Moving to Portugal from South Africa

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Written by: | Last updated on March 6, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 9 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

For many South Africans, the allure of Portugal extends far beyond its white sandy beaches and rich history. At the forefront of this appeal is the promise of safety.

Portugal, with its low crime rates, stands in stark contrast to the challenges faced in parts of South Africa. Coupled with the nation’s political stability and the overarching security of being within the European Union, Portugal offers South Africans a haven of peace and assurance. Its strategic location on the Iberian Peninsula also means that the rest of Europe, with its diverse cultures and opportunities, is just a short journey away.

Yet, the draw of Portugal isn’t solely rooted in its safety net. The country boasts a climate that rivals the best of South Africa’s weather, offering warmth and sunshine in abundance. Economically, Portugal is affordable, especially when benchmarked against other European destinations.

The Portuguese, known for their warmth and hospitality, have fostered a welcoming environment for expats. This includes a thriving community of South Africans, ensuring that newcomers from the Rainbow Nation will find both familiar accents and shared experiences in their new home.

Reasons to move here

  • Safety: Portugal’s low crime rates offer a stark contrast to some of the challenges faced in South Africa, providing peace of mind for individuals and families alike. A safer environment contributes to a higher quality of life, allowing residents to enjoy their surroundings without constant concern.
  • Healthcare: Portugal boasts a robust public healthcare system. Additionally, its private healthcare is not only top-notch but also reasonably priced. Access to quality healthcare ensures that medical needs, routine or urgent, are met efficiently and affordably.
  • Pathway to Citizenship: After just five years of residency in Portugal, South Africans can apply for Portuguese citizenship. This opens doors to the entire European Union, offering flexibility and a broader range of opportunities to live, work, and study in countries across the whole of the EU.
  • Language Ease: English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in urban areas and among the younger generation. This eases the transition for South Africans, making daily interactions and settling in smoother. However, it’s recommended that you still learn Portuguese.
  • Affordability: Although prices have increased, Portugal’s cost of living is relatively low, making it an attractive destination, especially for retirees looking to stretch their savings further. A comfortable lifestyle is achievable without the financial pressures often experienced in pricier European countries.
  • Gateway to Europe: Portugal’s strategic location offers unparalleled access to the rest of Europe, from its historical landmarks to its diverse cultures. A base in Portugal means the treasures of Europe are just a short trip away.
  • Educational Opportunities: For those with children, Portugal offers access to its esteemed schools and universities. Additionally, there are numerous international schools catering to diverse curricula, such as the British A-Levels of American high school system. Children can benefit from a multicultural education, preparing them for a globalised world.

Of course, Portugal has its downsides too. The most common example of this is bureaucracy, but another common complaint is the quality of houses, which typically aren’t insulated well and don’t have AC or heating.

For those that need to work, the job market is also quite limited. Wages are low by European standards, and jobs often require you to speak fluent Portuguese.

Obtaining Residency

If you’re lucky enough to have an EU/EEA/Swiss passport, such as an Irish or Portuguese passport, you can easily move to Portugal without needing a residency visa. If your spouse (or other qualifying family member) has an EU/EEA/Swiss passport, the same applies.

Everyone else, unfortunately, will need to apply for a residency visa. The good news, however, is that Portuguese residency visas are some of the most attainable in the EU.

Here are a few of the most popular options:

  • Golden Visa: Perfect for South Africans looking to make a strategic investment in Portugal, this visa offers residency in return for a notable financial contribution. One of its standout features is the minimal residency obligation, requiring only an average of 7 days in Portugal each year. As 2024 unfolds, many South Africans are finding appeal in directing their investments towards options like venture capital funds. The typical investment bar is set at €500,000 although it’s possible to invest as little as €400,000 in some cases.
  • D7 Visa: Crafted for those with a consistent passive income, the D7 is a fitting choice for South Africans with a pension or income from properties. The income requirement for this visa is benchmarked against the Portuguese minimum wage, necessitating applicants to showcase a monthly income above €820, as of 2024.
  • Digital Nomad Visa (D8): Tailored for the contemporary remote worker or freelancer, the D8 visa is for those who can uphold themselves financially in Portugal. As we navigate 2024, the stipulated income threshold for this visa is a monthly earning exceeding €3,280.
  • D2 Visa: Embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of South Africans, the D2 visa offers a pathway. It’s designed for those eager to embark on a business journey in Portugal, whether that’s a charming guesthouse or a bustling marketing agency.

Of course, these are just some of the residency visas Portugal offers.

Where to Live

While you could live anywhere in Portugal, there are a few places that are particularly popular with the South African diaspora.

1. Lisbon:

  • Overview: The vibrant capital of Portugal, Lisbon offers a mix of historical charm and modern amenities.
  • Who’s it for: Digital nomads, remote workers, and professionals seeking job opportunities in various sectors.
  • Highlights: A bustling nightlife, historic neighborhoods, and a plethora of cultural events.

2. Porto:

  • Overview: Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto is known for its iconic riverside, wine cellars, and rich history.
  • Who’s it for: Those seeking a balance between work and leisure, with a slightly lower cost of living than Lisbon.
  • Highlights: The Douro River, historic Ribeira District, and the world-famous Port wine cellars.

3. Algarve:

  • Overview: A coastal region known for its stunning beaches, golf resorts, and picturesque towns.
  • Who’s it for: Individuals in the tourism sector, retirees, and anyone looking for a sunnier climate.
  • Highlights: A vast expat community, beautiful coastal towns like Faro and Albufeira, and a laid-back lifestyle.

4. Braga:

  • Overview: Located in the northern part of Portugal, Braga is a blend of the old and the new, with ancient churches and modern shopping districts.
  • Who’s it for: Those who prefer a smaller city vibe, possibly working in Porto but residing in a quieter area.
  • Highlights: Historic sites like Braga Cathedral, proximity to Porto, and a more relaxed pace of life.

5. Silver Coast:

  • Overview: Stretching from Lisbon to Porto, the Silver Coast offers a mix of sandy beaches, rolling countryside, and charming towns.
  • Who’s it for: Expats from various backgrounds, especially those from the US, seeking a coastal lifestyle without the hustle and bustle of major cities.
  • Highlights: Cities like Coimbra, known for its university, and Aveiro, dubbed the “Venice of Portugal.” Inland areas offer affordability, while the coast provides stunning sea views.

For South Africans considering a move to Portugal, each region and city offers its unique charm and opportunities. Whether you’re seeking the dynamic energy of a city, the tranquility of the coast, or the affordability of the countryside, Portugal has a place that feels like home.

Property: Owning & Renting

Both residents and non-residents can buy or rent property in Portugal. Being a resident in Portugal usually means that you can get a bigger mortgage. It also means you can visit the property year-round, since you live here. Non-residents typically have limitations on how much time they can spend in Portugal, which in the case of most South Africans would be 90 days in every 180 days.

Most people choose to rent for a year or two before buying a property. This allows them to get a feel for the Portuguese property market and decide where they want to put down roots.

South African Community in Portugal

There’s a large South African community in Portugal, owing to historical ties between the countries and the number of South Africans that have moved to Portugal in recent years. You’ll find South African butchers and supermarkets in some parts of the country, such as Gourmeat in the Algarve and Meat Point, which is based near Caldas da Rainha. Some expat supermarkets, such as GB store, also stock South African products.

There are also several Facebook groups for South African expats such as South Africans Living in Portugal and South Africans in Portugal.


The following are some of the most frequently asked questions from South Africans wishing to move to Portugal.

What are the visa requirements for South Africans wanting to move to Portugal?

Unless you have an EU/EEA/Swiss passport, you will typically need a residency visa (such as the D7 or golden visa) to stay more than 90 days in every 180 days.

Can South Africans apply for Portuguese citizenship?

South Africans can apply for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years of residency in Portugal.

Which is better for South Africans: the D7 Visa or Golden Visa?

It depends on your requirements. For those with deep pockets and without a strong desire to necessarily live in Portugal, the golden visa is a better option as it only requires you to spend an average of seven days per year in Portugal. Most other visas, in comparison, require you to live in Portugal for around six months of the year. The D7 works out cheaper than the golden visa, so it’s a better option if you plan to spend the majority of the year in Portugal.

Can South Africans retire to Portugal?

Yes, South Africans can retire to Portugal. If you don’t have an EU/EEA/Swiss passport, the best visa for retiring to Portugal is usually the D7, which is often referred to as the passive income or retirement visa.

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.