Is it Easy to Move to Portugal? Yes and No.

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Written by: | Last updated on February 9, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 8 minutes
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Over the past few years, Portugal has become one of the most desirable countries to move to.

There are several reasons for this – Portugal has a public healthcare system, it’s quite safe, and it has some of the best beaches in the world – but there’s one reason in particular that Portugal has become so popular: not because it’s necessarily easy but because moving here is easier than moving to many other European countries

Why Moving to Portugal is Easier: Attainable Visas 

Those that hold EU passports can move anywhere in the EU with relative ease. For them, there isn’t a huge difference between moving to Portugal or somewhere else like Spain, France, or Croatia. The cost of living can be a bit lower in Portugal than some other EU countries, meaning it’s easier to make it work, but in terms of obtaining residency, there aren’t major differences.

For those from outside the EU, however, Portugal is very appealing because its residency visas are so attainable. Some of those attainable visas include:

The D7

The D7 requires you to have a passive income (such as a pension, social security, dividends, or income from a rental property) that’s at least equivalent to €820 per month or €1,230 per month for a couple (€14,760 per year). That’s about a third of what that same couple would need to retire in Spain.

Given the low income requirements, it isn’t surprising that this is one of the most popular visas for moving to Portugal. For many retirees with pensions or social security income from a country like the US, Canada, Australia, or the UK, meeting the requirements is very doable.

The Golden Visa

Then there’s the golden visa. Many European countries offer golden visas of some kind, but Portugal’s has always been one of the most appealing as it has very lenient physical stay requirements: you only need to spend an average of 7 days per year in Portugal. 

Unfortunately, the minimum investment amount has gone up and for those that want to invest in something (as opposed to make a donation) the minimum amount is now €500,000. Investing in property has also been removed as a means of obtaining the golden visa and it’s now likely that investing in funds will become one of the more popular ways to obtain residency this way.

However, it’s ideal for those that have cash to invest and don’t qualify for another residency visa such as the D7. 

The Digital Nomad Visa

Another popular route to residency is the digital nomad visa or D8. As of 2024, this requires you to have an actively earned income (such as a salary or freelancing work) that’s equivalent to €3,280 per month. As remote work becomes more and more feasible, this provides those from outside the EU with the opportunity to establish residency here while continuing to earn wages from outside of Portugal. 

Despite the nickname “digital nomad visa,” it’s aimed at people that want to live in Portugal rather than travel extensively outside of the country. 

This visa isn’t the most attainable digital nomad visa in Europe, it has to be said. The minimum amount is significantly higher than that of the D7 and it’s higher than nomad visas from other countries like Spain or Hungary. 

However, even though the monthly income requirements may be higher than other European countries, it’s still worth considering due to the quality of life living in Portugal offers. 

Which of these visas would be the easiest for moving to Portugal? Basically, whichever one you qualify for.

If, however, you find yourself in a position where you could invest €500,000 and qualify for the golden visa or apply for the D7 thanks to your monthly pension income, that’s where the expertise of an immigration lawyer becomes especially valuable. They can tell you which ones have the faster approval times and lower costs, and advise on which is best for your particular needs.

Why Moving to Portugal is Easier: Lower Cost of Living

The cost of living has definitely increased, but Portugal is still one of the most affordable countries to live in Western Europe. And it offers a great quality of life for the price you pay. While there are cheaper countries to move to, for example in Eastern Europe, Portugal has the advantage of milder winters, English being more widely spoken, beautiful beaches, and a great record for safety. 

The lower cost of living in Portugal means it’s easier to take the risk and move to Portugal than it is to move to a more expensive European country. That’s great news for those that are moving and also want to keep their costs low because they’re starting a business, retiring, or just cutting back on work a little.

There are two sides to this coin, however. While the cost of living might be lower in Portugal, there are fewer high-paying jobs. Should the move not work out exactly according to plan, it can be harder to find a local job that pays well. 

What’s Challenging About Moving to Portugal

As mentioned, moving to Portugal isn’t a complete walk in the park. For many, finding a visa they qualify for is the easy part, and there are often lots of hurdles that come after this. 

The following are some of the main challenges:

Obtaining proof of address

Many visas, such as the D7, require you to have proof of address in Portugal when you submit your visa application.

In practice, this means that you need to rent or purchase a property in Portugal before you move to Portugal. And, unfortunately, most consulates don’t accept an Airbnb rental agreement: they want a contract of at least one year that has been registered with Finanças.

This means that unless you’ve already bought a property here, you will either need to come to Portugal on a scouting trip to find a rental or rent sight unseen over the internet.

Differing Consultancy Requirements

There can be a lot of conflicting and confusing information about moving to Portugal online. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is simply that a lot of the information in blogs and Facebook groups is incorrect or, in many cases, isn’t universally correct.

The second reason, and why information isn’t always universally correct, is that consulates can have different requirements. For example, some might allow you to use Airbnb as proof of address while others won’t.

Because of this, if you’re trying to apply for a residency visa without using a lawyer, it can be difficult to get accurate information.

Savings Requirement

Many visas, including the D7, require you to have a year’s worth of savings. If you’re a single person, this would be €820 * 12 or €9,840. If you have a spouse or partner, add 50%. If you have children, add 30% per child.

Most people applying for the D7 have these kinds of savings, but there are those that don’t, putting the D7 just out of reach — at least for the time being. Although that’s unfortunate, it’s important to realise that there’s a logic behind this requirement and that’s to provide you with at least one year worth of savings in case your passive income dries up or your living costs turn out to be higher than anticipated.

Rental and Property Prices (and availability)

While Portugal is still one of the most affordable places you can live in Europe overall, many of the most desirable parts of Portugal, including Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, have seen property prices shoot up, both for purchase and rentals.

In some areas, there can be a lot more demand than supply. In Lisbon, for example, it can be challenging to find an apartment for rent. In other parts of the country, it can be challenging to find a decent property to buy as there are so few properties coming on the market.

Getting an AIMA appointment

Once you do get to Portugal, it can be challenging to get an AIMA (previously known as SEF) appointment, which you need to attend in order to get your residency card. While most people end up waiting a few months, some people can end up waiting for more than a year.

It isn’t necessarily a first come, first served process either, and some visas have a faster turnaround than others. Many golden visa and D6 applicants, for example, have found it extremely hard to get the necessary appointment with AIMA.

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.