Canada, which already has one of the world’s largest immigration programs, is launching a new type of visa for foreign entrepreneurs today. It’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.
Foreign nationals who secure funding from Canadian venture capital firms or angel investors can apply to the new Start-Up Visa program for immediate permanent residency. Canada’s new program is the latest in a score of startup visas recently created or revamped by governments, including Australia, Chile, and the U.K., to woo foreign entrepreneurs.
The big difference is the immediacy: While most countries make participants wait a few years so they can prove their impact, Canada grants permanent residency from the start. The bet is that some of the braniacs’ startups will eventually create lots of good jobs.
When Canada announced its plans in January, I noted the inability of the U.S. government to create a similar program, despite numerous attempts. “We’re very conscious of the presence of thousands of brilliant young IT specialists and entrepreneurs in the States who are on temporary visas, running out of runway,” Canada’s immigration head, Jason Kenney, told me on March 28. “Many of them have developed business concepts but can’t get permanent residency in the U.S.”
Kenney is heading to Silicon Valley in May to tout the program and encourage Canadians to “get down there and invest in some of these bright young people,” he says. He’s not limiting his courtship to America, either: “We’ll follow where [investors] go because they’ll be doing the primary recruitment. I anticipate there might be some action for us in India as well.”
The visa is a pilot, with an initial annual allotment of 2,750 visas available to entrepreneurs and their families, and Kenney expects it will “start relatively slowly but then extend after that.” The premise is simple: “If a Canadian venture capitalist is going to invest in a startup, we’d rather that business [locate] in Canada than India or Silicon Valley or somewhere else overseas,” he says.