What to know before your move from Canada to Switzerland

7 Things to know and do before moving from Canada to Switzerland

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Switzerland, located in the heart of Europe among other European countries, is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, delectable chocolate, and the majestic Swiss Alps. Many Canadians choose to relocate to Switzerland in pursuit of a higher quality of life, employment prospects, an exceptional education system, and top-notch healthcare. 

However, before you can fully savor the advantages of living in Switzerland and overcome potential culture shock, there are several things you should know and do before your move to Europe.

Moving to Switzerland: Everything to know and do

What to know before your move from Canada to Switzerland

1. First steps before moving to Switzerland

Visa requirements

Many people want to immigrate to Switzerland because of the high quality of life. However, due to high immigration demands, Switzerland has recently limited the number of immigrants allowed in the country per year. As a Canadian, you can only move to Switzerland if you’re applying for a work visa, student visa, or family visa. Only after you have arrived in Switzerland on a visa can you begin the process of applying for permanent residency 

Work Visa in Switzerland

To work in Switzerland, you must:

  1. Find/have a job in Switzerland.
  2. Complete the Swiss work visa document at your nearest Swiss embassy in Canada. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Then your employer applies for your residence permit within 3 months of living and working in Switzerland. 

*For more information on Switzerland’s work visa requirements, click here

Family Reunion Visa in Switzerland

To join your family or spouse in Switzerland, you must:

  1. Have a spouse or an immediate family member who is a legal Swiss resident/citizen. Some situations require the family member to have been living in Switzerland for 10 consecutive years.
  2. Complete the Swiss family reunion visa documents at your nearest Swiss embassy in Canada. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Have a letter from your family member/spouse indicating they will support you financially. 

*For more information on Switzerland’s family reunion visa requirements click here

Student Visa in Switzerland

To study in Switzerland, you must:

  1. Be accepted in one of Switzerland’s educational institutions.
  2. Complete the Swiss student visa document at your nearest Swiss embassy in Canada. All visa applications are by appointment only.
  3. Register for a residence permit within 14 days of your arrival in Switzerland at your nearest Residents Registration Office.

*For more information on Switzerland’s student visa requirements, click here

Switzerland-Canada Youth Mobility Agreement

If you are a young person between the ages of 18 and 35, you can apply for a visa to temporarily work or study in Switzerland under the Switzerland-Canada Youth Mobility Agreement. The initial period is up to 24 months, but can typically be extended to 36 months.

Finding a job 

According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the most in-demand jobs in Switzerland are accountants, engineers, teachers, nurses, doctors, and lawyers. However, there is also a high demand for skilled workers, such as mechanics. When looking for a job in Switzerland, it’s essential to leverage different resources. Start by exploring online job portals like Glassdoor and Jooble. Additionally, you can network on professional platforms like LinkedIn and research Swiss companies that align with your skills and career goals.

Consider reaching out to local recruitment agencies, attending job fairs, and exploring the opportunities each city can offer, such as access to fast-track programs for skilled job seekers in Zurich. And don’t forget to ensure that your qualifications and certifications are recognized in Switzerland, which may require some document translation and verification.

Getting there 

Moving from Canada to Switzerland by air is the best and fastest option. First, make sure that your passport is valid for your intended stay and acquire the necessary visa or residence permit, depending on your purpose for moving. Book your flight to a Swiss airport, typically Zurich, Geneva, or Basel, from a major Canadian city like Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal.

 The duration of the flight may vary depending on the specific routes and layovers, but a nonstop flight typically takes around 7 to 9 hours. Once you arrive in Switzerland, be prepared to complete any required immigration and customs procedures and start your new chapter in this beautiful Alpine country.

What should I look for in an International Moving Company?

You can easily move your things from Canada to Switzerland by plane or boat, but make sure the moving company you decide on is reliable. So when opting for an international moving company, here’s what you should look for:

  • Insurance is included (ask what’s included).
  • Rates are not extravagant (compared with other companies).
  • They have many Google reviews that are over 4 stars.
  • Customer service and transparency is their priority. 

Car shipping to Switzerland

Unless you have a significant emotional attachment to your car, most Canadians choose to leave their cars behind when moving to Switzerland due to the high shipping and import fees, as well as the lengthy vehicle inspection process. If you absolutely must ship your car to Switzerland, here are the steps to follow:

  • Get different quotes from the best car shipping companies. A trusted car shipping company will have insurance, good reviews, and will make customer service their priority.
  • Choose the port of departure.
  • Choose the port destination.
  • Prepare the car by cleaning it and emptying the tank to ⅛ full or you may have to pay a fee upon arrival.

*Ask your chosen car shipping company for additional requirements.

The cost of shipping your car to Switzerland depends on several factors that include what distance and the means of transport. The average cost of car shipping to Switzerland from Canada ranges between $1,000-$5,000 per car, by boat.

Must dos before your arrival 

  • Define your required visa or permit to enter and stay in Switzerland.
  • Make sure that your passport is valid for your entire intended stay in Switzerland.
  • Secure a pre-accommodation before your move.
  • Learn Local Language for Integration (German, French, Italian, Romansh).
  • Secure a Job Offer for a smooth Work Permit Process.
  • Plan your move in advance, check international movers.

2. Upon your arrival in Switzerland

Must dos right upon your arrival

  • Get Swiss Francs at the airport or an ATM for immediate expenses.
  • Get to know your neighborhood, local stores, pharmacies, and emergency phone numbers.
  • Notify your employer and get guidance on next steps after your arrival.
  • Consider opening a local bank account for financial convenience.
  • Learn local transportation options and use a Swiss Travel System timetable for planning.
  • Check requirements for your license to drive in Switzerland.
  • Get mobile data or a local SIM card from a Swiss provider if needed, but ensure your phone is unlocked for a local SIM card.


Healthcare in Switzerland has a particular way of functioning. Unlike Canada, where the healthcare system is public and free, Switzerland’s healthcare is not free and is managed by private insurance companies. The Swiss government does have some agency on the healthcare system as they forbid any doctor from refusing a patient. Within 3 months of receiving your residence permit in Switzerland, it is compulsory to purchase private health insurance.

The Essential Insurance Coverage in Switzerland

Health Insurance in Switzerland

Switzerland does not have a free healthcare system. Unlike Canada, where the healthcare system is public and free, Switzerland’s healthcare is not free and is managed by private insurance companies. The Swiss government does have some agency on the healthcare system as they forbid any doctor from refusing a patient. Within 3 months of receiving your residence permit in Switzerland, it is compulsory to purchase private health insurance. The best private health insurance companies in Switzerland include Helsana, KPT, Sanitas and Swica.

Home Insurance in Switzerland

Basic building and fire insurance (home insurance) is mandatory in Switzerland. The best home insurance companies in Switzerland include Zurich, Axa, and Helvetia.

Car Insurance in Switzerland

Car insurance in Switzerland is mandatory. Basic car insurance is the minimum car insurance you must purchase in Switzerland. Basic car insurance will cover damage to other cars during a crash. The best car insurance companies in Switzerland are smile.direct, ELVIA, Generali and Dextra.

Life Insurance in Switzerland

In Switzerland, employers often include life insurance as a benefit. While life insurance in Switzerland is not mandatory, it is a must to ensure your finances are taken care of in case of any unexpected events. The best life insurance companies in Switzerland are Allianz, Axa and Zurich.

Setting up your cell phone 

Most people in Switzerland opt for prepaid Sim card plans when it comes to their cell phone. In Switzerland, cell phone minutes and data are provided through Sim cards. Make sure your Canadian phone is unlocked prior to arriving in Switzerland, so you can simply insert a Swiss Sim card and immediately start using your phone from there. Sim card features include data, calls, and texting. 

You’ll first have to purchase a Sim card for a couple of dollars, and you can then expect to pay $86.98 CAD per month for a Mobile Phone Monthly Plan with Calls and 10 GB+ Data according to numbeo. The main Swiss cell phone providers are Swisscom, Sunrise, VTX, Salt (Orange) and Aldi Mobile.

Getting a driver’s license 

If you are moving to Switzerland from Canada and are over 18 you can drive in Switzerland with your Canadian driver’s license for up to one year. As a Canadian, you won’t have to pass a theory driving test after a year, but you still have to pass a practical driving test. After passing the practical test visit your local canton traffic office to exchange your Canadian driver’s license for a Swiss one. 

Setting up a bank account 

If you are a Canadian looking to move to Switzerland long-term, opening a bank account is a great way to keep your money safe and even start some investments. To open a bank account, you will need to go in person and expect 10 days for its activation. To open a bank account you will need your passport, proof of address, and your visa. Switzerland has National banks, of which the most popular ones are:

*Switzerland also has cantonal banks that are different in each canton.

Taking the Train in Switzerland

Switzerland has one of the safest, highest quality, and most used public transportation systems, particularly its railway network, in Europe. Traveling by train in Switzerland is super efficient due to their clock-face scheduling, which means that you can count on trains passing regularly. To purchase a ticket, find your local train station, and find train schedules, visit the SBB’s (Swiss Federal Railway) website

3. Best places to live in Switzerland

Best places to live in Switzwerland

While living in Switzerland can be very expensive, relocating there from Canada can be the experience of a lifetime, particularly with the opportunity to savor delicious chocolate and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The best places to live in Switzerland for Canadians are Bern, Lugano, and Zurich, based on factors such as safety, entertainment options, and employment opportunities.




Economic and Financial Hub center with abundant job opportunities and a bustling city life.


Home to international organizations, ideal for diplomacy and global affairs.


The Swiss capital features a well-preserved medieval old town and rich history.


Scenic Beauty surrounded by Lake Geneva and mountains, offering stunning natural landscapes.


Located in the Italian-speaking region, it offers a warm Mediterranean feel.

Setting up home services 

Electricity is considered to be affordable in Switzerland when compared to the cost of other living expenses. The most popular electricity companies in the country include Alpiq, Axpo Switzerland, Azienda Elettrica Ticinese, Etrion, and Repower. If you are renting, in most cases, electricity, and water will be included in your monthly rent. To find the water supplier in your area, click here. private health insurance.

With numerous free internet hotspots available across Switzerland, you may not even need internet at home. However, if you do, it’s worth noting that internet service in Switzerland is known for its speed and pricing similar to that in Canada.

 On average, an internet connection with a speed of 60 Mbps or more and unlimited data will cost you around $78.40 CAD per month, according to numbeo. The top residential internet providers in Switzerland are SinCOM Switzerland, Sunrise Communications AG, Swisscom, and UPC Cablecom.

Should you rent or buy?

Finding a house or apartment to live in Switzerland isn’t always easy due to the high housing costs. We highly recommend you know what you’re looking for before you arrive in Switzerland so that upon your arrival, you can quickly get settled in. Homegate,Immo Scout 24, and Comparis are all websites that can help you find a house or apartment in Switzerland.

Home insurance in Switzerland

Basic building and fire insurance (home insurance) is mandatory in Switzerland. The best home insurance companies in Switzerland include Zurich, Axa, and Helvetia

4. Cost of living in Switzerland


Monthly cost

1 bed apt rent outside city center



Numbeo’s grocery list ($135.97 multiplied by 4)



Electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage


Internet with 60 Mbps


Transit pass



Meal, taxi, movie


Gym membership 




Numbeo (Oct 2023)

Grocery Stores in Switzerland

Grocery stores in Switzerland are found at every corner of the street. The main grocery stores in Switzerland are Alnatura, COOP, Migros, Spar, and Volg. If you want to order groceries online you can shop at Farmy.

Most grocery stores only accept Swiss Francs so make sure to exchange your Canadian dollars or Euros beforehand.

What to Expect from your New Life in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, you can expect stunning scenery and a multilingual environment. You’ll become accustomed to using trains for most of your travel, but keep in mind that Sundays are generally quiet, so don’t expect many activities or services to be available. 

Additionally, be prepared for the transition from Canada to Switzerland, which may include adjusting to a different pace of life, cultural norms, and the Swiss appreciation for precision and punctuality.

5. The weather in Switzerland

Switzerland experiences four distinct seasons. Spring, from March to May, features cool temperatures. Summer, from June to August, brings warm and sunny weather with highs of 18 to 28 °C, ideal for hiking in its stunning landscapes. In September, Autumn starts off mild, but gradually cools down to 5-12 °C. Finally, Winter (December to February) sets in with cold temperatures and snowfall, ranging from -2 to 7 °C. Switzerland transforms into a winter wonderland during this season, offering a variety of activities to enjoy, including skiing in world-class ski resorts and snowshoeing in the breathtaking Swiss Alps.

6. What to do as a local in Switzerland

As a local in Switzerland, you can embrace a lot of year-round activities. The country’s breathtaking Swiss Alps make it a hiker’s paradise, and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy mountain biking, paragliding, and rock climbing.

For a taste of local culture and tradition, explore Switzerland’s vibrant festival scene, which ranges from cow parades to folk celebrations. As “The Land of Chocolate,” Switzerland invites people to visit the Lindt Chocolate Museum, the world’s largest Lindt chocolate shop over 500 m2), for an interactive chocolate tour delving into the country’s rich chocolate heritage. But don’t miss out on savoring fondue, Switzerland’s national dish. 

Art lovers can immerse themselves in the contemporary art scene by visiting museums and galleries. Switzerland offers a wealth of diverse cultural and outdoor experiences for everyone to enjoy!

7. Fun facts about Switzerland

  • Renowned for its watchmaking industry, Switzerland is home to top luxury brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and TAG Heuer.
  • Switzerland is famous for its neutrality in global conflicts and maintains no standing army for defense.
  • The iconic Swiss Army Knife, celebrated for its versatility, is a Swiss invention.
  • Switzerland offers a wide array of cheese, with Emmental and Gruyère being famous for dishes like fondue and raclette.
  • Boasts a world-class healthcare system, consistently ranking among the top countries for quality, accessibility, and efficiency.
  • Often referred to as the “Chocolate Capital of the World”, Switzerland has a rich tradition of producing high-quality chocolate, globally renowned.


Moving from Canada to Switzerland promises an adventure filled with cultural discoveries, large moving logistics, and the joys of embracing a new way of life. To settle comfortably into your Swiss home, take the time to understand the healthcare system, local customs, and the unique Swiss lifestyle.

As you prepare for this exciting journey, consider researching in advance the best international moving companies carefully. Finding the right mover can make your transition smoother, more enjoyable, and less stressful. After all, your move to Switzerland is not just a relocation, it’s the beginning of a new chapter in your life.


Widgets Magazine


Widgets Magazine

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Ann Nacario

The author

Meet Ann – our head writer with a knack for making moving and city living a breeze. From the many details of moving to picking the perfect moving company, she’s your guide. Ann has a friendly yet detailed approach to ensure your move goes off without a hitch. When she’s not writing about relocation, it will always be on her mind, but you’ll catch her spending time with her three furry friends.

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