Photo: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star

Ottawa’s immigration program for startups is having a hard time attracting entrepreneurs

When the Start-up Visa was announced in 2013 as a pilot to bring promising entrepreneurs and their companies to Canada, the then-Conservative government bought a billboard in California. The sign, on the highway between Silicon Valley and the San Francisco International Airport, read “H-1B Problems? Pivot to Canada,” a reference to the popular U.S. skilled-worker program.

Then-immigration minister Jason Kenney said the initiative, which allotted 2,750 spots per year for entrepreneurs and their dependents, would “help make Canada the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest to launch their companies.”

While there’s been an uptick in the past two years, just 666 people between 2014 and 2018 have received permanent residence under the program—about a quarter of one year’s allocation, according to data provided to The Logic by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). British Columbia and Ontario are soaking up more than three-quarters, or 79.7 per cent, of the founders—and the promising businesses they’re creating.

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