Getting Residency in Portugal

The process for becoming a resident of Portugal varies depending on which country you are moving from. We’ll provide an overview for both EU Citizens and Non-EU Citizens. In both cases, make sure to read through the SEF or Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Foreigners and Borders Service website to get the most up to date and detailed information about the requirements for your particular circumstances.
When you’re ready to apply for your autorização de residência paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio residence permit (non-EU citizens) or your Certificado de Residência Permanente paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Permanent Residence Certificate (both EU and non-EU), be sure to make your SEF appointment well in advance as the appointments fill up quickly.
You will need a Número de Identificação Fiscal paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Tax Identification Number, also called Número de Contribuinte paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Taxpayer number, which is a Portuguese tax number required for things like buying a home, opening a bank account, receiving benefits, paying taxes, and more. You can apply for this at a Finanças paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio local tax office, or at a Loja do Cidadão paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Citizen Shop After becoming a resident, you will have most of the same benefits and rights as a citizen, with a few exceptions. As a citizen of Portugal you would have these additional rights:

  • The ability to vote and stand as a candidate in legislative elections (as a resident, and depending on where you come from, you can vote in local elections. More information here);
  • A Portuguese passport (visa-free or visa on arrival travel to 184 countries);
  • EU citizenship;
  • You cannot be deported from Portugal.

EU Citizens


As an EU citizen, the residency process is fairly straightforward. You are free to enter Portugal with a valid passport or identity card. After you have been here for 90 days, you then have 30 days to apply for your Certificado do Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Registration Certificate of Citizens of the European Union. This is done with your local Junta de Freguesia paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Parish Council or Câmara Municipal paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio City Hall and the requirements can vary, though typically you will need to show:

  • Your passport;
  • Proof of your address – This could be a mortgage or lease agreement, or you may need to get a Atestado de Residência paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Certificate of Residence;
  • Proof of employment, enrollment in a university, or proof that you have adequate funds to support yourself;
  • Proof of health insurance.

This Certificado do Registo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Registration Certificate is valid for 5 years, after which you can apply for the Certificado de Residência Permanente paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Permanent Residence Certificate, discussed in more detail below.

Retirees

If you are an EU citizen retiring in Portugal, you will be able to transfer your pension contributions to Portugal from the EU countries in which you’ve worked.

Brexit

It’s still unclear exactly how Brexit will play a role in the process of acquiring residency, but the Portuguese government has stated that British citizens lawfully residing in Portugal before Brexit will retain their current rights after Brexit.

Non-EU Citizens


If you are not an EU citizen, there are a number of ways to get residency. If you plan to stay in Portugal for longer than 90 days, you will first want to apply for a temporary residence permit (autorização de residência paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio ). There are a few different paths you can take, depending on which of the following long-term vistos de residência paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio residency visas fit your circumstances:

  • Family reunification – If you are the dependent family member or spouse of someone with Portuguese residency, you have the right to join your family member in the country. If you are married to a Portuguese citizen, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship after being married for 3 years.
  • Employment – Depending on where you are from, you may need to have a job lined up before entering Portugal on a work visa. For some countries that have an agreement with Portugal (such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Israel), you just have to apply within 90 days of arrival.

If you are a tech entrepreneur and want to start or develop your business in Portugal, there is also the option to apply for a Startup Visa. You must have a solid business plan and be able to show the potential for job creation, innovation, and the ability to generate sufficient yearly turnover.

  • Retirement – You can apply for a retirement visa from your home country, as each country has different rules about how you can draw your pension in Portugal. You must be able to show that you have sufficient monthly income (at least €1070) and proof of private health insurance.
  • Golden Visa – The most common way of getting the Golden Visa is by buying property in Portugal worth at least €500,000, but there are other ways to invest, such as:
    • A capital transfer of at least 1 million euros into a Portuguese bank;
    • Investing at least €350,000 into a Portuguese business;
    • Creating at least 10 full-time jobs in Portugal;
    • Investing €350,000 into scientific research or €250,000 into Portuguese culture and arts;
  • Study – You can get a student visa by being accepted to a Portuguese university to study. You would apply through the Portuguese embassy in your home country. Afterwards, you can switch to a work visa if you find employment in Portugal. There are also visas available for doctoral research and for teaching higher education.

SEF Appointment

After entering the country with the appropriate visa, you can start the application process for your residence permit by calling SEF to set up an appointment. You should do this within 90 days of arrival. SEF will send you an email confirming the location, time, and date, which will often be months in the future. If your appointment falls outside the end of your visa stay, you can stay in the country until the appointment, but be sure to print and keep the e-mail with you as proof. In the meantime, check the SEF website and start compiling all the documentation you will need to bring with you to your appointment.
The residence permit is valid for 1 year, and then can be renewed for 2 years at a time. After 5 years, you can apply for a Certificado de Residência Permanente paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Permanent Residence Certificate, discussed below.

Permanent Residence Certificate

Both EU and non-EU citizens can apply for the Certificado de Residência Permanente paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio by making an appointment with SEF (Foreigners and Borders Service) and bringing all the required paperwork. You can apply after 5 years of residency status. After 6 years, you can apply for citizenship.
You must meet the following requirements for the Certificado de Residência Permanente paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio . You:

  • Have held a temporary/long-term residence permit for at least 5 years;
  • Have not been sentenced to more than 1 year in prison in the last 5 years;
  • Can prove that you have the financial means to support yourself in Portugal;
  • Have a place of abode in Portugal;
  • Have basic knowledge of the Portuguese language (with a certificate showing at least A2 level proficiency).

Non-Habitual Residency

The Non-habitual Residency (NHR) tax regime was initiated in 2012 to attract more foreign investors and foreigners in “high value added” professions to Portugal. If you qualify for this program, your foreign-earned income (including pensions) will be exempt from taxation in Portugal for 10 years. Income earned in Portugal will be taxed at a flat rate of 20%. Portugal has a double-taxation treaty with 79 countries, so if the country where you earned your income has the power to tax your income (even if they don’t actually tax it), you will not be taxed in Portugal.
The process for acquiring non-habitual resident status is as follows:

  1. Register as a non-resident taxpayer;
  2. If you’re an EU citizen, obtain your registration certificate. If you’re not an EU citizen, obtain your residence permit;
  3.  Register as a tax resident – You cannot have been a tax resident in Portugal in the 5 years prior. Also, despite the name, you must show that you intend to habitually reside in Portugal by being there at least 183 days of the year in question or by showing that you have a “place of abode” on December 31st of that year;
  4. Apply for NHR status before March 31st of the following year.

Questions?

We hope this helped give you an overview of the residency process, but for questions on your own individual situation, it’s best to contact SEF or your country’s embassy. Another great place to ask questions is within our forum: Practice Portuguese Member’s Forum. That way, you can get advice from others who have gone through a similar process. Continue on to the next lesson to practice vocabulary and phrases that will help you navigate the residency process with more confidence.

Comments

  • Wish I had read this last April. Now I could have written it for US citizens retiring to Portugal. One tip I have for US SSA benefit recipients, is to open 2 bank accounts in a Portuguese bank, one in US Dollars and the other in Euros. Contact the Benefits Unit at the embassy in Lisboa and have them deposit your SSA benefit into your US Dollar account (NOT the Euro account). I get a better exchange rate here than if I had them exchange and deposit Euros into my account. Then when the rate is good, you can transfer the money into your Euro account online. The same is true for wire transfers from a US bank. I lost more than $1,000 on a $35,000 wire transfer because they converted it to Euros during the transfer instead of transferring dollars as I had requested. Fortunately, they admitted their mistake and reimbursed me the $1,000. But it just proves my point. Exchange you dollars to Euros here in Portugal.

  • Hi Rui and Joel, I am a little confused about the 90 day Limit for EU citizens. If I leave Portugal to go to England, when I return does the 90 days start again or is each day in Portugal added up to make 90 in 180? I am uncertain if I am in need of a residence certificate yet as I keep leaving the country to work on short visits.

    Thank you

    • Hi Sophie. The law is not spectacularly clear on this, so this is the kind of question that is good to ask to official authorities. In any case, the safest bet would be to assume that on any day of your stay, if you count backwards 180 days, there can’t be more than 90 days of permanence in the Schengen area within that period, consecutive or not.

  • I have held a Portuguese residency certificate for 5 years (based on being a U.K. passport holder) but have been coming back and forth while we build our house. So my earnings are in the U.K. and I haven’t paid any Portuguese taxes. Does this matter and what do I need for my SEF appointment to get my 10 year permanent residency card please. Thank you, any information is much appreciated.

    • Hi there. Portugal and the UK have a double taxation agreement in place, but I don’t know how it applies to your situation in particular (source(s) of income, main country of residence, etc.). Since we’re not in a position to give any official advice regarding taxes, your best bet would be to contact the Portuguese or the UK tax authority, as they should be able to give you this information. Here’s how to get in touch with the Portuguese authority: https://www.portaldasfinancas.gov.pt/pt/contactosEbalcao.action

      For your permanent residence, you should just need to meet the requirements listed in the section “Permanent Residence Certificate” halfway through this article. For more detailed information, you can read through this section of the SEF website: https://www.sef.pt/en/Pages/conteudo-detalhe.aspx?nID=22

  • Hi Rui & Joel

    I have one simple question, I have “cartão de residência permanente” does this give me the right to vote and or stand for election?

    Thank you

    Justin West

  • Hi Rui & Joel
    I have a one question, i am a British national and want to move to Portugal, so do i need to wait for 90 days to get register for residency certificate for 5 years or i can register straightaway and don’t need to wait for 90 days period?

    Thanks in advance

    Hassan Maqsood

    • Olá, Hassan. It’s always good to check this kind of information with the authorities, but you should be able to register without any issue before those first 90 days 🙂

    • Olá, Sofia. Também foi esse o nosso entendimento e é essa a informação indicada nesta Learning Note, na secção EU Citizens, onde se menciona o Certificado do Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia 🙂

  • I have a question, is the study period in Portugal also counted in the 5 years for granting the permanent residency? Thanks.

    • Olá, Kenneth. We can’t give official advice on these matters, but based on the information made available by the authorities, the study period should certainly count! In any case, you can always check directly with SEF or even try our forum to see if anyone has any first-hand experience with this (links at the end of the article above) 🙂

  • Hello Rui and Joel
    I am a US citizen. My decease parents were Portuguese citizens and migrated to the US and became US citizens. I believe i can get duel citizenship …..my US citizenship and a Portuguese citizenship via decent. Would Portugal tax me on my US earnings? I do not plan to get a job in Portugal and just live off my US earnings…..i read something about earning being tax-free for 10 years but what happens after that?

    • Olá Tony! Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we are in no position to give official advice or information beyond this general overview, especially considering that each person’s situation has its own particulars. However, I can tell you that the US is one of the countries that has a tax treaty in Portugal to avoid double taxation, which should be good news for you 🙂 Your safest bet would be to contact your country’s embassy or tax authority, or the Portuguese tax authority to find out how things would be handled in your specific case.

  • Hi Tony,

    This is something I’ve written about a little on Portugalist.com: https://www.portugalist.com/get-portuguese-nationality/

    Yes, citizenship through your parents is possible and you’re also correct in saying dual citizenship is possible. Portugal recognises dual citizenship, so won’t ask you to give up your US passport. Going back one generation isn’t hugely complicated (although never underestimate it), but there are companies that help with this process. Let me know if you need a recommendation.

    You wouldn’t be taxed on your US earnings simply for having a Portuguese passport, but I think you’re saying that you plan to move to Portugal. In that case, you would be resident here which means you would also be tax resident here.

    The NHR scheme does allow you to reduce or, in some cases, completely avoid paying tax on non-Portuguese income for 10 years, which would include US earnings. How much tax you pay often depends on how your earnings are paid to you in the US, and so it can be helpful to get some expert advice here. Over the course of 10 years, it can more than pay for itself.

    After 10 years, the “tax holiday” would come to an end, however, I think for many people this is a problem they can come to later on. You don’t know yet what you’ll be doing in 10 years, and there may be other opportunities to reduce your tax bill then.

  • Hi Rui & Joel,

    I am a South African national and would like to know if it would be possible for me to set up a small renovation business in Portugal. If so would this allow me residence and would this then go towards eventually obtaining citizenship in Portugal. Any information or pointers would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Hi Faiek,

    I should start off by stating that I’m definitely not a legal expert, but I run a website about Portugal (Portugalist.com) and as part of that I get a lot of questions about moving to Portugal and it’s a topic I often write about on the website as well.

    The second part of your question is probably easiest to answer. Yes, normally when you live in Portugal for 5 years you’re able to apply for citizenship after. Citizenship comes with several benefits, but the one that most people are interested in is a Portuguese passport.

    There are visas aimed at those who want to setup a business in Portugal (D2 or D7 for example) and an expert would be able to discuss the best option for you. As mentioned, I’m definitely not that expert but I am happy to put you in touch with one if you need. There’s a contact form on the website.

    Additionally, there are some Facebook groups for South Africans who want to move to Portugal including:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/479205349249922/
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1212834218856161/

    These can be great for information gathering.

  • Hi
    Brilliant site, am signing up to Language course.
    Could you please confirm
    * The NHR is reduced tax on pensions only? Also this is now 10% not 0?
    * I am going to purchase a house next Spring in the Algarve, but won’t be living full time. Please could you confirm the restrictions if I wasn’t to apply for Residentia? I understand upto 90 days but if so i could spend a week back in UK and start another 90 days?

    Thanks

  • Hi James,

    As always, I’d like to point out I’m not an expert, but I do write about Portugal over at Portugalist.com so hopefully some of what I say is accurate and useful. I would always consult with an expert though.

    NHR doesn’t just apply to pensions, but lots of different types of income. It’s much more straight-forward for pensions though and, yes, the rate is now 10% instead of the previous 0%. While the rate varies depending on the type of income and whether it qualifies for the scheme, most people I speak to are paying around 20% (or often 20% + SS contributions) under the NHR scheme.

    It’s very difficult to say what kind of restrictions you, as a UK citizen, might face next year as the terms of Brexit haven’t been agreed yet. If the 90-day rule (which is what Americans and many other nationalities have) comes into play, it’ll be 90 days in a 180 day period. So, in that instance, no, you wouldn’t be able to leave for a week and come back. You’d have to leave the Schengen Area for 90 days (Molly correct me if I’m wrong here, as I’m sure you know it better than me).

    Alternatively, Brits can apply for residency in Portugal until the end of the year. Do that and you’ll get a 5 year residency certificate and, after the 5 years are up, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship.

    Note: becoming resident in Portugal normally means becoming tax resident here too.

  • Hi ,
    Do both married partners need apply for the residency permit ,Or if the residency permit is held by one partner does this extend to the spouse ?

  • Hi
    I have bought a property and today managed to get my certificate of residency from the Albuferia town hall.
    I have a couple of questions it says once I have done 90 days I can apply for a card,must it be 90 consecutive days or 90 days over a calendar year?
    Also my wife and family could not be with me today as they are stranded in lockdown in the Uk,will they be able to come into the country from Jan 21 on my residency ?

    Many thanks

  • Hello, do you know what happens if you have the 5-year temporary permit but fail to meet my minimum stay requirements of 6 months per year during all those 5 years? Can i apply for another 5 year permit at the end of it and keep working towards a permanent residency?

    Many thanks,

    Amy

  • Hi my names Edward, I have an appointment in London to apply for Portuguese residency. I have everything, except the proof of address, which I was planning to arrange when I arrive in Portugal, and book an Airbnb for the first few months so I can arrange a long term rental. Will this be ok for the D 7 application?

    • Hi Edward! We’re not experts on this, so I would check with SEF (or the consulate in London) for the official information about what’s required for the visa. My understanding is that the visa requirements are to enter the country and then you apply for your residence permit with SEF as a separate process when you get to Portugal. Obtaining the residence permit from SEF is what we discuss above, and you will need the proof of address for that by the time of your SEF appointment. But for the visa itself, I don’t think you would need proof of Portuguese address since that is just for entry. Here’s a link to find more complete information on this: The Portugalist – D7 Visa Requirements

    • You might want to bring proof of the AirBnb address though (maybe just the booking confirmation), to show you have somewhere to stay.

  • Hi.
    My name is Abanish. I am looking for moving to Portugal for Master’s degree study purpose and subsequently apply for post study work visa and aim to get the 5 years’ PR status. I also want to arrange family reunification visa for my spouse and child. Can any one suggest me genuine immigration consultant/advocate based in Portugal, who can help me in all paperwork for visa and other documents for submission to SEF. Who can help me in TRC process as well. May a bit economical one. Kindly help in case you have any such firms’ contact details. Thanks a lot.

  • Hello
    I am british and entered Portugal 1st March 2020 and registered residence in Portugal. Due to business and pandemic COVID I left Portugal Oct 20 and moved back to Uk.
    I believe I can not stay outside Portugal for than 6 consecutive months, otherwise I loose my residence, correct? But due to second vaccination in June and business I might not be able to come back in may (6 months completition). If I loose my residence after 6 months (may) can I register again in June as those people are didn’t register before 31 dez 20 can register until June. Does it apply for me also?
    My boyfriend could not register in dec as the flights were cancelled, so he can register in June as he lived in Portugal in 2020.

    Thanks
    Mel

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