Living abroad

Moving to Portugal from the USA: the detailed guide

US citizens can reap many benefits from moving to Portugal, such as an affordable healthcare system and relatively low costs while maintaining a high standard of living. Also, they can enjoy life in the mountains or by the ocean.

A residence permit is required to move to Portugal, and a US citizen can obtain it in several ways. If you don’t have a significant purpose for relocation, like a job offer, the Golden Visa or the D7 visa may be the best choice.

Moving to Portugal from the USA

How can a US citizen get a residence permit in Portugal?

US citizens have the right to enter Portugal without a visa and stay there for 90 days. However, for those Americans who wish to stay in Portugal for a more extended period, it is necessary to obtain a residence permit in Portugal. 

There are various options for obtaining a residence permit in Portugal, which are suitable for people with different purposes for moving to the country. Some of these options are:

  • Portugal Golden Visa for investors;
  • D7 visa for those who have a constant passive income;
  • Startup visa for foreigners who intend to open a business in the country;
  • Student visas for those who are enrolled in a higher education institution in Portugal;
  • D1 visa for individuals invited to work for a Portuguese employer.

The options most suitable for wealthy foreigners are the Golden Visa and the D7 visa. 

Why are Americans moving to Portugal

Americans move to Portugal in droves. According to the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF), the USA leads the top nations with approved applications for Portugal Golden Visa in 2022.

Here are some of the features that attract Americans to Portugal.

Friendliness to immigrants. Portugal was ranked 5th world’s best destination for expats in the Expat Insider 2021 survey. It is the only European country in the top 10 of the ranking. The rating considered many factors in four categories: quality of life, ease of settling in, personal finance, and working abroad.

The locals are hospitable to new residents of the country. Currently, immigrants make up 6% of the population in Portugal. 

Safety. In 2021, Portugal ranked 4th in the Global Peace Index’s top of the safest countries. 

The country received such an assessment based on 23 parameters, including the number of crimes, the degree to which the rights and freedoms of citizens are respected, as well as the availability of firearms.

Climate. Portugal has a mild subtropical climate without extreme temperature fluctuations. In the north, the maritime climate is dominated by the Gulf Stream.

Summer is dry and sunny but not hot there, and the temperature in winter ranges from +4°С to +10°С. Together with almost 300 sunny days a year, this makes Portugal one of the most comfortable countries in terms of climate.

Life in Portugal. The country is famous for some of Europe’s finest beaches

Camilo Beach near the town of Lagos is a secluded sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs

Residency in Portugal. Portuguese traditional dessert “pastel de nata”

Portuguese cuisine is replete with delicious traditional dishes. The original recipe of the Portuguese egg custard tart pastry “pastel de nata” is protected by the monks at the UNESCO-listed Jerónimos Monastery

Moving to Portugal: climate

Marina da Quinta Grande, the island of Madeira. According to the International Living’s 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index, Portugal is the best country globally to live in terms of climate

Costs and quality of life in Portugal. Portugal is the only European country included in the top 10 best expat destinations according to the InterNations rating. However, Portugal remains one of the cheapest countries in the EU. Consumer Prices in Portugal are, on average, 46.15% lower than in the United States.

The prices in Portugal depend on the region, like in the US. For example, prices in Lisbon are mostly higher than those in Porto, according to Numbeo.

Comparative cost of living in the US and Portugal

Goods and servicesUS:
New York
US: AlbuquerquePortugal: LisbonPortugal: Porto 
Rent per month (3 bedroom apartment in the city center)$7,152$2,300$1,978$1,318
Three-course meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant $100$65$45$35
Basic utilities for a 915 sq ft apartment (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage) $161$120$117$111
Loaf of fresh white bread (1 lb)$3.6$2.8$1.07$1.07
Taxi, 1 mile (Normal tariff)$3$2.4$0.77$1.47
Fitness Club, monthly fee for 1 adult$101$33$33.6$39
Gasoline (1 gallon)$4.96$4.38$7.86$7.72

Educational system. Portuguese secondary education is widely recognized abroad as schools follow the IB Diploma Programme — the generally accepted secondary education program. Portugal offers both higher education at world-famous universities and a wide range of international general education schools.

Healthcare in Portugal for US expats. According to the WHO, Portugal's healthcare system ranks 12th in terms of overall healthcare efficiency. The quality of Portuguese medicine is also confirmed by the high life expectancy: according to the World Population Review, Portugal’s average life expectancy is 82 years.

Portugal Golden Visa holders have full coverage insurance — this is a prerequisite for a residence permit. 

Portugal’s national healthcare system, the Serviço Nacional de Saude (SNS), typically covers certain treatment costs for those who legally reside and work in Portugal. This option is available for those who pay Portuguese social security (segurança social) and their dependent family members.

People who work or have worked in both the US and Portugal may also benefit from the Agreement Between the United States and Portugal that helps to avoid paying social security taxes to both countries on the same earnings.

Expats with Portugal citizenship have access to the public health system.

Tax optimization. In Portugal, a special tax regime is available for new tax residents. It helps significantly reduce the income tax rate.

Some new tax residents, for example, high-qualified specialists, pay a flat 20% income tax. Also, the NHR status holders do not need to pay tax on dividends, interest, royalties, capital gains, rental income from a real estate outside of Portugal, or income from employment in another country.

Favorable conditions for the retired. The special beneficial tax status of a Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) also applies to retired persons. If the NHR status holder is a pensioner who receives a pension from another country, they pay 10% tax instead of 20%.

In 2022, Portugal entered the top 5 countries for retirement according to Living magazine's annual Global Retirement Index. The rating is based on the results of a survey of hundreds of retired immigrants across the world.

Best places for Americans
to live in Portugal

Traditionally, Americans tend to choose three main destinations for living in Portugal. The community of American expats is numerous there.

Lisbon is the capital of the country and the largest city in Portugal. It may be suitable for those who do not want to give up the advantages of living in a big city, with its developed infrastructure, transport accessibility, nightlife, and faster pace of life. 

However, Lisbon is not a metropolis. About half a million people live there, so after New York, the city may seem relatively small.

Lisbon is also popular with digital nomads. It is chosen for a successful combination of conditions for work, leisure, and proximity to nature.

Best places in Portugal for American expats — Lisbon
Lisbon is more often chosen for relocation than other Portuguese cities. It is one of the best places for digital nomads because of its warm climate and relatively low cost of living

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal which rivals Lisbon in terms of tourist attractions and entertainment. Porto is considered the center of cultural life in Portugal.

The city is located in the valley of the Douro River, where the famous Port wine originated. There you can find the best authentic wine in Portugal and a wide variety of restaurants and cafes.

Best place in Portugal for American expats
In 2001, Porto was chosen as the European Capital of Culture

The Algarve is the most southern region of Portugal. Its golden beaches attract those who move to Portugal to live by the sea. There you can find the most developed infrastructure for a beach holiday and the best marinas in Portugal.

The Algarve region has the most Blue Flag beaches. This award is given to places with the cleanest waters and the best conditions for recreation.

Best place in Portugal for American expats
A beach in Sagres, Algarve. Portugal’s beaches and marinas have received 431 Blue Flags in 2022, and most of them are in the Algarve

Portugal residency by investment: the Golden Visa program

One of the easiest ways to obtain a long-term residence permit in Portugal is to participate in its residency-by-investment program. In this case, you do not need to learn the language and confirm your education and professional qualifications, as in the cases of work and student visas.

The entire process of getting a residence permit in Portugal by investment usually takes a few months. This time is needed to prepare all the necessary documents, make the investment, apply, and pass the Due Diligence check.

6—8 months
Normally takes to obtain residency by investment in Portugal

The Portugal Golden Visa program provides an opportunity to obtain a residence permit in Portugal by investing in the country's economy:

  • €280,000+ in real estate older than 30 years or located in certain renovation areas;
  • €400,000+ in other real estate objects;
  • €500,000 in fund shares;
  • €500,000 in a business with the creation of at least five jobs;
  • €1,500,000 — transfer of capital to Portugal;
  • €250,000 in the culture, art, or reconstruction of the national heritage;
  • €500,000 in research programs; or
  • opening a company and creating at least ten jobs in Portugal.

The most popular options are the purchase of real estate and shares of investment funds.

Investors’ close relatives may also get a residence permit. Spouses, children under 26, and parents of the main applicants may participate in the residency-by-investment program. 

The family composition doesn’t affect the minimum investment amount. Only the additional costs, like the government fees, tend to grow with the number of relatives in the application.

Real estate for obtaining residency in Portugal

A collection of 2-story villas in Sagres within 200m of the ocean. Prices range from €500,000 to €800,000. The expected annual rental income is 3% of the purchase price of the property for the first six years

Where to live in Portugal: Villa in a resort

A collection of 2-story villas in Sagres within 200m of the ocean. Prices range from €500,000 to €800,000. The expected annual rental income is 3% of the purchase price of the property for the first six years

Where to live in Portugal: Villa in a resort

A collection of 2-story villas in Sagres within 200m of the ocean. Prices range from €500,000 to €800,000. The expected annual rental income is 3% of the purchase price of the property for the first six years

Where to live in Portugal: Apartments in the center of Lisbon

Apartments in the centre of Lisbon in the Anjos area with guaranteed income of over 3.5% over 15 years. Prices vary from €350,000 to €495,000

Where to live in Portugal: Apartments in the center of Lisbon

Apartments in the center of Lisbon in the Anjos area with guaranteed income of over 3.5% over 15 years. Prices vary from €350,000 to €495,000

Where to live in Portugal: Apartments in the center of Lisbon

Apartments in the center of Lisbon in the Anjos area with guaranteed income of over 3.5% over 15 years. Prices vary from €350,000 to €495,000

Where to live in Portugal: Villas and plots in a residential complex on the territory of the golf club

Villas and plots in a residential complex in the Eastern Algarve overlooking an award-winning golf course. Prices start from €895,000

Where to live in Portugal: Villas and plots in a residential complex on the territory of the golf club

Villas and plots in a residential complex in the Eastern Algarve overlooking an award-winning golf course. Prices start from €895,000

Where to live in Portugal: Villas and plots in a residential complex on the territory of the golf club

Villas and plots in a residential complex in the Eastern Algarve overlooking an award-winning golf course. Prices start from €895,000

Immigrant Invest lawyers and real estate professionals provide high-quality support throughout obtaining a Portugal Golden Visa. We will help you choose the most suitable investment option and object, collect all the necessary documents, and translate and notarize them. 

The residence permit must be first renewed after one year and every two years thereafter. At the same time, it is not necessary to live in Portugal permanently: it is enough to spend seven days a year in the country.

How the elderly parents of a US investor and his wife moved to Portugal and never regretted their decision

First, Michael received a residence permit in Portugal for himself, his wife Charlotte, and his parents. Charlotte’s parents could not be included in the application immediately because of the program’s age limit.

The investor used the opportunity to add parents to the application after receiving a residence permit. As a result, a year later, Michael moved his wife’s parents to Portugal. 

Now the family lives in a villa by the ocean. Retirees enjoy the climate, walk along the seashore and sometimes travel around Europe.

Case study

Portugal D7 visa for Americans retiring in Portugal

The D7 visa is designed for those with a permanent passive income source. The income should be at least equal to the minimum monthly wage in Portugal. In 2022, this is €705 per month.

4+ months
Usually takes getting a D7 visa

The income must come outside of Portugal, although a residence permit then allows its holder to work in Portugal. The source of income can be almost anything if it is legal and documented: pension, dividends, interest, royalties, salaries from remote work, or income from renting out a property. 

The minimum required income also depends on the number of applicants that are included in the original application:

  • main applicant — 100% of the minimum wage;
  • spouse or parents of the main applicant — 50% of the minimum wage per person;
  • dependent children — 30% of the minimum wage per person.

In 2022, these amounts are €705, €332.5, and €199.5 per month, respectively.

Another requirement to obtain a D7 visa is that the applicant must rent or buy housing in Portugal for themselves and the family members that are included in the application.

Applicants get a residence permit after the D7 visa; the first permit is valid for two years, and every consequent one is issued for three years. To retain residency, one must spend at least 183 days a year in Portugal. 

How to get a Portugal residence permit: a comparison of the Golden Visa and the D7 visa

TermsPortugal Golden VisaPortugal D7 visa
EligibilityOver 18 

No convictions or refusals in the Schengen visa

Money for investments earned outside of Portugal

No debts in Portugal

Can confirm the legality of the income

Has medical insurance
Over 18

No convictions or refusals in the Schengen visa

Non-EU citizen

Passive income of at least €705 per month from sources outside Portugal

Bought or rented housing in Portugal

Has medical insurance
Family eligibilitySpouse

Children up to 26, financially dependent on the main applicant

Parents over 65, financially dependent on the main applicant; in some cases, younger parents may also join the application
Spouse

Children up to 21, financially dependent on the main applicant

Parents of the investor or their spouse, financially dependent on the main applicant
Costs€250,000+ is for the investment

€5,340 per family member — a fee for the residence permit card

€533 per family member — an application fee 

€400+ per person — medical insurance

Taxes and commissions depend on the chosen investment option
€8,460 — annual income for the main applicant

€4,230 — annual income for the spouse or parent

€2,358 — annual income for the child

€155 per family member — a fee for the residence permit card

Buying or renting a property in Portugal, paying utility bills
Obtaining time6+ months4+ months
Stay requirement7 days a year183 days a year
A residence permit validity period1 year for the first permit and 2 years for the consequent ones2 years for the first permit and 3 years for the consequent ones

Portugal citizenship prospects
for US citizens

Both the US and Portugal allow their citizens to have dual citizenship. This means that a US citizen can become a Portuguese citizen and have two citizenships at once, enjoying the full range of benefits.

After five years of legal residence in Portugal, a foreigner may apply for a permanent residence permit. Or instead, they can immediately apply for Portugal citizenship by naturalization.

Obtaining Portugal citizenship typically takes 7—12 months. This timeline consists of the following steps:

  1. Applying for citizenship. You can do it in person or by mail to the Central Registry Office.
  2. The application is sent to the Central Registry Office by the department that has registered the application. This step takes up to 48 hours.
  3. The Central Registry office conducts the preliminary verification of the documents. If any data is missing, the applicant gets informed and has 20 days to complete the set of documents. 
  4. The Central Registry Office requests additional information from the police and the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF).
  5. The Central Registry Office approves the application and sends the documents to the Ministry of Justice. 
  6. The Ministry of Justice makes the final decision.
  7. The ID cards of the new citizens of Portugal are produced and issued to the applicants.  

The timeline of getting Portugal citizenship after a Golden Visa

1
4—8 months
Obtaining a residence permit in Portugal
2
+1 year
The first renewal of a residence permit
3
+2 years
The second renewal of a residence permit
4
+2 years
The third renewal of a residence permit
5
+7—12 months
Citizenship application and obtaining the status

To qualify for Portugal citizenship, the applicant must meet five requirements:

  1. Resident status for at least five years.
  2. Age 18+.
  3. Knowledge of the Portuguese language confirmed by an A2 certificate.
  4. No criminal record.
  5. No threat to national security.

Minor children may also get Portugal citizenship if their parents have retained residency for five years. Children under 12 do not need to take a language proficiency test. 

There is also a list of documents required for applying for citizenship in Portugal:

  • an application form filled out in Portuguese;
  • two identical passport photographs;
  • valid passport or certified copy;
  • evidence of stable and regular resources sufficient for the main applicants and their relatives;
  • supporting documents for accommodation in Portugal
  • a certificate of no criminal record from the USA and other countries where the applicant has lived continuously for more than one year;
  • the proof of holding residency for at least five years;
  • the proof of knowledge of the Portuguese language at the A2 level or higher. 

How to move to Portugal from the USA: flights, shipping, customs and documents

Flight prices. According to Google Flights, the cost of airfare for one passenger from the US to Portugal varies between $465 and $1,180. The average duration of a direct flight is 7 hours. 

To predict the cost of transporting things from one country to another is much more complicated: prices may vary from one to several thousand dollars.

Covid entry requirements for US citizens in Portugal

From July 1, 2022, you no longer need a PCR test, a vaccination certificate, or a certificate of recovery to enter Portugal from the USA.

Shipping goods. A US citizen moving to Portugal has two ways to transport their belongings from the USA to Portugal: by water or by air. The choice of a particular option to immigrate to Portugal from the US is always individual and heavily depends on the total weight and volume of the freight. 

The average cost of transporting 100 lb cargo from the USA to Portugal is $400–$600. Shipping a 20ft container of furniture by sea will cost you $1,000 to $3,500, depending on the ports of departure and arrival. The same price range applies to shipping a 550 lbs container by air.

Your baggage will be in Portugal in 1+ weeks if you send it by air and in 1—3 months if shipped by sea. 

Customs. When moving from the US to Portugal, it is essential to follow several rules concerning bringing your belongings. 

  1. Your belongings must be delivered no later than 90 days after you arrive in Portugal.
  2. You must have a Baggage certificate (Certificado de Bagagem) issued at a Portuguese consulate; this document confirms that the imported items belong to you. The shipment must arrive within 120 days of the issuance of the Baggage certificate.
  3. You can import duty-free households that have been in your possession for at least six months and will not be sold in Portugal after your arrival. The Baggage certificate must contain information about this. 
  4. Some items are not allowed to be brought to Portugal. These include meat and milk, protected species, and products as listed by the Washington Convention (CITES).
  5. The import of some items may be restricted or taxed. These include alcohol, tobacco, medicines, new unpacked items, weapons, and vehicles.
  6. You must present a set of documents: a copy of your passport and residence permit, the Baggage certificate, a copy of a Tax Сard with a Portuguese fiscal number (NIF), an inventory list, the proof of having rented or owned housing in Portugal, and a photocopy of an air ticket. Some additional documents may be needed, depending on a particular situation.

Moving pets to Portugal from the US. An American moving to Portugal can take up to five pets with them. If there are more animals to move, commercial activity laws will be applied.

Cats, dogs, and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before arrival. Their owners must get an electronic ID for their pets before the trip and register them at the Town Hall (Junta da Freguesia).

Electronic ID chip and a registration
Are required for all dogs in Portugal

Additional documents may be required for dogs if their breeds are classified as dangerous. Such breeds are, for example, Rottweiler, American Staffordshire terrier, Fila Brasileiro, Pitbull terrier, and Tosa Inu. In this case, you may need a special permit and a signed liability term.

Birds should spend up to 30 days in quarantine or undergo vaccination for avian flu H5 and H7 at least 60 days, but no more than six months before the trip. 

A health certificate issued in the US is required for every pet.

Portuguese driver’s license. After obtaining a residence permit in Portugal, you have 90 days to change your driver's license to a Portuguese one. 

It is advised that you get and notarize with an Apostille Seal an Abstract of Driving Record from your last US state of residence. This document must certify that your driver’s license is authentic and valid; it should contain information about the date of issuance, license class, and any suspensions or revocations. 

Frequently asked questions

Can a US citizen retire in Portugal?

Portugal is a perfect place to spend your retirement time; the country has a mild climate and quality healthcare and is considered to be pretty safe.

The D7 visa for people with a stable passive income is especially suitable for American retirees in Portugal. It requires proof of sufficient funds to live in Portugal and have housing.

Can an American buy a house in Portugal?

An American citizen can buy property in any region of Portugal. 

Investing €500,000+ in real estate or €350,000+ in properties older than 30 years or located in certain renovation areas allows you to take advantage of the Portugal Golden Visa program and get residency by investment.

What happens to my Social Security if I leave the US?

You do not lose your SSN number if you leave the US. However, generally, if you leave the US for more than six months, you are no longer eligible for Social Security benefits. For more information, see the booklet from the US Social Security Administration.

Does Portugal tax US pensions?

Yes, it does. However, new tax residents in Portugal can take advantage of a special preferential tax regime. In this case, the tax on the US pension will be 10%.

Where do most US expats live in Portugal?

Most expat Americans in Portugal live in Lisbon, the Algarve, and Porto.

Can US citizens get healthcare in Portugal?

If you have dual citizenship and hold a Portuguese passport, medical care is available free of charge

Portugal Golden Visa holders have full coverage insurance — this is a prerequisite for a residence permit.

Can I move to Portugal without a job?

There are various options for obtaining a residence permit in Portugal, which are suitable for different people. Some of them allow moving to Portugal without a job. 

The Portugal Golden Visa program provides an opportunity to obtain a residence permit in Portugal by investing at least €250,000 in the country’s economy.

The D7 visa is designed for those who have a permanent source of passive income outside of Portugal. The source of income does not matter as long as it is legal.

What are the cons of living in Portugal?

There are some pitfalls of living in Portugal. For instance, Visa and MasterCard bank cards are not accepted everywhere. But in general, the country is pretty comfortable to live in, with its mild climate, relatively low prices, and beautiful nature.

Why are Californians moving to Portugal?

Living in Portugal has many advantages, including a good balance of quality and cost of living, good medicine, and a high level of security.

Can a US citizen move to Portugal?

A US citizen can enter Portugal without a visa and stay there for 90 days. For a long-term stay in the country, you will need to obtain a long-term visa or residence permit

There are various options for getting a residence permit in Portugal, which are suitable for different people. They include but are not limited to Portugal Golden Visa for wealthy investors and the D7 visa for those with a constant passive income.

How long can you stay in Portugal as a US citizen?

A US citizen can enter Portugal without a visa and stay there for 90 days.

Is Portugal safe?

It is very safe in Portugal. In 2021, Portugal ranked 4th in the Global Peace Index’s top of the safest countries, which takes into account a country’s score on 23 indicators such as the number of serious crimes and prisoners, the extent to which citizens’ rights are respected in the country, etc. 

In 2020, the state recorded the lowest crime rate in the country in 30 years.

How to move to Portugal from the USA?

It is necessary to obtain a residence permit in Portugal. After five years, it is possible to get Portugal citizenship. There are various options for obtaining a residence permit in Portugal, suitable for different people. 

They include but are not limited to Portugal Golden Visa for wealthy investors and the D7 visa for those with a constant passive income.

Is Portugal a good place to live?

Portugal was ranked 5th world’s best destination for expats in the Expat Insider 2021 survey. The rating compiled by InterNations takes into account many factors in four categories: quality of life, ease of settling in, personal finance, and working abroad.

Some of the features that attract foreigners to Portugal are safety, beautiful nature, relatively low cost of living, high living standards, and high-quality medicine and education.

How to get residency in Portugal?

There are various options for obtaining a residence permit in Portugal, which are suitable for different people. The options most suitable for wealthy foreigners are the Golden Visa and the D7 visa.

The Portugal Golden Visa program provides an opportunity to obtain a residence permit in Portugal by investing at least €250,000 in the country’s economy.

The D7 visa is designed for those who have a permanent source of passive income outside of Portugal.

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Moving to Portugal from the USA: the detailed guide