Canada ranked the most attractive destination for immigrant entrepreneurs in 2023

Julia Hornstein
Published: August 20, 2023

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada was ranked the most attractive country for immigrant start up founders and entrepreneurs compared to all other OECD countries.

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There are 24 OECD countries including the United States, France, United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia.

According to the OECD report, there has been a growing interest from these countries in attracting foreign entrepreneurs to promote innovation, job creation, foreign investment and driving economies. To create favorable environments for new and innovative businesses to thrive, there must be a mix of measures to develop entrepreneurial ecosystems, stimulate research and innovation and make sure that prospective founders have access to funding and relevant human capital.

The OECD’s Indicators of Talent Attractiveness is a ranking system that focuses on attracting foreign start up founders by considering general factors and specific immigration policies that target prospective international start up founders. The system contains seven core dimensions such as market conditions and reach, access to capital and level of digitalisation and connectedness.

The OECD found that Canada scored among the top 25% across all dimensions in the framework, except for ‘skills environment’. Canada, together with Australia, is the only country that offers permanent residence to all successful start-up visa applicants from day one. Further, Canada has a favourable regulatory framework for starting and running a business, a welcoming society for migrants and favorable living conditions.

The ranking demonstrates that countries like Canada with a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship are well placed to attract start up founders and entrepreneurs.

How to come to Canada as an entrepreneur

Canada offers a variety of immigration pathways and work permits for entrepreneurs, investors, and self-employed persons.

The Start-Up Visa program grants permanent residence to immigrant entrepreneurs as they become established in Canada. The purpose of the program is to recruit innovative foreign national entrepreneurs who will drive economic growth and create new jobs in Canada.

In order to be eligible, applicants for a Start-Up Visa must meet the following criteria:

  • Meet minimum language requirements in English or French
  • Have sufficient funds to settle in Canada
  • Plan to settle in a province other than Quebec
  • Pass Canadian security and medical clearances
  • Prove your business is supported through a designated organization
  • Show your business meets ownership requirements

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has designated a number of venture capital funds, angel investor groups and business incubator organizations to participate in the Start-Up visa program. Successful applicants must secure a minimum investment for their Canadian start up.

Under the Canada-United States- Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), citizens of the US or Mexico who invest in new or existing business in Canada may be eligible to apply for Investor work permits to manage their Canadian business. Typically, the investor is the majority shareholder or sole owner of the business in Canada. However, there is an expectation that the business will generate jobs or other benefits to the local economy and will not be purely support the investor.

In addition, entrepreneurs who plan to continue to operate an existing foreign business while also expanding in Canada may be eligible for an Intra-Company Transfer work permit. This work permit option is primarily used by multinational corporations who intend to move key staff between branches, but it can also be well-tailored to entrepreneurs wanting to establish a new business in Canada.

There is also an Entrepreneur/self-employed work permit that can be an option for entrepreneurs who the majority or sole owner of a Canadian business are or in the case where the owner of the Canadian business intends to reside primarily outside of Canada. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that their business will have a significant economic, social, or cultural benefit to Canada.

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