Increasing numbers of people are moving to Portugal from USA. In 2019, before the pandemic, more than 60,000 people relocated to Portugal and 11% percent of them were Americans.
It’s not hard to see why. There’s the great climate, beaches, cheap wine and beer and the thriving international community. In Lisbon, it has a buzzing and charming capital.
Property prices have risen quickly in recent years, slowing during the pandemic, but continued growth is predicted. This is due to high levels of occupancy and great value compared to other European countries. In fact, Lisbon is the second-cheapest European capital for property.
Culturally, the country is incredibly laid back (some might say slow) and life is calmer here than in un-identical twin, Spain. Immigrants are welcome or at least grudgingly appreciated if only just for the income they provide. In order to prevent or atone for 40 years of brutal right-wing dictatorship, successive governments have the stated aim of liberality. Gay rights are widely supported. The country needs to take steps to come to terms with its colonial past, though – also its glory days – and tackle racism and racial inequality.
In major areas, you will find plenty of other expats keen to get to know you. Most everyone will speak good English. This is lucky because European Portuguese is a challenge to understand even if you can speak and read it or understand the Brazilian variety.
Gastronomy is tasty if somewhat basic. Sardines, olive oil, chicken, seafood and the ever-present pastel de nata, or Portuguese custard tart are everywhere.
There are a few downsides or things you will need to readjust to if you are moving from the US. Portuguese people are often notably downbeat even in the service economy. There is even a word for it, “saudade” or “melancholy”. It’s rare anyone will suggest you “have a nice day!”
Additionally, the culture is based around the family which means it’s a challenge to form close friendships with locals. You will know you have if they invite you into their home. That’s rare. You will be best placed making friends with other immigrants especially some of the thousands of generally much warmer Brazilians who live here.
Bureaucracy is often painfully slow and sometimes confusing. There is little will to improve business or government processes which can be frustrating. Infrastructure is acceptable but could do with investment.
Your health insurance won’t cover you here. You will need to take advantage of the national health service which is ranked #17 in the world after having gotten a job and gained legal residency.
Finally, in mixed news, the beaches are wonderful and the ocean looks great. Unfortunately, it’s the chilly Atlantic so swimming is for the hardy.
Moving to Portugal from USA: Visas
If all that appeals to you, pay Portugal a visit. You can stay for 90 days without a visa.
Americans who wish to stay longer will need to apply for a long-term national visa before travelling and gain a Portuguese residence permit after entering the country.
If and when you decide on moving to Portugal from USA residency, you will be pleased to hear that there are several different ways to get a foothold. And residents can transition to citizenship after five years of continual occupancy.
Popular ways Americans move to Portugal are with a D7 retirement visa, the Golden Visa and working visa. We will describe these in more detail below.
As well as these visas, Americans can apply for:
- Schengen Visa (short-term, tourist visas that some countries require)
- Study visa
- Tech visa
- Startup visa
Portuguese visas run to about €80 ($94) and the residence card costs about the same.
What you will need
To apply for a Portuguese residency visa applications when moving to Portugal from USA, you will need to fill in the form provided.
As well as this, you will require (at the minimum).
- Your passport or valid ID such as a driving license
- Two passport-sized photos
- Medical insurance proof
- Access to any criminal records for the Portuguese immigration authorities
- Proof of your living accommodation
- Evidence you can support yourself financially while you stay
The Portuguese visa application system is somewhat slow and chaotic, so leave plenty of time for the application. Be prepared to supply extra documents they forgot to ask you for the first time!
D7 “retirement” visa
Although it’s known as the retirement visa, in fact, any foreign citizen of any age living off a stable income such as investment, real estate income or intellectual property can apply for the D7 Portuguese Visa.
Successful applicants will be able to prove they have a monthly income of €1,000 ($1,170 at the time of writing).
To gain a D7 visa, apply to the Portuguese Embassy in Washington or your closest Portuguese Consulate and follow the residence application procedure.
There are a couple of benefits to the D7 visa. You can travel through the Schengen Area visa-free and you can bring your family. Your immediate family members will have access to a resident’s permit.
The so-called Golden Visa is for individuals with high net worth. To qualify, you need to be able to bring €1 million (about $1.17m), employ ten people or purchase property to the value of €500,000 ($587,000).
The initial issue of the visa is for one year and it can be renewed for successive two year periods.
Successful applicants will have to stay in Europe for a week in the first year and two weeks in the two subsequent two-year spans. Visa recipients also have to provide a criminal record certificate and proof of health insurance.
After six years, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship.
To gain a long-term work visa, you need four things: a job, a work permit, a visa and a residence permit.
You will need to get a job before applying for a visa. Having found employment, your employer is the one who applies for a work permit (autorização de trabalho).
Presuming you want to work in Portugal for longer than six months, you will be applying for a
Schengen Visa (type D). That allows you to move between the 26 Schengen area countries.
You can apply for this visa from Portugal and that needs to be done before you have stayed 90 days.
After you have your visa, you need to apply for a Portuguese residence permit from within the country.
If you are moving from the USA to Portugal long-term, you will need to apply for a residence permit from Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF). It’s worth knowing that SEF is to be replaced with a new agency called the Asylum and Foreigners Service (SEA).
Anyone traveling to Portugal from outside the EU/EFTA and staying for longer than three months will need to apply for a residence permit from the
The permits are valid for only a year but they can be renewed.
For some people, permanent residence in Portugal will be the aim. You can apply for this after five continual years of being in the country and thereafter seek Portuguese citizenship a year later.
If you are married to a Portuguese citizen, you can apply somewhat earlier.
One of the major pluses of moving to Portugal from USA homes is that Americans can benefit from the world-famous Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) Status during the first ten years of residency.
Designed precisely to attract better-ff overseas residents, the NHR allows US and other expats tax-exemption on almost all foreign source income as well as a 20% flat rate for some incomes earned within the country (including self-employment.) Normal tax rates are as high as 48%.
You will also be able to take advantage of personal income tax treatment over a 10-year period, escape wealth tax and profit from tax exempted gifts.
There are six, fairly simple steps to get NHR Status.
Here they are.
1. Having found a place to live in Portugal, register at a tax office and receive a tax identification number (NIF).
2. An online form must be filled in to gain a password for access to the tax authority website.
3. You will receive your password (delivered to your address by mail), then you register as an NHR on the site.
4. You can follow the progress of your submission and watch it being accepted;
5. Eventually, you will get a positive notification in an online account as well as on the tax authority website. It will be a PDF format. Be sure to keep it safely stored.
6. There are certain value-added jobs that qualify for tax reduction. Check these. If you have one of these, send a certified copy of proof of this profession to:
Direção de Serviços de Registo de Contribuintes
Avenida João XXI, 76, 6th
1049-065 Lisbon Portugal
Where Americans moving to Portugal might live
Where you choose to move in your new country when you are moving to Portugal from USA homes depends on what is important to you. Is it the golf courses, the beaches, the quaint fishing villages or do you prefer the more metropolitan areas
Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon nonetheless retains a neighbourly air. The central city is remarkably consistent in style due to the 1755 earthquake (and tsunami and fire) that flattened the place before it was rebuilt remarkably quickly.
Lisbon is walkable (if you can navigate the calçada or shiny cobblestones, which can get slippery). Otherwise, you’ll benefit from a tremendous network of the Metro, buses and “electricos”, the city’s famous yellow trolley cars.
Despite being small, Lisbon has everything you need from a city including great food and drink, stores and a strong art scene.
There are also quite a few charming parks in Lisbon, each slightly different where locals hang out, often at the coffee shops and quiosques.
Lisbon is by far the most expensive place to live in Portugal. In fact, rental properties are relatively expensive, especially compared to the extremely low minimum wage and the city government is attempting to create more favorable conditions for residents.
As previously mentioned, there is an extremely vibrant expat community mostly revolving around Meetup events. You will easily find something to do every evening as you get to find your tribe.
If you are moving to Portugal from USA destinations and want to live in the countryside, Alentejo is a popular choice. It covers 30% of Portugal though only houses 5% of residents.
Famous for its red and white wines, olive groves and majestic coastline, many people experience it on the drive from Lisbon to the Algarve.
If you like heat, Alentejo is ideal. Temperatures frequently reach 40-45 ° Celcius (104°F – 113°F) in some zones in Alentejo, and there is little rain. Houses are built with extreme weather in mind and, so, are cool inside.
The region is very popular with weekend visitors from Lisbon and for good reasons. Views of the sweltering countryside are breathtaking. Meanwhile, locals and visitors alike cherish the beaches of Zambujeira do Mar or the beach of Furnas in Vila Nova de Mil Fontes. The beaches are connected by hiking trails if you like to explore the mountains on foot.
As well as the great wines, Alentejo is famous for its food, such as migas, a fried pork and bread delicacy and ensopado de borrego, or lamb soup.
The major conurbation in the region is World Heritage Site, Évora, with around 50,000 people. It’s Roman in origin and some older buildings survived 1755 including the famous (and macabre) chapel of bones, Classical temple, and the large medieval cathedral in the country.
A student town, Évora is notably laid back and has plenty of stores and parking.
Winters here are colder and wetter than you might expect – or like.
The Algarve is, of course, Portugal’s beach capital. It also has the best weather in the country and drop-dead gorgeous scenery.
The ocean borders the region on the south and west side with the Guadiana River to the east. It takes between three and four hours to drive there from Lisbon.
The area is popular with tourists and retirees alike. Although Albufeira is the best-known town in the area, it can be busy and is almost totally devoted to sun-seekers and beer-drinkers.
Instead, consider joining regional capital, Faro’s 120,000 residents. expats appreciate its historic streets and old walls. If you appreciate fresh food, you will enjoy the city’s many markets which are famous for their seafood.
The scenery is great and common activities in the outdoors include paddle-boarding, golfing, mountain biking and riding. You can also snorkel or fish of your own small sea craft.
A more hidden bet is Portimão replete with a laid-back vibe as well as plenty of cafes to enjoy life. A car is vital in most of the Algarve, but Portimão, has good connections to other local towns including Lagos and Faro.
Porto is Lisbon’s second city and has quite a distinct culture and vibe, being notably more traditional and conservative although most Portuguese are studiedly tolerant everywhere. It’s a stunning city, cut through with the Douro River and rising up on banks on each side.
You will find Porto 300km (186 miles) north of Lisbon. You will no doubt have heard of its port wine which is justly famous. It’s slightly wetter and colder than places further south.
The outstanding architecture makes it another place enjoyed by visitors but it is less frequently considered as somewhere to live. That’s a shame because it’s much cheaper to find property here than in Lisbon.
It’s also smaller than the capital and you can get around most of it on foot. Despite its manageable size, it’s known for its green spaces, culture and excellent public transport which also includes trolley cars.
It’s definitely worth considering as your new home.
Guide to renting property when Moving to Portugal from US
Homeownership is high in Portugal, but there are plenty of places to rent. Most of the country has housing quite affordable to Americans looking for a new home with studio flats available from about €500 ($585). However, the property market in Lisbon is the most expensive and can give one pause. For comparison, the average price of a studio is €825 ($965).
Places in the Algarve run to around €600 ($700) per month for a 120sqm (400 sq ft) apartment
Like anywhere, you will find unscrupulous actors, so you should rent a house with a contract. That will keep scammers away and put you on the right side of the government. A contract is often required to get a bank account and in dealings with immigration.
Tenancy agreements are called contrato de arrendamento) to rent a property in Portugal. You will also need to have the NIF or tax number.
As is usual with contracts, the document determines the period of the lease, triggers for rent reviews and the notice period. Leases can be open-ended or fixed-term. Rental law stipulates you need to stay in the property at least six months before giving notice and notice needs to be 120 days if you have more than a year left on the agreement, 60 days if under that.
Worth noting for those moving to Portugal from USA homes, there is no real infrastructure around references or credit checks.
The same is true with deposits: although you may well be expected to provide two months’ deposit, Portugal lacks a deposit scheme. You could try asking for the money to be held in escrow. There is no fixed period the landlord needs to return your deposit by.
Buying property in Portugal a guide for Americans
Despite years of gentrification and increasing prices, property in Portugal remains some of the most affordable in Western Europe.
Prices fell during the High Covid Era and we are now seeing them creep back up once more. The average price is €1,117 ($1,300) m2. You can expect to pay a few hundred dollars / m2 more in the Algarve, Lisbon and Madeira. Porto is €20 more per square meter. You can decide on a fair price by finding the place on the Property Registry.
A couple things to bear in mind for those moving to Portugal from USA homes. Some things are different from the US. Firstly, although it can get a bit chilly in the winter, you will have to search hard (and pay extra) for homes with central heating. Alternative heating methods are expensive, especially electricity, so you might want to veer towards newer homes if you don’t like the cold or else pay for pricy modifications.
Secondly, home-build quality is not as high in Portugal, as a rule. Be sure to carry out a survey or else find out exactly what is in those walls. Older homes have extremely poor sound insulation, to boot.
There are not two but three different ways to pay for property in Portugal. Apart from the cash-down or one-off payment (pagamento a pronto) and the mortgage loan, you have a mortgage subrogation option where you take on the previous owner’s loan.
Some things to know. Pagamento a pronto is usually done with a check rather than a bank transfer.
Mortgage terms tend to extend up to 40 years and capital (deposits) start at 20% with the banks providing the remaining 80%. Clearly, this depends on circumstances such as age and income.
With mortgage subrogation, where you change the name on both the deed and the loan, you have to go with the same bank. You’ll save money on a new mortgage. On the other hand, you won’t be able to negotiate a new one and terms will remain fixed.
As anywhere, spend time researching the seller, be it a private owner, bank, agency or developer being absolutely clear about terms. A lawyer is a wise investment.
Once you have decided on your property, you will need to sign the deposit agreement.
known as the “contrato de promessa de compra e venda”. This encompasses a 10% deposite on the property and acts as agreement between buyer and seller. If either backs out from this point, they will lose this sum.
Following this, the title deed needs to be signed. You will have to have a notary witness this process. The deed must include an accurate description of your new home plus mortgages outstanding on the property, taxes, expenses, method of payment and the price of the property.
Other items that need to be in place include your Energy Performance Certificate, any insurance and invoices detailing tax and payments for community costs.
There are unfortunately substantial costs to pay next. These include a property transfer tax, VAT and Stamp Duty. You will also be in the hole for registering the transaction with the Property Register. And don’t forget to pay your notary, any estate agent and mortgage costs.
Once you have changed the name on energy bills, you will get the keys and be ready to live in your new home.
Moving to Portugal from US – Guide to Healthcare
Unlike in the US, the is a holistic and wide-ranging public healthcare system funded by the taxpayer. This is called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS).
Essential medical services are normally available for no further charge while non-essential items come with a minimal co-payment attached.
Some American immigrants will have access to the system others will not and this will depend on their residency status and where they come from.
Americans moving to Portugal from USA homes will struggle to gain access to the Portuguese public healthcare system unless they have a job and are paying social security (contribuição). They also need to become registered legal residents of the country.
Bear in mind, there’s a greater range of options in metropolitan than rural areas and your providers are much more likely to be able to speak English.
The level of healthcare in Portugal is fairly high, but the usual problems with oversubscription and shortness of staff are in place. That makes private health insurance a popular alternative.
As you would expect, private healthcare helps you skip the lines and benefit from a higher quality of care.
You will need to register and pay for private healthcare before you arrive to cover you until such time as you can access the state system.
A good tip is to invest in international health insurance before leaving the States. That’s because the cost in Portugal is a lot higher.
Pharmacies are plentiful and professional and most pharmacists will speak English. Essential medicines tend to be free or cheap but elective cures can be pricy. You can import most medicines provided they are intended for personal use and that you have the original prescription.
Emergency services are widespread and responsive. The emergency number in Portugal is 112 which is the EU-wide number.
Schools for Americans moving to Portugal
Assuming you want your child or children to pursue an education in English or a bilingual education, you will have a few to choose from.
There are scores of international schools in Portugal that have been created to serve the expat community. As a rule, most of these are to be found in Lisbon, Porto and on the Algarve.
Schools should be certified by the Ministry of Education and Science.
If you are moving to Portugal from USA destinations, there are a few schools that follow the US curriculum but you will likely only find them near Lisbon.
These American international schools are generally divided into elementary, middle, and high schools. Your kids will take social studies, math, English, science as well as a foreign language. Upon graduation, students get a diploma.
This is the best option if you or your children are hoping to get places at US universities. If this is the aim, you can also track down institutions that offer Advanced Placement (AP) college-level courses, prepare children for SATs, or help with university applications.
International Baccalaureate (IB) schools
These schools are found all over the world and as such the certificate is widely recognized in most universities around the globe.
The IB is modeled on the French exam and known to be tough.
Nonetheless, students will benefit from a rounded course of study focusing on essays, creative projects, activity and service.
Course subjects include math, the arts, language, and literature.
There are more British international schools in Portugal than American ones.
These follow the British National Curriculum and are attractive to those who are indenting to pursue a degree in the UK or Commonwealth.
The subjects are well-rounded and include students study science, math, history, English, and foreign languages.
The ethos of the schools are more centered around mental health, growth and confidence-building than the International BAC.
Students will likely gain an International General Certificates of Secondary School (IGCSE), making it easier for them to enter university.
Some of the best around the country are
- British School of Lisbon
- St. Julian’s School – just outside Lisbon
- Oporto British School – in Porto
- Nobel International School Algarve
- St. Peter’s International School – in Setúbal
Moving to Portugal from USA In summary
Portugal is an extremely welcoming country especially to those moving to Portugal from USA homes. It’s warm, beautiful and relaxed and the public realm is strong. You will find it safe and comforting and be following in the footsteps of thousands of expats. We hope you have enjoyed our ultimate guide. For more useful info about moving here, check out our expat guide.