Canada sets start-up visa to attract entrepreneur immigrants

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Foreign innovators who want to set up new companies in Canada will be able to immigrate under a new start-up visa program that Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said on Thursday was the first of its kind in the world.

The new program, to be launched on April 1, is part of a government push to better align the immigration system with Canada’s economic goals. Last year, the government revamped the skilled worker program to try to make it meet employers’ needs more nimbly.

“Our new start-up visa will help make Canada the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest to launch their companies,” Kenney said in a statement.

“Recruiting dynamic entrepreneurs from around the world will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy.”

Under this program, would-be immigrants would require the support of a Canadian venture capital fund or angel investor group, which would invest in new companies started by the immigrants.

Once candidates for the program are identified by these groups, the government would try to clear them for entry into Canada within weeks.

The goal is to unite Canadian money and foreign brains. An initial source of candidates could be frustrated foreigners in the high-tech sector in the United States who have not been able to land resident status there.

The Canadian start-up visa would grant permanent resident status, which can then lead to citizenship.

For now, Ottawa will work with two umbrella groups that will identify which members of their associations will be eligible to participate in the program. They are Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization.

“Through this program, we want to attract high-quality entrepreneurs from around the globe and help build best-in-class companies in Canada,” said Peter van der Velden, president of CVCA and managing general partner of Lumira Capital, which helps build health and life-science companies.

Kenney has put a moratorium on issuing on Canada’s existing entrepreneur visa, which only required an immigrant to hire one person for one year.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway