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Startup Visa coming to Canada April 1st (startupnorth.ca)
152 points by dmix on Jan 24, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments

Relevant quote from the press release:

> Mr. Kenney said the government is partnering with Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO), which will identify members of their associations eligible to participate in the program.

So VC/angels get to decide who is eligible for the visa.

Ever look back an on sector and see an unhealthy cooperation between government and industry? It doesn't start with conspiracies; it starts with well-intentioned programs like this one.


> Agreed. Phase two is the merging of key individuals between the industry/government to ensure that vested interests stay vested ala http://i.imgur.com/XwyV4yi.jpg

That's a somewhat distinct problem, which is that the experts in a particular industry unsurprisingly come from the dominant players in that industry. It creates some bias, but as a practical matter you have to assume people can act in good faith in different roles.

What I'm talking about is a different problem: delegating governmental authority directly to private companies in ways that directly benefit only specific interests. E.g. a number of states are delegating eminent domain authority to oil and gas companies. There is much more potential for abuse in such scenarios. Government officials have a duty to the public interest, and by and large they take that duty seriously. Private companies have a duty only to share holders and owners, and by and large they take that duty seriously too.

How is this an unhealthy cooperation? The financial support for this program is entirely from the private sector and the government simply looks after the background checks and admissibility, as they would for all immigrants anyway.

That is something that runs counter to the rest of the Immigration process and not at all healthy, IMHO

Yeah, sounds like a subsidy for the "venture capital" industry. Better to stick to a modest, points based, legal only immigration program rather than have some of the wealthiest people in a society decide who can immigrate. As far as "guest workers", I'd guess the solution is open it to all professions and let employers bid on a small quota. That'd ensure we get "the best and brightest".

Not to mention the recently announced $400mil subsidy: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/the-ambiti...


Open it to everybody. If you're willing to come to this frigid place and work your ass off cleaning toilets, so be it.

Immigration tends to select for those with pluck and determination, and we all benefit.

How? To get a student visa you have to be accepted at an accredited university/college/cegep/high school. How is this different?

I ask because I'd like to better understand your argument.

A school is accredited by the public, and audited, so ultimately there is a strong accountability chain to the people.

AFAIK neither of the associations above answer to the government. They are being given tremendous power without proportional accountability.

You need some way of filtering out scammy applicants. eg:

- Canadian Person A starts an "investment fund".

- Foreigner Person B "invests" $250k in to the fund.

- Investment fund invests $200k in Person B's new company to be founded in Canada.... Ta-da! You just acquired Canadian Permanent Residence!

- Person A takes a $50k consultancy fee.

I tend to think that if someone is willing to pay $250k for permanent residence, they should be allowed to do so. I mean, most immigration laws are against the poor and uneducated, and not the rich guys who are bringing their wealth and knowledge to a country.

edit: the focus is not on the amount, it can be whatever amount the government sees fit (e.g. $800k as mentioned below). I just don't see any problem that the wealthy ones can buy a residence / "retirement plan" / whatever you name it.

Actually it costs a lot more than $250k to get permanent residence. According to the current program, you have to have a minimum net worth of 1.6 Million and visit $800k (all values Canadian)

Source: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/business/investors/in...

You are referring to the Immigrant Investor program, which is on hold.

The Start-Up Visa program does not require any investment from foreign entrepreneurs. It simply requires that the start-up itself have a funding commitment from a designated angel investor network or acceptance to a designated incubator network.

Part of what makes the program so historic is that it offers permanent resident status (the Green Card) right from the start. This is not affected whether the business fails or succeeds. This program actually recognizes the risk that entrepreneurs take.

You can learn more here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/backgrounders/...

The trouble with this is that the cost of an individual to society may in fact exceed $250K easily, especially in a socialist country like Canada. Health care, retirement benefits, subsidization of all manners of things predicate on a lifetime of taxation - $250K would be a steal to buy into this. Otherwise you're essentially selling the cheapest retirement plan in the world.

Not to mention $250K is not a substantial amount of capital to bring into an economy. Canada has an investment-track immigration program, the sticker price is well north of $250K at this point and come with requirements for employing Canadians (citizens or PRs) as well as minimum funding and duration.

I imagine people taking part in the startup visa programme will be subject to the usual health checks.

When applying for Canadian PR you have to satisfy the government that you won't place "excessive demand" on existing health/social services within Canada.

The figure is currently set at $30,705.00CAD over 5 years ($6,141.00CAD x 5). eg, if you have an autistic child and they require a teachers aide that costs more than $6.1k/year you won't be eligible for PR.


A student visa != Permanent Residency

If anyone is writing a post on this, I took some photos at the announcement event of the Minister which are released under CC.


It might be useful to consider life _after_ your startup emerges and becomes successful. There are several advantages to owning a business in Canada:

-low corporate tax rate of 15.5%

-over the past 10-15 years, individual tax rates have steadily fallen. Roughly speaking, if you're making less than $150k, very comparable to the U.S. but there's tons of factors (including province, how you pay out - dividends vs salary, etc...)

-onetime capital gains exemption of $750k for selling your Canadian private business. Add your wife as shareholder and you're looking at $1.5m tax free.

-availability of tax credits to help fund innovative startups (it needs to be novel, non-obvious, and involve technical uncertainty at the outset - so a typical website stopped qualifying years ago - but perhaps underlying aspects might partially qualify)

-future stability. Whether U.S., China, Europe, (or other?) prospers in the future - they will likely be needing resources - which will likely exist in Canada, thereby ensuring a base of prosperity and tax revenue to fund infrastructure for many years.

Now if CIC can just get their act together on speeding up spousal sponsorship, I'd be a happy man.

Disclosure: I'm a Canadian in the US. Got married here (my wife's from Asia) - now I can't move back to Canada until I figure out my wife's residency. From what I've read, this takes 12 months+. Makes life very hard to plan.

Some context: the Canadian govt recently started a crackdown on fraud-marriages. Unfortunately, it seems the CIC takes the view that you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent.

Oddly enough I have an old university roomate who works in this area for the government. I've been told that the wait time is partially by design.

They will almost never act quicker than 6 months from the point of filling as they've found that, surprise surprise, most shame marriages have a hard time living together for 6 months or more:)

I couldn't agree more. As much as I am grateful to Canada for giving me a better life, CIC should seriously revisit its spousal sponsorship. I am a law abiding citizen, but when I had to sponsor my wife, CIC asked me for proof of relationship. Even though I have no problem providing it, it would be good if they don't assume you are guilty before even starting the process.

I don't know of a good way to do this, but I fear for the worst. What if they find my genuine marriage a fraud? What do I do then? I have already waited enough.

Yeah. The wait sucks. I am with you. But the instances of marriage fraud used to be as high as 50% from some offices. Investigators were finding people selling books on how to dupe Canadians into marriage and ghost consultants selling whole fake marriage ceremonies.

I highly highly doubt the 50% number. But fine. Lets assume that for a second. Now that CIC has added a 2 year requirement on the conditional PR, they should make a public commitment to reduce the time it takes for getting your spouse into the country! That the CIC isn't doing so, and it keeps publicizing the unbelievably high marriage fraud numbers makes me feel like they are being disingenuous. My wife and I both have doctorate level education. It seems we'd be more welcome in other developed countries - more so than my own Canada.

Happy to answer questions here re this. I worked for the gov't on this file before starting my own company. The VC funds that sponsor are subject to internal and peer review audit.

The article mentions angel capital being a possible helper. Do you know how much needs to be raised?

Also - why the requirement on VC funds anyway? Shouldn't we be supporting bootstrapped entrepreneurs as well?

Amount depends on VC, Angel, or Incubator stream. (There are three streams.) The reason we did it this way is because we think gov't is bad at picking good start-ups and that VCs, Angels, and Incubators are better. The funding is minimal. (As low as $25K for angels for example.) We just want people saying "this person is good, let them in" have skin in the game.

Has anyone heard news of any other changes to Canada's immigration policy?

I know when the new minister got in (last year?) they said big changes were coming, but as yet we have not seen much.

I just became a permanent resident, though my brother didn't qualify and was forced to leave... he'd love to come back if he can find a way.

There have been some changes, however they so far (I think) have been relatively minor. The Minister didn't change (It is still Jason Kenney).

Most of the changes have been to the refugee program and on 'cracking down' on immigration fraud. (For example last year I think they did a big sweep of fraudulent immigration lawyers)They are also changing the status of which countries get to qualify for refugee status and who gets fast tracked in the immigration system.

For some more detail/analysis read: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/has-jason-kenney-b...

I hope you find a way to get your brother back.

In the past year, basically every single immigration program to Canada has changed. Here is the changes on the main economic class: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2012/...


It looks like the Skilled class still requires a letter of arranged employment[1]

It's crazy, because my brother easily meets the 67 points required, but without arranged employment he can't even apply. (I was the same, and ended up being sponsored by the province of Yukon through my employer.. which took over year)

[1] http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/apply-who.asp

EDIT: The whole thing is so confusing. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/apply-who.asp Says you must have a letter of arranged employment before you can even apply... then a bit further down it says that's one of the 6 selection factors and you can get up to 15 points for it. I just filled out the online self-assessment as my brother and got 68 points without arranged employment. Can he apply or not?

EDIT2: Just spoke to CIC - it doesn't matter if you get 150 points, if you are not in the PhD stream, or the arranged employment stream, you can not apply. Fullstop.

The forums at BritishExpats.com tend to keep on top of changes to immigration policy:


(Ignore the 'British' in the URL - it's a really good site for anyone thinking about emigration.)

It is very encouraging that startups have been recognized as a viable route to do something in Canada.

I hope in time and with success the visa can be expanded to include the present reality in Canada that 98% of startups in Canada are self-funded and don't get or use VC input:


For the majority of the startup environment in Canada, this doesn't benefit them right away.

Also interesting -- Small businesses are 98% of businesses in Canada: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/smallbusiness/story/2011/10/...

The old visa, which this replaced, was for the self funded startups.....

This one is for the VC...

You're thinking of the old Entrepreneur Program, that'd been around since the 1970s.

That program simply facilitated new Canadians to make smaller convenience stores or low-risk ventures at best (smaller, safer enterprises, etc). It's criteria was largely just net worth and business experience. The only path to Canadian permanent residence was the creation of one new job every three or four years.

As you'd guess, it didn't exactly inspire risk takers.

I believe the previous vis was for businesses in general, and not specifically tech startups like this one? Also, that visa required the person coming in to bring their own money to start something.

Another words, self funded.

As someone who went through the 'entrepreneur route', which is not what this start-up visa thingy is but it was a related program, it's still Canada and it is still the Canadian government, as well as Canadian immigration:

Canada is a great country, lots of really nice people and amazing scenery. Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal (order of personal preference for running a business) all have sizeable tech scenes and all have a reasonably good access to the US market.

If you're Canadian you can very easily leverage your position into one that translates into most of the pros and very few of the cons of living on the North American continent.

If you're an outsider planning to move in things are substantially different. The first thing that you'll notice is that there is a sizeable industry that exists just to make money off new arrivals (aka immigration lawyers and associated services). There are a lot of gotchas that nobody informs you about (such as, for Ontario, applying for OHIP coverage immediately upon arrival, wait one day too long and you're in deep trouble), there a lot of silly rules and regulations that won't make sense to you if you're not from a country that qualifies as a 'nanny state' and there is a lot to be learned about banking and your 'credit score' if you are not Canadian and you do not have any history. Banks are really hard to get any reasonable performance out of, there are too few of them and their offerings are too uniform.

The Canadian government is saying 'A' but will actually do 'B', and it will do this at length. In my case, with a guaranteed landed immigrant status in the year 2002 it took until 2007 for me to finally give up on the whole process and move back to Europe.

By then I'd had enough of the Canadian authorities and the fact that there are only two seasons, winter and construction. If the government had kept their promises of speedy processing for me and my dependants I'd be singing 'Oh Canada' right now and I would have taken the snow into the bargain. As it was, losing half a year per year to the elements (the first two years were spent in Toronto, the last 3 on an island near Sault ste. Marie), having to deal with uncertainty from the governments side, a dog-eat-dog attitude when it comes to making money with people (which turns into making money off each other if you're not very careful), a school that was outwardly secular but internally dominated by religion and many more issues I'm reasonably happy to be back in Europe.

There is lots of stuff wrong here but at least my status here is not questioned with every move I make.

Fun fact: two weeks after shutting down the Canadian company, firing everybody and moving back they came through with the paperwork and asked if we would please come back...

Take home lesson: Beware of promises by the Canadian government, especially when it comes to giving landed immigrant status to foreigners (forget about citizenship, that's a different kettle of fish), even ones that bring tons of business with them. The best I ever got out of them was a work permit for me, but not for my spouse. Be prepared to be kept waiting (quite possibly for a great many years), and be prepared to file ever more paperwork at great expense and expect the game to change while you're playing it. Great Eh? ;)

It's not much different in the USA, at least when it comes to the H1B > Green Card > Citizenship route. I've gone through two H1B applications (first time and renewal) and one Green Card application, and every single time the USCIS put me and my company through the RFE (request for evidence) process, where they ask for additional evidence that I am qualified to work at my position and that the company did not prefer me over American applicants. Which meant even more overhead for company lawyers and HR people, plus more legal fees. I managed to get my H1B renewed, still waiting on the Green Card decision (if it gets approved I have to wait another 5-6 years before I actually get it).

And note that I've been wanting to start my own business all this time, but I can't. In fact, it would be tremendously difficult for me to switch jobs. Which makes me an indentured servant of this company until I get my green card and therefore my freedom to set my own course.

> And note that I've been wanting to start my own business all this time, but I can't. In fact, it would be tremendously difficult for me to switch jobs. Which makes me an indentured servant of this company until I get my green card and therefore my freedom to set my own course.

I was in exactly the same situation (Canadian on H1B) but am lucky enough to be married to an Aussie, so two years ago we moved Down Under where I had permanent residency from day one and complete freedom to work for any company, or start up my own.

Last year I got SlickDNS, a managed DNS hosting service, up and running (https://www.slickdns.com/) and I have other ideas that I'm working on.

It's tremendously liberating after the straightjacket of the H1B.

On the related note: Immigration backlog: Anti-fraud measures add years to citizenship process http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1319286--immigrat...

> “We feel like we are held hostage by the government,”

That exactly sums it up. Fortunately we had options, for many people in the same process that is not the case.

I had the same experience in the EU (Austria). After 8 years I was happy to leave and finally be able to stop worrying about visa issues.

It really does seem like immigration police's work is to make sure as few people as possible immigrate.

This is rather misleading. The average processing time for Canadian citizenship remains 21 months. There is a residency requirement that applicants live 1,095 days (a full three years) in Canada before applying.

Some require a residency follow-up, because there are people who cheat the residency requirement, forging paperwork to pretend to have lived in Canada, etc. This is only a minority of cases. There's an average of 172,000 new citizens to Canada each year, which is huge.

i've been a canadian permanent resident since 1982 and i've been in the citizenship process since 1998 with very little forward movement. inquiries and hefty lawyer bills just get me "working on it" as an answer

canada is lovely, but the beauracracy is out of control

You've probably been flagged for something. Most people I know get it very easily once they have permanent resident status.

Your patience is incredible.

> ...on an island near Sault ste. Marie

Man, I feel cold just thinking about it! (Here's the current forecast: http://ca.weather.yahoo.com/canada/ontario/sault-ste.-marie-...)

As a Canadian transplant to Melbourne I laugh when the Aussies complain how cold it is here in winter.

Coldest I've seen there was -43 celsius... Having a Honda hybrid was interesting under those conditions.

What in particular is bad about a Honda hybrid for those conditions? Are you referring to slow cabin heating or something else?

The batteries in it really don't like that cold.

Also the dash would simply refuse to work on account of the liquid crystals no longer being all that liquid.

Not to downplay the pain you got put through, but an important lesson for those who haven't tried it is that immigration is difficult in general.

> there are only two seasons, winter and construction

Come to Vancouver instead - here it's summer and rain, where summer is July through September.

Vancouver is my favourite city in Canada (and runner up for running a business). Say hi to the steam clock from me :)


(not the best picture, taken on a road trip around the rocky mountains in winter, yes, I'm crazy).

US citizen living in Victoria here -- the west coast of Canada is pretty fantastic in many ways, but the availability of quality tech jobs takes a sharp nosedive once you leave Toronto, as far as I've been able to tell. It could be interesting if Startup Visa immigrants chose to move this direction (not only for "quality of life" reasons but also to be geographically closer to Seattle/Portland/SanFran), but I wouldn't surprised in the least if they flock to Toronto because everyone wants to belong to the larger tech scene to attract talent and connections.

You're thinking of the old Entrepreneur Program, that'd been around since the 1970s, and is now under a moratorium. As mentioned in a different comment here, that program was substantially different.

This new program, for one, includes permanent residency and is the first such program in the developed world to do so for entrepreneurs. It puts an end to what many countries (and indeed Canada until now) had, which was to offer the uncertainty of bureaucracy where one's long-term residency was concerned. Not exactly inviting, hey?

What I thought neat during the announcement yesterday was that they recognize that some startup business float while others sink, but your permanent residence status doesn't get taken away if your business sinks.

On that note, it is worth pointing out that Canada is making major headway in what they call a "faster and more flexible" immigration system. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2012/...

Unfortunately your experience is pretty common. Australia is pretty much the same (if not even more difficult).

So you can only get the visa if you have VC funding? How are you supposed to get started then? If your business isn't already operating in a country, how are you supposed to raise money from investors there?

When you apply to YC as a foreigner, you undertake the program during the three-month stay a visitor/tourist visa provides you. Then your company gets invested in, and your company, now capitalized, can legally immigrate you. Quite often, you have to go back home while things are set up, and then you're allowed back into the US when the paperwork goes through (may take months/years, during which you run the [US-based] company from abroad.)

I imagine the Canadian VC programs this affects will be similar; interestingly, the Canadian maximum-tourist-visit period is six months, so it gives you a bit longer to work things out.

Technically it's illegal to participate in YC or any other accelerator on a tourist visa. You can do it, but you basically have to lie at the border. I know this is the case in the US and UK, possibly Canada as well. Unable to find the stories ATM, but I know I've seen a couple cases where YC founders were detained and then turned away for getting called out on falsified tourism claims at US border control. Seems like if they are going to start this kind of visa, they need a case that covers the earlier stage as well.

Don't even get me started on the double taxation you face if your business is successful as a foreign national.

They didn't think that far ahead. :)

Does Canada even have an issue with immigration? I mean they already give visas on a point system, so most of the people who could qualify for this visa would probably qualify under their normal immigration system too.

What we really, really need though is a US startup visa (or even better) a point-based immigration system.

Definitely. Why do you think we wouldn't have a problem with it? Probably more so than the US as we provide more social assistance programs.

Here's an article about this published today: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1319286--immigrat...

Yes. Although Canada has transparent metrics for who gets admitted, there is a huge skilled immigration backlog. This backlog is from four to eight years, depending on the source. The immigration reform is intended to flush this backlog and speed up the process for future applicants.

Actually, the old skilled worker backlog (FSW?) has been reduced by about 50% in the past year or so.


Good to hear that, now we need to implement the same in US. Btw, any links that point to the exact qualifications for this visa?

Yes. There is no financial investment required from the applying entrepreneuer. However:

"The basic requirements will be intermediate proficiency in English or French and at least one year of post-secondary education. Beyond that, he said, it will depend on which organization is recommending the applicant.

They could be accepted into a designated incubator program, receive a funding commitment of at least $75,000 from a designated angel network, or a funding commitment of at least $200,000 from a designated venture capital fund.

Venture capital funds will automatically qualify to back startup visa entrepreneurs if they’re managing $40-million or more in assets. Those managing less than that would be subject to a peer review process “to ensure they’re credible,” Mr. Kenney said.

For angel networks, a peer review panel of NACO members will review the applicants, he said."

via http://business.financialpost.com/2013/01/24/startup-visa-pr...

What if someone needs less money (20-30k)?

BTW thanks for the info Sam.

Good ! its aboot time !

"Startup" used to mean a "business that is starting up"... somehow it became a very narrow definition meaning "businesses that get venture funding".

I guess a "startup visa" under the narrow definition is an improvement, but it isn't really what countries should be doing.

Frankly, there's nothing any country has that is going to be lost by letting immigrants in. Every country benefits from immigrants.

But if you're going to encourage entrepreneur immigrants, you should be open to anyone with a business plan, and enough experience and minimal personal assets necessary to make the business a success.

Since this is difficult to determine, don't try to determine it. Let people just apply and take them.

If, a year later, they've gotten in trouble with the law then send them packing... but otherwise, that's what a real "startup visa" would look like, in my opinion.

Fortunately there are countries who take this kind of approach.

Chile wants you to be able to support yourself and have a clean record with the local police.

Panama wants you to form a corporation and put $5,000 in the bank.

For americans, the Netherlands wants you to form a corporation and put $11,000-$15,000 into the bank. (via the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty)

I'm sure other countries have similar programs. For instance, Equador is reasonably open to americans who want to live there.

I don't see Chile, Panama or the Netherlands being overrun with problematic immigrants.

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