Last Updated on September 22, 2021
(Following publication of this editorial, new persuaders now allow for online submissions.)
Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program has the potential to attract the type of new immigrants who can be at the forefront of the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
It is a program designed to welcome ambitious entrepreneurs with business ideas that could grow into the next Amazon or Facebook, or Skip the Dishes and ApplyBoard.com, Canada’s forefront Start-Up Visa unicorns.
These and many other aspiring companies are waiting for pairings with local investors to get their projects off the ground.
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The candidates are out there and the investors are ready to invest, but the program is let down by a lack of processing infrastructure on the part of Canada’s federal government.
The start-up ecosystem is worth billions of dollars to economies all over the world.
Israel, with the world’s most active ecosystem in the Artificial Intelligence sphere, attracted $414 per capita in venture capital investment in the third quarter of 2019. Other major players include the U.S., the U.K., Sweden and France.
Canada does not yet rank high up on that list, but perhaps with important modifications, it will in the future.
A program designed to attract business people at the forefront of their fields is let down by a paper-based application system and growing processing times. This paper-based process is only made worse by a global pandemic.
It is a juxtaposition that smacks of amateurism to ask the next generation of tech entrepreneurs to engage in a paper-based application process to come to Canada.
While other programs in economic and family class immigration have all but entirely moved to digital applications, the SUV has been left with an antiquated system.
The result? Processing times are now quoted as up to 16 months for new applicants, and 31 months for those with applications already in the system. These processing times have been driven up by the impact of COVID-19 but could be brought down significantly by automating the system to digital.
Its own evaluation of the SUV – conducted in 2016 when considering whether to make permanent what was then a pilot program – Ottawa showed it understood the importance of processing times to the SUV.
Timely Processing Crucial To Start-Up Success
“The importance of timely processing for this client group was frequently highlighted by key informants, with the majority stating that the success of a business (especially those in mobile technology) often depends on how fast it can be launched,” the November 2016 document reads.
Back then, processing times were estimated at around five months, still quite long for a program looking to attract entrepreneurs with business ideas that need implementing immediately in order to be successful.
A good start-up idea must be acted on quickly – not 31 months down the line.
Figures show the number of new permanent residents through the SUV more than doubled between 2018 and 2019. While the numbers remain low (510 newcomers in 2019), the potential for growth is clear, despite the impact of COVID-19 causing a drop in 2020, and into 2021.
The 2018 to 2019 increase alone is enough of an indication of the growth potential of the SUV.
Had the growth not been interrupted by COVID-19, 2020 might have seen 1,000 newcomers through the program, and 2,000 in 2021.
But Ottawa has either failed to recognise or failed to act on this clear potential, leaving a program in which it has invested million of dollars doomed to failure – if this process is not given much-needed attention for immediate change.