How to Immigrate to Portugal: Your Guide for 2023

Water By Portugal Housing With Boat

Have you ever dreamed of living in Portugal, with its vibrant culture, beautiful landscapes, and world-class cuisine? If so, you’re not alone. Over the past decade, Portugal has welcomed many foreign residents, primarily due to its favorable immigration policy. Therefore, you might be wondering how to immigrate to Portugal!

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find all the necessary and current information, from navigating the immigration process to getting used to the Portuguese lifestyle. Whether you’re from an EU or non-EU country, planning a short visit or a permanent move, this article will assist you in making Portugal your new home in 2023.

So, why wait? Start your exciting journey today, and keep reading to learn more!

Understanding the Immigration Process in Portugal

Immigrating to Portugal can be a different experience depending on your nationality, the purpose of your stay, and how long you plan to visit. Over the past decade, Portugal’s seen a significant increase in foreign residents thanks to its generally favorable immigration policy.

Portugal also allows dual citizenship through its Residency by Investment Program or Golden Visa program, both popular routes to citizenship.

Key Steps to Immigrate to Portugal

Your first step in the immigration process is figuring out what type of visa you’ll need. If you’re a European citizen, you can move to Portugal. But if you plan to stay longer than three months, you must apply for a registration certificate. After living in Portugal for five years, you can apply for a permanent residency certificate.

If you’re not from the EU, you’ll need a visa and residency permit unless your home country has a special agreement with Portugal. Various visas are available, including the Schengen short-stay visa, the Portugal temporary stay visa, and the Portuguese residency visa.

The visa you’ll need depends on how long you’re staying and why. For example, the Portugal tech visa is designed to attract highly qualified tech professionals. The D7 Visa, on the other hand, is for non-EU citizens who have enough funds to support themselves while in Portugal.

Night Photo In Portugal With Waterfront

Legal Requirements for Immigration to Portugal

You’ll need a valid passport for at least three months beyond your intended stay to get a Portuguese visa. You’ll also need two passport-sized photos, a completed visa application form, valid travel insurance coverage, and proof that you can support yourself during your stay.

Suppose you’re planning to stay longer than three months. In that case, you must apply for a long-term or Portuguese residency visa before arriving.

The Portugal Golden Visa

The Portugal Golden Visa Program is a five-year residency-by-investment scheme for non-EU nationals. If you apply through this program, you could qualify for citizenship after five years, as long as you maintain your investment and respective residency during this period.

The Golden Visa program is nearing its end, so if you’re interested, start the process as soon as possible. You can learn more about Golden Visa countries and their requirements and benefits.

The Visa Process

To become a resident in Portugal, you’ll first need to enter Portugal with a valid visa for the duration of your stay. Then, you must submit your residence visa for Portugal application to the immigration agency in Portugal, SEF (Immigration and Border Services).

The documents you’ll need for this process include:

  • A valid residence visa
  • Passport
  • Two passport photographs
  • Proof of sufficient finances
  • Accommodation proof
  • Medical insurance
  • A clean criminal record
  • Proof of enrollment in social security
  • Evidence of tax status

Portugal Alleyway Nighttime

Required Documents

The documents you’ll need to get a Portuguese visa include:

  • A passport valid for at least three months beyond your intended stay
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • A completed visa application form
  • Valid travel insurance coverage
  • Proof that you can support yourself during your stay

For all Temporary Stay visas in Portugal, you’ll also need to provide the following:

  • Return travel ticket details
  • Access to criminal records by the Portugal immigration authorities
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Proof that you can support yourself for the duration of your stay.

Accommodation and Living Conditions in Portugal

Accommodation in Portugal

Portugal offers various lodging options to cater to different preferences and budgets. There’s something for everyone, from quaint guesthouses, known as alojamento to the locals, scattered across towns, to luxurious resorts and historic hotels.

For those seeking privacy, government-approved country or manor houses are available. Self-catering accommodations, such as villas and apartments, are also popular choices. Budget travelers can opt for youth hostels and campsites.

Should You Rent or Should You Buy?

The decision to rent or purchase a property in Portugal hinges on your circumstances and long-term plans. With house prices slightly below the European average, home ownership is rising.

However, decreasing rental prices make it an attractive option for many. Non-EU citizens can secure a Golden Visa by purchasing a property worth at least $550,000 (USD) through the Golden Visa Program. The Portuguese government also provides social housing for long-term residents with low incomes or poor living conditions and rental assistance for young students.

Cost of Living Portugal

Portugal’s cost of living is significantly lower than in the United States and is the most affordable in Western Europe. A couple can live comfortably on $2,500 to $3,000 a month outside of major cities, with housing being the largest expense.

Other costs to consider are utilities, which average between $85 to $95 in a small apartment for one person, and transportation, with day passes for public transport costing $6.82 in Lisbon and $7.35 in Porto. Monthly groceries typically range from $275-$340, and a cappuccino at a cafe will cost you between$1.31-$1.61.

You can read more about the cost of living in Portugal and other countries on the Next Generation Equity blog.

Portuguese Cityscape Afternoon

Best Cities To Live in Portugal

Portugal, one of the world’s safest countries, offers a high quality of life. Some of the safest and most popular cities to reside in Portugal include Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Funchal on Madeira Island, Portimão, Aveiro, and Coimbra.

Each city boasts its own unique lifestyle and attractions. For instance, the Algarve region, Portugal’s southern coastline, is renowned for its stunning beaches and golf resorts, making it a top holiday destination and a residence for thousands of expats.

Financial Considerations for Expats in Portugal

As an expat preparing for a move to Portugal, several financial aspects must be considered. These include setting up a bank account, understanding the tax system, exploring the job market, and estimating the cost of living.

Opening a Bank Account in Portugal as an Expat

The process of opening a bank account in Portugal is relatively simple. Regardless of your status – expat, foreigner, or non-resident, you can open a bank account even without a Portuguese address. This facilitates tax payments, receiving payments from a Portuguese company, and establishing permanent residency.

To open a bank account, you’ll need a valid photo ID, proof of address, proof of employment, and a Portuguese NIF number. This number is issued by the Portuguese tax authority. While some banks allow online account opening, most require a visit to a local branch in person.

With a choice of over 150 banks, including international, private domestic, regional, and online banks, you’re sure to find one that meets your requirements.

Taxes for Expats in Portugal

If you’re residing in Portugal for 183 days or more annually, you’ll be required to pay taxes. You’ll have to register as a taxpayer and get a NIF number to do this. The tax year in Portugal aligns with the calendar year, with tax returns submitted between April and June of the following year.

Portugal also offers a Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) tax scheme. This scheme provides tax benefits to foreign residents. If you qualify for the NHR program, you could benefit from tax exemptions or a flat 20 percent tax rate on your foreign-sourced income for a ten-year period.

Portuguese Landscape Over Water

The Job Market

The job market in Portugal is diverse, offering a wide range of employment opportunities for both Portuguese and English speakers. Opportunities can be found in sectors such as IT, tourism and hospitality, multinational corporations, customer support centers, and language schools.

The minimum wage in Portugal is $903 per month based on 12 payments per year or $730 based on 14 payments. You won’t need a work permit if you’re from the EU or EFTA. But if you’re not, you’ll typically need to secure a visa.

Portugal Living Costs

Living in Portugal is more affordable than in the United States. On average, it’s 36.3% cheaper overall and 51.8% cheaper for rent. A single person’s average monthly cost is $675, excluding rent, and a family of four is $2,364, excluding rent.

Housing will likely be your most significant expense. Rents start from as low as $450 for a two-bedroom home in Portugal’s interior. In Lisbon, a furnished one-bedroom might cost under $1,000.

Adapting to Life in Portugal

Cultural Adjustments When Moving to Portugal

Relocating to Portugal from the US, you’ll encounter some cultural contrasts. The Portuguese place a high value on courtesy, and it’s customary to acknowledge others upon entering a public space.

Portugal is recognized for its forward-thinking legislation, including legalized abortions, same-sex marriage, and liberal drug laws. It’s also one of the safest countries in Europe, with stringent laws on gun ownership and legal public alcohol consumption.

Despite its compact size, Portugal experiences a variety of weather patterns. Porto tends to be colder and rainier than Algarve, while Lisbon’s climate is somewhat intermediate. As an expat, you might find the cost of living challenging, especially if you’re earning a Portuguese salary. High rental prices and low salaries often result in many adults living with their parents or sharing accommodations.

Healthcare in Portugal for Immigrants

Portugal’s healthcare system, the SNS, provides universal health coverage. It’s highly ranked in the Global Health Index and the Health Consumer Powerhouse rankings. The SNS offers free services for children under 18 and people over 65, and it’s open to all citizens and legal residents.

As an immigrant, you’ll need travel insurance from your home country until your visa gets approved. Once that’s done, you’ll be eligible for the SNS. You also have the option to go for private health insurance. If you’re working in Portugal, your contributions to Portugal’s Social Security system will give you access to the public Portuguese health service.

Education in Portugal for Expats

Portugal’s education system includes both public and private institutions. These range from kindergarten through to higher education. School is compulsory from six to 18 years of age, and public education is free, except for universities, which charge a relatively small fee.

Some of Portugal’s universities are recognized in the QS World University Rankings, indicating a high standard of education.

Learning Portuguese as an Expat

Portugal, particularly Lisbon, is a popular destination for expats and digital nomads. However, most services are conducted in Portuguese. So, learning the language will be an important part of your integration process.

The food in Portugal is fresh and delicious. But, you might find it challenging to find other types of cuisines or groceries. So, learning to appreciate and cook local food could also be part of your cultural adjustment.

The Practicalities of Moving to Portugal

Relocating to Portugal involves more than just paperwork. It’s essential to understand the practical aspects, such as pet relocation and health requirements.

Moving to Portugal with Pets: What You Need to Know

Portugal welcomes pets, but there are specific regulations to adhere to. Pets must be at least 12 weeks old and not pregnant, and you can bring a maximum of five animals. Dogs, cats, and ferrets must have a current rabies vaccination administered after a microchip has been implanted. If it’s your pet’s first rabies vaccination, a 21-day waiting period is required before traveling.

An accredited vet should provide a health certificate for your pet, confirming its fitness for travel and up-to-date vaccinations. The certificate is valid for ten days from the date of issue until the point of entry into Portugal.

Pets from high-rabies countries must wait a minimum of 30 days after the primary or booster vaccination before getting a blood titer test. They can enter Portugal no sooner than three calendar months after the date the blood was drawn.

Pets can travel to Portugal by plane or ferry. Most airlines check in pets as additional baggage, and they’re transported in a special room in the cargo hold. If you’re traveling by ferry, you may have access to your pet, but it won’t be allowed into public areas of the ship.

Dog In Doorway

Vaccination Requirements for Immigration to Portugal

Ensure you’re up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Good medical care is available in Portugal, but facilities might be limited outside urban areas.

If you’re traveling with prescription medication, check with the Portuguese Embassy to ensure the medication is legal in Portugal. Always carry your prescription medication in its original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Portuguese pharmacies generally carry equivalent medications to those found in the United States. However, they might be sold under a different brand name, might not be available in the same dosage, or may require a prescription from a local doctor.

In addition to health considerations, there are other practicalities to think about. For instance, you can drive with your US-issued driver’s license for up to six months in Portugal. If you’re involved in a traffic accident, Portuguese law requires you to leave your vehicle where it is and immediately notify the police. Taxis and ride-sharing services such as Uber are reliable means of transportation in Portugal.

Lastly, Portugal is part of the European Union and a signatory to the Schengen Agreement. US citizens can enter Portugal for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. If you’re not staying in a hotel or similar tourist accommodation, you’re required to register your presence in Portugal with the SEF within three working days of entering Portugal.

The Final Step Towards Your Portuguese Adventure

Embracing the opportunity to immigrate to Portugal can feel like a daunting challenge, but with the right information and preparation, this beautiful country can easily become your new home.

From understanding the types of visas, acclimatizing to the culture, securing your accommodation, and navigating the financial landscape – this guide is structured to make your transition as smooth as possible.

So, pack your bags, grasp that Portuguese phrasebook, and prepare to immerse yourself in a rich culture full of warm, welcoming people, enchanting landscapes, and an extraordinarily high quality of life.

Your Portuguese adventure awaits! If you’re considering other countries for second citizenship, you can explore options like Dominica or Cyprus.


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Rihab Saad

Managing Director
Next Generation Equity

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