How To Move to Portugal As A Non-EU Citizen

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Written by: | Last updated on February 9, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

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. As of 2023, the most popular route for most applicants is likely to be investing in funds. In previous years, it was possible to invest in commercial or residential property.

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.

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.

Spotted a mistake? Suggest a correction

There are 15 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.


  1. Dear James,
    fantastic website!
    might I please ask you or others familiar with the process about obtaining a NIF and D7 visa.
    1. I know a third party can obtain a NIF for someone resident in the UK and open a bank account too what i am not clear about is if on a 2 week holiday to Portugal i can call into a “citizens shop”/ /SEF office to obtain one and the process if booking an appointment ? (my wife speaks fluent portuguese and is Brazilian).
    2. if NIF is obtained then i think i can open a basic function bank acccount with Activobank online (to put funds into prior to D7 application) using current UK adddress
    3. with a NIF and portuguese bank account i think i can use the form “Portugal application for National Visa” to put in a request for a D7 visa via VFS Global offfice london and then use the temporary visa issued to apply for a 2 year D7 once we actually move
    4. I want to to avoid paying intermediaries to do these above actions on my behalf where possble.
    5. what are your virws about challenges of completing steps 1 to 3 without assistance , is it possible ?

    • Hi Mike,

      1. You might find this answer from Bordr helpful – “All non-EU residents need a fiscal representative to apply for a NIF on their behalf. Your fiscal representative does not necessarily need to be a lawyer, but they do need to be a Portuguese tax resident and a Portuguese permanent resident or citizen. If you have a trusted friend or know someone in Portugal who is willing to take on the responsibility, they can absolutely be your fiscal representative.”

      If your wife lives in the UK with you then presumably she doesn’t meet the criteria.

      You can go to Finanças with a fiscal representative (e.g. a lawyer or, as Bordr suggests, someone resident in Portugal) but I think this route is only worth it if it’s a friend or family member. You would probably need to pay a lawyer and you might as well save both your time and do it remotely rather than queue at Finanças or a Loja de Cidadão. Bordr are very helpful and offer a discount, which you can find on this page.

      2. Not sure about online (I think this is only an option for residents) but it should be possible in person.

      3. You don’t necessarily need a lawyer to apply for the D7, and many people apply without one. The benefit of a lawyer is they submit tons of these applications every month, so they know what is likely to get accepted, which means you’re more likely to get accepted the first time around.

    • I am also on the DIY route. I applied online for NIF at – €99 including one year of fiscal representation and received it in about 10 days. Using this I opened a Millennium bank account in South Africa. Both were painless!

  2. Hi James,

    I wonder if you could point me in the right direction to find information on requirements for working as an architect in Portugal?

  3. Hi James,

    Thanks so much for your work helping people understand the different Visa routes and Portuguese bureacracy.

    I’ve a situation where I am a UK citizen but with permanent residency in Spain. I also own a house in Portugal (inherited after two previous generations).

    I’ve seen some people ask similar questions about whether another EU residency would make applying for residency in Portugal easier, and it seems it doesn’t. However you mention the potential option of remote work as fulfilling the requirements for the D7 Visa. I have worked remotely previously and my income was sufficient to exceed the minimum requirements, however it was as a freelancer.

    So my question is, does the D7 remote worker option include freelancers, or only permanent employees? And if only permanent employees, do you think it could be done if I were to set up a company?

    Many thanks

  4. Hi,
    I am a 67-year-old single American woman receiving $1,314 per month in Social Security. I’m still working a full-time job here in Pa. but, as it’s merely a survival job with a physical component (I lost my last career position in 2014), I’m very eager to leave it to concentrate on writing and editing remotely.

    I’m incredibly burnt out and no longer want to wait any longer. Although my job income is very low and, ideally, shouldn’t take long to replace, I know it will take a bit of time to achieve a regular remote working income.

    I cannot live here in the U.S. on my Social Security alone. But I’ve heard I can live on it in Portugal for a while if I have to. I already have a friend there and I know others moving there within a few years. I want to come over as soon as possible after the start of 2022. How much do I need to have saved? How easy is it to get a studio apartment in a place like, say, Faro? How about Lisbon?

    Thank you very much,
    Ana Y.

  5. Hi,
    It’s Valentino again , I already commented on one of your sections and I already sent you emails but I don’t know if you received them. I got time to think about moving Portugal but I really want to know more info & plus some websites has got different info & they are out of date besides that most of the vlogs that are about moving to Portugal is from an American position & I’m of British nationality. The job that I really want to do in probably marketing the most, if not then I’ll be an estate agent. Is it possible for me to do marketing there? Because the job market is limited for me.

    I’m studying law in university and I have a business diploma from college. I looked for jobs in Portuguese in LinkedIn and that website you gave me and they are all in Portuguese which I don’t understand and I’m confused how expats from Britain find a job there if there websites are Portuguese. I could be doing something wrong but I don’t what so I want your input on this as you know Portugal very well.

    What are the steps to move to Portugal and in what order? Like do I get an NIF first or apply for the job first etc.

    I apologise if I seem annoying / bothering you


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