Why Canada Needs to Speed ​​Up Immigrant Entrepreneur Visa Programs

Mike Lazaridis, Arlene Dickinson, Tobia Lutke, Susur Lee — What do these Canadians have in common? They emigrated to this country before gaining entrepreneurial fame.

Each has its own story, but immigrant entrepreneurs play a special role in the country’s economic development. First- and second-generation entrepreneurs undertake 34.7% of all early-stage entrepreneurship in Canada. This is significantly higher than most other comparable economies. According to Statistics Canada, immigrant-owned businesses are young, fast-growing, and have high job creation rates. It also increases your chances of entering the global market.

The country has turned the traditional brain drain problem around with the help of the global talent stream and the rhetoric of US immigrants during the Trump era. However, venture capital funds, angel investor groups and business incubators rely on the Federal Startup Visa Program (SVP), another lesser-known tool for bringing more promising entrepreneurs to Canada. .. Over the past five years, 1,613 foreign entrepreneurs have been approved for permanent residence under this program, creating about 200 new companies.

The founders love our cultural openness, research environment and ease of doing business. But there is a problem: the pandemic has almost stopped approving SUVs. The advertised 6 to 12 month wait for permanent residence is currently pushing for 3 years.

This doesn’t work in the world of startup technology, where you can gain or lose your advantage in months or weeks. In addition, there are 20 other countries that have competitors’ startup visa programs. Without increasing the pace of approval, we risk losing these talented founders to countries that are willing to move faster.

The Spark Center where I work is one of the most active users of the SUV program. Canada’s SUV success and frustration choices will be reflected in a new report by the Innovation Economy Council, the independent voice of the Innovation Ecosystem established by the MaRS Discovery District.Report, “Immigrant Countries: How Immigrant Technology Founders Drive Canada’s Innovation Created by Nora Underwood.

The most popular countries of origin for Canadian SUV program applicants are Iran, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, followed by Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, Japan, India, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Libya. These founders work in a variety of disciplines, especially life sciences, advanced health, advanced materials, and advanced manufacturing.

In my area of ​​expertise, most are twice and some are three times. After spending decades in their field, they became professionals and decided to use all the knowledge and networks they had accumulated throughout their careers to set up a business abroad. They usually arrive with an investment capital of $ 400,000 to $ 500,000 in addition to their own savings. We want these talented people to set up a store here — as soon as possible.

These companies aren’t guaranteed to make it bigger — there are no startups. But even if you don’t become a unicorn, it’s incredibly valuable. They spend money. They make a job. They use subcontractors. They hire a marketing agency. And the founders tend to stay in Canada. Canada now has an insatiable need for engineers, early-stage investments, and ambitious entrepreneurs.

One of the companies featured in the IEC report is Longan Vision. Its large product is an augmented reality visor that attaches to firefighter helmets and provides enhanced information in complex environments. Augmented reality, thermal imaging, and edge detection help firefighters see through smoke, find victims, and even identify the source of a fire. It’s a great little company with pilot projects, contracts and multiple investors.

The only complaint of the founder is the length of time it took to get here under COVID-19. The SUV application process should have taken about a year, but in the end it was nearly three years.

“I was talking to another entrepreneur through Spark, and that was the only criticism,” Leno Zhao said in a report. “He loves being in Canada. He wants to be here for the rest of his life. He has great ideas and great business, but … he was quicker to apply to become a permanent resident. Probably. “

Like much about the pandemic, it arrived just when the SUV programming application peaked.

The total number of permanent residence approvals for start-up companies in 2019 was 802, more than double the previous year. By the end of the second quarter last year, we received only three, and approval was significantly delayed.

Ottawa’s mind is in the right place in this program. But before you lose these founders or businesses to other countries, you need to clear the backlog.

Synergy Lab Inc, a sister company of Spark Center. Nova Oliphant, Globalization Manager, told the author of the report:

“This country wants innovation and job creation. Why do we put SUVs on backburners?”

Theo Colborn is President and Chief Executive Officer of Spark Center.

Why Canada Needs to Speed ​​Up Immigrant Entrepreneur Visa Programs

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