Doesn’t it feel like everyone’s moving to Portugal these days? More and more often, you see news articles about Americans relocating to Portugal, LinkedIn posts announcing a move to Portugal, or photos on Instagram from expats documenting their day-to-day life and travels in Portugal.
Tempted to shake things up and join them? We’ve got good news for you — there are a number of different visas that allow you to live and/or work in Portugal. Read on to learn the visa options available, who they’re a good fit for, how to apply for them, and more!
Why are people moving to Portugal from the USA?
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of visas, though, let’s address one key question: Why are Americans moving to Portugal? Here are a few of the top reasons:
- Great weather: With lots of warm, sunny days and mild winters, Portugal’s climate is pleasant all year round.
- Low cost of living: The cost of living is significantly lower in Portugal than in the US (38% lower, by some estimates).1 This allows you to live well while still being able to save money each month.
- Rich culture: Between the legendary food and wine to the art, festivals, music, and architecture, there’s a lot to appreciate about Portuguese culture.
- Lots to explore: From the large cities of Lisbon and Porto to the tropical islands of Madeira to the quaint beach towns found all along the coast, Portugal has no shortage of noteworthy destinations.
But one of the biggest reasons people are moving to Portugal from the USA right now is that the country offers…
Multiple, relatively easy-to-obtain visas: Eager to boost their tourist-dependent economy in the wake of the pandemic, Portugal has been especially welcoming to expats. While they already provided a number of different visa options before, they’ve created new ones and revamped others in recent years.
Benefits of Portugal’s Visas
The key benefit of a Portuguese visa is that it allows you to live — and, depending on the visa, work — in Portugal. Some visas last up to five years, while others offer shorter stays but can be renewed.
Beyond that, Portugal’s visas provide access to their healthcare system, educational system (for dependent children), and the option to become a permanent resident after five years. And if you do obtain permanent residency, you will be able to live and work in any EU member state — not just Portugal.
What kind of visa options are available in Portugal?
Among the many visa options that Portugal offers, here are some of the most popular ones for expats.
Portugal’s Golden Visa (ending soon!)
Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs, investors, property buyers
Overview: The much-hyped Golden Visa allows those who have made a substantial investment in the country to live and work in Portugal for five years, at which point they can apply for permanent residency.
Requirements: Applicants must either a) create at least 10 jobs in Portugal or b) make a capital transfer or real estate purchase equal to a certain amount — typically at least €350,000, but it can be as low as €250,000.
Why is Portugal ending the Golden Visa?
Since it was first launched in 2012, the Residency by Investment Program (RIP), aka the “Golden Visa” has been a boon for the Portuguese economy, but not for the Portuguese people.
Lison and Porto are experiencing an acute housing crisis brought on by skyrocketing prices caused by foreign investment in real estate and stagnant workers’ wages, resulting in locals getting pushed out of the market. Although ending the Golden Visa will cost the Portuguese government money, the move is designed to neutralize public angst, and will likely be received favorably throughout the EU as well.
Portugal’s Digital Nomad Visa
Who it’s for: Digital nomads and remote workers permitted to work internationally
Overview: This visa was created to entice digital nomads and remote workers into moving to Portugal. It also offers tax benefits, like 0% tax on foreign income and 20% tax on domestic income, compared to the usual rates of up to 48%. You can apply for a temporary stay visa of up to one year or a residency visa that can be renewed for up to five years.
Requirements: Provide a valid work contract, proof of your last three months of income, and tax residency papers. Must earn at least €2,836 per month or €34,032 per year.
Portugal’s Self-Employment Visa
Who it’s for: Freelancers, independent contractors, business owners, and other self-employed individuals
Overview: This visa allows those who are self-employed to live and work in Portugal for up to two years and can be renewed for an additional three years, at which point you can apply for permanent residency.
Requirements: Register with tax and social security administrations, and either a) officially register your business or b) provide a contract detailing your work arrangement. For additional details, visit the government website.3
Portugal’s Retiree/Passive Income Holder Visa
Who it’s for: Retirees and anyone else living off of passive income (e.g. investments, distributions from trusts or funds, property rental income, etc). Note: passive income is also known as unearned income.
Overview: This visa allows those earning a steady amount of passive income per month to live in Portugal for up to one year. It can be renewed twice for two years each, at which point you can apply for permanent residency.
Requirements: You’ll need to make at least €635 per month or €7,620 per year. Married couples must earn €952.50 per month or €11,430 per year. For each dependent child you bring with you, you must earn an additional €190.50 per month or €2,286 per year.
Portugal’s Tech Visa
Who it’s for: Highly-qualified tech workers
Overview: Those with specialized tech skills can apply for Portugal’s tech visa, which allows them to move to Portugal in order to be recruited by tech (or other innovative) companies. The visa lasts for two years and can be renewed for another three years, at which point you can apply for permanent residency.
Requirements: Applicants must prove they are highly qualified, which can be demonstrated through either a) a bachelor’s degree in a technical field, b) proof of higher technical education as well as five years of experience, or c) an offer of employment lasting at least one year.4
Portugal’s Startup Visa
Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs, startup founders
Overview: This visa allows entrepreneurs to establish and build a startup in Portugal. It lasts for two years and can be renewed for another three years. At this point, you can apply for permanent residency.
Requirements: Documents that prove you are part of a certified business incubator.5
Portugal’s Employed Worker Visa
Who it’s for: People who have received a job offer from a company based in Portugal
Overview: This is the typical visa that those with a full-time job offer from a Portuguese firm apply for. It lasts for two years and can be renewed for another three years. At this point, you can apply for permanent residency.
Requirements: A valid work contract from a Portuguese company and registration with the tax administration.6
Portugal’s ICT Visa
Who it’s for: Full-time workers whose companies are willing to transfer them to Portugal
Overview: If you work for a multinational corporation, and they’re willing to sponsor you, you can apply for the Intra-Corporate Transferee (ICT) visa. It is valid for one year and can be renewed for up to three years in most cases.
Requirements: A valid work contract, along with various documents detailing how long you’ve worked there, the nature of your role, and that you will remain within the same company/parent company.7
Portugal’s Teaching Visa
Who it’s for: Teachers and other educators
Overview: This visa is granted to teachers who will be working at educational, vocational, or research centers. It lasts for two years and can be renewed for another three years. At this point, you can apply for permanent residency.
Requirements: A valid teaching contract or invitation letter from the center you will be working at as well as registration with tax and social security administrations.8
Portugal offers a number of other visas that may apply to US citizens and residents. Some examples include their cultural activity,9 student,10 and volunteer11 visas. Please note, they will carry additional requirements and may not guarantee you the ability to work in Portugal. Find the full list of visas that Portugal offers here.
How to Apply for a Portuguese Visa
Regardless of which visa you choose, the first step in the visa application is consistent. Compile and complete the necessary paperwork:
- A National Visa application
- A valid passport
- 2 recently-taken passport-sized photos in good condition
- Travel insurance that covers medical expenses
- A criminal record certificate
- A form12 granting permission for the Immigration and Border Services to enquire into your criminal history
- Proof of financial resources
- A visa fee
You may also be asked for:
- A flight itinerary
- Proof of accommodation
- A cover letter outlining the details of your stay
Have all of these documents, as well as any additional documents required by the specific visa you’re applying for? It’s time to submit them (of course!). Typically, you will do this in person. Simply find your designated Portuguese embassy, consulate, or visa application center and schedule an appointment. It’s worth noting, some may accept mail submissions! These instructions should be available on the embassy or consulate website.
Your visa should be processed and ready to pick up after about 15 days. Then, you’re all set to start a new chapter of your life in Portugal!
It'll likely take more time for your application to be processed if your visa request is complex or if there’s a backlog of applications (as is currently the case for the digital nomad visa). Account for this delay when planning your move abroad.
- Cost of Living in Portugal
- Portugal Golden Visa: Can I Still Apply and When Will it End? – Portugal.com
- Self-employment in Portugal
- Portugal’s Tech Visa
- Portugal’s Start-Up Visa
- Portugal’s Employed Worker Visa
- Portugal’s ICT Visa
- Portugal’s Teaching Visa
- Portugal’s Cultural Activity Visa
- Portugal’s Student Visa
- Portugal’s Volunteer Visa
- Full list of visas available for Portugal
- Form permitting Portugal to inquire into criminal history