The United States and Canada appear to be moving in opposite directions when it comes to visas for immigrant entrepreneurs looking to build and grow high-potential startups.
In the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to eliminate the Obama-era International Entrepreneur Rule, which would have offered temporary residence to immigrant entrepreneurs with promising start-up ideas.
The program was targeted by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump early in 2017 and the DHS said the proposal to end it stems from the U.S. government’s belief that, among other concerns, the rule “lacks sufficient protections for U.S. workers and investors, and is not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs.”
The proposal to scrap the International Entrepreneur Rule has been denounced by the Washington, D.C.-based National Venture Capital Association, which calls it “short-sighted” and a “major mistake.”
“The world’s best immigrant entrepreneurs now have many choices on where to start a new enterprise, and the International Entrepreneur Rule would facilitate these job creators launching a startup in the United States, rather than overseas,” the association said.
This view was echoed by Linda Moore, president and CEO of Technet, a national, bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives in the U.S. that calls itself “the voice of the innovation economy.”
“This decision to get rid of the International Entrepreneur Rule sends a chilling message to entrepreneurs and investors around the world that America doesn’t need or want them,” Moore said in a statement.
“At a time when the U.S. has slipped to ranking as the world’s 11th most innovative country and economic competitors like Canada, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are using dedicated entrepreneur visas to attract job creators to their shores, this decision is a step backwards for us.”
Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program is a key example of the dedicated entrepreneur visas mentioned by Moore.
Launched in 2013 as a five-year pilot project, the Government of Canada made it permanent in March.
“Our government’s innovation and skills plan has identified the nurturing of entrepreneurship and the growth of startups as vitally important to Canada’s economy, making the Start-up Visa Program permanent supports this very agenda,” Canada’s current Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, said of the program.
The Start-Up Visa Program facilitates entry to Canada for entrepreneurs who want to establish a start-up business in Canada that is innovative, creates jobs for Canadians and can compete on a global scale.
Canada has admitted 135 immigrant entrepreneurs through the Start-Up Visa Program since 2013, according to statistics provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
IRCC says 107 start-ups have been developed in Canada with the help of the program in that same time period.
Immigrant entrepreneurs looking to gain entry to Canada through the program must secure a minimum investment from a designated business group in Canada, among other criteria, in order to be approved.
The program is unique in that it provides successful candidates with Canadian permanent residence regardless of whether the venture succeeds. Similar programs in other countries, including the U.S. International Entrepreneur Rule, only offer temporary residence at the start.
The Start-Up Visa program is just one of numerous options for entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in Canada. Many Canadian provinces and territories also have entrepreneur-focused immigration streams that are part of Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program.
The province of Quebec also has a dedicated entrepreneur stream.
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