E.g., 08/23/2019
E.g., 08/23/2019

Start-Up Visas: A Passport for Innovation and Growth?

Reports
July 2019

Start-Up Visas: A Passport for Innovation and Growth?

As rapid technological change transforms businesses and even entire industries, many countries are exploring ways to build a fertile environment for the sort of innovation that will give them a competitive edge in the global market. Start-ups—young, innovative companies with the potential for quick growth—are at the heart of this movement.

Though most countries have long-standing immigration channels for business and employment purposes, these are often a poor fit for start-up founders, as this report shows. Some of these traditional visas require an employment contract or proven track record of professional success, while others have high investment or job-creation requirements that are often out of reach for early-stage, high-risk business projects that still have everything to prove. A growing number of governments (including Canada, Chile, Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore) have launched start-up visas to address this gap.

This report examines the varied forms start-up visas take and their role within national (and occasionally regional) immigration systems. Though many of these visa programs are only a few years old, the report offers early insights into whether they are meeting their aim of attracting immigrant entrepreneurs, as well as some lessons learned for policymakers—among them, the value of involving industry experts in evaluating visa applicants’ business ideas, of embedding start-up visas within broader innovation strategies, and of supporting risk-taking.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. What Role Can Start-Up Visas Play in Immigration Systems?

III. Designing a Start-Up Visa Program

A. What Business Concepts Should Start-Up Visas Prioritize?

B. What Founder Profiles Should Start-Up Schemes Prioritize?

C. Who Selects Participants?

D. What Services Should Start-Up Visa Programs Offer Entrepreneurs?

E. How Long Should Start-Up Visas Last?

F. How Should Success Be Measured?

IV. How Successful Are Start-Up Visas at Recruiting and Developing Talent?

How Popular Are Start-Up Visa Programs?

V. What Does the Future Hold for Start-Up Visas?

VI. Conclusion