Start-Up Visa Comparison

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Blog Post
Title Start-Up Visa Comparison
Author Ramee Saleh
Content status Tabled
Publication date
Notes The material in this post was folded into the startup visa post.
©, 2016


The United States is not the first to propose a start-up visa; many other countries have established their own different processes, including the United Kingdom and Canada. The UK has less stringent requirements, thus opening up the application to a wider variety of people. Canada has equally as strict, if not more, requirements but grants permanent residency to those who are successful. US policymakers could learn each and either loosen requirements or give entrepreneurs greater security about their immigration status by extending the length of stay.

The UK allows individuals wishing to set up or take over a business within its borders to apply for a “Tier 1 (Entrepreneurship) Visa” which can be extended before they can apply for settlement, or an indefinite leave to remain. The UK’s financial requirements for applicants are also more flexible in terms of both sources and amounts of funding. Additionally, the UK start-up visa does not require that applicants start the business themselves and play a significant role. Instead, intention of setting one up or even taking another over is enough. Lastly, the UK process grants entrepreneurs greater security because of the ability to apply for settlement. Overall, it seems that the UK system focuses more on entrepreneurship as a general theme than start-ups. One is eligible to apply after simply investing a certain amount into an established UK company (and thus not actually steering new innovation). As a result, the requirements are easier than the proposed American ones.

In contrast, Canada’s “Start-Up Visa Program” focuses on start-ups. This is reflected in the eligibility requirements and in rewarding those accepted with permanent residency, even if their business eventually fails. Canada has created a list of designated organizations - venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators - from which applicants must obtain at least one letter of support that details funding information. It is clear that Canada seeks to attract innovative talent by tying them to government-approved Canadian entities with a goal to facilitate the establishment and long-term success of their business in Canada.

These requirements aim to ensure a Canada-centric business model. However, a resulting consequence is the increase in difficulty of obtaining the startup visa. Still, there is no risk of losing legal immigration status nor any pressure to achieve certain growth measures.

While Canada imposes arguably harsher eligibility requirements -- funding from only approved sources and required acceptance into an incubator -- that limit the pool of applicants, it also offers greater security. Permanent residency even if the start-up fails is comforting to entrepreneurs; above all they have immigration security. In contrast, the American proposal similarly imposes high-level requirements but does not offer a level of immigration security. Perhaps if the Obama administration, and in general American lawmakers, want to retain the stringent requirements then they should look into offering greater security. This compensates for the fact that the applicant pool will be limited to already high-achieving firms.