Foreign Graduate Entrepreneur Program (AAIP – FGES)
Obtain Canada Residence by Investment
Immigration or Citizenship by investment is a pathway whereby business people who have the capital to invest in Canada can, under certain circumstances, start or purchase a business in Canada and receive Permanent Residence as a result. Most of the business immigration programs in Canada are Provincial Programs operated through the Provincial Nominee Programs. Alberta Advantage Immigration Program offers some of the newest investor visa programs, with the FGES stream being for recent University graduates who have business management experience. For those who are interested in living in Western Canada, the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program provides a great opportunity.
Note that the Alberta Provincial Nominee program was formerly called Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program or AINP, before the name was changed to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program or AAIP in 2022.
Alberta Investor Program for Foreign University Grads
In 2021, Alberta introduced an entrepreneur program that hoped to target foreign IT graduates who studied in the United States but might not have a pathway to Permanent Residence there. The original program was so narrowly constructed that almost no one qualified to apply, and so after several months with no applicants, Alberta has revised the program to be more reasonable. The program was originally called the Alberta Foreign Graduate Start-Up Visa program and was renamed the Foreign Graduate Entrepreneur Stream when the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program changed its name to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program in early 2022.
Who is Eligible for the Foreign Graduate Entrepreneur Program (FGES)?
To qualify for the Alberta Foreign Grad Entrepreneur Stream, at a most basic level, you will need:
- to have graduated with a degree within the past 10 years,
- between $50,000 – $100,000 to invest in a business,
- at least 6 months of business ownership or management experience,
- a min CLB of 5 in English or French
- the support of an incubator
Often the most difficult part of any entrepreneur’s application to Canada is achieving the support of an incubator. For the AAIP program, thus far only 2 incubators have been designated, and really only one of those seems to actively be accepting clients throughout the year – Empowered Startups.
Note that there is no minimum net worth threshold for the Alberta FGES program, but applicants need to be able to demonstrate sufficient financial resources to accomplish the proposed business plan plus funds to support their efforts to settle permanently in Alberta.
What type of business idea is acceptable under the Foreign Graduate Start-Up Visa Stream?
The business plan presented for this program must demonstrate a connection to one of the following 8 industries:
- Financial services
- Life Sciences
Can I qualify with an Existing Business for the Alberta Foreign Grad Entrepreneur Stream?
Foreign graduates who otherwise meet the minimum eligibility criteria for the Alberta FGES program, but who have already started a business in Alberta, in one of the acceptable industries, can also apply to the FGES stream. The business must have successfully operated inside Alberta for at least one year before the Expression of Interest is submitted. If you are invited to apply by Alberta, you do not need to operate your business for an additional year before you can apply for Alberta nomination.
How much money do I need to qualify under the FGES?
Although there is no formal net worth requirement to demonstrate under the criteria for this program, there are a few significant financial considerations in order to access the program. Investor programs are always the most expensive immigration streams and you will require significantly more funds than just the minimum investment amount if you hope to be successful.
- Incubator fees – expect costs between $75,000-$100,000 depending on the degree of incubation you require to successfully launch your business
- Immigration fees – expect costs between $25,000 -$40,000 including professional fees and government fees, depending on the number of family members included with your application
- Minimum investment – the minimum required investment into your business before arrival in Alberta is between $50,000 – $100,000 depending on where you plan to establish operations. The minimum investment amount is lower if you will start your business in rural Alberta, and higher if you want to be in Calgary or Edmonton.
- Cost to sustain yourself in Canada – you will need to show that you have enough remaining cash to meet the LICO requirements for Alberta, depending on your family size and where you plan to live
What are the benefits of the AAIP FGES?
Compared to many other Provincial Entrepreneur programs, the net worth requirement and the previous business experience requirement for the AAIP FGES are relatively low. You can be eligible for the program with a net worth of around $250,000 depending on the type of business you want to establish, and where you want to set up shop.
This is a program that intentionally targets young people; therefore, where most other Provincial entrepreneur programs require at least 2-3 years of business management experience, the AAIP FGES requires just 6 months.
With the AAIP FGES being a relatively new program, processing times are quite fast compared to other Canadian Provincial investment programs. Alberta is motivated to get the program up and running and applications are processed on a priority basis as compared to other AAIP program streams. As well, because Alberta offloads much of the business assessment portion of the program to the incubator, Alberta officials have a more streamlined application process to work with and can render decisions more quickly than if they were expected to formally assess the business prospects.
What are the drawbacks of the AAIP FGES?
Although the financial and experience requirements of the AAIP FGES are lower than other immigration investment programs in Canada, gaining the attention of an incubator is a necessary first step for entry to the program, and it’s not an easy feat to achieve.
You must successfully run your business for at least 18 months, if not longer, in order to successfully achieve PR status through this program. It is not a program to buy immigration status for Canada only – you must also have a decent business idea that you can afford to finance for a few years.
Finally, the time from entry to the program until you receive Permanent Resident status will probably be longer than the Federal Start-Up Visa program, because there are many required steps for the AAIP FGES stream. You should expect it will take approximately 4 -6 months until you can apply for work permits, then another 12-18 months inside Canada before you receive your nomination certificate. Once you have been nominated, it will take the federal government around 17 months to process your Permanent Residence. Of course, there are ways to maintain legal temporary status in Canada during this time so that you can be working and running your business, but overall, anytime you go through a Provincial Nominee Program, the processing time is going to be longer than applying outright through a federal program.
How to Apply for Immigration to Alberta as an Investor via FGES
Any immigration by investment program is complex, including Alberta’s FGES. There are a number of different steps and stages to navigate successfully in order to achieve Permanent Residence through this pathway.
- Obtain the support of an incubator.
The first step that is needed to apply to Alberta’s FGES program is a letter of support from one of the incubators designated to assist with the program. As mentioned earlier, our experience that Empowered Startups is the designated agency who is most active to date in this program. If the incubator feels that your business idea has merit, they will work with you to prepare a Business Plan and a presentation on your idea, and issue a letter of support that the AAIP requires as part of your Expression of Interest in the AAIP FGES program.
- Submit your Expression of Interest (EOI) for the Foreign Graduate Entrepreneur Stream.
The Expression of Interest for Alberta’s FGES program is an online submission that includes the letter of support from the designated agency (incubator), a business plan, a pitch deck for your business idea, and an informal declaration of your net worth. You need to ensure that you proposed business plan meets the requirements for the program before submitting your EOI, including the industry you will operate in, the location of your business, how much you plan to invest and the funds you will bring with you to Canada. There is no cost to apply to Alberta at the EOI stage, but by this time you will have invested a significant amount with the incubator for their assistance.
- Submit your FGES Business Application
If Alberta likes your business idea, you will receive an invitation to submit a completed Business Application within 90 days. There is a lot to accomplish in this window, so you need to get started immediately. Your Business Application package needs to include a formal Net Worth Assessment (Qualified Service Provider’s Report by a designated accounting firm) as well as a Business Plan evaluation (completed by your incubator). The Accounting firm will need evidence of all of your assets to calculate your net worth, which can include formal appraisals of real estate, tax returns for a number of years and statements from all monetary investments. Once you have provided this information, the net worth assessment takes several weeks to prepare.
The Business Application, in addition to the reports mentioned above, also includes your language test results, your educational credential assessment, as well as company documents and reference letters to prove your past business experience. When submitting the Business Application, you will need to pay $3500 in processing fees to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program.
- Receive an FGES Business Performance Agreement
If your Business Application is successful, Alberta will offer you a Business Performance Agreement which is a contract between you and the Province of Alberta. The Business Performance Agreement specifies what business activities you are expected to complete before you can apply for Provincial Nomination through Alberta. You are required to review the Business Performance Agreement with an independent attorney prior to signing it and returning the original signed copy to Alberta. Our firm recommends William Musani at McLeod Law as the Alberta attorney to review the AAIP Business Performance Agreement. He has participated in our client applications previously and understands what is required.
- Receive an FGES Work Permit Support Letter
Once you have signed off on the Business Performance Agreement, Alberta will issue you a work permit support letter. This letter enables you to apply for a work permit within 3 months, so that you can travel to Canada and start work on establishing your business in Alberta. Before you can submit the work permit application, you will need to incorporate your Business in Alberta, register for the IRCC Employer portal and submit an appropriate e-job offer as a self-employed Provincial entrepreneur. In order to be approved, the work permit application needs to demonstrate why your business will bring significant benefit to Canada. This application is probably the most important part of your process to date, and the most likely to be refused. It’s important that you know what you are doing, or all of your efforts and finances to date will be wasted.
- Arrive to Alberta with a work permit
If your work permit application is approved, you will then travel to Alberta and start work on launching your business. There are a number of reporting deadlines that are mandatory, so ensure that you are well-organized and pay attention to Alberta’s requirements. Once you have successfully operated the business for 12 months in Alberta and met all of the other requirements in your Business Performance Agreement, you can submit an application to the AAIP for Nomination.
- Apply for Permanent Residence as a Provincial Nominee
When you successfully obtain your Nomination Certificate from the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, you then apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as a Provincial Nominee. This is an online application that takes anywhere from 5-22 months to finalize. You will require police clearances and medical exams for this application, and IRCC may request additional financial documentation from your business to ensure that you are still successfully operating your new Alberta business. It’s also important to extend your work permit if necessary, to ensure that you maintain legal status in Canada while your Permanent Residence application is being processed. When this application has been approved, you will finally be a Permanent Resident of Canada.
Work with an Expert for Investor Immigration to Alberta
The costs to apply for immigration through business immigration programs are substantial, the application requirements are often unclear, and the timeframes are longer than most other pathways to obtain Permanent Residency in Canada. When that kind of time and money is on the line, you want to ensure that your application is going to be managed properly, so that you obtain the approval you need to immigrate to Canada as an investor. Your best option for an Alberta Immigration Consultant are the experts at The Way Immigration. We have actually represented successful applications under the AAIP FGES stream – something not many representatives have done to date. Contact us today to learn how you can turn your business idea into a Canadian Permanent Residency.
At The Way Immigration, we are Alberta Immigration Consultants. As some of the most experienced Canadian Immigration Consultants in Calgary, Alberta, we deal with the Alberta Advantage Immigration Programs each and every day of our working lives. We would be happy to assist you to ensure that your application for Alberta Nomination under AOS is successful, and that you receive your Permanent Residence in the shortest possible timeline. Contact our office today!