07/16/2014 05:47 EDT | Updated 09/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Canada's Start-Up Visa Program Accepts First Two Applicants

VANCOUVER - Canada's immigration minister heralded on Wednesday the federal government's 16-month-old visa program for entrepreneurs, which has accepted its first two applicants.

Chris Alexander told a Vancouver news conference that the Start-up Visa program has generated enormous interest, though he couldn't specify how many applications have been received.

"We think we've done more than all other countries to make sure our programs are cutting edge," he said, adding several applications are nearing completion.

When the program was launched, then-immigration minister Jason Kenney said he expected to see a few hundred people come to Canada through the program in its first year.

Alexander said the government is trading on its reputation for "doing immigration well" as it aims to persuade talented business people from India to Latin America and Europe to move to Canada.

"Our doors are open, our programs have integrity (and) we're focusing immigration as never before on our economic needs as a country. And our reputation in the world for doing immigration well, for choosing incredible people and for helping them create successful lives in Canada ... has never been stronger," he said.

"This is harder than it sounds to pull off."

Alex Zadorozhnyi, chief technology officer for tech startup Zeetl Inc., joined the minister. He said he immigrated from Ukraine with his business partner and their families.

Zadorozhnyi said it is very exciting for them to become permanent residents in Canada, which was granted under the program.

"I find that Canada is a great place to do business, to live here with my family, to raise kids and to enjoy beautiful nature," he said. "We intend to continue to grow our business here in Canada and support entrepreneurial community as best as we can."

The government has said it will issue a maximum of 2,750 visas for each year of the five-year pilot program, which is limited to entrepreneurs who already have the backing of a venture capital firm in Canada.

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