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Canada takes aim at Silicon Valley with new startup visa program

Canada takes aim at Silicon Valley with new startup visa program


Pilot initiative aims to capitalize on complex US immigration policy

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The Canadian government today officially launched its Start-Up Visa Program, as part of an ongoing effort to lure foreign-born entrepreneurs within its borders — and away from Silicon Valley. The initiative, first announced in January, offers permanent residence to foreigners who obtain a "significant investment" from Canadian venture capital companies or angel investors. The program begins its pilot phase today with an initial annual allotment of 2,750 visas, though Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, expects it to broaden over time.

The goal, according to Kenney, is to boost Canada's burgeoning startup economy by offering a comparatively fast track to citizenship. Countries such as Chile and the UK already offer similar visas for entrepreneurs, though Canada's program is notably bolder than most, offering permanent and unconditional citizenship right off the bat.

"transformational changes to Canada’s immigration system."

"With our new startup visa, we are opening the door to new and exciting opportunities for Canada’s economy to grow and prosper," Kenney said in a statement released Monday. "This is part of our government’s transformational changes to Canada’s immigration system that will make it fast, flexible, and focused on Canada’s economic needs."

In the US, calls for similar reform have so far yielded few results. Tech industry leaders have been urging lawmakers to create a startup visa for years now, touting it as a way to keep foreign-born talent within American borders, though subsequent proposals never made it out of Congress. The movement has gained new momentum in recent months, with proposed bi-partisan legislation and a more concerted lobbying effort from Silicon Valley CEOs, but their long-term fate remains unclear.

Canada, meanwhile, has made no secret of its efforts to capitalize on American inertia. As complex visa requirements continue to drive foreign engineers away from the US, the Canadian government hopes its streamlined approach will lure them across the border. "When this thing gets launched, I plan to go down to Silicon Valley with some of the industry associations here and fly the Canadian flag," Kenney said in January.