With a pilot Start-Up Visa programme launching on April 1, Canada is looking at enticing entrepreneurs to the country, including wooing many from Silicon Valley as a similar effort in the United States has remained moribund due to the political logjam over immigration reform in Washington.
Applications for the new Canadian programme will open on Monday. It has initially been planned for a period of five years and will accept up to 2,750 applications each year.
More importantly, after its launch, Canada’s citizensip, immigration and multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney plans to visit Silicon Valley to attract hi-tech entrepreneurs to the country.
“The Start-Up Visa Programme is the first of its kind in the world. By providing sought-after immigrant entrepreneurs with permanent residency and immediate access to a wide range of business partners, Canada will position itself as a destination of choice for start-ups,” a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) said.
Among those who could take advantage of the visa will be Indian-origin entrepreneurs who have thrived in Silicon Valley, but who remain stuck to their employers due to the provisions of the H1B visas, while facing uncertainty over gaining permanent residency and, eventually, American citizenship. The Canadian visa will provide a clearer path to citizenship.
While a similar start-up visa programme has broad bipartisan support in America, it has yet to be legislated as lawmakers there debate ways to tackle the numerically bigger problem of illegal immigration into the US. Among those worried about a possible flight of entrepreneurial talent from the United States is Vivek Wadhwa, who has researched and written extensively on immigration issues: “It’s caught up in the nasty politics of immigration reform. The Hispanic lobby will hold this hostage until their issues are resolved and Democrats won’t defy special interest groups,” he said.
Wadhwa, currently a Fellow at Stanford Law School and a serial entrepreneur himself, said the gridlock had already resulted in “tens of thousands” of entrepreneurs leaving the US for their home countries, like India, China and Brazil. He added, “Canada is not a bad alternative. It will be an even better alternative once this reaches critical mass.”