Moving on from Groundhog Day – establishing a business and obtaining permanent residency in Ireland or Canada

23 November 2016

“Ireland says it can't handle massive surge in demand after Brexit result”

28th June 2016 – 5 days after EU Referendum

“Canada immigration website crashes as Trump clinches victory,”

9th November 2016 – 1 day after US election

In both a political and global context, Wednesday 9th November 2016 felt like Groundhog Day.  Or, as the US President – elect might declare ‘Groundhog Day plus-plus-plus’.  Inextricably linked, the parallels are impossible to ignore.  Within hours of the votes being counted in the aftermath of the US election, a strikingly familiar post- EU Referendum story began to reappear - this time from Canada with the national immigration website server unable to cope with disillusioned voters desperate for an escape route. 

Whilst priority number one will be to find somewhere, anywhere that will offer the opportunity to live and work in a stable political, social and economic environment, this blog focuses on routes for entrepreneurs and business investors seeking an opportunity to maximise the commercial benefits of relocating to the now, more than ever, emerging economies of Ireland and Canada.


EEA nationals

EEA and Swiss nationals do not require business permission to establish a business in Ireland and they do not require a visa to visit, travel to, live or work in Ireland.

Schemes for self-employed non-EEA nationals

Non-EEA nationals can establish a business in Ireland, however they must obtain permission to do so. A specific Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (‘STEP’) is available for non-EEA nationals. There are three ways in which non-EEA nationals can invest or start a business in Ireland:

1. Immigrant Investor Programme

The Immigrant Investor Programme (‘IIP’) provides a range of investment options which allows approved non-EEA investors and their immediate families to enter Ireland on multi-entry visas and remain in Ireland for up to 5 years with the possibility of ongoing renewal. The investment must be deemed to beneficial for the Irish economy and in the public interest. The funds must be legally acquired and owned and not borrowed or loaned by the investor.

In order to be considered for the IIP, the proposed investment must be in one of the following categories:

  • Endowment - €500,000 to a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health, culture or education. The endowment can be €400,000 per investor if it is pooled by at least 5 individuals;
  • Enterprise Investment - minimum of €500,000 aggregate investment into new or existing Irish businesses for a minimum of 3 years;
  • Immigrant Investor Bonds - minimum of €1,000,000 investment in a 5-year immigrant investor bond (temporarily suspended since 18 July 2016);
  • Mixed Investment - minimum of €450,000 in property and €500,000 in immigrant investor bonds (temporarily suspended since 18 July 2016);
  • Investment Fund - minimum of €500,000 in an approved investment fund which would invest in Irish businesses and projects; or
  • Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) - minimum investment of €2 million in any Irish REIT listed on the Irish Stock Exchange. The investment may be spread across a number of Irish REITs.

2. Start-up Entrepreneur Programme

The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) allows a non-EEA national with an innovative business idea and minimum funding of €50,000 to come and set up a business in Ireland. The aim of the STEP is to support High Potential Start-Ups which are defined as start-up ventures that are:

  • Introducing a new or innovative product or service to international markets;
  • Capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million in sales within three to four years of starting up;
  • Led by an experienced management team;
  • Headquartered and controlled in Ireland; and
  • Less than 6 years old.

Successful STEP applicants and their immediate families will be granted residence permission for two years initially.  This permission can be renewed for a further five years. After the first five years, the investor or entrepreneur can apply for long-term residence. If required, they will be granted multiple entry visas for the same duration.

Since March 2014, a 12-month immigration permission has also been made available for foreign national entrepreneurs attending ‘incubators’ or ‘innovation bootcamps’ in Ireland to allow them to prepare a STEP application. This 12-month permission will also be made available to non-EEA students who graduate with advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Education or Mathematics in Ireland and have the long-term objective of preparing a STEP application.

3. Business Permission Scheme

The STEP scheme is not intended for retail, personal services, catering or other businesses of this nature, however a separate route known as the Business Permission Scheme does exist for this type of proposal from entrepreneurs.  For more information on the existing business permission visa available, please contact us for further details.


There are two main routes for entrepreneurs and start-ups looking to invest and obtain permanent residence in Canada.

1. Start-Up Visa Program

Canada's Start-Up Visa Program targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada that can create jobs for Canadians and compete on a global scale.  Canada's advantages include:

  • A strong economy;
  • Low taxes and low business costs;
  • Excellence in research and innovation; and
  • A high quality of life.

With their Start-Up Visa Program, Canada is targeting a new type of immigrant entrepreneur who has the potential to build innovative companies that can compete on a global scale and create jobs.

If you can get support for your start-up from a designated Canadian investor organisation, then you can immigrate quickly to Canada as a Permanent Resident.

What is required to obtain support from an investor organisation?

You will need to contact an investor organisation (e.g. an angel investor group, venture capital fund or business incubator), which has been qualified as eligible to participate in the Start-up Visa Program and provide sufficient supporting evidence that you have a business idea which can be supported.  The purpose of the investor organisation is to deliver mentorship and provide guidance on the Canadian market. 

If you reach an agreement with a designated organisation, it will confirm this by way of a formal Letter of Support.  The designated organisation will also send a Commitment Certificate directly to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (‘CIC’).  CIC will use both your Letter of Support and the investor organisation's Commitment Certificate to assess your application.

This program also paves the way for the fastest Permanent Resident Visa to Canada – which can generally be obtained less than six months from the date of submission.

Candidates must also:

  • Complete an English language test and achieve Canadian language benchmark level 5 for listening, reading, writing and speaking;
  • Pass the standard health and security criteria;
  • Complete at least one year of study at a post-secondary institution; and
  • Evidence that they have sufficient settlement funds to support themselves and any dependents while establishing a business in Canada.

What is the minimum investment required to apply for a Start-Up Visa?

  • You must secure a minimum investment of CAD $200,000 if the investment comes from a Canadian venture capital fund;
  • You must secure a minimum investment of CAD $75,000 if the investment comes from a Canadian angel investor group;
  • You do not need to secure any investment from a business incubator;
  • However, you must be accepted into a Canadian business incubator program.

2. Provincial Nominee Programmes

Another opportunity for investors in Canada has presented itself in the form of Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). 

Certain Canadian provinces will nominate applicants for permanent residence under their respective business immigration programs. If you are interested in living in one of the provinces listed below, entrepreneurs are able to make a business investment as part of the immigration process.  There are several PNP schemes available in various regions including Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.  Each PNP scheme is tailored to the province's specific needs to select nominees – for example focusing on business people, students or skilled workers. Participating provinces then sign agreements with CIC that allow them to select immigrants who meet the requirements that they have set forth.

Further information

If you are interested or have any questions about the issues raised in this blog, please contact a member of our immigration team.

In addition, Kingsley Napley anticipates that London will remain a global hub for entrepreneurs in 2017 and beyond.  With this in mind you may also be interested in reading some of our previous blogs relating to Entrepreneur visas for investors seeking available routes to enter and establish a business in the UK.  Should you have any questions regarding UK Entrepreneur visa options or any other immigration issues, please contact Nicolas Rollason or a member of our immigration team.

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We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

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