Moving To Portugal in 2024: The Expat’s Guide

Last updated on May 30th, 2024 at 09:02 am

If you’re considering a move to Portugal from the U.S. or Canada, this Remitly guide will introduce you to the immigration process and some important facts about your potential new home.

Moving To Portugal

A brief overview of Portugal

Portugal is the westernmost country on the European continent. It borders the Atlantic Ocean and Spain. English is the most commonly spoken foreign language.

The country is known for its rich history, fado music, spectacular architecture, and port wine.

  • Size: 35,608 sq. mi. (92,225 sq km)
  • Capital: Lisbon
  • Major cities: Porto, Amadora, Braga, Vita Nova de Gaia
  • Population: 10.3 million people
  • Foreign-born population: roughly 7.6% of total
  • Official language: Portuguese
  • Demographics: 95% Ethnic Portuguese, 5% minority groups including African, Brazilian, and Han

Can a U.S. or Canadian citizen move to Portugal?

U.S. and Canadian citizens can move to Portugal if they go through the legal immigration process and obtain the necessary visas.

What are the requirements to move to Portugal?

To move to Portugal, you must first qualify for entry into the country.

Requirements for entry include:

  • a passport from your home country that is valid for at least 3 months longer than your expected stay
  • a visa if you wish to stay in the country for more than 90 days

The residency visa is what most Americans and Canadians who wish to move to Portugal apply for. To qualify for one, you will need to meet one of the following criteria:

  • you’re a highly skilled professional or educator with employment in Portugal
  • you have intention and financial ability to start a business in Portugal
  • you have relatives living in Portugal who are Portuguese citizens or permanent residents
  • you’re a retiree with a pension that can fully support you
  • you’re an investor with financial holdings in real estate in Portugal or one or more Portuguese companies
  • you’re an individual with independent wealth who can support themselves on savings, royalties, or investment income

All applicants for residence visas must also have:

  • travel insurance
  • clean criminal record with no history of felony convictions
  • proof of accommodations, such as a lease or deed
  • proof of financial independence or the ability to earn money, such as bank or investment account statements or a letter from a qualified Portuguese employer
    • If a Portuguese citizen signs a certificate of responsibility stating that they will financially support you, this requirement may be waived.

How do you get a visa to move to Portugal?

To get a visa to move to Portugal, you must complete an application and take it to a Portuguese embassy or Portuguese consulate in your home country.

You will also need to pay an application fee of 90€, which is approximately $92. Most visa applications are processed within 60 days.

Does Portugal offer digital nomad visas?

A digital nomad visa allows people to immigrate to a country and work remotely for employers located in their home countries.

Through its passive income visa program, Portugal offers two visa options for digital nomads and their family members: a short-term visa that allows for a one-year stay and a long-term visa that allows recipients to apply for a residence permit after arriving in Portugal.

Learn more about moving to Portugal as a digital nomad by checking out our article on the subject.

What is the Portugal Golden Visa Program?

The Portugal Golden Visa program provides a residence permit and a pathway to Portuguese citizenship for foreign investors who want to live in Portugal. Introduced by the Portuguese government in 2012, the Golden Visa scheme is meant to help stimulate the economy.

To qualify for a Portugal Golden Visa, a person must:

  • Be a non-EU citizen and not a citizen of a European country in the European Economic Area
  • Have a clean criminal record
  • Do one of the following:
    • Invest at least €500,000 in a Portuguese investment fund approved by the Portuguese government
    • Open a company that creates at least 10 jobs for Portuguese citizens
    • Invest at least €250,000 in projects related to preserving Portuguese culture
    • Invest at least €500,000 in research and development activities in Portugal

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for a golden visa through a Portuguese embassy or consulate office. You can learn more about the Portuguese immigration program here.

Can you live in Portugal permanently?

It is possible to live in Portugal permanently with a residence permit. Your initial residency visa is usually good for four months.

Once you arrive in the country, you will need to obtain a residency permit from Immigration and Border Services (SEF) in Portugal. The qualifications for obtaining one depend on your situation. SEF has a comprehensive website that will help you determine exactly what you need.

The initial residence permit often expires after one year, and you will have to renew it before the expiration date to remain in the country.

In some cases, SEF will supply a two-year residence permit after the first renewal.

You can apply for Portuguese citizenship after living in Portugal for five years on a permanent residence permit.

How much money do you need to move to Portugal?

The cost of flying or driving to Portugal depends on where your trip begins. If you’re planning to fly, try to avoid the peak tourist season from July–August to get the best deals on airfare. If you’re driving, factor in the cost of gasoline, food, and overnight accommodations during your trip. Plan for fees at the various borders.

International moving companies charge for the cost of shipping by container, which includes inspection and customs fees. As a result, the cost can run into the thousands of dollars.

Expat forums like Expat Exchange will have up-to-date information from others about the cost of moving, as well as recommendations. In general, the amount you’ll pay will depend on the distance you travel and the total weight and size of what needs to be moved.

Once you arrive in the country, factor in the cost of initial accommodation in a hotel or hostel as you search for a residence.

How much monthly income do you need to live in Portugal?

How much you’ll need to earn monthly to enjoy a comfortable life in Portugal depends on where you settle in the country.

In Lisbon, the estimated monthly living costs are around $603 USD for a single person and $2,125 for a family of four.

Average rents in the capital are roughly $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment or $2,000 for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center. The cost of living in Porto and Braga is slightly less than in Lisbon.

What type of government does Portugal have?

Portugal is a republic, a nation where power is held by elected officials. The president is the head of state and the commander in chief of the armed forces. Portuguese citizens elect presidents for five-year terms through a two-round voting system. The newly elected president names a prime minister, who oversees the actions of the executive branch’s ministers.

The Assembly of the Republic serves as Portugal’s legislature. It has just one house of elected representatives serving 4-year terms.

Portugal’s judicial branch includes a Supreme Court that handles final appeals. The president nominates Supreme Court justices for 6-year terms, and the legislature approves them.

The high Constitutional Court makes decisions regarding the constitutionality of laws. It has 10 justices that serve 6-year terms.

The legislature elects seven justices, and they then elect the three remaining members of the court panel.

Is there a U.S. embassy in Portugal?

Yes, the U.S. has an embassy in Lisbon and a consulate in Ponta Delgada.

Canada also maintains friendly diplomatic relations with an embassy in Lisbon and consulates in Faro and Ponta Delgada.

Is Portugal a good place for North American expats?

U.S. News and World Report ranked Portugal the 25th best country in the world in 2023. North American expats can enjoy safe cities with a low-cost and high standard of living and benefit from robust social services in Portugal.

How safe is it to live in Portugal?

The U.S. State Department advises that conditions in Portugal are generally safe for foreigners and advises people to take normal safety precautions in the country.

These include things like locking your doors at night, avoiding walking in unlit, unfamiliar areas at night, and storing valuables and travel and identity documents in a safe place.

What is the cost of living like in Portugal?

The cost of living in Portugal is generally lower than in many large cities in the U.S. In fact, the affordable cost of living is one of the reasons why many young Americans are moving to Portugal to work and for older Americans to retire in the country.

It is approximately 54% less expensive to live in the city center of Lisbon than in New York City, and consumer prices are about 40% lower in the city than they are in Vancouver.

What is the education system like in Portugal?

Portugal has a strong education system that U.S. News and World Report ranked the 24th best in the world. The Ministry of Education oversees the public school system, which offers free education for children from preschool through high school.

Attending a private or public school is mandatory for everyone in the country aged 6–18. Although preschool is not compulsory, roughly 92% of children receive early childhood education in Portugal.

Although Portugal’s public school system is comprehensive, some expats choose to send their children to private international schools. These schools usually offer instruction primarily in English and teach Portuguese as a second language.

The International Schools Database offers a search tool to help you find international schools in Portugal.

For adults and recent high school graduates, Portugal offers many opportunities for higher education. The country is home to more than 90 post-secondary institutions.

U.S. World and News Report ranks the following colleges and universities as the best in Portugal:

What is the healthcare system like in Portugal?

Portugal has a well-developed public health system. Although life expectancy rates in the country are slightly lower than in some other Western European countries, Portugal’s healthcare system ranked 20th on CEOWORLD magazine’s 2023 Health Care Index.

All residents in Portugal can receive care through the National Health Service (NHS), which is funded mostly through taxes. To gain access to healthcare through the NHS, expats must register at the Instituto da Solidariedade in their district or city.

What is the climate/weather like in Portugal?

Portugal has a warm Mediterranean climate with an average daytime temperature of around 61°F (16°C). The country gets rain throughout the winter and has drier summers.

Sea breezes help to keep temperatures in check throughout the year. As a result, temperatures rarely exceed 79°F (26°C).

Moving To Portugal

Do you need to learn Portuguese when moving to Portugal?

Although many Portuguese people speak English, most business in the country is conducted in the Portuguese language.

Being able to speak Portuguese will greatly improve your chances of being able to find a job and make it easier for you to make purchases, obtain services, and make friends with your neighbors while living in Portugal.

Foreign language learning apps like Babbel and Practice Portuguese can help Canadians and Americans moving to Portugal learn Portuguese.

What is the quality of life in Portugal?

Portugal ranked 56 out of 146 countries on the 2023 World Happiness Report. Lower life expectancy rates and perceived levels of generosity placed the country below Canada, the U.S., and other Western European nations.

Rates of poverty are lower than many other places in the world, and the country is politically stable and generally safe.

Can I get a driver’s license in Portugal?

In Portugal, U.S. and Canadian citizens can drive with their foreign driver’s licenses for up to 185 days. You can exchange your Canadian or U.S. driver’s license for a Portuguese driver’s license without having to take a driving exam, provided you are under 60 years old and make the request within 90 days of arrival.

However, most large cities and towns in Portugal have robust public transportation systems. Depending on where you’re moving to, you may not need to drive often while living in Portugal. The Comboios de Portugal rail system also makes it possible to quickly travel between cities.

Is it easy for Americans and Canadians to find a job in Portugal?

In late 2023, the unemployment rate in Portugal was 6.6%, falling compared to previous quarters. This unemployment rate suggests that competition for jobs is likely to be lower than in the past when difficult economic conditions left many Portuguese citizens unemployed.

For North American and British expats, the biggest barrier to employment is likely the language. A good understanding of basic Portuguese may help you find work, particularly if you’re searching for jobs outside major Portuguese cities.

Is there a minimum wage in Portugal?

As of January 2024, the minimum wage in Portugal was €820.00 per month. In the Portuguese territory of the Azores, the minimum monthly wage was €861.00, and the minimum wage in Madeira was €850.00 per month.

What are some things to do in Portugal? Exploring your new home

With more than 500 mi. (800km) of coastline, Portugal is known for its sandy beaches.

Popular beach destinations in the country include:

  • Aveiro
  • Cascais
  • Lagos
  • Nazaré
  • Peniche
  • Ponta Delgada
  • Tavira

Beyond beaches, Portugal is home to many popular tourist attractions, such as:

Portuguese culture: what to know

Some notable customs and traditions of Portugal are:

  • Folk dancing: Many regions of Portugal have traditional dances that are performed at festivals. They include the vira from Monho, the bailinho from Madeira, and the corridinho from the Algarve.
  • Azulejos: Many buildings feature beautiful blue and white tiles called azulejos. Portuguese artisans produce them using a special process and have been doing so since the 15th century.
  • Barcelos Cockerel: Throughout Portugal, you may see small hand-painted chicken figurines on display in homes and some businesses. They are known as the Barcelos cockerels and trace their roots back to a Portuguese legend about a pilgrim who was saved by the song of a cockerel. Some people consider the figurines to be good luck, while others simply see them as a symbol of Portugal’s history and cultural heritage.
  • Festivals: Many regions of Portugal hold celebrations and festivals throughout the year on days that correspond with the days dedicated to various catholic saints. One of the most famous is Lisbon’s Feast of Saint Anthony. Held in June, the festival usually includes dancing with friends and family while eating grilled sardines and drinking wine or sangria.
  • Port wine: A sweet, potent dessert wine, port gets its name from the city of Porto, which is located not far from the vineyards that produce it.
  • Futebol: Known as soccer in English, futebol is an incredibly popular sport in Portugal. People of all ages play for recreation, and the country is home to a highly competitive league and a national team.

What are the best places to live in Portugal?

The best places to live in Portugal depend on your age, lifestyle, marital status, employment, and personal preferences.

For retirees

Forbes magazine ranked Portugal among the best places in the world for retirees to live and called the Algarve region one of the most desirable destinations for older adults.

Home to many expats who obtained permanent residency after acquiring a retirement visa, the area is a good place for English speakers who don’t know Portuguese.

The area also boasts pleasant weather, many golf courses, and numerous beaches. Outside the major resort areas, the cost of living for seniors is also relatively low.

For families

Lisbon is a popular destination for families and is one of Portugal’s oldest cities.

You’re more likely to encounter English speakers in the capital. Plus, the city is home to many international private schools due to a large population of American expats and transplants from Western Europe and beyond.

As the largest city in Portugal, Lisbon also offers job opportunities.

For young singles

For young singles, Porto offers an exciting nightlife scene. The city is home to many bars and clubs that operate into the early hours of the morning. As the second largest metropolitan area in the country, Porto is home to job opportunities as well as many English speakers.

The University of Porto is also located here and offers bachelor’s and postgraduate degrees for those who wish to continue their education.

How to find a place to live in Portugal

Searching for an apartment or house to rent in Portugal while you’re still in the U.S. or Canada can seem challenging. As a result, some U.S. and Canadian citizens take advantage of Portugal’s visa-free tourism policy to visit the country for up to 90 days as a tourist. Then, they return home and apply for an entry visa.

If you wish to conduct your search while in the U.S. or Canada, consider enlisting the help of a real estate agent in Portugal or searching for rentals on a site like International. Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, and other expatriate forums can be a rich source of information for finding housing.

How to set up a bank account in Portugal

Having a bank account in Portugal is best for making purchases and deposit payments. A member of the European Union, Portugal uses the Euro as its form of currency. You’ll need to transfer U.S. dollars into Euros to purchase items in the country.

The Corporate Finance Institute names these banks among the best options for consumers:

Remitly is a trusted app for transferring money between accounts in your home country and your Portuguese bank. With international money transfers, your U.S. dollars will automatically turn into Euros that you can use electronically or withdraw from an ATM.

How to move to Portugal: A checklist

Whether it’s the low cost of living, a desire for exploration, job opportunities, or something else prompting you to make the country your temporary or permanent residence, here’s a quick summary of the steps you’ll need to take to move to Portugal.

1. Decide which Portuguese visa is right for you

As previously mentioned, several Portuguese visas are available for people who want to temporarily relocate to Portugal or set up permanent residency there.

Explore the Portugal visa types available and decide which suits your situation best. Then, gather the necessary documentation for the application process.

2. Find a semi-permanent or permanent residence in Portugal

For many visa programs that allow you to become a permanent resident of Portugal, you must show proof of having secured a place to live before you complete an application.

In most cases, you will need to have accommodations for the first six months of your stay. You may wish to secure temporary lodging at an Airbnb or an extended-stay hotel or rent an apartment.

3. Obtain a valid passport

You’ll need a valid passport to apply for most Portuguese residence visa programs. If you don’t have one, go through the steps to obtain one in your home country. Click here to learn about the U.S. passport application process, or here to find out more about how to apply for a Canadian passport.

You will need to have a valid passport for the entire time you’re in Portugal on a Portuguese visa or residence permit. Since only Portuguese citizens qualify for a Portuguese passport, you may need to renew your passport in your home country while you’re living abroad.

The links above also provide information about passport renewals.

4. Acquire private health insurance

As previously mentioned, most people with legal permanent residence in Portugal can access the Portuguese healthcare system by registering with the NHS.

However, you will likely need to show proof of having private health insurance coverage that is valid in Portugal if you’ll be in the country on a temporary residence permit. Options include purchasing travel insurance or international health insurance.

Some expats who do qualify for the public healthcare system still choose to get a private health insurance policy so they can access private clinics, hospitals, and healthcare practices while abroad.

5. Apply for the Portugal visa that’s right for you

Once you have a place to live and have made arrangements for your healthcare, contact your local Portuguese consulate or embassy office to set up an application appointment.

6. Make arrangements to move your belongings

Once your visa application is approved, begin going through your belongings. After you’ve decided what you want to take, secure an international moving company to transport the items to Portugal.

7. Purchase airline tickets

Pick a date for your move and compare airfares to find the best deal on flights. If possible, plan in advance so you can track prices over time and buy when airfare is most affordable.

8. Get your Portugal residence permit

If you enter Portugal with a visa that allows for permanent residence, you’ll need to get a permit from Portuguese immigration services after you arrive. Typically, this involves visiting the immigration office closest to where you’re staying in Portugal and filling out a form in person to request a permanent residence permit.

Those who enter Portugal with a visa that grants a temporary residence permit may or may not need to apply for a Portuguese residency permit.

How long a Portuguese residence permit is good for varies by visa type. Ask the official at the embassy or consulate office for information about whether you’ll need to apply for a residence permit and, if so, which Portuguese immigration office you should report to once you enter Portugal.

Get ready to move to Portugal

Portugal’s flexible immigration policies draw immigrants from locations across the globe. At the end of 2021, more than 7,000 Americans lived in the Western European nation, double the number residing in Portugal just three years before.

Canadians are also starting new lives in the country. Considering there are 221,000 Portuguese-speaking residents of Canada, a move to Portugal may provide a lower cost of living and a change of scenery for Canadians without the need to learn a new language.

Now that you know how to move to Portugal, you’re ready to take the first steps toward moving to the beautiful country that is home to gorgeous weather, delicious food, and friendly people.

More moving guides

Interested in immigrating to another country? Whether for study, retirement, or family reasons, international relocation is more popular than ever. Check out these resources for specific information on your country of choice.


1(2021). Relatório de Imigração, Fronteiras e Asilo.

2Anderson, Grace M. & Higgs, David. (2019, September 18). Portuguese Canadians. The Canadian Encyclopedia.