Evaluation: StartUp Visa Pilot

Evaluation of the Start-Up Visa (SUV) pilot

Posted on Posted in Immigration Canada

Evaluation of the Start-Up Visa (SUV) pilot

Executive summary

Purpose of the Evaluation

The evaluation of evaluation of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) Start-Up Visa (SUV) pilot was conducted in fulfillment of a departmental commitment to conduct an evaluation of the pilot, with the purpose of assessing its early outcomes. The evaluation covered a three-year period, starting with the launch of the pilot in April 2013, through to the end of April 2016 and used multiple lines of evidence to examine the relevance and performance of the program.

Start-Up Visa Pilot

Launched on April 1, 2013, the Start-Up Visa pilot was the first pilot program implemented through Ministerial Instructions. The Start-Up Visa was designed to attract innovative foreign entrepreneurs who would contribute to the new and innovation needs of the Canadian economy and facilitate entry of innovative entrepreneurs who would actively pursue business ventures in Canada.

There are currently 32 venture capital funds, six angel investor groups and 14 business incubators that have been designated to participate in the Start-Up Visa program. They are represented by their respective industry associations: the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA), the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO), and the Canadian Acceleration and Business Incubation Association (CABI).  These industry associations recommend entities for designation to the Minister and convene peer review panels to assist IRCC visa officers in case determinations.

Evaluation Findings

Program Management

  • Finding #1: The pilot was implemented as intended, in that there were no major deviations in the design and core elements.  However, a number of implementation and design challenges were identified that may have an impact on the future success of the pilot.
  • Finding #2: Overall, communication and coordination within IRCC and between IRCC and stakeholders was viewed as effective. However, more coordination and collaboration between IRCC, ISED and GAC is necessary to maximize the success of the pilot.

Performance

  • Finding #3: While the pilot received fewer applications and admitted fewer foreign entrepreneurs than the previous entrepreneur program, the evaluation found that SUV immigrants brought more human capital to Canada in terms of age, education, and knowledge of official language compared to immigrants under the previous program.
  • Finding #4: The SUV pilot successfully facilitated the access to Canada for innovative entrepreneurs who have secured business commitments with designated entities. Timely processing and the availability of the work permit were noted as key elements that have contributed to the success of the pilot.
  • Finding #5: Admitted SUV entrepreneurs are actively pursuing innovative business ventures in Canada. To date, positive progress was made by SUV entrepreneurs in either business growth, obtaining additional investment, increasing networks and business connections, or selling their business for a profit.
  • Finding #6: In total to date, SUV pilot entrepreneurs received over $3.7M in investment capital from designated entities.
  • Finding #7: While the support provided by designated entities was generally viewed as positive, some key informants noted a lack of transparency and delivery of agreed-upon support by some business incubators.
  • Finding #8: There were minimal levels of fraud and misuse associated with the SUV pilot and the integrity mechanisms employed were successful in identifying issues. However, there is a potential program integrity gap regarding the monitoring of designated entities’ SUV activities.
  • Finding #9: The cost to administer the SUV pilot was less than the previous entrepreneur program. The design of the Pilot, which requires designated entities to select innovative foreign entrepreneurs instead of IRCC visa officers, was advantageous from a cost-efficiency perspective.

Relevance

  • Finding #10: There is a need for an entrepreneur immigration program like the SUV pilot to attract and retain innovative entrepreneurs that contribute to the innovation needs of the Canadian economy.

Conclusions and Recommendation

Overall, the findings of this evaluation are positive. IRCC implemented an innovative, low-cost program that has the potential to bring high-value entrepreneurs to Canada to start innovative businesses that contribute to the innovation needs of the Canadian economy. While the pilot was implemented as planned with low levels of reported program misuse, the evaluation found there were a number of implementation and design challenges that need to be addressed if the pilot were to become a Program. Based on these findings, the evaluation made four recommendations:

  • Recommendation #1: The Department should implement measures to ensure that: the peer review process is risk-based, transparent and procedurally fair; the department has a clear mechanism for the de-designation of entities and implements a regular review process to ensure designated entities continue to qualify for designation; and, necessary program integrity measures related to industry associations and designated entities are in place.
  • Recommendation #2: The Department should revise its current engagement approach with other relevant departments and stakeholders and develop a targeted Start-Up Visa promotion strategy.
  • Recommendation #3: The Department should develop and implement a plan to increase awareness of the pilot and the related work permit requirements among frontline staff.
  • Recommendation #4: The Department should develop a strategy that enables the consistent collection and reporting of pilot performance.

Evaluation of the Start-Up Visa (SUV) Pilot: Management Response Action Plan

Recommendation #1

IRCC should implement measures to ensure that:

  1. The peer review process is risk-based, transparent and procedurally fair
  2. IRCC has a clear mechanism for the de-designation of entities and implements a regular review process to ensure designated entities continue to qualify for designation.
  3. Necessary program integrity measures related to industry associations and designated entities are in place

Response #1a

IRCC agrees with this recommendation.

Some improvements to the peer review process are needed to increase its transparency and procedural fairness.

IRCC also agrees that the process should be risk-based.  To this end, in , IRCC removed the requirement that a peer review be conducted for all applications involving a commitment from a business incubator.  Now, officers request a peer review if they are of the opinion that such an assessment would assist them in making a case determination (or on a random basis for quality assurance purposes).  This matches the process that was already in place for applications involving a commitment from a venture capital fund or angel investor group.

Action #1a(i)

IRCC will send documentation on the process to designated entities (via industry associations) to ensure that they are aware of the criteria that are assessed in the course of a peer review.  IRCC will also develop options to increase the transparency of the peer review process for applicants.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Support: Immigration Program Guidance Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Action #1a(ii)

Following changes made to the peer review process for business incubators in , IRCC will monitor the impact of these changes for one year, prepare a report, and determine whether further adjustments are required at that time.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Support: Immigration Program Guidance Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Action #1a(iii)

IRCC will consult with industry associations and designated entities to review all aspects of the peer review process and develop a strategy to ensure that it is procedurally fair for applicants and designated entities. This will include reviewing the criteria that are assessed and the process that industry associations follow when they carry out a peer review.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Support: Immigration Program Guidance Branch/Case Management Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Response #1b

IRCC agrees with this recommendation.

The Department recognizes that mechanisms for de-designation must be clarified and a regular review process for designated entities is needed to ensure that only qualified organizations participate in the program. This review will ensure that entities continue to meet the designation criteria that are part of IRCC’s agreements with industry associations. Entities that no longer qualify will have their designation revoked.

Action #1b(i)

IRCC will implement program changes to clarify the Minister’s authority to de-designate entities when warranted.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Support: Legal Services.
  • Completion Date: .

Action #1b(ii)

IRCC will implement a formal process for industry associations to review the status of their designated entities on an annual basis.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Response #1c

IRCC agrees with this recommendation.

IRCC agrees that greater program integrity measures related to industry associations and designated entities are needed.

Action #1c

In consultation with program partners, IRCC will develop program integrity measures that will build on industry standards and lay out clear expectations for the actions of industry associations and designated entities under the program.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Recommendation #2

IRCC should revise its current engagement approach with other relevant departments and stakeholders and develop a targeted SUV promotion strategy.

Response #2

IRCC agrees with this recommendation.

A coordinated, targeted promotion and outreach approach would be beneficial for SUV. This will require consultation with Global Affairs Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, as well as industry associations and designated entities.

The strategy will aim to widen designated entities’ networks abroad and potentially provide assistance to designated entities so they can better identify the type of high-value entrepreneurs that the program targets.

Action #2

IRCC, in consultation with partners, will develop a coordinated promotion and recruitment strategy.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Recommendation #3

IRCC should develop and implement a plan to increase awareness of the pilot and the related work permit requirements among frontline staff.

Response #3

IRCC agrees with this recommendation.

The value of increasing awareness of pilot requirements is recognized, particularly as they relate to work permit issuance, among the department’s network of decision makers.

Action #3

IRCC will review and update its current program delivery instructions and web content, as required, to address the need for further communication or clarification of SUV policies and processes.

In addition, IRCC will make any necessary changes/enhancements to ensure the appropriate placement and content of applicable web pages to optimize the information regarding the SUV program.

  • Accountability: Immigration Program Guidance Branch.
  • Support: International Network.
  • Completion Date: .

Recommendation #4

IRCC should develop a strategy that enables the consistent collection and reporting of pilot performance.

Response #4

IRCC agrees with this recommendation.

Administrative data related to SUV should be captured in a more systematic way to assist in performance measurement and program design. Implementation of system changes may require the technical support of the Solutions and Information Management Branch.

Action #4a

IRCC will assess its current data collection practices and develop options, including possible system changes, to address any data gaps in order to ensure that all key information about applicants and their business enterprise is captured consistently in departmental databases.

  • Accountability: Immigration Program Guidance Branch.
  • Support: Immigration Branch/Solutions and Information Management Branch/Centralized Network/Research and Evaluation Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Action #4b

IRCC will implement the selected option to address data gaps (date of completion may differ based on option selected).  The extended timeframe is reflective of the need to create new data fields in GCSM, if required, to ensure consistency in data collection and reporting.

  • Accountability: Immigration Program Guidance Branch.
  • Support: Immigration Branch/Solutions and Information Management Branch/Centralized Network/Research and Evaluation Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

Action #4c

IRCC will update its SUV performance measurement strategy to include performance measures that appropriately capture the desired outcomes, indicators and data sources of the SUV program.

  • Accountability: Immigration Branch.
  • Support: Research and Evaluation Branch.
  • Completion Date: .

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