Portugal is fast becoming a top destination to relocate to. From the country’s friendly local population and low crime levels to its amazing stretches of Atlantic coastline and thriving cities, here is what Americans moving to Portugal should know.
What is expat life like in Portugal?
The minute you set foot in Portugal, you can see why it’s so popular among expats. Indeed, it is incredibly easy to live in Portugal. Who doesn’t love the temperate climate, sandy beaches, golf courses, and natural beauty throughout the country? Its cities and towns range from timeless, fairytale-like villages like Óbidos to the hip neighborhoods of Lisbon. And, of course, the genuinely friendly spirit of the Portuguese makes it such a natural choice for anyone moving to Portugal.
Living in Portugal has many advantages: a warm climate, stunning landscapes, the Atlantic Ocean on your doorstep, and a relatively low cost of living. The country has a low crime rate, good education and healthcare, and significant tax advantages for residents.
Although the Portuguese generally speak excellent English, it is worth knowing some basics if you are committed to living in the country. Also, when it comes to the cons of Portugal, it is good to have some cash on you, as some places have yet to take up card payments, although this is becoming less of a problem.
For more information on life in this stunning European country, check out our guide to expats in Portugal.
Why are Americans moving to Portugal?
There are several different reasons why Americans are moving to Portugal. A more affordable cost of living, high quality of life, access to public healthcare, and an excellent climate are some of the most common reasons. Also, Portugal ranks in sixth position in the 2022 Global Peace Index, highlighting that the country is a very safe place to live. International schools in the country are also excellent, attracting many American families looking to move to Europe.
With delicious cuisine, a relaxed pace of life, and a variety of exciting places to live – the buzzing capital of Lisbon, the historic Portuguese city of Porto, the stunning beaches of the Algarve, or the authentic Silver Coast, many Americans are flocking to Portugal. The country also has a booming tech and startup scene, and the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon is based partly on two San Francisco Bay Area bridges, a nice glimpse of home for Californians. The sheer diversity of locations in Portugal is a big attraction – whether you are a retiree, young professional, or family, there are many options to consider.
The Cost of Living in Portugal versus the USA
One of the most appealing aspects of spending time in Portugal is its low living costs. Whether it’s buying a coffee or the menu do día (menu of the day) from a typical Portuguese bakery or taking a train trip from Lisbon to Porto, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the affordable prices.
Your food budget will be noticeably less if you don’t buy expensive imported goods, and if you choose to eat fresh produce from local markets, and buy local Portuguese wine, which is excellent.
You’ll also notice that the more you go outside the main cities, the cheaper the living costs. Lisbon will always be more expensive than just about anywhere else in Portugal. Public transport options outside the cities are also cheap and efficient.
How to Move to Portugal From the USA
Moving to any country can be difficult. Moving to Portugal from the USA, there are certain things that you should be aware of, such as understanding which visa is best for you, and how to ship your goods and healthcare in the country. That said, if you have the correct information, you should be able to, without much trouble, move to Portugal easily.
To stay and live in Portugal, you must have a Portuguese residence permit. A residence permit can be obtained if you find work in the country, enroll in a long-term course of studies, marry a Portuguese citizen, or invest in Portugal’s economy. Here, we’ll provide you with some information on the visa process, and on two popular routes, through the Portuguese Golden Visa investment program and the D7 Visa program.
The Visa process
If you are moving to Portugal and you’re from outside the European Union (EU), you’ll need a temporary residence visa in order to establish residence. Some of the most common visa options include:
- Portugal Golden Visa
- D7 Visa (also known as the Passive Income Visa)
- Portugal Digital Nomad Visa
- Schengen Visa (these are short-term, tourist visas required from some countries)
- Study in Portugal
- D2 Visa
Portugal Golden Visa
The Portugal Golden Visa Program, or the Residence Permit Program, is a five-year residency-by-investment scheme open to non-EU nationals. It is part of the move by the Portuguese government to welcome foreign investors into the county.
Following five years of holding down your investment and being a temporary resident, you can apply for permanent residence and Portuguese citizenship. You will need to meet the criteria under Portuguese nationality law, for example, having a clean criminal record and passing a basic Portuguese language test.
Introduced in 2012, the Portugal Golden Visa program offers different investment routes to investors, including:
- Purchase 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 low-density area, then a 20 percent discount will apply.
- Buy commercial real estate anywhere in the county worth at least €500,000 or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project. If the commercial property is located in a low-density area, then a 20 percent discount will apply.
- Purchase real estate on the autonomous islands of Madeira or the Azores worth at least €500,000 or €350,000 if investing in a rehabilitation project.
- Contribute to a qualified investment fund of at least €500,000
- Make a capital transfer of at least €1.5 million
- Contribute to scientific or technological research worth at least €500,000
- Support the arts or reconstruction of national heritage with a donation of at least €250,000
- Company incorporation and the creation of ten jobs, amounting to a minimum value of €500,000
While the real estate option is the most popular route, accounting for more than 90 percent of applications, many American expats and investors are choosing the investment fund option, which has been increasing in popularity in the past few years.
Benefits of the Portugal Golden Visa
The Portugal Golden Visa program is granted based on an investment in Portugal. Golden Visas have been particularly popular with expats who wish to buy real estate in Portugal. Benefits of the Portugal Golden Visa include:
- The right to family reunification
- A waiver of the usual residence visa for Portugal
- A visa exemption for travel in the Schengen Area
- Permission to live and work in Portugal (as long as you spend at least one week in-country during the first year and at least two weeks each year after that)
- The right to apply for permanent residence and citizenship after five years, as long as you fulfill the requirements