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Startup visa program to launch April 1 with participation of CVCA and NACO

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Financial Post  | Christine Dobby | Jan 24, 2013 10:55 AM ET | Last Updated: Jan 24, 2013 9:33 PM ET
More from Christine Dobby | @christinedobby
Canada Start up Visas - Startup visa program to launch April 1 with participation of CVCA and NACO
TORONTO — The federal government is filling in some of the details on its new class of visa aimed at recruiting immigrant entrepreneurs — and even poaching the best talent from south of the border — all with a view to making Canada a hub for the creation of innovative startups.The startup visa program, which the government announced last year, will officially launch April 1, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Thursday.It will see visas issued to immigrants selected by venture capital investors as candidates to launch startups in Canada, and, unlike similar programs in the United Kingdom and Australia, immigrants under the startup visa class will receive immediate, not conditional, permanent resident status, Mr. Kenney said.Speaking at a press conference at the offices of startup EventMobi in Toronto, he said this should appeal to many foreign entrepreneurs, in particular those from China and India working in the United States with uncertain immigration status. 

“When this thing gets launched, I plan to go down to Silicon Valley with some of the industry associations here and fly the Canadian flag and say to those bright young prospective immigrants, some of whom are going to create massively successful companies in their lifetime, that they can come to Canada through this program and they can get permanent residency here, and have the certainty that this represents and start their businesses in Canada,” he said.

Mr. Kenney was joined by Boris Wertz, the founder of micro venture capital fund Version One Ventures in Vancouver, who helped form Startup Visa Canada two years ago to lobby for this class of visa.

“We were inspired to do this because we had encountered talented tech entrepreneurs who, although they had big ideas, strong endorsements and venture capital backing from top investors, faced red tape challenges to securing their immigration status,” Mr. Wertz said.

The startup visa program has received widespread support from many in Canada’s startup and venture capital communities. Mr. Kenney said both Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) will be partnering with the government to help identify eligible candidates for immigration.

The Canadian Association of Business Incubation is also set to participate with a view to including business incubators as eligible organizations “as soon as feasible.”

The minister said the full program criteria will be published shortly and the government would begin reviewing applications in the spring, but he sketched out some of the details Thursday.

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.

Mr. Kenney also suggested the program would not be targeted just at individual tech geniuses but at bright teams.

“We expect that in most cases these startups will have a core management team of three to five people,” he said, adding that the team will be required to have at least 51% ownership, each one must be a founder and each must individually own at least 10% equity in the company and be active in day-to-day operations.

“Let me send a message right now to all my friends in the business of immigration consultancy: no shortcuts on this one,” the minister said, alluding to issues with the old entrepreneur visa class, which the startup visa is replacing.


CVCA Press Release (PDF)


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share save 171 16 - Startup visa program to launch April 1 with participation of CVCA and NACO

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