Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Info. on Relocating to Canada

I've been receiving a number of emails and PMs with Canada questions so I figured putting it all in a thread is the best thing to do at this point. All of this information is subject to change at any time of course.

Traveling Over the Border

The most important point here is to make sure you tell the truth to the border patrol agent. I haven't read of a single instance of a poker player being denied entry after telling the truth about what they are doing. In my opinion, the only chance of a poker player being denied is lying about their intentions. You will be detained, at least everyone I read about has been, and questioned. The questioning took me about ten minutes but some people are saying an hour. It's also possible they'll search your car though they didn't search mine.

The BP's primary concerns are that you have enough money to support yourself and that you'll return to the US within six months. Based on my conversation with the BP agent, they consider poker players a higher risk of going broke and being stuck in Canada. And rightfully so. Bring a bank statement issued within the last three months. I was able to show an ATM receipt that I had saved from the day before so that will likely suffice as well.

If you have any kind of criminal record, including DUIs, there's a good chance they'll deny entry. More information on this is here

Changing your Country of Residence with Poker Stars

Poker Stars is requiring a copy of your passport or license to verify your identity, easy enough.

To verify your address they are requesting a copy of a utility bill. One option with this is to rent an apartment and ask the landlord if you can setup a utility in your name ahead of time. If they are willing to do this, you should have a bill waiting for you when you arrive in Canada. An alternative to this, and what PokerStars accepted from me is a copy of a voided check from a bank, signed and stamped by a manager with the following wording,

"Please accept this copy of a voided cheque as confirmation of the above client's banking account information for purposes of pre-authorized debit or credit"

It literally took eleven emails before Poker Stars security department agreed to accepting this.

The other thing you'll need is a landline, it took a day to get this setup through Shaw. PokerStars will call and ask every imaginable question and once they're satisfied you are who you say you are they'll forward it to their verifications team for final review. The final review has been taking up to two weeks. I was able to escalate it through the VIPClub at PokerStars and it took about a day. If you're a SN or SNE, I strongly recommend doing this. The turnaround time could change though, they were swamped when I applied for my country change.

Opening a Bank Account

Any US citizen can open a bank account in Canada with a license and passport. HSBC required a passport and credit card. At HSBC, I told them exactly what I was doing: that I was a professional poker player looking to wire large amounts of money in from poker sites and then to the US. The rep who opened the account said it wasn't a problem.

I opened two accounts and may open another one in the event one of them is closed for poker transactions. I don't anticipate they'll be problems but it's hard to say until a lot of players start receiving large wires.

Right now the best option for poker players looks like the HSBC premier account. There is a 100K minimum balance requirement but anyone can open the account and pay a $50 fee if the balance isn't maintained. The premier account allows you to open an account in any country where HSBC is present without physically being in the country and they don't require any additional documentation which is great if you're traveling around. They also allow you to link all of your accounts from different countries online and transfer money in different currencies with no fees. Even with a regular HSBC account, they allow you to do wire transfers online. They are the only Canadian bank I know of that allows this, the rest require you to be in the branch to do an outgoing wire.

That said there have been a couple reports from pre black Friday of poker players having their HSCB accounts closed.

Right now I have three withdrawal options available to me in Canada:

MoneyBookers withdrawal up to $15,800 CAD per day
Check up to $52,700 per day
Wire transfer with a *minimum* of 52,700

MoneyBookers is looking like the way to go when out of Canada and requesting checks or MoneyBookers withdrawals while you're here. A regular MB account only allows about 15K to be withdrawn every ninety days after verifying your bank account and address with them. They have a VIP account which allows unlimited withdrawals. In order to become VIP, they've told me you need to deposit at least 5K per month on a gaming site and it can't be a gaming site that you're withdrawing from. So, I opened a new account on Party Poker (Party instructed me to do this) and have started depositing 1K a day to try to hit the 5K limit.

The plan at this point is to upgrade my HSBC account to a premier and get a VIP MB account. With that I do my withdrawals to MB, then to HSBC, then to a US account with minimal fees. I will likely open a US HSBC account when I get back to the US so I can transfer online without doing wires (and paying fees) to other US banks.

Plan B: When back in the US, if I'm not able to get a premier account or VIP MB account for some reason, is to wire the money from PokerStars to a Canadian checking account and then write checks to myself and deposit in my US account. I'm not sure how a $52,700 wire is going to go over with a Canadian bank so I"m hoping it doesn't come to this.

That's about all I can think of right now. I may update/change this as more information becomes available as I'm sure a lot of this will be obsolete in a few months.

Good luck to anyone relocating.


  1. Pretty solid advice.

    -SNE who has relocated to Canada

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