If you’re thinking of moving to Portugal, you’ve made an intelligent decision. The southernmost country in Europe, Portugal features a mild climate, a fantastic quality of life, and a thriving expat scene.
You’ll have access to some of the most stunning beaches in Europe while still being able to enjoy the joys of urban life in metropolises like Lisbon, the country’s capital.
Plus, Portugal also offers fantastic food, arts, and culture. You can enjoy fresh fish straight from the sea, take advantage of excellent wine history, and participate in a vibrant annual Carnival festival.
If you’re a football (soccer) fan, you’ll find plenty of like-minded people to cheer alongside here. “Futebol” is like a religion in the country, which offers three big teams to cheer for, FC Port, Sporting CP, and SL Benfica.
The great news is that Portugal provides various visa options to accommodate individuals interested in moving to the country. From student visas to the Gold Visa for investment, there are many opportunities.
The below guide lays out some of the possibilities available and answers common questions about moving to Portugal, from where to live to how much money you’ll need to make a move.
Why Move to Portugal?
Portugal offers many advantages that make it attractive to people from all walks of life. If you move here, you’ll find expats from all over the world.
Here are some reasons why you might consider moving to Portugal:
- Excellent quality of life. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, Portugal ranks above average in many points measuring the quality of life, including housing, security, and work-life balance.
- Low cost of living. You can find spacious, affordable properties at prices significantly less than other European Union, EU, countries. If you’re looking to make a property investment, this can be a big draw.
- Easy travel. Finally, from Portugal, you have easy access to the rest of Europe. You will be within an easy flight of Rome, Paris, Berlin, and other must-see cities. If you’ve wanted to explore Europe, Portugal is a good base camp.
These are just some of the reasons you may consider a move to Portugal. Every person has their motivation for moving abroad.
Do You Need a Visa to Live in Portugal?
Whether or not you need a visa to live in Portugal depends on your nationality. There are two main differentiators: EU/EEA/Swiss nationals versus so-called “third party” nationals.
Portugal is a member of the EU. This means that any EU/EEA/Swiss citizen can enter Portugal freely and stay there for up to three months.
If they plan to stay beyond three months, they should request registration of residence certificate. However, in most cases, no special visa is required to reside in the country.
Moving to Portugal is a little more complicated for third-party nationals like Americans (non-EU/EEA/Swiss).
While United States citizens can stay in Portugal for up to 180 days in six months without needing any visa, they need a permit to live in the country long-term.
How to Move to Portugal as a United States Citizen or Third-Party National
As a U.S. citizen or other third-party national, there are a few visa options for moving to Portugal. The below list provides a few of the highlights.
Note that this is just a quick overview and that immigration laws change consistently. COVID-19 has also impacted immigration processes.
For the most official up-to-date information on Portugal visa requirements, consult the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF, (Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service).
If you want to work in Portugal, you may get a visa through your employer. The first step is to get a job. There are short-term and long-term Portuguese work visas, depending on the length of employment.
You can find work suitable for expats via job sites like https://www.jobsinlisbon.com. You can also check out international companies with hubs in Portugal. According to Be Portugal, TAP Air Portugal airline and Apple have customer service hubs in the country, for example.
Once you get a job, the employer will apply for your Portuguese work permit, the Autorização de Trabalho. to qualify, the job must last longer than six months.
After you have your work permit, you can apply for a residence permit within the country.
However, note that the residence visa and work visa will hinge on your employment in such cases. You can’t get a visa, quit the job, and hope to stay legally in the country long-term.
Highly Skilled “Tech Visa”
You may also qualify for a Portuguese visa if you work in a highly specialized field. The permits for skilled migrants are generally issued to academic educators, scientific researchers, or others driving technology and innovation.
This type of residence permit, known as the “Tech Visa,” is valid for one year, but you can renew it for up to five years. After five years, you can apply for permanent residence in Portugal.
EU Blue Card
The EU Blue Card scheme is designed for highly qualified workers from third countries (non-EU). It can be awarded to paid employees with a binding job offer or work contract in an EU country for a minimum of one year.
There is also a minimum salary requirement, as you must earn at least 1.5 times the country’s national average. According to the OECD, the average household has $21,203 in net-adjusted disposable income (what’s left after taxes and transfers).
If you live in Portugal for 18 months with your Blue Card, you can apply for a residence permit based on highly skilled status.
The EU Blue Card scheme lets you work in many different EU member states, not just Portugal. Find out from the European Commission website.
Self Employed or “Digital Nomad” Visa
If you’re a freelancer, a particular type of visa may allow you to remain in Portugal as a resident.
To get it, you go through the same process as a person applying for an employed person’s visa. However, instead of obtaining proof of an employment offer, you have to prove self-employment, such as evidence of your business activities, self-employment tax registration, etc.
Once you have your self-employed visa, you can request your residence permit.
Professional Training, Internship, or Volunteer Work Visa
If you’re still early in your career or just recently finished studying, the above options may not be for you. In this case, you might seek a visa for professional training, interning, or volunteering in Portugal.
This is valid for one year. You can’t do any paid employment with this visa and can only work in an unpaid capacity as a volunteer.
Finally, if you’re not yet ready to enter the working world, you can move to Portugal with a student visa.
Various options are available depending on your situation, e.g., whether you are an undergraduate student or a higher-level academic researcher. The SEF has information about the diverse possibilities.
Portugal has several universities where you can study, including The University of Porto, the University of Lisbon, and the University of Coimbra. Top Universities has a comprehensive list you can consult to find an option that fits your interests.
Are you thinking of moving to Portugal for personal reasons? Then a family or spouse reunification visa may be the right option for you.
This allows you to join relatives already living in the country. Spouses, partners, minor dependent children, dependent parents, and minor siblings are all eligible.
Investment Visa (Portugal’s Gold Visa Program)
Portugal’s Gold Visa Program is popular among non-European nationals seeking residency. Formally called the Golden Residence Permit Program, ARI, this initiative allows you to obtain a residence permit in exchange for investment in Portugal.
This program stands out because you only have to spend seven days a year in the country to keep your residency status. Meanwhile, you will continue to get the benefits of an EU resident, such as visa-free travel throughout the Schengen zone.
Usually, investment-style visa programs are accompanied by more stringent physical presence requirements of much more extended periods (e.g., you have to spend at least six months of the year in the country).
Here are the eligibility requirements:
- Nationality: You must be a third-country national (not EU/EEA/Swiss).
- Investment: You must invest at least €5 million in Portugal over five years. Investment can be made through a legal entity or as an individual.
- Physical Presence: You must spend at least seven days in the country in year one and 14 days per year every two years following the first year.
Different types of investment qualify. Options include transferring monetary capital of a minimum €1,000,000, creating at least ten jobs, or acquiring real estate valuing a minimum of €500,000. This is just a sampling of the investment possibilities.
Finding a Place to Live in Portugal
Got your visa sorted? Great. Now, it’s time to figure out where to live.
Portugal offers a plethora of options. Whether you prefer a quiet beach town or a bustling city, this country has it all.
Best Areas to Live in Portugal
These are some of the more popular locations for expats settling in Portugal:
- Lisbon is the capital of the country. It’s a diverse city, welcoming families, students, young professionals, and entrepreneurs alike. There is also a thriving LGBTQ+ community here. The town features beautiful architecture, great education options, and excellent security. You’ll also find plenty of co-working offices here, making it an ideal pick for digital nomads.
- Porto is Portugal’s second major city. It’s set at the edge of the River Douro. Many people look here because it’s a bit cheaper than Lisbon. If you’re scoping out this town, check out the neighborhood of Vila Nova de Gaia, which features affordable housing and is a bit less tourist-filled.
- Braga is an excellent pick if you’re a history buff. This is one of the oldest cities in the country. It’s smaller and cheaper than the two options mentioned above but still features a vibrant nightlife scene. You’ll also find the location is perfect, set about 15 minutes from the mountains and a half-hour from the beach.
- Funchal (Madeira) is becoming increasingly popular. Until recently, it was primarily inhabited by remote workers. More people are discovering this hidden gem, which is a bit off the beaten path and less overrun with tourists. That said, this is technically an island, which can be isolating depending on your mood.
- Ponta Delgada in the Azores is another spot you might consider if you’re interested in island life. This island is notoriously beautiful but removed enough that it isn’t swarming with tourists. However, you’ll find the public transport unreliable, and getting off the island to travel afar can be challenging.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are plenty of other smaller towns that may spark your interest.
Renting vs. Buying in Portugal
It’s up to you whether you want to rent or buy when you move to Portugal. There are affordable options either way. That said, if you opt for certain visas (namely the Gold Visa), it may make sense to purchase a property.
You’ll find that real estate is more expensive in hot spots like Lisbon or the Algarve, an area that is home to a thriving retirement community. However, you can find cheaper properties if you’re willing to go to smaller cities like Funchal.
Expat Communities in Portugal
Thanks to the many benefits it offers, Portugal has gained notice among expats. You can find thriving communities of non-Portuguese dotted across the country. There are a few key locations that mainly draw non-natives.
Lisbon is one prominent hub for expats. The city is home to a thriving tech and startup scene, which employs many tech types and digital nomads.
The Algarves are also home to many expats but for a very different reason. This temperate part of Portugal features many retirement communities. If you’re looking to set up a comfortable home later in life, this is a great target.
Frequently Asked Questions About Moving to Portugal
Still, have concerns about moving to Portugal? Here are answers to some of the most common queries about moving to Portugal.
Does Portugal Have Good Healthcare?
Portugal has a high standard for healthcare and provides state-subsidized healthcare for legal residents. There are both public and private healthcare providers available. The Portuguese Ministry of Health is a good resource for learning more about the system.
Overall, you can expect reasonable access to general medical care, hospitals, pharmacies, dentists, and medical specialists covering diverse fields.
Do I Need a Job to Move to Portugal?
It depends on what type of visa you opt for. Some permits, like employment visas, will require you to have proof of an offer of employment before you can move to the country and get a residence visa.
However, there are also visa types that don’t require you to have a job. For example, the Gold Visa for investors doesn’t require you to demonstrate proof of employment. You also generally don’t need this for student visas or family reunification visas.
How Much Will it Cost to Move to Portugal?
The cost of moving to Portugal will depend on your unique situation. For example, if you opt for an investor visa, you will have to invest at least €5 million in the country over five years. That makes for a pretty hefty price tag when it comes to moving!
However, if you come on an employment visa, you have to account only for basic costs, like starting rent, utilities, and health insurance. Your employer may even provide a moving bonus to help you cover such expenses.
Do You Need to Speak Portuguese to Move to Portugal?
It is helpful to speak Portuguese if you are planning on moving to Portugal. However, it’s not a must. Especially in significant expat hubs like Lisbon and the Algarves, you should have no problem getting by with English.
That said, you may find that your English doesn’t take you as far in smaller, more rural locations.
The Final Word on Moving to Portugal
As the above guide has hopefully made clear, Portugal offers many assets for expats. Further, this European country has gone out of its way to establish a diversity of visa programs designed to welcome foreigners at every phase of life, from students to retirees.
Whether you’re a recent graduate looking to do a traineeship or volunteer, an academic hoping to teach at one of Portugal’s many universities, or a digital nomad who wants a change of scenery, Portugal has a visa for you.
If you manage to get your Portuguese residence visa, you will enjoy many benefits. The country offers a low cost of living, excellent quality of life, and a sound healthcare system. Further, you’ll benefit from the fantastic food, vibrant culture, and an overall laid-back attitude towards life.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of Portugal’s diverse natural settings, including both craggy mountains and gorgeous beaches. Portugal offers a little bit of everything. It’s hard to go wrong here!
The visa options described above are general and may not apply to your specific situation. It’s always best to check with the relevant authority regarding Portugal visas.
Check out the website of the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF, (Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service) for the latest details.