How To Move to Portugal As A Non-EU Citizen

/ Last Updated: July 24, 2023 / 15 Comments

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So you want to move to Portugal, but how do you do that? If you or your spouse have an EU passport (e.g. an Irish or German passport), the process if fairly straightforward, but what if you come from the UK, US, South Africa, or anywhere else outside of the EU, EEA, or Switzerland?

Basically, you will need to apply for, and be approved for, a residency permit.

Portugal offers a number of residency visas and permits that allow students, entrepreneurs, retirees, and digital nomads move here. Many of these permits are considered extremely obtainable when compared to other EU countries, which is one of the reasons Portugal has become such a popular place to move to. And, in most instances, if you live in Portugal for 5 years or more, you will be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship and obtain a Portuguese passport, which will then give you freedom to move to another EU country.

Moving to Portugal involves a lot of steps like transferring money, shipping your belongings, and deciding on a location, but for now, let’s start with the most important part: residency permits.

A Look At The Different Residency Permits

As mentioned, Portugal offers a number of different residency permits. The most popular are probably the D7, which is aimed at those with a passive income such as a pension or social security, the D2, which is aimed at entrepreneurs, and the digital nomad visa, which is aimed at those with a salary or regular income from clients. There’s also the golden visa, however, following an announcement in February 2023, it’s expected that the Portuguese government will phrase this out.

  • Retirees: Portugal’s D7 visa is aimed at those with a regular, and ideally passive, income from sources such as a pension, social security, rental income, or dividends. As such, it’s very popular with retirees or those with investments such as rental properties. There’s also the golden visa, which is aimed at those with cash to invest, and one of the options is simply buying a residential property in Portugal.
  • Digital Nomads: Portugal’s D8 or digital nomad visa is aimed at digital nomads, freelancers, and remote workers. If you have a salary from a remote job or you have a freelancing business, this visa could allow you to move to Portugal.
  • Employees: Portugal offers two main visas that are aimed at employees: the D1 and D3. Both require you to be either highly qualified or to have skills that employers can’t find among Portuguese or European candidates, but if you’re an exceptional employee, this could be your path to residency in Portugal.
  • Students: If you’re an international student from outside of the EU, you could come to Portugal to study on either the D4 or D5 visas. The D4 is aimed at students that want to study for at least a year while the D5 is aimed at students already studying in another EU country that want to transfer their studies to Portugal or spend a portion of time studying there.
  • Entrepreneurs: The D2 visa is aimed at entrepreneurs and independent service providers that want to start an entrepreneurial activity in Portugal. This could be anything from a guesthouse or restaurant to a larger enterprise. It’s also suitable for those that want to invest in a business or a portion of a business.
  • Investors: The golden visa offers residency in return for making an investment in Portugal. The most common form of investment is simply to purchase a residential property, but other ways to invest include investing in commercial property, investing in a fund, such as a venture capital fund, or investing in a Portuguese company.

As well as these visas, there’s also the D6 or family reunification visa. If you have a non-EU/EEA spouse (or other permittable family member) that’s already living in Portugal, this visa allows you to come join them and live in Portugal.

If you have parents or grandparents from another EU country, like Ireland or Italy, it’s worth looking into whether you’re eligible for citizenship through descent. Those with Irish grandparents, for example, can often claim an Irish passport, allowing them to move to Ireland or another EU country.

A more in-depth overview of residency permits can be found here.

Steps To Moving to Portugal

The following are some steps to take when considering moving to Portugal.

Research Portugal

It’s a good idea to research Portugal and decide whether it’s the right country for you. The following are some very basic steps to consider when moving.

You could begin your research with the following:

  • Take a look at some of the pros and cons of living in Portugal.
  • Decide where you might like to live (some examples include the Algarve, Lisbon, or the Silver Coast).
  • Look at the cost of living to determine whether you can afford to live here (especially rental and property costs).
  • Research the Portuguese healthcare system
  • If you have children, take a look at public, private, and international schools to decide which option is right for you.
  • If you have pets, think about how you might move them to Portugal.
  • Decide which of your belongings you want to bring to Portugal. Some people bring everything, others start afresh, and some choose somewhere in the middle.
  • Take a look at the different residency permits to see which you might qualify for.

Visit Portugal on a Scouting Trip

Come to Portugal on a scouting trip to get a feel for the country and to decide where you might like to live.

Choose a moving date

Although you will be a little at the mercy of when your visa is approved, have a think about when you would actually like to move to Portugal.

Apply for that visa

Apply for the visa (and hopefully get accepted)

Make The Move

Finally, make the move and come to Portugal.

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Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

You can contact James by emailing or via the site's contact form.

Originally published: February 2021 & Last Updated: July 24, 2023.