Not unlike the United States, Canada offers a similar federal-level money service business registration through FINTRAC. Also like the US, the federal definition of “money transmitter” is expansive and covers a range of activities including:
- Money Transmission: This includes the transfer, remittance, or transmission of funds on behalf of clients. It involves facilitating the movement of funds from one person or entity to another, either domestically or internationally. This can include wire transfers, electronic funds transfers, and other similar methods.
- Foreign Exchange Services: MSB registration covers the buying and selling of foreign currencies, converting one currency into another. It encompasses services that involve currency exchange, whether it is conducted in cash or electronically.
- Cheque Cashing Services: If an MSB provides cheque cashing services, which involves the conversion of cheques into cash or funds deposited into a bank account, it falls under the scope of MSB registration.
- Issuing or Selling Money Orders or Traveler’s Cheques: MSB registration applies to businesses that issue or sell money orders or traveler’s cheques, which are instruments used as a means of payment or value transfer.
- Virtual Currency Exchange and Transfer Services: With the increasing prominence of cryptocurrencies, MSB registration also covers businesses involved in virtual currency exchange services. This includes platforms facilitating the buying, selling, or trading of virtual currencies, as well as transferring virtual currencies on behalf of clients.
The process to register as an MSB in Canada, however, is more involved than in the US – where it tends to be automatic. The registration process with FINTRAC to become an MSB typically takes around 30-45 days. However, the exact processing time may vary depending on various factors, including the completeness and accuracy of your application, any additional information or clarification required by FINTRAC, and the current workload of FINTRAC itself. During the registration process, FINTRAC will review your application and supporting documents to ensure that you meet the requirements outlined in the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its associated regulations. FINTRAC may contact you for further information or clarification if necessary.
A startup money transfer business must also be aware of provincial licensing requirements. The need for a provincial money transmitter license is determined by the jurisdiction in which the MSB operates and the nature of its services. Typically, a provincial money transmitter license is required when an MSB conducts activities such as:
- Money transmission: If your business transfers or remits funds on behalf of clients, especially across provincial or national borders, a provincial money transmitter license may be necessary. This applies to services like wire transfers, electronic funds transfers, or other methods of transmitting money.
- Currency exchange: If your MSB offers foreign exchange services, converting one currency into another, you may need a provincial license. This applies to businesses involved in buying and selling currencies, either in cash or through electronic means.
It’s important to note that licensing requirements and regulations can vary among provinces and territories in Canada. Each province has its own regulatory authority responsible for overseeing money services businesses and issuing licenses. Examples include the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) in British Columbia, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) in Ontario, and the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) in Quebec. Thus, much like in the US, to operate throughout Canada, one must potentially have the requirement of obtaining licenses in multiple provinces.
For cryptocurrency-based businesses MSB registration is generally required. The regulatory guidance provided by FINTRAC states that cryptocurrency exchanges are considered MSBs if they engage in the following activities:
- Virtual Currency Exchange Services: If your cryptocurrency exchange platform facilitates the buying, selling, or trading of virtual currencies (cryptocurrencies) against Canadian or foreign currencies, it falls under the scope of MSB regulation.
- Virtual Currency Transfer Services: If your exchange transfers virtual currencies on behalf of clients or facilitates the transfer of virtual currencies between users, it is considered a money transfer service and is subject to MSB registration.
Moreover, the need for a provincial money transmitter license may vary for cryptocurrency exchanges. Some provinces in Canada have introduced specific regulations or licensing requirements for cryptocurrency exchanges, while others may not have explicit guidelines or licenses tailored specifically to cryptocurrencies.
For example, in Ontario, the province has introduced a regulatory framework known as the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) that includes registration requirements for cryptocurrency exchanges as marketplace operators or dealers. This framework focuses on securities-related activities involving cryptocurrencies. Whereas, in British Columbia, the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) has provided guidance on the regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs). The BCSC considers certain activities related to cryptocurrencies to fall under the definition of “money services business” and may require registration or licensing accordingly.
Our company offers an affiliate model in collaboration with licensed money transfer companies, enabling you to establish your own branded service based in Canada. Through our comprehensive turnkey solution, we provide access to banking services, license coverage, payment processing, compliance support, as well as KYC/AML (Know Your Customer/Anti-Money Laundering) measures. This allows you to quickly launch and operate your business with ease.
As always, be sure to reach out to me with any questions or book a meeting here.
About Adam Tracy
Adam Tracy is a payments expert and entrepreneur who specializes in payment systems, blockchain technology, digital currencies, and other emerging technologies. He is the founder of Blockrunner, LLC that provides consulting services to clients in the blockchain, payments and cryptocurrency arenas.
Tracy has been involved in the payments industry as an attorney, consultant and entrepreneur since 2005, while he was become an expert in blockchain and cryptocurrency since its advent in 2013. Tracy has worked with a wide range of clients, including startups, established businesses, and investor – both in the United States and worldwide. He has advised clients on a wide range of compliance, legal and operational issues related to payment transfer systems, crypto token generation and architecture, cryptocurrency exchanges, regulatory licensing, smart contracts, and other blockchain applications.
In addition to his consulting work, Tracy has founded several companies in the payments, blockchain and cryptocurrency space, including a digital asset hedge fund, licensed electronic money institution and a blockchain-based tokenization platform. He is also a proponent of decentralized finance (DeFi) and has been involved in various DeFi projects.
Tracy is also a frequent speaker and writer on blockchain and cryptocurrency topics. He has been featured in a wide range of publications, including Forbes, Hollywood Reporters, CNBC, Reuters, CoinDesk, and Bitcoin.com.
Find Adam: https://linktr.ee/adamtracy
Blockrunner, LLC., is a financial services match-making marketplace and consulting company. We are not a bank, FI/NBFI, Payment Service Provider, deposit taking institution, trust, or money services business of any kind. We are not regulated by any financial regulator. Banking, Payment, Processing, and Licensing services are provided by our participating members. This website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.