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Canadian Startup Visa - Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: Nov 27

Everything you need to know about Canadian Startup Visa Program. If you have any questions not answered here please reach out to

What is the Canadian Start up Visa program? The Canadian Startup Visa Program allows foreign entrepreneurs to obtain Canadian permanent residence by launching their Startup in Canada. Successful applicants and their families will be granted permanent residency, allowing them to live and work in Canada while building their businesses. In order to obtain a Canadian Startup Visa you must obtain a letter of support from a designated training organization, that's where we come in.

What is the Zen Launchpad & Spring Activator Product and Technology Accelerator Program? The Zen Launchpad & Spring Accelerator Program supports entrepreneurs who migrate to Canada to grow and expand their business here through the Canadian Start-up Visa program. We offer a structured curriculum designed to help start-ups validate their business ideas, develop a minimum viable product, and acquire customers. As a government designated organization Spring Activator provides the required letter of support and Zen Launchpad provides the training.

Where can I apply for the Zen Launchpad & Spring Activator Product and Technology Accelerator Program? You can submit your application HERE.

What happens after I apply? Within a few days our team will assess your application and if we feel there is a fit we will move you to a due diligence process where you will be asked to provide some additional background, once that is complete you will move to a formal interview followed by an offer. Once the offer is made you will recieve the letter of support which allows you to obtain the expediated work visa. Once you are in Canada you will start the process to obtain permanent residence.

Who is eligible for the Startup Visa Program? For full details on eligibility please refer to IRCC website but the core requirements of the startup visa program are:

  1. Startup companies must have a letter to support from a designated Canadian training organization. All designated organizations are HERE. In the Product and Technology Accelerator program Spring Activator provides the required letter of support and Zen Launchpad provides the training.

  2. Each applicant is required to possess a minimum of 10% of the voting rights in the startup company. Collectively, all applicants must have a majority stake of over 50% of the company's voting rights.

  3. All applicants must have the ability to communicate and work in either English, French, or both languages.

Am I eligible for the program if I am already in Canada? Yes! The Startup Visa is designed to support innovative entrepreneurs within and outside of Canada wanting to start, move, or establish a business. As a result, if you’re currently in Canada under a temporary visa and are interested in obtaining your permanent residency status, you can do so via the Startup Visa.

What countries are eligible for the Canadian startup visa? Citizens of almost every country are eligible for the Startup Visa Program. For exact details please refer to IRCC website.

Can I apply if my company is idea stage, MVP, series A ect? Yes. The Canada Startup Visa program is open to a wide array of startups. Our target startup is earlier stage somewhere between idea and Series A but we are open to talking to anyone.

Can founders bring their family on the startup Visa? Yes. The Canada Startup Visa program provides an open work permit to the spouse of the founder and children join as dependants on the same visa application.

Can I live anywhere in Canada on the Canada Startup Visa? Yes. The Canada Startup Visa program has no restrictions on where you reside. We do ask that you attend the 12-week program in person but after that you are encouraged to locate where ever makes the most sense to grow your company.

Can I work for an employer while building my startup on the Canada Startup Visa? Yes but you need to understand all the details. Changes announced to the Canadian Startup visa program in June 2023 mean that applicants now qualify for an Open Work permit so they can work for any Canadian employer while on the Startup Visa program. What you need to keep in mind is that your application to the Zen Launchpad & Spring Activator program will be much stronger if you plan to work on your startup fulltime. We are willing to work with founders who need the Open Work permit to make the move viable but we prefer founders who are able to commit fulltime effort to their company.

How many companies are accepted into the Zen Launchpad & Spring Activator Product and Technology Accelerator Program? The program has space for up to 30 companies per year. We receive a large volume of applications so please do your best to make your application clear and compelling. The key to rising above the crowd is to provide clear evidence of your teams ability to build a company. Linkedin profiles and evidence of previous success with early stage companies will move you to the top of the list.

How do I maximize my chances of getting past the initial screening? Make sure you provide as much detail as you can about your business. If you are at the idea stage provide as much background info as you can on yourself and why you are qualified to build the business you are proposing.

Can I apply and register a subsidiary company in Canada as part of the ISV Program? No—as part of the Startup Visa requirements, your business will need to be incorporated in Canada with its head office in Canada, and not as a subsidiary.

How do I get the Startup Visa? The application process for the Startup Visa program is very simple and will take at most a few weeks.

Step 1: Assess your eligibility and interest by reading this FAQ

Step 2: Apply

Step 3: Attend an initial screening and complete the due diligence process

Step 4: Once approved, you will receive a letter of support from Spring Activator

Step 5: Obtain a work visa to travel to Canada and Permanent Residency

How long does it take to get the Permanent Residency? Once your visa application is submitted and approved by IRCC you will first receive a work permit that allows you to relocate to Canada and begin launching your company. The work permit generally takes 3-6 months but it is dependent on IRCC capacity which can be affected by global events. The processing time for PR application is updated on the government of Canada website.

Can I travel in and out of Canada when I have my work visa? Yes you are able to travel in and out of Canada but there is an expectation that you are settling in Canada and will be spending your time here to build your business.

Can I still apply and participate in the program if I have yet to establish my business? While our focus is on founders or founding teams that have at least some initial traction with their venture, if you’re an entrepreneur at the idea-stage and are interested in developing a clearly-defined Minimum Viable Product (MPV) and launch plan, you may be eligible to apply for PTAP. Just start your application and we will discuss how we can help get your business launched.

Can you help me build my business before I apply for the program? Absolutely. We have over a decade of experience helping early stage founders. Reach out to us at to discuss how we can help you.

Is the program in person? Where possible, participants are encouraged to take PTAP face-to-face. Where this is not possible, due to delays being able to enter Canada or other reasons (e.g. COVID-19 lockdowns), the workshops and mentoring can be taken online.

What is the required time commitment for the program? The program runs for a period of 3 months during which you’ll be expected to attend face-to-face or online workshop training sessions 12 hrs. per week. You should also expect to participate at least 8 hours per week in various open lab sessions and industry social events. The rest of your time, you should be actively working on your venture, moving it forward.

What is not included in the program?

Accommodation—we are unable to provide designated living spaces.

Financial investments—no financial investment is promised by Zen Launchpad or Spring Activator as part of the PTAP program. In some cases, however, Zen Launchpad or Spring Activator may be interested in investing in your venture as a way to make the program more accessible or upon graduation.

Business and living costs—expenses such as the cost of incorporating, business licenses, legal consultation fees, housing, and more are your own responsibility.

Legal advice—Zen Launchpad and Spring Activator do not provide legal advice but can provide you with a list of lawyers or consultants to help you with your legal queries.

What if help is required with additional services? We can provide packages or individual services in the areas of marketing, content development, engineering, manufacturing and prototyping. These services are not included in PTAP, additional fees will apply.

What types of resources do you offer to startups? The Product and Technology Accelerator Program provide various resources to help startups grow and succeed, such as access to office space, mentorship, personalized training, funding opportunities, networking events, and business support services. Additionally we have access to a fabrication lab including laser cutters, 3D printers, packaging, printing equipment, electronics workstations, and workshop tools. Beyond this we have access to all the standard startup incubator perks like AWS.

What types of start-ups do you work with? We are broadly sector agnostic and are happy to discuss any startup. We do however have certain skillsets that make us a better fit for some sectors such as: Robotics, B2B SaaS, FinTech, EdTech, IoT, AR/VR, and manufactured product development.

Are you also a United Kingdom Startup Visa Endorsing Body? No. The PTAP program works with the Canadian Startup Visa program only at this time but we are open to assisting UK based startups and have a presence in London UK.

What English Language proficiency is required for the Canada Startup Visa? To apply for a Canada startup visa, you must show that you have reached Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in listening, reading, writing and speaking. Details on the accepted tests are available from the government of Canada website.

What is the length of the incubator program? The product and technology accelerator program is twelve weeks in length with 150 hours of tuition and is physically on-site at the Zen Launchpad HQ in North Vancouver Canada. In some cases we can offer some of the courses online if needed due to travel constraints.

Can you connect start-ups with investors and funding opportunities? We will try to connect you with funding opportunities in the local ecosystem as well as help you refine your pitch.

Are there any costs associated with joining your incubator program?

There are a few fees associated with the program. These are program fee paid to Zen Launchpad and Legal and Visa Fees paid to your immigration lawyer.

The program fees paid to Zen Launchpad are as follows:

  • Team of 1 – $30,000 CAD

  • Team of 2 to 3 – $35,000 CAD

  • Team of 4 to 5 – $40,000 CAD

Note a 5% goods and services tax is applied to the Program fee. Zen Launchpad is open to taking some of this fee in equity on a case-by-case basis.

Legal and Immigration fees need to be discussed with your lawyer and will vary based on your specific circumstances. The four firms listed below have all previously worked with us and can give you a sense of the legal and visa fees for your specific case. Lakehouse Immigration, Red Moose Immigration, Immigrate, eVisa Immigration.

In addition to the fees above you will be required by the government of Canada to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself in Canada. The exact amount you are required to demonstrate varies based on family size, you can get the exact requirements for your situation from the Government of Canada website.

I cannot afford the fees will you take equity? We are open to taking a large portion of the program fee in equity for strong startup teams. Please indicate that you require funding in the application when you apply.

What are the program fee payment terms? Our standard terms are 50% due upon acceptance of Term Sheet, and 50% due upon submission of the letter of support to IRCC.

Can you offer flexible payment terms? We are happy to discuss other payment terms with you if it will make it easier.

What are the legal fee and visa fee payment terms? All questions about legal and visa need to be directed to your RCIC.

What is the program fee refund policy? In the event of program withdrawal with written request, the following refund process applies: After issuing the Letter of Support and 2 weeks prior to the Program start date, Zen Launchpad will refund the 75% of the funds paid.

How do I get started? To get started simply fill out the application. Once we recieve your application we will be in touch for a quick call to discuss your candidacy and from there we will do a formal due diligence and interview process. This part of the process is very quick and you will know if you have been accepted into the program within about three weeks.

Once you accept the offer, what will happen next?

Step 1: You will receive a Term sheet and Voting Rights document to sign. Step 2: After signing, an invoice for 50% of the program fee will be sent to you for settlement.

Step 3: After payment, you will receive your Letter of Support.

Step 4: Upon approval, your documents will be submitted to the IRCC. Step 5: Upon submission, an invoice for remaining 50% of the program fee will be sent to you for settlement

Can't find the answer you're looking for? Please contact us at

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