You can also develop your own criteria to assess them. It’s up to you to find potential immigrant entrepreneurs you’d like to support.

Make an investment or pledge your support

For an immigrant entrepreneur to be eligible for start-up visa, they must get your investment or support. Here is the minimum investment or support you must give:

  • if you are a designated venture capital fund, you must make a minimum investment of $200,000 into their business
  • if you are a designated angel investor group, you must make a minimum investment of $75,000 into their business
  • if you are a designated business incubator, you must accept the immigrant entrepreneur into one of your incubation/acceleration programs

You can team up with other designated organizations to meet the minimum investment or support required.

Send us a commitment certificate

Once you have found a business you want to invest in or support, you must:

  • send us a commitment certificate, including a term sheet or client agreement, and
  • give the immigrant entrepreneur a Letter of Support, to be included with their application

A commitment certificate is valid for 6 months after the date it is issued.

You can send us the commitment certificate either through unsecure or secure email.

To send us unsecure emails and information:

  • complete the consent form that we send you
    • this form confirms your consent and understanding of the risks of sending sensitive information through an unsecure channel  
  • send the form to the start-up visa mailbox

To send us secure emails and information:

  • use Entrust software to encrypt your messages
    • we’ll send you detailed instructions on how to install this program
  • we’ll continue to communicate with you and your industry association through this encrypted channel

As a designated organization, you can use the start-up visa mailbox to ask for forms or get more information on how to send us sensitive information.

Application process for immigrant entrepreneurs

Applicants must submit their application for permanent residence under the start-up visa class before the commitment certificate expires. They must include the Letter of Support with their application.

If the entrepreneur wants to come to Canada while we process their permanent residence application, they can apply for a short-term work permit under the International Mobility Program. For the entrepreneur to be eligible for the work permit, you must have identified them as an “essential applicant” on their commitment certificate.

The entrepreneur can apply for a work permit before or after applying for permanent residence. In both cases, they need a letter of support from you.

Peer review process

Once we receive the application, we make sure the applicant has filled out the correct forms, paid the correct fees and included all required documents.

If we need more information about the commitment you have made, we may request a peer review. In the case of a peer review:

  • we’ll let the applicant know that their case is being sent for a peer review
  • your industry association will assemble a panel of experts to conduct the review
  • we will not disclose the identity of peer review panelists to you or the applicant

The industry association will assemble a panel of experts to assess the following:

  • the level of due diligence that was performed by the designated entity and whether it is consistent with industry standards
  • the terms of the commitment (including the investment made by the designated organization, the services to be provided by the designated organization and any fees to be charged to the applicants) and whether these terms are consistent with industry standards

The panel of experts will also:

  • ensure that the business has been or will be incorporated in Canada
  • ensure that the business ownership has been verified and meets the requirements of the Start-up Business Class
  • ensure that the designated organization considered the viability of the proposed business model, assessed the business venture’s management team and verified the ownership of the intellectual property
  • ensure the focus of the business is on a high-growth potential product and/or service
  • validate whether the business was accepted into a business incubator program (in cases where the commitment was issued by a designated business incubator)

The goal of the peer review process is to make sure that your activities and those of the applicant are in line with industry standards and to protect against fraud.

If the peer review identifies concerns with the commitment, we may send a procedural fairness letter to the applicant to:

  • inform them of the concerns
  • request further documentation to address the concerns
  • make it clear that if the applicant is not able to address the concerns, the application may be refused

The findings of the peer review panel are assessed with the rest of the information presented in the application to make a final decision on the case.

Suspension/loss of designation

While you’re a designated organization, you must uphold certain conditions to keep your designation.

Suspensions

If we suspect that you don’t meet the conditions outlined in the regulations or submitted false, misleading or inaccurate information, we may:

  • suspend your ability to make commitments, and
  • put all start-up visa applications linked to your commitment certificates on hold.
    • We’ll send the applicants a letter to let them know their application is on hold.

You can be suspended for up to 9 months. The suspension may be lifted earlier if the Minister determines that the situation is resolved. In these cases, the suspension is lifted on the date that a notification is issued by the Department.

De-designation

You could become de-designated if you:

  • don’t meet the requirements and conditions for designation
  • have submitted false, misleading or inaccurate information to IRCC, or
  • were suspended and didn’t resolve the situation that caused your suspension within 9 months

You are considered to be de-designated as soon as you are removed from the list of designated organizations.

If you become de-designated, we can:

  • refuse applications based on the commitment of your organization, or
  • return applications that we have not started to process and refund fees

We’ll notify applicants affected by the de-designation and let them know what their next steps are.

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