On 1 November 2022, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ("IRCC") released Canada's Immigration Levels Plan for 2023 – 2025. Canada aims to welcome 465,000 immigrants to become their permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.

Out of the 465,000 – 5000,000 target admissions from 2023 – 2025, Canada has assigned 3,500 – 6,000 quotas for Federal Business Immigration Programs, which include the Start-Up Visa Program ("SUV Program") and Self-Employed Persons Program.

Canada's SUV Program targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada that (1) are innovative, (2) can create jobs for Canadians, and (3) can compete on a global scale. The SUV Program has been considered a success by the Canadian Government in stimulating the economic growth of the country.

According to IRCC's 2022 Annual Report, Canada continues to welcome immigrant entrepreneurs through the SUV Program and is addressing the inventory of applications that grew over the pandemic. In 2021, IRCC admitted 565 foreign entrepreneurs and their family members to become permanent residents and launch their business in Canada.

In delivering a speech on 2 December 2022, Mr. Sean Fraser, the Minister of IRCC, affirmed that Canada needs more people for economic, demographic and social reasons, including to address the problem of labor shortage in Canada. This explains the extremely open and welcoming immigration policy of the Canadian Government in recent years.

As of December 2022, there were about 3,458 permanent residence applications under the SUV Program. Compared to the yearly quotas of 3,500 – 6,000 from 2023 – 2025, it is apparent that Canada still has a large room for absorbing more foreign entrepreneurs to come to Canada to establish their innovative business ventures through the SUV Program.

Another good news is that the IRCC has been processing the applications at much faster rate and has been able to clear a huge backlog of cases accumulated during the pandemic, with a decrease in the inventory of applications of over 350,000 cases. The much faster rate of processing could be partly attributed to the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to assist in the processing and decision-making in the more routine immigration applications. The automated tool is used to streamline the process, but the final decision of approving or refusing an application will always be made by an IRCC officer. Although the processing time may be temporarily affected by the recent strike of the public servants, we are hopeful that the federal government will resolve the situation with the union as quickly as possible to achieve the immigration blueprint of the country in the long run. Looking ahead, we are anticipating a shorter average processing time for the SUV applications, which used to take approximately 24 – 32 months to complete the whole process.

Canada's SUV Program has many attractions to potential immigrants, including a relatively low settlement fund requirement, large flexibility to choose any province to live in Canada (with British Columbia and Ontario being the two most popular destinations), and just basic language requirement (about level 5 or above in English IELTS test or speak French). What is required at the core of the SUV Program is that the applicant must demonstrate that they have a viable business idea, relevant skills and work experience, and that they are committed to develop the business in Canada. The business idea must be supported by a government designated business incubator, angel investor or venture capital fund.

It should be noted that, contrary to the perception or marketing surrounding Canada's SUV program, it is not a passive program. Such program calls for the applicants to be actively involved in developing the start-up business in Canada and be able to provide detailed documentations to show concrete business progress. The applicants are expected to obtain a work permit to work on their business in Canada, while waiting for IRCC to process and assess their permanent residence application. During this time, the applicants will be required to provide a detailed business progress report supported by abundant evidence and documentations about the growth and advancement of their business in Canada. Such documentations include but not limited to the certificate of incorporation, corporate bank account document, market research and analysis reports, collaboration agreements with local Canadian entities to develop and/or manufacture the product, a clear technology development roadmap with budget and timeline, etc. Above all, it is crucial to show the development progress of the actual product, including all the drafts, designs and photos of the product. If the product is an app or online platform, the applicant would be expected to provide the wireframe designs, program specifications, and/or source codes.

The above are some examples of what IRCC look for from SUV applicants. Without demonstrating such level of commitment to developing the business in Canada, we cannot see how it would be possible for a candidate to be successful under the SUV program.

Since the inception of the Canada's SUV Program in 2013, our firm has successfully assisted numerous clients to apply under the SUV Program and helped them (as well as their family) obtain work permit, study permit and permanent residence in Canada, so that they can carry out their business ventures in Canada. We previously published an article on Three Steps to a Successful Canada Startup Visa Application, which was distilled from our vast immigration expertise, years of constant communications with IRCC as well as our first-hand knowledge and experience of handling hundreds of SUV applications.

In light of Canada's Immigration Levels Plan for 2023 – 2025, coupled with other favorable factors, we are seeing the enormous potential of the Canada's SUV Program that could be optimal for many individuals and families who wish to immigrate into Canada and start a business. The immigration door of Canada is wide open in the coming years of 2023 – 2025, which would be the best timing for anyone who desires to make the move.

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