On April 29, 2024, the Canadian government announced a series of reforms to its federal business immigration programs, signalling a strategic shift designed to streamline operations and address the chronic issues of application backlogs and lengthy processing times. Quietly, the government is also addressing abuses in both the Start Up Visa program (SUV) and the Self-Employed Persons Program. The changes outlined below take effect on April 30th 2024.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), the Honourable Marc Miller, announced that under the new reforms, the SUV Program will see a cap on the number of permanent residence applications accepted for processing annually. This cap is set to a maximum of 10 start-ups per designated venture capital firm, angel investor group, or business incubator. The latter will effectively stop the flow of hastily assembled SUV teams that fall short of being truly innovative start-ups. A high number of business incubators sprung up over the last few years, capitalizing on the high tuition fees they are able to charge to incubate a team of aspiring business immigrants. The problem became an issue of quantity over quality, and the restriction to 10 start-ups per designated venture is designed to improve selection and reduce processing times. As a result, a number of business incubators and VCs that built their business models on incubating a high volume of SUV clients will likely close shop, leaving more reputable incubators such as the members of Canada’s Tech Network to compete over high quality SUV start-up teams. This is a win for Canada.

In fact, the Minister announced that applications tied to Canadian capital or supported by business incubators that are members of Canada’s Tech Network will receive priority processing. This initiative aims to concentrate resources on the most promising entrepreneurial ventures,

The Self-Employed Persons Program, which caters to individuals with notable skills in art, culture, recreation, or sports, also faces a significant adjustment. Minister Miller announced a full pause on new applications to this program, starting April 30, 2024, and extending through the end of 2026. The decision was prompted by processing delays that have extended beyond four years, a duration that undermines the program’s efficiency and its intended benefits to Canada’s cultural sectors. During this pause, IRCC will focus on clearing the existing backlog while evaluating potential reforms to ensure the program’s sustainability and integrity. In other words, this program has also been abused and must be reformed.

These changes are part of the government’s 2024–2026 multi-year levels plan, which also includes planned increases in admissions for the federal business category.

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