Money transfer: From Russia to Canada

Any complex system starts behaving unexpectedly when you ask it to do what 99.9% of people never ask it to do. It is just the law of this world and it is true for social systems as well as for automated systems.

Since I started to plan my move to Canada my biggest headache was a money transfer from Russia to Canada. Since I was not quite sure about feasibility of carrying large quantities of cash across Russian border, I decided to split the money amount into multiple tranches.

First tranche was an outright cash in our wallets. We both carried $8,000 USD and it went smoothly. There was not a single question on Russian border. The only thing was to declare it on a Canadian border. Declaration is required starting from $10,000 CAD, and $8,000 USD doesn’t exceed the threshold, but in Canadian migration card they asked to declare cash on per-family basis, so this forced us to declare it. However, once declared, there were no questions from Canadian border authority, they didn’t even ask us to show/count our money.

This was only a small fraction of funds we have to transfer. The plan was to transfer the rest of the money using SWIFT wire transfers. The plan was beautiful:

The amount of paperwork to transfer funds between near relatives is much less horrifying comparing to transferring money abroad to yourself. So my wife opens an account in Canadian bank, gives me all the details and I do a transfer from Russia thru Internet banking system.

The problems started to emerge when we were still in Russia. I ran a few miles between different branches of Alfabank, Raiffeisen Bank and other banks trying to figure out what documents were required to do the transfer.

Basically, I wanted something quite advanced: to provide them documents that will satisfy them enough before we leave Russia and then order a money transfer remotely. I didn’t know the bank account details in Canada, I wanted them to approve my future money transfers before doing any actual transfers.

The core of the problem is that bank never gave me a chance to speak to people who are competent in cross-border money transfers. Bank hides these people like they are top-secret agents. You cannot talk to them on a telephone. You cannot talk to them if you come to a bank office.

The only way you have to figure out the regulations is speaking to a bank clerk who is responsible for all the regular stuff like opening new bank accounts :). And this clerk starts explaining you something he or she doesn’t really know. When you ask some penetrative questions and she is unable to give you immediate answer she goes to supposedly competent people and then tries to tell you what they told her. Needless to say that the answer depends on who you’re actually talking to this time around. And sometimes the answer completely contradicts what you heard the last time.

To make a long saga short let me tell you the most important stuff I learned:

First of all, SWIFT money transfer from Russia to Canada works and you can transfer your money abroad. I managed to succeed with both Raiffeisen bank and Alfabank.

If you don’t want to notify tax authorities and live in a nightmare, you need to transfer your money to your wife. This doesn’t require any tax documents. What you need is a marriage certificate.

You need providing them with a marriage certificate before you order a transfer via online banking system. That’s all you need.

When I came to Alfabank the first time they said I just need to attach a scanned marriage certificate to a transfer order. When I came the next time they wanted an original marriage certificate to copy it and attach to my file. When I came a third time they said nothing is needed if I transfer less than $5000 USD a day. Finally I came with a marriage certificate and forced a clerk to bring her fucking manager to me and arranged the following: they made a copy of a marriage certificate and managed to attach it to my file. They explicitly told me that they will call FX controls to approve my money transfers and call me back. They didn’t give me a call, but it worked.

Raiffeisen was a little prettier at first. A clerk was competent enough to take my marriage certificate, make a copy, attach it to my file without me using my ‘bring me your fucking manager’ bazooka. She told me that now I can order wire transfers thru their online banking. But when I tried it the first time (already in Canada) it was rejected because I haven’t specified one mandatory field that makes no sense what so ever for Canadian bank, but treated mandatory by Raiffeisen. I reached their call centre and managed to make them helping me with this parameter (they told me they are prohibited doing so on a telephone, but helped me out anyway).

Basically I made them accepting my transfer without this parameter (I specified zeros), but this was hard. It was a first time bank’s clerk gave me her contact number and email so I can talk to her without waiting on a line for ‘next available incompetent specialist’. Thank you, Raiffeisen!

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2 Responses to Money transfer: From Russia to Canada

  1. Pingback: Move to Canada: IT-related nightmares | Thought Shop Worldwide Inc.

  2. Your mode of describing everything in this piece of writing is actually nice, every one
    be able to without difficulty understand it, Thanks a lot.

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