Moving To Portugal From The USA

Are you planning your move to Portugal from the USA? Start here for a no-nonsense guide to the essentials: visas, living costs, housing, and the shift to Portuguese life. We’ll cover the four primary visas—Golden, D7 Retirement, D2 Entrepreneur, and Digital Nomad—to set you up for a smooth transition. Expect practical advice on navigating this significant life change and everything you need to prepare for your new adventure in Portugal.

Key Takeaways

  • For Americans moving to Portugal, there are several visa options, such as the Golden Visa, D7 Retirement Visa, D2 Entrepreneur Visa, and the Digital Nomad Visa, each with specific requirements and benefits tailored to different lifestyles.
  • Portugal offers a lower cost of living than the USA, with affordable housing, transportation, and food expenses. This allows expats, including those working remotely, to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
  • American expats moving to Portugal can expect quality healthcare, education, and a high standard of living. Still, they should also prepare for practical aspects like taxes, shipping, customs, and learning the Portuguese language for better integration.

Visa Options for Americans Moving to Portugal

The first step on your journey to Portugal is determining which Portugal visa option best suits your circumstances. For US citizens intending to stay longer than 90 days, Portugal offers various visas, each catering to different needs and lifestyles. The fundamental requirement for all visas is proof of healthcare, accommodation, and a minimum monthly financial requirement of at least $1,070.

Let’s delve into the four main types of visas: the Golden Visa, D7 Retirement Visa, D2 Entrepreneur Visa, and Digital Nomad Visa.

Golden Visa Program

The Portugal Golden Visa Program offers investors numerous benefits, including:

  • Portuguese residency
  • The right to live, work, and study in Portugal
  • Access to Portugal’s health and education systems
  • Visa-free travel within the Schengen Area
  • Family reunification for immediate family members.

The Golden Visa can be obtained through various qualifying investments. Some options include:

  • Purchasing real estate worth at least €500,000 (approximately $540,000)
  • Investing in property within an urban regeneration area
  • Investing in Portuguese cultural or investment funds, with minimum investments starting from €200,000 (approximately $216,000).

The Golden Visa program requires holders to maintain their investment and reside in Portugal for a minimum of 35 days over five years. This flexibility makes it a popular choice among American expats.

After five years, holders can apply for permanent residency or citizenship by naturalization, which opens doors to becoming Portuguese citizens with the support of the Portuguese government.

D7 Retirement Visa

The D7 Retirement Visa, also known as the Passive Income Visa, is an excellent option for retirees with regular passive income. This visa permits retirees to reside in Portugal and access various services. To be eligible, individuals must demonstrate a passive income of at least €9,120 (approximately $9,800) per year, ensuring they can support themselves without working within Portugal.

The D7 Visa application process involves securing a temporary visa and scheduling an appointment with SEF (Portugal’s immigration and border service) after arrival. The approval process takes between 60 to 90 days, and within four months, applicants should obtain their Portugal residence permit. To maintain the D7 Visa, holders must stay in Portugal for a minimum of 12 to 16 months during the initial two-year period and 28 months every three years thereafter.

This visa, offered by the European Union, provides the following benefits:

  • Extends mobility within the Schengen Area
  • Opportunities for family reunification
  • The chance to apply for permanent residence or citizenship after five years, provided all legal requirements are met.

The D7 Retirement Visa offers a relaxed lifestyle for US retirees in Portugal.

D2 Entrepreneur Visa

For entrepreneurs, freelancers, or independent service providers planning to start or invest in a business in Portugal, the D2 Entrepreneur Visa is your gateway. This visa not only allows you to establish your venture in Portugal but also offers the freedom to travel within the Schengen Area.

The D2 Visa application process includes the following steps:

  1. Prepare a comprehensive business plan demonstrating the project’s technological, economic, or cultural benefit to Portugal.
  2. Gather supporting documents required for the application.
  3. Apply through the Portuguese Embassy or consulate.
  4. Wait for the initial visa to be granted.
  5. Once the initial visa is granted, a residency permit is typically issued within six months.

While there’s no official minimum investment requirement, a capital of around €50,000 (approximately $54,000) is generally recommended for the viability of the business.

To maintain the D2 Visa, entrepreneurs must reside in Portugal for at least four months during the first year and six months in subsequent years. The D2 Visa provides an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs to leverage Portugal’s growing economy and vibrant startup scene.

Digital Nomad Visa

As the digital economy continues to thrive, Portugal has seized the opportunity to attract global remote workers through its Digital Nomad Visa, officially referred to as the D8 Visa. This visa allows non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens to live in Portugal while working remotely for an employer or freelancing for clients abroad.

To qualify for the Digital Nomad Visa, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Earn at least four times the Portuguese minimum wage (approximately €3,040 or about $3,300 per month) with consistent income
  • Submit an application providing proof of their remote work arrangement
  • Provide evidence of income
  • Arrange accommodation in Portugal
  • Have health insurance
  • Have a clean criminal record

The visa is initially valid for one year, but it can be renewed or converted to a residence permit.

The Digital Nomad Visa offers the following benefits:

  • It extends the option of family reunification to immediate family members.
  • It caters specifically to those with active income rather than passive sources.
  • It is an excellent choice for anyone working remotely and wishing to enjoy the beauty and culture of Portugal.

Cost of Living Comparison: Portugal vs. USA

One of the many appeals of moving to Portugal is the lower cost of living compared to the USA. For instance, the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Lisbon typically costs around €900 (about $1,100) per month. In contrast, a similar apartment in a major US city could easily double that cost.

The cost of transportation in Portugal is generally more affordable. Some examples include:

  • Public transit options such as a €20 (approximately $22) train ride from Lisbon to Faro
  • Lower taxi fares averaging €0.75 (approximately $0.81) per kilometre
  • Gasoline prices are significantly lower than in the USA

However, it is important to note that the initial cost of purchasing a car might be slightly higher.

Food and dining experiences in Portugal also offer financial advantages. Beers are priced at €1-2 (approximately $1.08-2.16), wine at €2-3 (approximately $2.16-3.24), and meals generally around €10-15 (approximately $10.80-16.20), which are significantly cheaper than their American counterparts. Furthermore, fresh produce is readily available at low costs from local markets.

In conclusion, the overall cost of living in Portugal is approximately 52% cheaper than in the USA, making the country an appealing option for Americans, especially those considering remote work. A single expat can live comfortably in Portugal for around €1300 (approximately $1,404) a month.

Finding a Home in Portugal

Once you’ve decided to make the move, finding a home in Portugal is the next big step. Whether you’re renting or buying, Portugal offers a plethora of options to suit your needs. Portugal’s diverse cities and regions each have a unique charm and appeal, with Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve region being popular destinations for American expats.

The process of buying property involves the following:

  • Obtaining a Portuguese tax number (NIF)
  • Dealing with taxes such as VAT, Wealth Tax, Rental Income Tax, Property Transfer Tax, and Property Tax
  • Notary and legal fees

These are all essential considerations when buying property in Portugal, including opening a Portuguese bank account.

In Lisbon, property prices range from approximately €4,000 to €8,000 (approximately $4,320 to $8,640) per square meter in the city center and from €2,500 to €5,000 (approximately $2,700 to $5,400) on the outskirts. Rental prices for a two to three-bedroom home range from €1,250 to €2,000 (approximately $1,350-2,160). In Porto, properties range from €3,000 to €6,000 (approximately $3,240-6,480) per square meter in the city center, while in the Algarve coast, apartments near the beach can range from €2,500 to €5,000 (approximately $2,700-5,400) per square meter, with detached houses from €2,000 to €4,500 (approximately $2,160-4,860) per square meter.

Whether you’re looking for a bustling city, a serene countryside, or a beachfront property, Portugal offers a variety of options to cater to your preferences and budget.

Education and International Schools

Understanding the education system is crucial if you’re considering moving to Portugal with your family. Portugal boasts a 99.44% literacy rate and is committed to providing high-quality education, which is structured into three cycles for basic education and uses a five-point grading system with 50% as the minimum passing grade.

International schools in Portugal offer a variety of curriculums, including:

  • IB
  • American
  • British
  • Portuguese

They cater to children from 3 to 18 years old. English is often the language of instruction, making the transition smoother for American children.

For American families, schooling options include free public education for residents and citizens up to age 18 and international schools starting at €6,000 (approximately $6,480) annually. Private schools in Portugal are perceived to offer a more rigorous education compared to public schools.

In regions like Lisbon, Cascais, and the Algarve, there are a range of excellent international schools that provide a family-friendly environment for American expats. Therefore, families moving to Portugal can feel reassured that their children will receive quality education.

Healthcare System in Portugal

Healthcare is a top concern when moving to a new country, and Portugal does not disappoint. The Portuguese healthcare system offers universal coverage and is accessible to all residents, including American expats with legal residency status.

Public hospitals in Portugal provide comprehensive specialized services, and preventive measures like vaccination and screening programs are emphasized within the public healthcare system. Services such as general practitioner visits, mammograms, or hip replacement surgeries are significantly more affordable in Portugal compared to the USA.

American expats in Portugal can choose private health insurance, with affordable options available. Insurance is also required during the residency visa process. Portugal’s top global rankings reflect the quality of its healthcare services, with skilled doctors and modern hospitals.

Hence, whether you opt for public or private healthcare, Portugal provides a robust healthcare system that ensures you and your family’s health needs are met.

Portuguese Language and Cultural Adaptation

While English is widely spoken in Portugal, particularly in the larger cities and tourist areas, learning Portuguese is essential for successful integration. Proficiency in Portuguese is fundamental to forging strong personal and professional relationships. The language can be learned through diverse methods such as:

  • Music
  • Apps
  • Classes with tutors
  • Conversational practice with native speakers

Adapting to Portuguese culture involves engaging with traditional customs, understanding historical influences, and partaking in local cuisine. The Portuguese are known for their warmth and hospitality, which can make the transition smoother. However, it’s important to understand their social and business etiquette, respect for personal space, and participation in community events.

Learning a new language and embracing a different culture can be challenging, but they can also be enriching experiences that open doors to deeper connections, greater understanding, and a truly immersive living experience in Portugal.

Tax Considerations for US Citizens

Tax considerations are an important aspect to consider when moving to Portugal. For 10 years, the Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) program in Portugal offers reduced income tax rates and possible tax exemptions on foreign income for qualifying professionals, including US retirees and remote workers.

US citizens residing in Portugal will remain liable for taxes on their worldwide income in the US while also paying taxes on Portuguese earnings in Portugal. However, the NHR program can offer relief from dual taxation. Certain types of income, such as salary, dividends, interest, and rental income may be tax-exempt or taxed at beneficial rates for US citizens under the NHR program.

The NHR status lasts for 10 years and must be applied for by establishing tax residency in Portugal. While taxes can be complex, understanding this aspect can help American expats plan their finances effectively when moving to Portugal.

Job Opportunities and Remote Work

The job market in Portugal is competitive and growing, especially in sectors like IT and online business. The highest-paying jobs can be found in:

  • the private health sector
  • IT
  • e-commerce
  • software engineering
  • cybersecurity
  • specialized health professions
  • digital marketing

Lisbon, the capital, has evolved into a significant hub for tech startups, further bolstered by hosting major conferences like the Web Summit. Americans have diverse job opportunities within:

  • IT
  • Hospitality
  • Tourism
  • Retail
  • Customer service, including positions in call centers for English speakers.

Co-working spaces such as Second Home Lisboa and Heden present valuable networking opportunities within the tech industry, aiding job seekers. However, it’s important to note that compared to other European countries, the labor market in this European country, Portugal, offers lower average salaries.

Whether you’re a remote worker, entrepreneur, or looking for a job in the local market, Portugal offers a variety of opportunities to build a fulfilling career.

Obtaining Permanent Residency and Citizenship

Once you’ve established a life in Portugal, you may consider becoming a permanent resident or even a citizen. To become permanent residents, US citizens must live in Portugal and have a temporary residence for five years. Obtaining permanent residency is a prerequisite to applying for citizenship after an additional year of living in Portugal.

To be eligible for Portuguese citizenship, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. US citizens who have been married to or in a stable partnership with a Portuguese national for three years may be eligible for Portuguese citizenship without any minimum residency requirement.
  2. For others, you must be at least 18 years old.
  3. You must legally reside in Portugal for at least five years to apply for citizenship through naturalization.
  4. Under Portuguese law, you must have no convictions for crimes with a prison sentence of three years or more.
  5. You must have no links to terrorist activities.

The citizenship through the naturalization process requires proof of Portuguese language proficiency and an active involvement in the Portuguese community. Applications can be submitted at Civil Registry Offices, the Central Registry Office in Lisbon, or a local Portuguese consulate. Required documents include a valid passport, Portuguese residence permit details, birth certificate, criminal record certificate, Portuguese language certificate, and proof of five-year legal residence. Portugal recognizes dual citizenship, allowing US citizens to retain their American citizenship while obtaining Portuguese citizenship. After obtaining permanent residency, an additional year of living in Portugal is needed before qualifying for citizenship by naturalization.

Preparing for the Move: Customs, Shipping, and Pets

Preparing for the move to Portugal involves practical considerations, including customs, shipping belongings, and bringing pets. Household effects and furniture belonging to those relocating to Portugal are admitted duty-free if they have been in the possessor’s ownership for more than a year and proper proof is furnished.

Required documentation for clearing customs includes:

  • The original passport
  • Certificado de Bagagem’ from the Portuguese Consulate
  • An inventory in Portuguese
  • Valued inventory with details of major electrical appliances
  • Proof of entitlement to reside in Portugal
  • A declaration of ownership of goods

You may employ a customs broker to facilitate the clearance of household goods through Portuguese customs. It’s important to retain all importation-related documents for future reference.

When it comes to shipping belongings to Portugal, options include air freight, which is quicker but more costly, and sea freight, which is cheaper but has longer transit times. UPakWeShip is a highly recommended mover for those relocating to Portugal from the USA, offering a variety of tailored services to ensure a smooth transition. Our options include consolidation shipping, which is perfect for those looking to move a smaller volume of goods economically, as well as exclusive container use for a full household move. Our team of experts provides invaluable assistance with customs clearance upon arrival in Portugal, making sure that your belongings arrive safely and without delay. With our transparent pricing and tracking system, you can rest assured that your move will be handled professionally and with the utmost care. Our resourceful website offers extensive country guides, including a detailed guide for moving to Portugal, which can be an indispensable tool during your relocation planning process. Furthermore, UPakWeShip operates with our own offices across Europe, the United Kingdom, and America, ensuring a seamless, hassle-free, and cost-effective door-to-door service. This integrated approach simplifies the moving process, as you’ll be dealing with one company from start to finish, reducing the potential for miscommunication and delays often associated with involving multiple carriers.

If you plan to bring pets, up to five personal pets, such as dogs and cats, can be brought along, provided they are microchipped or have a readable tattoo and are duly vaccinated against rabies. Though moving overseas may seem daunting, proper planning can make the process smoother and less stressful.

Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal as an American Expat

Living in Portugal as an American expat offers numerous benefits. Portugal boasts:

  • A high quality of life
  • A warm climate
  • Affordable living costs
  • A diverse range of leisure activities such as golf, trekking, and enjoying the rich cultural scene
  • It is one of the safest countries in the world, which enhances its appeal for expats seeking a secure living environment with a low crime rate.

Living in Portugal may present challenges such as:

  • Slow bureaucracy
  • A slower pace of life
  • The necessity to learn Portuguese for dealings with government offices
  • Cultural adjustments, such as carrying cash and a lack of on-demand luxuries that Americans might be used to

These challenges can be challenging, but with some adjustment, living in Portugal can be a rewarding experience.

Over 60,000 expats live in Portugal, with approximately 11 percent of them being US citizens, showcasing the country’s popularity among Americans seeking lifestyle changes. Like any major life decision, moving to Portugal has its pros and cons. However, many American expats find that the benefits far outweigh the challenges, making Portugal a highly attractive destination for relocation.


In conclusion, moving to Portugal offers a unique blend of a rich cultural experience, affordable living, and a high quality of life. While challenges such as language barriers and cultural adjustments exist, the benefits of living in Portugal often outweigh these hurdles. Whether you’re a retiree, an entrepreneur, or a remote worker, Portugal opens doors to endless possibilities and adventures. So why wait? Start your Portuguese journey today!

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