Obter Residência

The process for becoming a resident of Portugal varies depending on which country you are moving from. We’ll provide an overview for EU Citizens and Non-EU Citizens. In both cases, make sure to read through the SEF or Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (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 (non-EU citizens) or your Certificado de Residência Permanente (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, also called a Número de Contribuinte, 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 local tax office, Finanças, or at a Citizen Shop, Loja de Cidadão.
 
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 (Registration Certificate of Citizens of the European Union). This is done with your local Junta de Freguesia (Parish Council) or Câmara Municipal (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 an Atestado de Residência (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 is valid for 5 years, after which you can apply for the Certificado de Residência Permanente (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). There are a few different paths you can take, depending on which of the following long-term vistos de residência (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.

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 (Permanent Residence Certificate), discussed below.

Permanent Residence Certificate

Both EU and non-EU citizens can apply for the Certificado de Residência Permanente 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:

  • You have held a temporary/long-term residence permit for at least 5 years;
  • You have not been sentenced to more than 1 year in prison in the last 5 years;
  • You can prove that you have the financial means to support yourself in Portugal;
  • You have a place of abode in Portugal;
  • You 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.

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.

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