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In a first-ever ranking focusing on international entrepreneurs – and based on the OECD Indicators of Talent Attractiveness – Canada was deemed by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) 2023 Migration Policy Debates report to be the most attractive country for immigrant start-up founders within the intergovernmental institution in question. 

The indicators, which were collaboratively developed by the OECD and the Bertelsmann Stiftung, measure the relative attractiveness of countries from a multidimensional perspective on the metrics of quality of opportunity, income and tax, future prospects, skills environment, family environment, inclusiveness, quality of life, and visa and admission policy. 

In doing so, the Indicators of Talent Attractiveness consider both the migration policy framework and other factors that influence countries’ ability to attract and retain foreign talent of various types; the “type” focused on by the 2023 report was immigrant start-up founders.   

Of its 22 OECD peers, Canada’s start-up visa scored among the top 25% on all dimensions of the measurement tool except skills environment, offering several advantages for prospective start-up founders.

For example, it has a significant number of unicorns, a favorable regulatory framework for starting and running a business, a welcoming society for migrants, and comfortable living conditions. 

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Together with Australia, it is also the only country on the list that offers permanent residence to successful start-up visa applicants from day one. 

The report postulates that countries with a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, such as Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, are in favorable position to be attracting the top talent. 

However, these countries are not the only ones acting as foreign entrepreneur hot-spots. 

Talent from across the world is flooding into the OECD job market through an increasing number of start-up visa programs, as member countries are in increasing need of innovation, job creation, foreign investment, and increased competitiveness in the “globalized knowledge economy.” 

Such is the influence of foreign entrepreneurs that in the United States, 55% of the top start-up companies were found by immigrants, and nearly two-thirds of all billion-dollar companies were co-founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. 

Since 2010, 22 of OECD countries have thus introduced specific visa programs and schemes for foreign entrepreneurs. 

Expansion of the Canada Start-Up Visa Program in 2023

As the first six months of 2023 wrapped up, the Canada start-up visa (SUV) immigration program witnessed a 6.3 rise in the number of new permanent residents coming to Canada as entrepreneurs in comparison to the same period last year. 

While the numbers slowed a slight slippage in June (going from 75 in May to 65 in the proceeding month), the overall trend shows a hike. 

In the first six months of 2023, 335 new PRs were welcomed to Canada under the SUV program; this is the start of a long-term expansion of this immigration pathway, which is poised to bear witness to a rise over the next three years (from 3,500 newcomers in 2023 to 6,000 newcomers in 2025, under the federal business category). 

The most popular destinations for start-up candidates are British Columbia and Ontario, with the former welcoming 125 and the latter receiving 155 new PRs by the end of June. 

The fastest growth rate for the program, however, was witnessed in the Prairie province of Manitoba, where it welcomed 40 percent more newcomers in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. 

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How the Start-Up Visa Works

Recognized as the fastest North American immigration program for business immigrants (at 37 months to gain permanent residence), the start-up visa allows candidates to come to Canada on a work permit supported by their designated investor before they are granted PR. 

Under its tenets, foreign entrepreneurs with an approved business plan and recognized by one or more designated organizations (venture capitalists, angel investors, and/or business incubators) are provided with a Letter of Support (LOS), after which a PR application is submitted. 

The following is a list of designated organizations: 

Venture capital funds

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 totalling $200,000.

  • 7 Gate Ventures
  • Alt Ventures
  • Apex Innovative Investments Ventures
  • Arete Pacific Tech Ventures (VCC) Corp
  • BCF Ventures
  • BDC Venture Capital
  • Celtic House Venture Partners
  • Extreme Venture Partners LLP
  • First Fund
  • Golden Venture Partners Fund, LP
  • INP Capital
  • iNovia Capital Inc.
  • Intrinsic Venture Capital
  • Lumira Ventures
  • Invest Nova Scotia
  • PRIVEQ Capital Funds
  • Real Ventures
  • Red Leaf Capital Corp
  • Relay Ventures
  • ScaleUp Venture Partners, Inc.
  • Tangentia Ventures
  • Top Renergy Inc.
  • Vanedge Capital Limited Partnership
  • Version One Ventures
  • WhiteHaven Venture
  • Westcap Management Ltd.
  • Yaletown Venture Partners Inc.
  • York Entrepreneurship Development Institute (YEDI) VC Fund

Angel investor groups

A designated angel investor must invest a minimum of $75,000 into the qualifying business. 

Candidates can also qualify with two or more investments from angel investor groups totalling $75,000.

  • Canadian International Angel Investors
  • Ekagrata Inc.
  • Golden Triangle Angel Network
  • Keiretsu Forum Canada
  • Oak Mason Investments Inc.
  • TenX Angel Investors Inc.
  • VANTEC Angel Network Inc.
  • York Angel Investors Inc.

Business incubators

A designated business incubator must accept the applicant into its business incubator program. 

It is up to the immigrant investor to develop a viable business plan that will meet the due diligence requirements of these government-approved designated entities.

  • Alacrity Foundation
  • Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
    • Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator
    • Food Processing Development Centre
  • Alberta IoT Association
  • Altitude Accelerator
  • Bhive
  • Biomedical Commercialization Canada Inc. (operating as Manitoba Technology Accelerator)
  • Brilliant Catalyst
  • Creative Destruction Lab
  • DMZ Ventures
  • Empowered Startups Ltd.
  • Extreme Innovations
  • Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre
  • Genesis Centre
  • Highline BETA Inc.
  • Invest Nova Scotia
  • Innovate Calgary
  • Innovation Cluster – Peterborough and the Kawarthas
  • Innovation Factory
  • Interactive Niagara Media Cluster o/a Innovate Niagara
  • Intrinsic Innovations
  • Invest Ottawa
  • ISM Arts & Culture Ltd
  • Knowledge Park o/a Planet Hatch
  • LatAm Startups
  • Launch Academy – Vancouver
  • LaunchPad PEI Inc.
  • Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship
  • NEXT Canada
  • Niagara Business & Innovation Fund
  • North Forge East Ltd.
  • North Forge Technology Exchange
  • Pacific Technology Ventures
  • Platform Calgary
  • Pycap
  • Real Investment Fund III L.P. o/a FounderFuel
  • Red Leaf Capital Corp
  • Roseview Global Incubator
  • Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre
  • Spring Activator
  • The DMZ at Ryerson University
  • Think8 Global Institute
  • TiE Toronto
  • Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC)
  • Treefrog
  • TSRV Canada Inc. (operating as Techstars Canada)
  • University of Toronto Entrepreneurship Hatchery
  • ventureLAB Innovation Centre
  • Waterloo Accelerator Centre
  • York Entrepreneurship Development Institute
  • YSpace (York University)

Business development and investment are usually pursued with the help of business consultants in Canada’s start-up ecosystem, with oversight from experienced corporate business immigration lawyers who can ensure that a start-up’s business concept meets all industry-required terms and conditions. 

The basic government-imposed candidate eligibility requirements for the SUV are:

The start-up could be in one of several diverse industrial fields, including IT, technology, healthcare, manufacturing processes, agriculture, consumer products, etc.