Life in PortugalMoving to Portugal, a Guide to Visas, Documents and Regulations

Jack Johnson12 months ago

Here is what you need to know to be able to move to Portugal from inside the EU and the Schengen Area, and in particular, from the UK and the US.

We really hope this information will be of great value to those of you who want to move to Portugal.

At first, it might seem a little confusing, we will try to break it down for you.

How to move to Portugal

Portugal in the EU and the Schengen Area

Portugal has been part of the European Union since 1st January 1986. That means that starting that day, Portugal accepted, and was accepted, in a free commerce, free transportation of goods and free circulation zone.

On the 25th of June 1991, Portugal signed the Schengen Agreement thus abolishing the border controls concerning the citizens of all of the other European countries that are bound by the same agreement.

So basically, people from Portugal can easily (and without the need for a visa!), visit country of the EU and/or the Schengen Area (and vice versa), for 90 days.

Countries outside the EU or the Schengen Area

When visiting any country in the EU or Schengen Area for 90 days or less, Schengen Area requirements are in order. Given these requirements, we can classify the countries outside the EU or the Schengen Area in two categories:

  • those who need a Schengen Visa;
  • those who don’t need a Schengen Visa.

In case a person from outside the EU or the Schengen Area wishes to reside in Portugal for more than 90 days, that person must apply for a visa before coming to Portugal. It doesn’t matter where you come from, because in this case, the Portuguese law and requirements stand.

If you come from a country outside the EU or EEC and want to move to Portugal, have a look at:
How to Get Portuguese Residency for Non-EU Citizens

Applying for a visa

There are multiple kinds of visas, as we will see in a bit. However, all applications for a visa must be filed at the Portuguese Consulate in the area of residence of the person applying. In the rare case of Portugal not having a Consulate or an Embassy in the country the person is from, there will be a Consulate of another country from the Schengen Area that should represent Portugal in this situation.

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How do these rules apply to the US and the UK?

If you are from the US or the UK and you are thinking about moving to Portugal, you should know that these rules also apply to you. But let’s go though it step by step.

Coming from the US

First, let’s talk about the US.

If you are a citizen of the US thinking about moving to Portugal, the first thing you should do is to go to the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in your area of residence and apply for a visa.

Here are the general requirements for somebody who wants to move to Portugal and has to apply for a Portugal visa for residency:

  • Official form;
  • Passport or additional travel document valid for three months after the duration of the stay;
  • Two passport photos, up-to-date and with enough quality to identify the applicant;
  • Valid travel insurance, allowing medical coverage, including medical emergencies and repatriation;
  • Proof of being in a regular situation when from a different nationality than that of the country where the visa is being applied for;
  • Request for criminal record inquiry by the Immigration and Border Services (SEF);
  • Criminal record certificate from the country of origin or the country where the applicant is residing for over a year (children under the age of 16 are exempt from producing a criminal record);
  • Proof of suitable accommodation conditions;
  • Proof of means of subsistence as stipulated by law.

Depending on what you wish to do in Portugal, you may have to prepare additional documentation. Documentation may differ, depending if you will work as a subordinate, as an independent or migrant entrepreneur, teaching purposes and others.

You can find all the additional information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

What about other countries?

If you are coming from any other country not in the EU, EEA or Schengen area, the same rules apply in general but you should check with your Portuguese Embassy or consulate in your country.

Coming from the UK

At the moment, the UK is still in the European Union. That means that, for now, things happen as they did in the last few decades:

  • Britons can still visit Portugal and Portuguese can still go to the UK. However, because of Brexit, things might soon change.

But first things first. At the moment, if you are a citizen of the United Kingdom, you can come to Portugal using only your ID from the UK. That is enough for you to visit Portugal for a 90-day period (in a six-month time period).

If, on the other hand, you wish to move to Portugal for a longer amount of time, you’ll have to contact the city hall and ask for a certificate of registry. This certificate will basically show where your legal residence is (in Portugal). You will always have to show this certificate in addition to your UK ID.

That’s basically all you need to be considered legal in Portugal and have the same rights as all Portuguese citizens.

But what about Brexit?

Brexit may change a few things. Here’s the situation at the moment:

The UK has two possible scenarios ahead:

  • Brexit happening with a deal with the EU;
  • Brexit happening without a deal with the EU.

Optimistic perspective

The optimists will tell you that Brexit must happen with a deal because otherwise, there will be many (many!) loses for both sides. If the optimists are right, things will not change in this area and not much will change in the first months.

There will be an adaptation period until 31st December 2020, during which time, UK citizens will have the opportunity to deal with all the bureaucracy needed.

Pessimistic Perspective

However, if 29 March 2019 comes and Brexit happens without a deal, that means that starting on the  30 March 2019, the requirements for UK citizens might be the same as, for example, the requirements of the citizens of the US that we mentioned above. They might have to apply for  a visa, as soon as possible, and hope they are all accepted.

UPDATE: As of January 2019, the EU and Portugal have said that Britons living in Portugal will keep their residency rights and tourists won’t need a visa even in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. Here is the news article on this.

We will have to wait and see what further Brexit negotiations will bring. Stay tuned for more updates.

Relaxing in Lisbon

What to do after arriving in Portugal?

The first thing in your “moving to Portugal” process must be to get yourself the same rights as any Portuguese citizen.

That means that, if you come from the EU, you should ask for the Certificate of Registration of Citizen of the European Union at your local town hall. If, on the other hand, you come from a country outside the EU, you must make an appointment with SEF, the Portuguese Foreign and Borders Services and get your residency permit.

Following that, you will have to go to the Finances Services office (Finaças) and ask for a National Identification Number (“Número de Identificação Fiscal” or “NIF”) in order to be able to have your tax benefits and responsibilities in check.

The last mandatory checkpoint is filing in the documentation for your Social Security Number (“Número de Identificação de Segurança Social” or “NISS”) in order to be covered by the Portuguese Social Security.

Remember, though you must do these things, it is also your right to be covered by all the advantages being registered will give you.

Is moving to Portugal hard?

According to our research, moving to Portugal is no harder than moving to any other country of the EU or the Schengen Area. Though it may seem like there are a lot of rules, it’s really quite easy, if you follow some Portugal travel tips.

We would even go the extra step and affirm that, depending on your background and your objectives, the Portuguese state may accept you straight away. This gives you the opportunity to move to Portugal and grow as a dependent or independent worker, as an entrepreneur or as an investor.

It really isn’t as hard as you would think. Besides, it is completely worth it, considering the cost of living in Portugal, the country itself, the culture and the Portuguese people.

Did you find this information helpful for your move? Do you have any experiences to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.

We publish new content every day so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get notified of the latest tips for your visit or move to Portugal.

You might also be interested in:
How to Get Portuguese Residency for Non-EU Citizens
SEF Portugal: Immigration and Residency Assistance


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Jack Johnson

A man only has maybe two or three chances to decide to change his life completely. In one of those moments, I discovered Portugal and fell in love. Since then, I divide my time between Portugal and New Zealand searching for the perfect wave and scribbling for a living.

Cristo Rei Lisbon Portugal

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