The old entrepreneur visa program had no economic benefit to Canada. Essentially to qualify one needed previous experience in self-employment/entrepreneurship and the applicant had to commit to hiring one full time Canadian. Very loosely managed, one heard stories of people starting a business for a few years and closing it down, employing a distant cousin (who was ‘Canadian’ of course!) etc. Most businesses were corner store or restaurants that did no substantial difference to the Canadian economy.
Not surprisingly, in his detailed scrutiny of all the immigration programs, the Federal Minister quickly saw this as yet another program with potential misuse and no benefit and shut it down.
Yet, one only had to look across the border to see how immigrant entrepreneurs have fared. In a round table conference with the Minister in 2011, I presented the following facts.
In the US, while lawful immigrants comprise about 8 percent of the population, immigrants start 16 percent of top-performing, high-technology companies, hold the position of CEO or lead engineer in 25 percent of high-tech firms, and produce over 25 percent of all patent applications filed from the United States.
60% of patents in Silicon Valley comes from immigrants
1/3 of tech startups in Michigan are immigrants
Notable immigrant startups in the US– Intel, Google, Sun and ebay.
Here are some Canadian immigrant entrepreneur success stories from the 2011 issue of Canadian Business Magazine:
Frank Stronach – Magna Austria born. Personal worth $2.7 Billion and listed at number 19.
Lalji family from Uganda. Worth $2.05 Billion and listed at number 26.
Marcel Adams from Romania. Worth $1.85 Billion and listed at number 29.
Michael Lee Chin from Jamaica. Worth $1.73 billion and listed at number 33.
Richard Li born Hong Kong. Worth $1.45 Billion and listed at number 44.
Mike Lazaridis born Turkey. Worth $1.3 Billion and listed at number 51.
Caleb & Tom Chan born Hong Kong. Worth $982 Million and listed at number 63.
Hassan Khosrowshahi born Iran. Worth $943 Million and listed at number 68.
Leslie Dan born Hungary. Worth $923 Million and listed at number 71.
David Kotchitzky and Family. From Poland. Worth $883 Million and listed at number 76.
Victor Li. Born Hong Kong. Worth $853 Million and listed at number 78.
Andreas Apostolopousos born Greece. Worth $805 Million and listed at number 79.
K. Rai Sahi born India. Worth $670 Million and listed at number 90.
13 of Canada’s wealthiest born outside Canada! Total worth $17.139.
Obviously there is an opportunity to tap these brilliant minds.
Post 911, even the most brilliant technocrats in the US were unable to get visas and that is Canada’s opportunity! The Minister clearly wants the next Sun Microsystems or Apple to be created right here in Canada!
“Our new Start-Up Visa will help make Canada the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest to launch their companies,” said Minister Kenney. “Recruiting dynamic entrepreneurs from around the world will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy.”
The Start-Up Visa Program will link immigrant entrepreneurs with private sector organizations in Canada that have experience working with start-ups and who can provide essential resources. The Program is part of a series of transformational changes to Canada’s immigration system that will make it faster, more flexible and focused on Canada’s economic needs.
According to a news item, the Minister expects the application process to take less than six months and has set aside 2,750 visas a year for the next five years for the program, but expects interest will be slow to start and wouldn’t be surprised if just a few hundred apply in the program’s early years.
The report goes on to say “Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Thursday he will head down to America’s technology heartland once the program is in place to begin recruiting the “thousands of super bright young foreign nationals,” often from Asia, who are working at technology start-ups on temporary visas and may have to go home before they’ve been able to obtain their coveted U.S. Green Card.
“We see the bright, young, international tech developers in the U.S. who are stuck on temporary visas as an immediate market, if you will, for this program,” he said.”
This program makes so much sense! Good for Canada and good for immigrant entrepreneurs!
Nick Noorani is an immigration expert, social entrepreneur and Managing Partner of Prepare for Canada, an online magazine for immigrants pre-arrival and post. He can be reached at email@example.com