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A Guide to Moving to Portugal

If you plan on moving to Portugal, there are a few things that need to be handled before arriving in the country and others that are dealt with after arrival, depending on your particular case. The mandatory visas and permits, how your family members can join you as well as how to find a property to rent or buy as soon as possible are issues that need careful consideration. It is recommendable to start by being informed on the specific requirements according to your nationality and how you are planning to come to the country, either for work or retirement purposes.

Working with a team of experts can be very helpful when moving to a new country. Our agents have worked with many foreign nationals and can help you much in the same way as an immigration lawyer in Portugal would.

 Quick Facts 
 Entry visa requirement (from EU)  (YES/NO)


Entry visa requirement (outside EU) (YES/NO)

Yes, with some exceptions (U.S.A., UK, Canada, Australia, Israel, Singapore, etc.)
Types of visas availableWork
Training, internship, volunteers
Family reunification
Time frame for obtaining work visa (approx.) 60 days 
Validity of temporary residence permit1 year in most cases 
Temporary residence permit renewal requirements

Proof of lawful temporary residence, proof of accommodation and income, proof of continued status for the renewed permit type (such as continued investment/real estate ownership for the golden visa)

Documents for obtaining a residence permit

Application form, valid passport, recent photographs, proof of accommodation and financial means, permit-specific documents (proof of property purchase, proof of employment or educational institution acceptance letter)

Time frame for obtaining permanent residence (approx.)Applications for permanent residency can be submitted after 5 years.
The expected processing time is around 60 days
Investor Visa availability (YES/NO)Yes
Start-up Visa Scheme availability (YES/NO)No
Sponsorship requirement (YES/NO)No
Time frame for obtaining citizenship5 years
Citizenship/Residency by investment scheme availability (YES/NO)Yes
Taxation of foreign citizensResidents are subject to the progressive personal income tax rates (14.5%-48%)
A flat rate of 25% applies to non-residents
Tax benefits for expatsThe non-habitual residents scheme allows foreign nationals access to special tax benefits during their first 10 years in the country, such as a lower, 20% flat tax rate, subject to conditions

If you are interested in immigration to Portugal, we can help you handle some of the matters even before you come to the country, such as preparing the necessary files, to be ready for submission to the relevant Portuguese authorities and contacting renting or moving companies to make the transition as easy as possible. If you do not speak the language yet (an ability that will be required later on for the purpose of obtaining residency), our team of Portugal immigration agents can help you in all of the required communications with the authorities or with other agencies or businesses, as needed.

Conditions for moving to Portugal

Deciding to start a new life in a different country is an important one and it is usually based on several issues, in some cases starting with economic and business opportunities. For Brazilian residents, for example, moving to Portugal is the easiest option when they decide to relocate to a European country. However, many other foreign nationals can prefer to move to Portugal compared to other EU countries.

In some cases, the decision will have to do with the weather, which can be an important criterion, especially for those who are perhaps interested in moving to Portugal for retirement purposes. The country’s many beaches and overall mild climate can be important for the decision to relocate to Portugal.

Regardless of the primary reasons why Portugal has become the first option for relocation, all foreign nationals must fully understand the requirements for staying in the country long-term. The conditions are somewhat more permissive for EU nationals compared to those from other countries, however, it is always recommended to consult with an expert, such as an immigration lawyer in Portugal from our team, to find out what are the exact requirements according to the country of origin. 

Foreign nationals can either choose to stay in Portugal for short-term purposes or for long periods of time, a situation in which they are required to apply for residence. Some of the situations for obtaining residence include the following:

  1. Working in Portugal: the residence permit can be awarded to employees with or without a residence visa and for teachers, the self-employed or highly qualified workers.
  2. Investing in Portugal: for capital transfers, investments in real estate, or the creation of at least ten new job positions.
  3. Opening a business in Portugal: the startup visa, for foreign nationals who wish to become entrepreneurs in Portugal and open a new business.
  4. Studying in Portugal: for those who wish to attend higher education studies, for researchers as well as for those attending professional qualification courses. 
  5. Family reunification: spouses, minors, first-degree ascendants in the direct line of the resident or underage siblings can apply for a family reunification visa.

The permits awarded for working in Portugal can be for individuals who have applied for a job and have been accepted as well as for those who are transferred as a result of an intra-corporate transfer (this permit is awarded for an intra-corporate transferee) or for mobility workers. The administrators or workers in branches opened in a secondary office in an EU state will receive a different permit.

Portugal is also a popular option among digital nomads. Entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals, as well as employees who enjoy the advantages of remote work, can apply for a nomad visa for Portugal with the help of our team. If you are a non-EU/EEA foreign national, we will help you understand the conditions that apply in terms of minimum income and type of activities.

The permanent residence permit is awarded after a foreign national has spent five years lawfully living in Portugal and renewing the residence permit as needed after its expiration date. The conditions differ for those foreign nationals who are awarded a residence permit for investment purposes and their families. The golden visa in Portugal, or the permit for making a minimum investment in Portuguese real estate can be a convenient manner in which some entrepreneurs can receive a residence permit. If you want to immigrate to Portugal, our lawyers can assist you.

You can watch the following short video if you want to move to Portugal:

Assistance for applying for residence in Portugal

The application procedure for a residence visa for Portugal depends on the purpose of the stay. Below, our Portugal immigration specialists describe the process for obtaining one of the most common types of permits, the residence permit for employed workers with a residence visa.

An individual interested in immigration to Portugal and in obtaining this type of permit is required to schedule the application via the electronic platform and submit the standard form and the enclosed documents with the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) directorate or regional delegation. The documents needed for a residence permit for employed workers in Portugal with a residence visa are the following:

  • two identical photographs;
  • passport;
  • residence visa, valid;
  • evidence of sufficient means of subsistence and evidence of accommodation;
  • permission for SEF to check the criminal record;
  • labor contract according to the law in force;
  • documents proving that the applicant is registered with the tax authorities and is a regular social security payer. 

A different type of permit is the one for intra-corporate transferees or the residence permit for workers transfers within the company. For this permit, the applicant is expected to provide evidence of having worked in the company or group of companies for a minimum period of three to twelve months (for managers and specialists) or three to six months (for trainees). Evidence of having the proper qualifications and professional experience is also required. Moreover, the hosting company is to provide documents that prove that it complies with the Portuguese legislation for remuneration and working conditions. In some situations, when the applicant is transferred to certain certified companies, he is exempted from submitting part of the required documents.

An appointment for submitting the application can also be scheduled by telephone. Please remember that these documents apply for a particular type of residence permit. Most applications will require a general set of documents, as described below by our agents.

Standard forms, as well as fees, apply when submitting the application. 

Individuals who apply for a residence permit for investment will use the ARI Portal, also provided by SEF. This includes a simplified procedure for which only one visit will be required with the SEF bureau offices. All of the fees are paid in the Single Collecting Document and the applicant may select a date and time that will be convenient for him. An immigration lawyer in Portugal from our team can provide investors with more details about the procedure that applies in their case.

How to move to Portugal

Documents required for immigrants

Immigration to Portugal is a process that implies complying with several requirements. The general requirement for obtaining a residence permit in Portugal includes the submission of a special set of documents to the Portuguese Immigration agency. This is to be submitted personally or through a legal representative and it can be submitted to any regional directorate or delegation. The standard necessary documentation includes the following:

  • two recent photographs 
  • valid passport
  • valid visa, when needed.
  • proof of means of subsistence.
  • proof of accommodation in Portugal.
  • proof of registration with the tax authorities and of registration with social security and health insurance, when needed.

The residence permit is granted when the applicant is not convicted for a crime that is punishable in Portugal by a custodial sentence of more than one year. The applicant must also not be subject to a prohibition period for entering other countries as a result of being expulsed from his country.

Different fees apply according to the type of requested permit as well as for renewing existing ones. For example, the application fee for an investment permit will differ from that required for other types of residence permits.

Applicants should remember that each type of residence permit in Portugal also includes additional documents, as per its type. For example, for investment purposes, the nature and amount of the investment need to be presented with adequate documents as well as for employment or for acceptance in a Portuguese education institution. One of our agents who specialize in immigration to Portugal can help applicants gather all of the needed documents.

Expat services in Portugal

Part of the services we offer to expats in Portugal are described below:

  • visas and permits: not all foreign nationals who move to Portugal need to obtain a visa, but a work permit will be needed for expats; we can help you find out which ones you need and apply for them.
  • residency: it is a natural process to apply for permanent residency after having lived in the country for a number of years; we can also assist those investors interested in the golden visa program – an easier way to acquire permanent residency.
  • work: you can either look for a job before you relocate to Portugal or after you arrive here; regardless of your case, our agents can help you understand the Labour Law principles.
  • financial and administrative: we can help you obtain the Portuguese NIF (fiscal identification number) and handle a number of other issues such as opening a bank account, concluding services and rent agreements, and others.

If you want to immigrate to Portugal, our agents can help you with all of these services and others. The needs of an individual moving to a new country will always be unique, however, our team will work with you to find the most suitable and the fastest solutions in order to make your transition as smooth as possible.

The importance of an immigration lawyer in Portugal

The role of a Portugal immigration lawyer is a unique one in the sense that he deals with specialized matters that can be included in a well-defined niche. The role can be both a counseling one and one related to legal representation when their client is involved in litigation concerning immigration matters. However, most of the work performed by these lawyers is out of court and it has to do with assisting individuals throughout the immigration process in Portugal.

Moving to Portugal and residing here permanently is possible for foreign nationals. This process needs to take place as per the local immigration laws and as per the ones related to lawfully working and residing in the country. While some options for foreign nationals can seem more straightforward, such as those related to investing in Portugal for the purpose of acquiring residency, others will involve third parties, such as the employer.

Working with an immigration lawyer in Portugal can be important and very helpful for foreign nationals. The types of services offered by these professionals can be similar, however, before working with an attorney that specializes in these matters it is worth knowing that he or she must have the essential legal studies and qualifications. 

Below, we answer some questions both about the qualifications of immigration lawyers in Portugal and the services that they provide.

Who serves as an immigration lawyer in Portugal?

Lawyers are legal professionals who go through a mandatory process of formation and examination. Lawyers in Portugal are required to:

  • have a law degree issued by a Portuguese university or a foreign university;
  • complete a traineeship: this lasts eighteen months and has two distinct stages;
  • pass the Bar exam which includes a written part and an oral part.

Only those lawyers who are registered with the Bar Association have the ability to practice this profession. The name of the Association in Portuguese is Ordem dos Advogados. 

There is no distinction made between lawyers and legal advisers in Portugal. Foreign lawyers can also practice in Portugal, however, they will need to comply with special requirements.

When choosing to work with a Portugal immigration lawyer, the experience of the legal professional can be very important for the client. We recommend reaching out to our lawyers who have experience working with individuals from various countries who want to move to Portugal.

What are the services offered by an immigration lawyer in Portugal?

Immigration and Portugal citizenship services offered by accredited lawyers and legal consultants in Portugal will generally include the following:

  • Visa application: a lawyer can answer your questions concerning a visa for traveling to Portugal from selected countries.
  • Work permit application: assistance for obtaining the work permit, a step in which the employer is also involved.
  • Study permit applications: specialized assistance for foreign nationals, including minors, who are interested in studying in Portugal.
  • Family reunification: these matters can be more complex, especially when the family involves minor children and other dependents; the aid of a lawyer can be important.
  • Citizenship applications: assistance for acquiring Portugal citizenship through naturalization and counseling regarding the general compliance requirements.
  • Expat services: counseling and assistance for expats who have already moved to Portugal but are in need of specialized legal aid.

Our team of immigration lawyers offers all of the above mentioned services and can provide clients with specialized assistance according to their country of origin. This is an important aspect to take into consideration if you are interested in immigration to Portugal because the requirements for third-country nationals can differ from those applicable to EU residents. We can help answer any questions related to Portugal citizenship.

Moving to Portugal with the help of our immigration lawyer in Portugal

Having a team of experts as advisors during the immigration process in Portugal can ease the experience and allow you to focus on the truly important issues at hand: starting a new life in your Portuguese city of choice. We can handle the administrative procedures and help clarify all of the processes for you so that you may move to Portugal with a clear and complete understanding of what is required of you as an expat and the rights that you have.

According to an immigration report issued by the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), the statistics in 2018 were the following:

  • there was a 13.9% increase in the resident foreign population compared to the previous year.
  • there were 480,300 foreign citizens who possessed a residence permit in Portugal, the highest number recorded since the foundation of the Foreigners and Borders Service.
  • new residence permit grants increased by 51.7% compared to the previous year, with a total of 91,154 new residents. 
  • compared to 2017, there was a 2.6% decrease in document fraud when applying for residence.

The most significant percentage of foreigners acquire nationality by naturalization (approximately 70%) while others through marriage with a Portuguese national (16%). According to the same report, the largest number of foreign nationals who acquire residence by marriage with a Portuguese citizen are Brazilians. 

The new regime for the entry, stay, exit and the removal of foreign nationals from the country intends to simplify the application procedure for residence permits. There are simpler schemes for students who wish to study in the country as well as for highly qualified entrepreneurs who intend on opening a business, developing new business models or investing in technology and innovation. The streamlined application process for those who relocate to Portugal includes online submissions as well as appointments via the SEF Contact Center or via the online platform. The one-stop-shop online service provided by SEF includes online appointments, online certifications as well as an automatic pre-scheduling system. 

Our immigration specialists are able to provide complete services for foreign nationals interested in immigration to Portugal, irrespective of their country of origin and the manner in which they aim to obtain residence (through naturalization, marriage or otherwise). The increased number of immigrants on a year-on-year basis confirms the country’s attractiveness both as a destination for those who are looking to become employed and those who are looking to start a business.

Contact our immigration lawyer in Portugal for complete information about the Portuguese immigration rules for EU and non-EU nationals and how you can start the process as soon as you decide to move.

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