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History of the Start-Up Business Class

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The Start-Up Business Class began as a five-year pilot program targeting foreign entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada that: (a) were innovative, (b) could create jobs for Canadians, and (c) could compete on a global scale.  Entrepreneurs seeking permanent residence under the Start-Up Business Class were not required to personally invest any capital in the proposed business. 

Despite the relatively small number of cases processed during its initial five-year period, the Government of Canada considered the pilot program to be a success.  On July 18, 2017, IRCC announced its intention to establish a permanent Start-Up Business Class once the pilot program expired on March 31, 2018.  The final regulations for the permanent Start-Up Business Class became effective on April 11, 2018.

I am pleased to have played a small role in the creation of Canada’s Start-Up Business Class.  Near the end of 2011, I first raised the idea of a start-up visa with Mr. Jason Kenney, during a fundraiser for a local political candidate.  Mr. Kenny is currently the Premier of Alberta but, at the time, he was Canada’s Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. 

Earlier that year, the StartUp Visa Act of 2011 was introduced in the United States Congress.  During my discussion with Mr. Kenny, I mentioned the proposed bill.  I also explained that, since it was unlikely to become law in the United States, Canada could attract entrepreneurs who might otherwise be destined for the United States by establishing a start-up visa program of its own. 

Mr. Kenney initially believed that a start-up visa program would simply be a variation of the existing Entrepreneur Class (which was ultimately terminated 2013).  However, I explained that a start-up visa program would differ from existing investor and entrepreneur options to the extent that the entrepreneur would not need to be the source of investment capital.  Such a program would enable foreign entrepreneurs who established start-up businesses using capital contributed by third parties, such as venture capital firms or angel investors, to seek permanent residence in Canada.  By the end of our discussion, he warmed up to the idea of a start-up visa program. 

On April 18, 2012, Mr. Kenney announced public consultations on the possible creation of a new program to attract immigrant entrepreneurs.  On January 24, 2013, he announced that the Government of Canada would launch a start-up visa program to recruit innovative immigrant entrepreneurs who would create new jobs and spur economic growth.  On March 30, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada published Ministerial Instructions in the Canada Gazette, which formally established the new Start-Up Business Class. 

Read Henry J. Chang’s full article on the Start-Up Business Class here.