I love reading the minds of government officials when they do something.

Here's my attempt to read Immigration Canada's mind on the Start-up Visa program and recent changes! Please contribute with your perspectives on this matter. This is my personal observation, and I will update this piece with new information in due course.

My main question is: "Is the optional 3-year open work permit (OWP) now a permanent feature of Canada's Start-up Visa Program?"

Known Knowns (Before the June 2023 Changes)

  • Back in June 2023, now former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced an "optional" 3-year work permit for all startup founders in a Start-up Visa program.
  • There were thousands of applications in the Start-up Visa application backlogs at the time of the announcement.
  • More spots were allocated to the SUV program in the 2023–2025 multi-year levels plan under the Federal Business Class. There are 3,500 in 2023, 5,000 in 2024, and 6,000 in 2025.
    • Federal Business Class covers the SUV Program and the Self-employed Persons Program. So, not all of these slots will necessarily go to SUV applicants.
  • The startup founders in the backlog have been waiting 2-3 years for their permanent residence. Many have been waiting for the PR status in their home countries. Once they got their PR, they would physically relocate to Canada. Regardless of the startup's success or continuation after PR, the founders would keep the PR cards in their pockets.
  • Those who have applied for optional 1-year work permits before the June 2023 announcement and those who would now apply for the 3-year OWP could bring their family to Canada. The applicants' spouses would get open work permits, and the children would go to Canadian public schools for free.
  • The expectation from open work permits was that the founders would "move the needle forward" with their startups while the PR application was under consideration.
  • The processing time for the PR applications under the SUV program has been stable at around 37 months, i.e., 3 years and 1 month.
  • The SUV program is not an investment-free program. The founders of an eligible startup have to cover the following possible costs pre- and post-incubation (other than applicable living costs while in Canada):
    • researching and conceptualizing an innovative idea. The idea should go beyond the back-of-a-napkin stage.
    • conducting necessary market research and development.
    • developing an MVP or prototype.
    • preparing a pitch deck and a business plan.
    • financing any activity related to making some progress in the startup.
    • legal costs associated with preparing and submitting applications for the PR and work permits under the SUV program.
  • 90% of start-ups end up eitherlosing money or failing.

So far, are we ok with all these knowns? If yes, let's continue with known unknowns about the SUV program. Let me know if you agree or disagree with the statements below.

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