Researching Moving to Portugal? Here’s a GuideAug 26, 2022
With a renewed yearning for international adventure following the travel restrictions in the pandemic, and society still politically divided across the US, there’s never been a better time to start researching your new life abroad, and more people than ever are thinking about moving to Portugal.
Why move to Portugal?
Europe is the ancient heart of Western Culture. The whole continent is brimming with history and culture, and for many people, Portugal is the ideal place in Europe to live.
Portugal offers a mild climate, a peaceful, relaxed lifestyle, amazing history and culture (and the rest of Europe on your doorstep), a range of visas for foreigners, a more affordable cost of living compared with the rest of Western Europe, warm, welcoming people, and accessible healthcare. In fact, it’s harder to think of reasons not to move to Portugal!
Whether you’re seeking a lifestyle change, to live or work remotely, to raise your family abroad, or perhaps you’re looking to retire overseas, Portugal has a myriad of landscapes, from beaches to hilltop villages and thriving cities. It’s a winning formula already being enjoyed by an active community of almost 700,000 foreign residents.
Furthermore, the rest of Europe is on your doorstep, easily accessible for weekend breaks or longer, more profound exploration.
Where to live in Portugal
Portugal is a family-friendly, relaxed-paced country – ranked 6th most peaceful country to live on the 2022 Global Peace Index, but with high-tech infrastructure and connectivity.
Lisbon is Portugal’s vibrant, colorful capital. It boasts culture and nightlife, international cuisine, wonderful views, and beautiful beaches nearby. It’s an open-minded and welcoming city, with an international LGBTQ+ community, low crime rates (in fact, Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world – proof), and a thriving entrepreneurial start-up scene.
Outside of the capital, other popular destinations for foreigners moving to Portugal are Porto, Coimbra, and Braga.
In general, Northern Portugal is cooler and greener, while the rest of the country is drier and hotter, and dotted with olive groves, picturesque white villages, and fishing towns.
Where you choose to move to in Portugal ultimately comes down to personal preference. Village or city? Coast or inland? North or South? Deep dive into your research, then try to visit the places you’ve shortlisted to get a real feel for them before making a decision.
ExpaCity provides comprehensive, in-depth information if you’re considering or planning to move to Portugal. Find out more here.
The climate in Portugal
Overall, the climate in Portugal is warm and pleasant. There are regional variations though, as the north has more annual rainfall, and the coast is cooler in summer but more clement in winter.
Average temperatures vary depending where you are, but nationwide averages are 17 degrees Celsius (62 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter and 27 Celsius in summer (80 Fahrenheit).
Be sure to research the climate in the places you’re thinking of moving to, and if possible, visit in both winter and summer before moving.
Do you have to speak Portuguese to live in Portugal?
English is compulsory in schools now, and most people speak at least some English, particularly those who work in tourism, hospitality, or international business. However, it’s important to learn at least basic Portuguese if you’re going to live in Portugal, and the more Portuguese you speak, the more people you’ll meet and the more you’ll get out of your adventure abroad. Furthermore, it’s necessary if you eventually want to qualify for EU citizenship.
Most people who move to Portugal start doing language classes before they move, and continue once they arrive. Continuing classes after you move is a great way to meet other new arrivals, too.
While there’s a wide variety of international food available in Lisbon, Portugal has its own culinary tradition.
With so much coastline, many of the country’s most popular dishes involve seafood, such as Bacalhau (salted cod), Arroz de Marisco (rice with seafood ), Polvo à Lagareiro (octopus with olive oil and potatoes), and grilled fresh sardines.
There are plenty of both beef and vegetarian dishes too, all best accompanied by one of Portugal’s excellent wines! With the majority of food produced locally, the flavors are excellent, too.
Property and real estate in Portugal - rent or buy?
While there are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Portugal, many new arrivals in Portugal choose to rent a home first, to ensure that they’re happy with the area they’ve chosen, and to give them time to ensure they’re happy with the climate and culture and find the right long-term home.
However, one incentive to buy for many people is to access the Portuguese Golden Visa.
Visas and working in Portugal
EU citizens can move to and live and work in Portugal without needing any type of residency visa.
If you’re not an EU citizen, you’ll need to apply for a residency visa if you want to stay in Portugal for more than 90 days in any 180 day period, or if you want to work in Portugal.
If you are a digital nomad, you work remotely, or you have other non-Portuguese income such as retirement income, you can apply for a D7 visa. A D7 visa allows you to apply for a 2 year temporary residency to live and work in Portugal, if you meet the following criteria:
- You can prove that your annual income exceeds around €8000.
- You have Portuguese accommodation, and a bank account
- You don’t have a criminal record
- You must purchase private health insurance
- You must spend at least 180 days in Portugal in the year
After 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency.
Another popular visa if you’re moving to Portugal is the Golden Visa.
To get a Golden Visa, you have to invest in Portugal in one of several ways, the most popular being purchasing real estate worth a minimum value, depending on where in Portugal it is and whether the property is over 30 years old. The lowest entry point is just €280,000.
The advantage of the Golden Visa are that you only have to spend 14 days in the country a year for the first 2 years, then 21 for the next 3 years, after which you can apply for citizenship, and that if you spend less than 183 days in the country, you’ll only pay Portuguese tax on any Portuguese source income (or relating to your property or investment).
If you have a Golden Visa and do spend more than 183 days in the country however, you can apply for the NHR tax program.
Taxes in Portugal
Portuguese tax rates scale from 14.5% to 48%, depending on your income level. In general, they are applied to the worldwide income of Portuguese residents, however Golden Visa holders and other foreign permanent residents can apply for the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) tax program.
The NHR program allows foreigners to pay a flat rate 20% tax on Portuguese source income, and exclude their non-Portuguese source income from Portuguese tax for the first 10 years that they reside in Portugal (other than pensions, which are taxed at 10%).
American citizens and Green Card holders are taxed by the US on their worldwide income even if they live overseas. When they file their US tax return from abroad, there are exemptions available that they can claim though, including the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion if your income is from employment (or self-employment), or the Foreign Tax Credit, which allows you to claim US tax credits to the same value as foreign income taxes you’ve paid.
Cost of living in Portugal
Portugal is among the most cost-effective places in Western Europe to live, depending where you are.
That said, costs vary throughout the country, with Lisbon the most expensive place, particularly for property.
Estimate that outside of Lisbon, €2,000 a month per person is enough for a comfortable life (this is more than the average monthly Portuguese salary), while you should budget for at least €3,000 per month in Lisbon.
Relocation to Portugal
Some people who move to Portugal choose to bring all their furniture. Others choose to store their things and start again in Portugal rather than ship a container, particularly if they’re crossing the Atlantic or if they aren’t sure whether they’re moving permanently.
That said, if you’re already familiar with Portugal and committed to permanently moving from somewhere else in Europe, it may still be a good choice to book a container. If so, there are plenty of international shipping companies who can help.
Schools in Portugal
You’ll find public, private and international schools throughout Portugal.
The public school system is good , but if you are looking for an English speaking education for your kids in Portugal, there are American, British, and French schools throughout the country.
Driving in Portugal
The minimum age for driving in Portugal is 18. If you aren’t an EU citizen, you can use your foreign license for up to 185 days after entering the country. After this time, you’ll need to get a Portuguese license.
Banking and International Money transfer to Portugal
While it’s not an imperative, it would be unusual not to have a local bank account if you’re living full time in Portugal. The easiest option is an online Euros account with providers such as Wise, DiPocket, Revolut, iCard (previously LeoPay), or N26, which you can normally open in minutes.
Portuguese accounts often charge a small monthly fee, and you will need certain documentation to open an account, including a NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal). You will also need to demonstrate your income.
Healthcare in Portugal
Portugal has a high-quality national healthcare system called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde, or SNS.
SNS is available to all EU citizens, and foreign resident visa holders in Portugal. To be considered a permanent resident, you need to first live in Portugal on a temporary residency visa for 5 years. During this time, you’ll need to purchase private health insurance. Thankfully, private health insurance in Portugal is affordable.
Insurance in Portugal
All forms of insurance are available in Portugal that you would find in the US, the UK, for example. Car insurance is mandatory if you drive, as is property insurance if you own your home and have a mortgage.
Moving to Portugal research checklist
- ☐ Research places where you’d like to live, including property and climate
- ☐ If possible, visit places where you might live to get a feel for them
- ☐ Find an apartment or house you’d like to rent or buy
Finance & Visas
- ☐ Confirm you will have enough income to support your new life in Portugal
- ☐ Seek advice regarding taxes
- ☐ Research residency visa types, and apply
- ☐ If you won’t be able to access state healthcare when you first move to Portugal, research private healthcare options and buy health insurance
Education and language
- ☐ Research and contact schools, if you’re taking children
- ☐ Start learning Portuguese, or find a teacher or classes where you’ll be living
- ☐ Research banking options, and open an account
- ☐ If you’re shipping your furniture to Portugal, research relocation companies and seek a quote
ExpaCity is a community and a resource of accurate information provided by authoritative, vetted professionals for people researching moving, and settling-in, to Portugal. Find out more about and join Expacity.
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