Dreaming of Moving to Portugal? Here’s What to Know if You’re American

published May 27, 2024
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Beautiful view of the city of Porto on a beautiful summer day. Porto, Portugal
Credit: proslgn / Shutterstock

With its warm weather, stunning coastal aesthetic, and low cost of living, Portugal might be on your vision board for your expat future. In fact, Portugal’s net migration rate saw a 53.4% increase from 2022 to 2023, signaling that it’s not just you who dreams of lying on the beach and enjoying some grilled sardines.

The process of moving to a new country can be daunting, though, and you may need some resources to help you smoothly conquer it. So if you’re planning on moving to Portugal in the near future, here’s everything you need to know — from how to get a visa, how much money you need to do so, and more. 

A brief history of Portugal

Here’s a quick history lesson for you: Portugal is a southern European country that sits on the Iberian peninsula, tucked in between Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. Much like the South American country of Brazil, residents of Portugal speak Portuguese while maintaining high English-speaking levels. As of 2024, over 10 million people — including natives and foreigners — reside in Portugal, with new residents flocking to the island every day. 

Can Americans get citizenship in Portugal?

U.S. citizens are offered a number of benefits by immigrating to Portugal, including free healthcare, low income tax, and a welcoming attitude toward migrants. U.S. citizens are allowed to enter and reside in Portugal without a visa for up to 90 days — after that, U.S. citizens are required to obtain permanent residency. But don’t worry! Permanent residency can be achieved in multiple ways.

The Portugal Golden Visa, explained

For starters, investors may benefit from obtaining a Portugal Golden Visa, which offers residency and potential citizenship benefits to visa holders. You’ll earn the right to live and work in Portugal, travel freely across the Schengen area of Europe — an area that encompasses 29 countries across the European Union (EU) — and qualify for citizenship after five years. 

However, to qualify for a Portugal Golden Visa, you’ll need to prepare to shell out by investing in research and development or by making a donation “contributing to the preservation of Portugal’s rich cultural heritage.” These donations could cost you anywhere from 500,000 to 250,000 Euros, respectively, before application fees and legal representation.

Before 2024, you were able to buy a home to qualify for the Golden Visa — but that’s no longer an option, according to the Global Residence Index. If you’re planning on moving to Portugal with your family, then your spouse, children under 18, and dependent parents would qualify for the visa under your application.

The Portugal D7 Visa, explained

Another option, if you happen to have a constant stream of passive income, is Portugal’s D7 Visa, often referred to as the Retirement or Passive Income Visa. That visa offers holders full residency rights, access to healthcare, and permission to travel across the Schengen area without making a large investment — though they need to be able to demonstrate that they have a passive income, and that it’s stable.

According to Immigration Advice Service, “single applicants will need to have the yearly Portuguese minimum wage in funds in their savings account (€9,870),” whereas “applicants who are applying with their spouses will need 50% more in their savings and those who will be coming to Portugal with their children will need 30% more in savings for each child.”

Other Portugal visas, explained

But what if you don’t have the means to afford a Golden or D7 Visa? Startup visas are offered to immigrants who plan on establishing a business in Portugal and meeting their revenue goals within five years. 

For those enrolled in a Portuguese institute for higher education, student visas are granted on a yearlong basis with the opportunity to renew your status until your education is complete. If you happen to be moving for work, D1 Visas are sponsored and granted by Portuguese employers until permanent residency can be granted after the five-year mark.

How much money do you need to move to Portugal?

While Portugal is fairly inexpensive compared to the U.S., there are a few financial factors to consider before moving overseas. Expenses such as flight tickets, visa fees, residential payments, and medical insurance are all costs to consider when planning for a move to Portugal. Ideally, you should have an estimated €10,000 (which converts to $10,773) per head. 

Once moving costs are settled, living in Portugal is relatively cheap. Immigrant Invest, a consulting firm that helps people relocate to different countries through investment, estimates that while a three-course meal would cost an estimated $120 in the U.S., the same meal would cost you $45 in Lisbon (or €41.76). It also estimates a three-bedroom apartment that costs $7,600 per month in the U.S. would cost you $2,000 (or €1,856.40) in Lisbon. Companies like Spotahome and Idealista can help you find an affordable and comfortable place to stay. 

Can you move to Portugal without a job?

If you have a constant flow of passive income, then retrieving a visa and moving to Portugal should be no problem. Residents of Portugal can choose to work from home or in-office, as long as you’re making an annual income that matches your lifestyle — thankfully, Portugal’s average annual income is an estimated $28,410 as opposed to the U.S. average of $49,165, per the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Depending on your employment status, the type of visa you opt for will differ.

While you should move to Portugal with a source of income in mind, there’s a thriving job market in Portugal in industries like tourism, technology, renewable energy, and service jobs. You may also try moving in with an established family as a nanny, maid, or other live-in service.