InterviewsNorth America

Slava Apel on The Workaround That Brings Startup Visa Applicants to Canada in Just 1-2 Months


Speaking to IMI during Global Citizen Week in Cairo last month, Slava Apel, IMI Pro and CEO of Startup Visa Services, answered questions about Canada’s Startup Visa, its current processing times, the reasons behind the recent surge in applications, the growing numbers of Designated Organizations, and much more.

Why application processing expanded by 600% last year

Recently released data from the Canadian government showed processing volume for the Startup Visa program had soared by more than 600% to over 4,000 files in 2023. Questioned as to what’s behind the surge, Apel explains that it was a function of three factors:

First, the rapidly rising awareness of the program, which has snowballed since the program went from being a pilot project to a permanent feature of Canada’s immigration policy. Second, the government’s decision to raise the annual processing quota from 1,000 files to 5,000, which will rise to 6,000 this year. Third, the sharp increase in Designated Organizations, the approved business entities that issue letters of support for the applicants.

“In the last three years,” Apel points out, “the number of Designated Organizations almost doubled. At one point, there was about 20 incubators in the backlog to be approved to issue letters of support. So this gave us more processing power, with more issuances of letters of support.”

At one point, he says, there was “a landrush” of incubators, angel networks, and VC grous applying to become Designated Organizations. But to become a Designated Organization, such entities have to have been operational for at least two years prior to applying for the status. Many who started the process to become designated two years ago have only recently gained the status, bringing a sudden expansion of processing capacity to the program last year.

Partly in response to the “landrush”, Canada recently instated a cap on how many startups any given Designated Organization can support per year. Apel has previously commented that he expects Designated Organizations to respond by raising their prices by a factor of ten.

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When appearing on IMI’s Mobility Standard podcast last year, Apel referred to the program as one representing “residence by investment, minus the investment.”

How to get to Canada in just 1-2 months despite 30-month processing times

Despite this additional throughput capacity, processing times have expanded as demand has outpaced supply. While in the early days, when demand was relatively low, applicants could expect approvals in as little as five weeks. The first big spike in processing times came around 2018, when the average applicant had to wait for around one year.

“Then,” he says, “the pandemic happened. We still had thousands of people applying, the government wasn’t processing a lot of them, and the processing time went up all the way to 35 months.”

Today, Apel comments, the government’s website indicates average wait times have dipped somewhat to around 30 months, though he also says that in his personal experience from the last couple dozen cases he’s filed, the actual processing time has been about 20 months.

While he concedes that this is still rather lengthy, Apel is quick to emphasize that there is a workaround that can help bring the applicant to Canada much sooner:

“All you need to do”, he reveals, “is prove to the government of Canada that you want to arrive earlier to start your business, and because of that, you can get a temporary work permit or work visa that allows you to start working in your company before you get permanent residency.”

In his experience, getting that work permit can take as little as one or two months, allowing the applicant to relocate to Canada while awaiting permanent status.

In the full 10-minute interview, available in the IMI Pro Members’ Lounge, Slava further discusses:

  • Why 8 in 10 Canada SUV applications are concentrated around just one type of Designated Organization
  • What Canada has been doing to ramp up its processing capacity
  • Which kinds of applicants are suited for which kind of Designated Organization
  • Why only 1 in 300 applicants are suited for the Angel Investment channel

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Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.

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