http://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2013/03/31/canadas_new_visa_program_to_attract_entrepreneurs_envied_in_us.htmlCanada’s new visa program to attract entrepreneurs envied in U.S.
Canada is launching a new visa program April 1 that is making many politicians and lobbyists in the United States green with envy.
Called the Start-Up Visa program, it encourages foreign entrepreneurs to come to Canada and work alongside investors and mentors to create new businesses, particularly in the high-tech field, create new jobs and spur economic growth.
Business gurus and venture capitalists here say it’s a win for Canada, but many in the United States lament the lack of action in their country to fix what many consider a broken immigration system. Previous attempts to develop a similar program in the U.S. have so far failed, including one that currently is stalled in Congress.
“The general idea of taking someone who wants to come to your country and hire Americans or Canadians, it’s such an obvious good idea for the economy,” said Jeremy Robbins, director of the U.S.-based Partnership for a New American Economy.
Robbins and others fear if a start-up visa program isn’t started soon, the U.S. will lose out in attracting highly skilled entrepreneurial immigrants who could boost its stalled economy.
The partnership is so eager to have Washington adopt a Start-Up Visa program of its own that it is staging a virtual march on Washington later this spring to draw attention to the need for reforms in the U.S. immigration program.
The march will use social media to push Washington to create a smarter immigration program, one that includes a similar visa program, said Robbins, who is also policy adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“In America, if someone wants to come to start a company, we say there is no visa for them so they can go elsewhere.”
That elsewhere not only includes Canada, where applicants, if accepted, obtain immediate permanent residency, but also the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore.
To qualify for such a visa, an entrepreneur must get financial support from a Canadian angel investor group or venture capital fund before they apply.
Two groups — Venture Capital and Private Equity Association and the National Angel Capital Organization — will work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to pick those eligible for the program.
The pilot project will run for up to five years, according to Immigration Canada. Applicants will also have to meet language proficiency criteria and have at least one year of post-secondary education.
If successful, the program could become a permanent new economic class in the immigration process. In 2011, Citizenship and Immigration placed a moratorium on new applications to the Federal Entrepreneur Program because the program is under review.
The program is being praised by many in the investment community and should translate into big bucks for the economy, said Michael Donahue, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Business Incubation.
It is “opening up a window for new entrepreneurs with great ideas to come to Canada and work with investors here,” added Michelle Scarborough, chair of the National Angel Capital Organization.
The new visa program will help build an even more competitive technology industry, said Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures, an angel investment firm.
Wertz played a role in financing a start-up by two Romanian entrepreneurs who immigrated to Canada in 2010. That start up became Summify.com and was eventually sold to Twitter for an undisclosed sum.
The program was inspired by the immigration struggles of the team who started Summify, he said.
“This talented pair had a big idea, strong endorsements, and venture-capital backing from top-tier investors like Accel,” he explained. “However, rather than focusing on their start-up, they faced a frustrating collection of bureaucratic red tape and immigration status uncertainty.”
Hopefully, the new program will make it easier for the next set of entrepreneurs who have a fabulous idea, Wertz said.