A work desk with the computer open to a Work Visa application.

Written By: Fiona Wilson, Canadian Sherpa, G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance

We live in an increasingly global world – and Canada’s continued growth and prosperity depends on our willingness to embrace international markets. But despite this truth, relatively few Canadian small businesses sell outside their local markets or export internationally.

In early September, I had the pleasure of representing Futurpreneur Canada to host 32 of Canada’s best and brightest young entrepreneurs as they headed to China for the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance (G20YEA) Summit. Over two weeks of activities, including meetings with Chinese businesses, incubator and accelerator visits, and meetings with senior Canadian leaders, the delegation learned first-hand how much opportunity is out there for Canadian businesses. With China’s exploding middle class and appetite for things that are Canadian-made, the group couldn’t help but wonder – why aren’t more Canadians taking the leap to take advantage of these overseas markets?                                               

From Canada’s perceived risk averse culture to our lack of proximity to other countries, there’s a buzz of discussion around what’s stopping Canadian companies from going global. And, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Breaking Barriers Report, Canada’s relatively small market means Canadian entrepreneurs have to think about accessing international markets even earlier than their American counterparts.

This means more of Canada’s young entrepreneurs have to be ‘born global’. We also need to make it easier for entrepreneurs to be internationally mobile – to be able to try their luck in other markets more easily and freely.

A young entrepreneur Visa program for Canada?

One of the key recommendations put forward in the G20YEA Beijing Summit Communique is for G20 governments to implement a Young Entrepreneur Visa program across G20 countries. So how might this work in a Canadian context?

The G20YEA Canadian delegation would like to see Canada implement a Visa program specifically for young entrepreneurs. This program could exist separately from the current Start-up Visa program (see footnotes) which is industry-led, offers permanent residency and applies to a small number of select applicants.

Canada already has Youth Mobility Agreements with 32 countries. With the creation of another category of Visa (alongside the Working Holiday Visa) specifically for young entrepreneurs, we could have a Visa program that could provide Canadian entrepreneurs with the opportunity to research, develop networks and launch their business in a new market for up to two years.

Last year, the Canadian delegation put together a Young Entrepreneur Visa Working Group to discuss barriers and recommendations for what this could look like in Canada. And this year, the goal is to see movement on this recommendation. With Canada’s G20 Sherpa Vincent Rigby embracing concrete recommendations through his open dialogue and consultation, we’re sure this conversation will be more productive than ever.

To Adam Camenzuli, Canadian G20YEA delegate and owner of Karibu Solar Power, the real value in a Young Entrepreneur Visa is to reduce red tape. Here’s more from Adam: “This also goes the other way – in speaking with an entrepreneur friend from South Africa and hearing about all the bureaucratic hurdles he has had to overcome, I was reminded of my experience starting and running a business in Tanzania. There are way too many bureaucratic hurdles for entrepreneurs – where they are forced to waste their most precious resource – their time – dealing with these requirements. This is bad for us and bad for them.”

A Young Entrepreneur Visa program is critical for young entrepreneurs to look at expansion and growth opportunities outside of their local markets. But what about when they get there? On their trip, the Canadian delegation heard from Guy St, Jacques, Canada’s Ambassador to China, about overseas supports for Canadian businesses through the Trade Commissioner’s Service’s 161 offices around the world. It’s these types of supports that make a huge difference for young entrepreneurs scoping out potential market opportunities and partners.

At Futurpeneur Canada, we know how important it is for young entrepreneurs to get their feet wet globally and we’re pleased to facilitate international opportunities for young entrepreneurs through the G20YEA. If you’re a young Canadian entrepreneur with an appetite for international growth and a passion to become an ambassador for entrepreneurship internationally and at home, we encourage you to apply.  The next G20YEA Summit is in Berlin, Germany from June 15th – 17th, 2016 and you can apply to become part of the 2017 G20YEA delegation here.

Information on the current Start-up Visa program:
There is a start-up visa program in Canada but with its lengthy processing time and high capital requirements, the program does not adequately respond to the needs of most young entrepreneurs. The program also results in Permanent Residency, which prevents entrepreneurs from traveling at the same time they are trying to build networks and explore business opportunities abroad.