Americans Living in Portugal: Why You Should Move There Right Now

For the past several years, Portugal has welcomed a growing number of Americans who want to live in this stunning European country, perched on the Iberian Peninsula. Drawn by the comparatively low cost of living and some attractive tax benefits, many Americans are now living in Portugal and find it the perfect place to settle down.

With progressive legislation, excellent healthcare and education, and being one of the safest countries in the world, Portugal has rightly become one of the most popular countries for Americans seeking a new life. Once you enter Portugal, you’ll quickly get to grips with the slow pace of life. It’s easy to see the appeal, as with charming historic Portuguese cities, beautiful landscapes, and a mild climate, there is something to suit every taste.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • Why are Americans living in Portugal?
  • Where can you find Americans living in Portugal?
  • The best places to live in Portugal as an American expat
  • The cost of living in Portugal
  • Practical information on moving to Portugal
  • Taxes for American expats in Portugal
  • Americans retiring in Portugal
  • American families moving to Portugal
  • Portugal visa types for Americans
  • The American Embassy in Portugal
  • How can I move to Portugal?
  • FAQs
  • Plus much more!

 

Why are Americans living in Portugal?

The benefits of living in Portugal go beyond purely financial reasons. Portugal’s mild climate – with more than 300 days of sunshine per year – ranks among the top reasons Americans decide to move to the country. Some Americans also opt to retire in Portugal since the pace of life and affordable living costs are big draws.

Add in beautiful beaches, welcoming locals, and the fact that English is widely spoken, and Portugal becomes an ideal place to watch the sunset well into your golden years.

Portugal ranks in 7th position in the 2021 Education First English Proficiency Index. While English is not an official language in Portugal, the proficiency is so good that Portugal ranked higher than South Africa, a country where English is an official language. Yes, people in Portugal speak English very well indeed, and you will not face any language barrier unless you are in the more remote parts of the country or speaking with older generations.

Indeed, Portugal is becoming increasingly popular with Americans, providing them with a high-quality life in a historic and cultural European country.

The country’s stunning coastline, summer sun, and up-and-coming tech scene are also drawing strong comparisons with California. For example, Websummit, the largest tech festival in the world, relocated to Lisbon in 2016, and the abundance of startups and tech companies can be seen across the country. Digital nomads and young professionals from across the world are dialing into the fact that Portugal holds a lot of cards regarding advantageous entrepreneurial benefits.

Where can you find Americans living in Portugal?

American expats tend to live mainly in the more urban areas of Portugal. The main reasons are access to transportation, ease of doing business, and opportunities for education, work, and Portuguese culture.

Americans enjoy the cities across Portugal. The Algarve Coast is also proving to be a popular place with Americans, those that are looking for a slice of the never-ending sun in the south of the country. Here are four popular choices for Americans living in Portugal.

Note that these are just some of the places where expats live in mainland Portugal. Other beautiful areas include the Silver Coast and the stunning autonomous islands of Madiera and the Azores.

Lisbon

Lisbon is located in the center of Portugal, filled with youthful energy and urban sophistication. The capital city is always welcoming to Americans, whether they’re looking to study, work, or live in Lisbon. The Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge is sure to remind you of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Franciso.

While the cost of living – particularly real estate – is more expensive in Lisbon than in other parts of Portugal, it’s affordable compared to any urban center in the US.

Every neighborhood in Lisbon has pros and cons, depending on your tastes and priorities, but some of our favorite areas include Baixa, Belém, and Campo de Ourique.

You can see our article on Where to Buy Property in Lisbon for more information on the different neighborhoods.

Cascais

A quick 30-minute drive from the Lisbon airport, the former fishing village of Cascais retains a sophisticated charm, with less hustle and bustle than Lisbon. Its traditional architecture, beaches, good restaurants, and nine nearby golf courses make it an easy choice for Americans relocating to Portugal.

Porto

Porto is a gem in the northern region of Portugal, famous for its Port wine. The Portuguese city is simply gorgeous and is well-located for you to enjoy just about any activity. Many say Porto feels more “authentic” than Lisbon and gives you a peek at a more traditional side of Portugal.

One downside to retiring in Porto, however, might be the weather. It’s prone to gloom and clouds and has cooler, wetter winters than areas to the south. But it makes up for the rain with an atmospheric moodiness, perfect for lively conversations in a local taverna or a cozy evening sharing a bottle of Portuguese wine.

The Algarve

golden-coast-of-algarve-portugal

The golden coast of Portugal’s Algarve is a great spot if you’re dreaming of life by the sea. With beautiful, long stretches of unspoiled beach, the Algarve region is hugely popular with British visitors – and is being discovered more and more by Americans.

Along the Algarve Coast, you’ll find stunning scenery, pristine beaches, and excellent food. Vilamoura, in the Central Algarve, is especially popular with expats. Built as a resort town, it offers a 1,000-berth marina, a golf course, luxury hotels, beach clubs, and even a casino. For avid travelers, Vilamoura’s proximity to the Faro airport is another win.

Albufeira is a short half-hour drive from the Faro airport. But its charm is the real draw: cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, plenty of amenities, and a marina. Albufeira can suit just about any budget. It’s also popular with part-time residents, hosting snowbirds in winter and vacationing families in summer.

 

Why do Americans live in Portugal?

As mentioned, living in Portugal has a wide array of advantages – a sublime climate, the stunning Atlantic Ocean, unique landscapes, a high quality of life, and a relatively low cost of living. Education and healthcare are excellent and foreign residents can take advantage of significant tax advantages. In this part of our article, we’ll delve into why Americans live in Portugal.

Affordable cost of living

Although the cost of living in Portugal has climbed over the last few years, especially in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, it’s still affordable compared to the US. We’ll provide you with some further information in the following section.

Friendly, welcoming people

In general, the people in Portugal are warm, welcoming, and helpful. This is very important to new expats trying to figure out the Portuguese language, the bureaucracy, or even where to find a grocery store. A little friendliness on your side will always be greeted with the same. Plus, if you speak Portuguese, even if it is a simple “Obrigado” or “Obrigada” (thank you), this is sure to be warmly appreciated by your Portuguese neighbors. As mentioned before, the Portuguese speak a very good level of English, so you’ll be able to converse with the local Portuguese people easily enough without any language barrier.

Good quality of life

Portugal is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. Violent crime rates are very low; pickpockets are probably the most common problem, and they’re mainly in areas popular with tourists. The Global Peace Index 2022 names Portugal as the 6th safest country in the world, after Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria.

Another major benefit is the mild winters, with temperatures rarely dropping below freezing anywhere in the country. The only area that sees any snow at all is the Serra da Estrela range up north. Summers are warm to hot, dry, and sunny. Alongside the sublime beaches, you’ll also find many national parks where you can enjoy incredible fauna and flora, natural beauty, and spectacular views.

Sports are also massive in Portugal, and it’s possible to try your hand at many different activities. From watersports, golf, yoga, football, and tennis, the list goes on. The Portuguese love to be outside, and you’ll find that you can easily get involved in different sports clubs in the country, another great way to meet fellow expats. If you have not tried any watersports before, then Portugal is the place to start, with a huge coastline. Portugal is a top surfing destination, with waves attracting surfers from around the world and several international competitions where you can see the top surfers in the world test their skills on a board.

A happy and healthy population

Thanks to a robust healthcare system that combines private care with the public system, anyone who is a resident of Portugal can access the medical care they need. Coming from the US, you’ll probably be surprised at healthcare costs in Portugal, as compared to America, which is very affordable – even if you were to pay entirely out of pocket.

While public healthcare is excellent, and you’ll only need to pay an additional cost for specific procedures, there are also many private clinics up and down the country. Private healthcare, in general,  allows you to make appointments faster, and where you won’t face long waiting lines.

You can also have international health insurance or private medical insurance, should you so desire.

affordable-healthcare-in-portugal

Cost of Living in Portugal

Americans will be pleased to know that the cost of living in Portugal is relatively affordable, one of the key reasons why many expats are flocking to the county.

Portugal ranks in 12th position in Global Citizen Solutions pioneering Quality of Life Index, part of our innovative way to uncover the true value of a passport. This index factors in the cost of living, alongside the Sustainable Development Goals, levels of freedom, happiness levels, migrant acceptance, and environmental performance.

Living in Portugal as an expat, you’ll be able to enjoy a high quality of life that is also very affordable. While prices in Lisbon are increasing, it remains one of the cheapest capitals in western Europe.

The cost of living will depend largely on your lifestyle choices, so bear this in mind and take the following with a pinch of salt. According to Numbeo, in Lisbon, a family of four estimated monthly cost is €2,266 without rent, and a single person’s estimated monthly costs are €640 without rent.

In this section, we’ll delve into what you can expect from rental and housing costs, eating out and daily essentials, and transportation costs. For further information, you can consult our article on the cost of living in Portugal, which also contains links to our collection of cost-of-living articles in Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Faro, and Coimbra.

Rental and property prices in Lisbon

Rental and property prices in Portugal are generally much lower than in the United States. Here, we’ve provided some examples of rental and property prices in Lisbon.

Rental property prices in Lisbon are as follows, according to data from Numbeo:

  • A one-bedroom apartment in the city center – €1,171
  • A three-bedroom apartment in the city center – €2,040
  • A one-bedroom apartment outside the city center – €772
  • A three-bedroom apartment outside the city center – €1,254

If you are looking to purchase property in Portugal, then this could be an excellent option, as real estate in the country is a very good investment in the long term, as opposed to renting a property.

When it comes to buying property, the following are averages for Lisbon:

  • Price per square meter to buy an apartment in the city center –  €5,483
  • Price per square meter to buy an apartment outside the city center –  €2,988

Within Lisbon, you will also find a wide range in prices, as some neighborhoods are deemed more desirable and will therefore come with a higher price tag.

Lisbon has its own price range, and in other parts of the country, you’ll be able to find property at much cheaper rates.

If you are looking to buy property in Portugal, our real estate division, Goldcrest, has recently launched their new book, Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal, which includes a step-by-step guide to buying property in Portugal, information on financing your property, and where to buy in Portugal.

Daily essentials and eating out

Compared to the US, it is very cheap to eat out in restaurants, and daily essentials and reasonably priced. You should also know that the quality of the produce is also very good. Given the long coastline, fresh fish and seafood feature heavily in the Portuguese diet, although you’ll find excellent meat. Portuguese olive oil is a staple, as are olives, dried hams, and cheese. Note that if you shop at local markets, you’ll find that daily essentials are even more affordable compared to buying imported produce.

Portuguese cuisine is excellent and Portuguese wines can compete with the very best in the world, another bonus of moving to the country. There are many wine regions in the country, but some of the best are from the Douro region or the Alentejo. Also, try the Vinho Verde, a delicious green wine that is the perfect accompaniment for a summer evening.

Here are some of the average prices for daily essentials in Portugal:

Milk (regular), (1 liter)€0.70
Loaf of white bread (500g)€1.14
Rice (white), (1kg)€1.05
Eggs (regular) (12)€2.00
Local cheese (1kg)€7.41
Chicken filets (1kg)€5.53
Beef round (1kg) or equivalent back leg red meat€9.27
Apples (1kg)€1.67
Banana (1kg)€1.15
Oranges (1kg)€1.31
Tomato (1kg)€1.65
Bottle of wine (mid-range)€4.00
Domestic beer (0.5-liter bottle)€1.08
Imported Beer (0.33-liter bottle)€1.86

Transportation

Travel is very affordable in Portugal. A monthly bus pass will cost you €40, and a one-way ticket by public transportation (bus, metro services) is €1.60. Gasoline is €2.02 a liter for those that prefer to get around by car.

For Americans, you may be surprised by how close together everything is in Portugal. Indeed, it is possible to get from Sagres, in the southwest of the country, to Bragança, in the northeast of Portugal, in less than eight hours. Portugal is an incredible 107 times smaller than the USA.

While taxis are very affordable, another great way to get around town is with Uber and Bolt. These services are easy to use with an app and are incredibly cheap, especially when compared to taxis in the USA, particularly in New York. What’s more, Uber and Bolt drivers are great fountains of expertise and can provide you with information on anything from top restaurants, the best sightseeing locations, or some of the Portuguese food specialties that you should try.

Practical Information on Moving to Portugal

In this section of our Americans Living in Portugal article, we’ll delve into some key practical information that you’ll want to know before you move to the country.

Getting a NIF (Portuguese Tax Number)

Moving to Portugal, you will need to get a NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal or Número de Contribuinte) from a Finanças office (local tax office). This is essentially a Portuguese tax number that you will need when making transactions in Portugal.

You will need to present your passport and proof of address to your nearest Finanças office. Use your Portuguese address if you are already residing in the county, otherwise, your address outside Portugal will suffice. As an American, as with all non-EU residents, you will also need to have a tax representative in Portugal to get your NIF.

We recommend going to the Finanças office twenty minutes before they open to avoid the long lines. You will leave with your NIF number, ready to use for any Portuguese transaction.

Opening a Portuguese bank account

You will need to have your NIF number to open a bank account in Portugal. To open a bank account, you will also need to have with you a valid ID (passport), proof of address (utility bill in your name), and proof of employment. Some of the top banks to consider in Portugal are Millennium BCP, Novo Banco, Banco BPI, and Banco Santander Totta. You will also need to present a deposit in many cases, and, for some banks, you will need to have a Portuguese phone number.

To open a Portuguese bank account, Global Citizen Solution can introduce you to a competent English-speaking banker in Portugal who can open a bank account even before you come to Portugal.

Taxes for American Expats in Portugal

The US requires that all US citizens, wherever they may have their place of residence, disclose their worldwide income to the IRS. However, we recommend that you research the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, whereby you may qualify for an exclusion that could save you some money.

Basically, American citizens will need to pay taxes on their American earnings in America and their Portuguese earnings in Portugal. If you are an American expat living in Portugal, you must file tax returns in both America and Portugal.

One aspect of paying taxes in Portugal that you should be aware of is the Non-Habitual (NHR) Program, where you may be eligible to receive significant tax benefits for up to ten years.

Take a look at our Portugal's NHR tax regime: the complete guide

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Americans Retiring in Portugal

Portugal is frequently featured in articles on the best places in the world to retire – and with good reason. Excellent healthcare infrastructure, a sublime climate, and the fact that you can spend much of the year outside are key attractions for retirees. However, there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind.

Firstly, figure out what you are looking for. If you want to play golf, begin a gardening project, or are even considering trying your hand at winemaking, consider what you are after before deciding on retiring to Portugal from the USA.

Portugal offers many different lifestyles. For example, for those that are looking for a relaxing beach life, then the Algarve is an excellent place to consider, if you want to get a flavor of typical Portuguese village life, then the Silver Coast may be more to your liking, with many quaint towns lining the coast. And if you want to live in a townhouse in a historic city, Porto could be a good option.

Some of the benefits of retiring to Portugal for Americans are the following:

  • The Portuguese healthcare system is excellent
  • Political stability
  • Fresh food
  • Easy immigration process
  • Tax advantages through the NHR scheme
  • Route to European Union (EU) citizenship is possible after living in the country for five years

American Families Moving to Portugal

For American families moving to Portugal, you’ll find that there is a lot of choice in terms of education for your children. From primary school to further education, the teaching in the country is very good. While public schools are always an option, there are many international schools in Portugal that you can also choose from.

One great thing about moving to Portugal with your family is that the climate allows you to spend much of the year outside enjoying quality time together, whether this is hiking, watersports, or simply exploring the many different parts of the country. Family is very important to Portuguese people and, in many cases, Sundays are reserved for spending quality time with your family – an unexpected benefit of moving to Portugal.

American International Schools in Portugal

Because of the unique challenges of moving abroad, American families living in Portugal may want to enroll their children in a school that teaches in English and offers Portuguese (or other) language classes as an extra.

This is where international schools come in. Two excellent options for American students in Portugal are the Carlucci American International School Of Lisbon and the International Christian School of Cascais. Learn more about options for American expats in our compmlete guide: International Schools in Portugal.

 

Portugal Visa Types for Americans

So, as an American moving to Portugal, how will you legally be allowed to live in the country? Here, we’ve highlighted two of the most popular Portuguese visa options open to you. Note that Portugal also offers dual citizenship. Portuguese residents have free movement within the EU ad Schengen Area.

Portugal Golden Visa program

If you have the financial means, buying a property in Portugal could be the perfect option for you to obtain a Portugal Golden Visa. Real estate is the most popular route to secure a Portugal Golden Visa. Note that important changes rolled out on 1 January 2022 and if you are looking to purchase real estate, the current rules are the following:

  • Residential Real Estate: Buy residential real estate in designated interior areas of Portugal worth at least €500,000 or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project. If the residential property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20 percent discount applies.
  • Commercial Real Estate: Buy commercial real estate anywhere in the country worth at least €500,000 or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project. If the commercial property is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20 percent discount applies.
  • Buy Real Estate on Madeira or Azores: Buy residential and commercial real estate anywhere in Portugal’s autonomous islands of Madeira and Azores, worth at least €500,000 or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project.

Other investment routes are shown below. Note that the investment funds option has proved to be very popular with Americans over the past few years.

  • Fund Subscription: Make a contribution to a qualified investment fund worth at least €500,000.
  • Capital Transfer: Make a capital transfer of at least €1.5 million.
  • Scientific Research: Science or Technology research contribution of at least €500,000.
  • Job Creation: Company incorporation and creation of ten jobs amounting to a minimum value of €500,000.
  • Donation: Support the arts or reconstruction of national heritage with a donation of at least €250,000.

This Portuguese government-sponsored Golden Visa program offers a number of benefits to Americans in Portugal, including:

  •   The right to family reunification
  •   A waiver of the usual residence visa for Portugal
  •   A visa exemption for Schengen Area travel
  •   Permission to live and work in Portugal (as long as you spend at least one week in the country during the first year and at least two weeks for each year after that)
  •  The right to apply for permanent residence and Portuguese citizenship (provided you fulfill those separate requirements) – EU citizens have access to a range of benefits, including the right to work, live, and study in any EU country

Learn more about this option in our ultimate guide: The Portugal Golden Visa Program.

Portugal D7 Visa

For an alternative to the Portugal Golden Visa, if you are looking to move to Portugal but do not want to make a significant investment in the country, then the Portugal D7 Visa could be an excellent option for you.

This residency visa was introduced by the Portuguese government in 2007 and is also referred to as the Retirement Visa or Passive Income Visa. The D7 residency visa allows any non-EU/EEA or non-Swiss citizen to apply for residency in the county, provided they have reasonable passive income.

Whether you are a pensioner, entrepreneur, or other expat seeking to live in Portugal, if you live off a recognized stable income, such as movable property, pension funds, real estate, intellectual property, or financial investments, then you may be eligible to apply for the D7 Visa and subsequently secure a residence permit.

The residence permit given to you through the D7 Visa can be renewed and, after five years, you can apply for permanent residency and citizenship should you meet all the requirements to become a Portuguese citizen under Portuguese nationality law.

As a Portuguese citizen, you will have the right to vote in Portugal, alongside many other perks. Portugal also offers dual citizenship. Europea Union (EU) citizens can live, work, study, and travel across all the EU member countries.

You can see more about the D7 Visa and see if you are eligible in our article: Portugal D7 Visa 2022 Guide + Free Eligibility Test. Both the D7 Visa and the Portuguese Golden Visa program are excellent ways to begin your life in the country.

 

The American Embassy in Portugal

US citizens who need consular services have access to the US Embassy in Lisbon. Keep in mind that if you need to come to the embassy for a routine matter, you should make an appointment ahead of time. Scheduling can be done online at the US Embassy website.

If you have a more urgent situation, you can go directly to US Citizen Services at the US Embassy in Lisbon, located at Avenida das Forças Armadas, Sete-Rios, Lisbon. If you’re taking Lisbon’s Metro to get there, it’s on the Blue Line.

For a full list of available services and more information for visitors or residents from America, check the website or email [email protected]

 

How can I move to Portugal?

Before you begin your journey from America to Portugal, it’s always best to work with reputable professionals to ensure you’re making the right choices for your personal situation. Make sure you have a trusted advisor who can help guide you through the process – professional advice can save you time and money!

If you need advice on property investment or residency in Portugal, our specialists are here to help.

Get in touch today to schedule a consultation with one of our team members.

Frequently Asked Questions about Americans Living in Portugal

Why do Americans live in Portugal?

Living in Portugal provides a wide array of advantages. The fantastic climate, great quality of life, and affordable cost of living are just some of the reasons many Americans choose to live in Portugal. Portugal has, in many ways, become the European country to move to. Favorable tax treatment is also a big plus, and Portugal frequently tops the rankings as one of the best places in the world to live.

Where do American expats live in Portugal?

Expat life in Portugal is a dream. The biggest American expat communities are Lisbon, the Algarve, and Porto. Compared to some other European countries, Portugal manages to balance a high quality of life with a low cost of living.

Is Portugal a good place to live for Americans?

Portugal is considered to be an excellent place for many Americans to live and one of the best European countries to relocate to, mainly due to its picturesque cities, beautiful landscapes, and great climate. Americans moving to Portugal will find a affordable cost of living, good quality healthcare, and welcoming locals in addition to stunning landscapes.

How do Americans live in Portugal?

In order to live in Portugal, Americans must obtain residency or Portuguese citizenship. There are a number of ways of doing this, including through marriage, descent, naturalization, or investment.

If you would like to enter Portugal for up to 90 days for tourism, then you will not need a Portuguese visa. If you want to spend more time in the country, you will need an appropriate visa.

How does the cost of living in Portugal compare to the US?

The cost of living in Lisbon is generally much cheaper than in US cities. To provide you with a couple of examples, rent is almost 58 percent cheaper in Lisbon than in Washington DC, and restaurant prices are nearly 45 percent lower. If you look to visit the interior parts of Portugal, outside the expat hotspots, then you will be surprised by the affordability of Portugal.

You can check out our article on the Cost of Living in Portugal vs the USA for more information on the topic.

What are the pros and cons of living in Portugal?

Living in Portugal offers a high quality of life, a warm climate, and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. You can also take advantage of the excellent education and healthcare services and tax-friendly policies that are in place to attract foreign nationals. Disadvantages include having to carry cash on you in some places and, in the more remote areas, it’s worth having a basic understanding of the Portuguese language. Also, the minimum wage in Portugal is low compared to other European countries.

What are the downsides of living in Portugal?

While the warm weather is definitely a plus, it can get very hot indeed in the summer months, particularly away from the coast, which can be one of the bad things about living in Portugal. You’ll also find that the winters can get quite cold, so make sure your home has a good heating system. Other bad things about living in Portugal include the fact that bureaucracy can be slow, and you may have to carry cash on you in some places.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Portugal?

To live comfortably in Portugal, you can get by with €1,200 as a single person, while a couple will need around €2,000-€2,500. Remember that living in Lisbon is more expensive, while in smaller towns, you will probably be surprised by the affordable cost of living.

Is Portugal affordable to live in?

Yes, Portugal is one of the most affordable European countries to live in. For Americans, you’ll find that most things, from groceries to healthcare, utility costs to property prices, are considerably cheaper than in the USA.

Is Portugal safe to live in?

The Global Peace Index 2022 names Portugal as the 6th safest country in the world, after Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria.

 

How many expats are living in Portugal?

The total population of expats in Portugal is approximately 661,000 in 2022. This amounts to around 6.5 percent of the total population.