I am currently living in Switzerland (I have a swiss Passeport) and am leaving to Vancouver, BC, Canada next September to start a PhD. I am asking for general advice to the question "Should I announce myself in primary residency in Canada and in secondary residency in Switzerland or the opposite?" Do I even have the choice of not-being in primary residency in Canada?

I guess this decision may influence

  • Taxation
    • given my PhD salary and current bank account it will probably not make a big different : )
  • Rights for opening a bank account
    • it is the question that bothers me the most right now
  • Rights for having a job off-campus
  • Health insurance
    • although according to this source I would tend to think it makes no difference
  • Other insurances
  • Driving license
    • Especially: Will Switzerland validates my Canadian driving license?
  • eventually some other things?…
  • Why do you think that primary vs. secondary will make any difference in any of these categories?
    – Karlson
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 15:56
  • 2
    I am not sure but I don't think Canada has a registration system like Switzerland's. In countries that don't have this, you're a resident by virtue of living in a particular place for a certain time or fulfilling some predefined conditions, you don't have to report your address to the authorities in the same way than you would in Switzerland.
    – Gala
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 17:23
  • Also note that in practice there is very little preventing you from being registered as a resident in two different countries. Technically, one of these registrations is probably illegal but it's not uncommon in some places.
    – Gala
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


it's different over here :-).

  • Taxation: If you live longer than 183 days in Canada you'll pay your taxes here. You can find the details at the website of the Canada Revenue Agency (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/).
  • To open an account you show your ID to the bank and open the account. Should be as simple as that. You need an address to which they can send the cheques. I opened my account with President's Choice Financial (http://www.pcfinancial.ca) even before I had a place in Canada. Just find a Loblaws supermarket with a kiosk.
  • Depending on your visa you might not be able to work "off campus". You should study the conditions very thoroughly so you won't break the law.
  • You only need health insurance for the first three months. After you've been a legal resident for 90 days you'll be covered by the provincial health system which is financed through taxes (at least that's the number for Ontario, please check for B.C.). There is no extra payment for health insurance compared to Switzerland.
  • Drivers licence: Your swiss licence to drive a car should be honored. If you have other licences, eg. for motocycles or for heavy trucks, you might need to go through the process again. Even if you move from Quebec to Ontario you'd have to do your motocycle licence again :-(.
    • Other insurances: Don't know what you have in mind. As a renter of an apartment or a house you'll need tenant insurance. If you own a car you'll need to insure it. There are plenty of insurance brokers eager to get your business.

Please remember that Canada's provinces are very independent. Many things are not regulated on the federal level and laws differ from province to province. But as a resident of Switzerland you should be accostumed to it ("... das ist von Kanton zu Kanton verschieden ..."). Also: In Canada the immigrant is the norm not the exception. I found all public services and businesses are very open to help or to make business with new residents or guests. Everybody here has an immigration story.

Congratulation to your plan. You'll love it here.

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