Moving to Portugal From China

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Written by: | Last updated on February 8, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 8 minutes
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Over the past few years, more and more Chinese nationals have made the move from China to Portugal. Portugal and China have a long shared history, with Macau once part of Portugal. These days, a number of people in Macau speak Portuguese or have connections here.  

One significant reason for the move to Portugal is the real estate market. Despite the upward trend in prices, Portugal still offers affordable options compared to other European destinations. This affordability is a strong draw for individuals looking to invest in property overseas.

Quality of life is another major factor. Portugal is known for its pleasant climate, beautiful landscapes, and relaxed lifestyle, which contribute to an overall high standard of living. This quality extends to families as well, with an emphasis on child-friendly environments and educational opportunities. Safety is another key consideration, and Portugal ranks highly in this regard. The country is not only considered safe in terms of low crime rates, but it also enjoys political stability, adding to its attractiveness as a relocation destination.

Healthcare is another draw, with Portugal offering a high standard of public healthcare. Additionally, private healthcare is also available and is relatively affordable compared to other countries.

Being part of the European Union, Portugal offers significant benefits including access to the EU’s single market. This access opens up a range of opportunities for business, travel, and education within the EU member states.

Finally, the pathway to citizenship is another advantage. After five years of residency, it is possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. A Portuguese passport allows the holder the freedom to live, work, and study throughout the EU, making it a valuable asset for those seeking greater mobility and opportunities within Europe.

Residency Visas

For Chinese citizens considering a move to Portugal, a variety of residency visa options are available, each tailored to different needs and circumstances:

  • Golden Visa: This program is highly popular among Chinese investors seeking Portuguese residency. It requires a minimal physical presence of just 7 days per year in Portugal, making it suitable for those not ready for immediate relocation. As of 2024, investing in qualifying funds, particularly venture capital funds, is a popular route for obtaining this visa. The standard investment is typically €500,000, but there are options to enter the program with a lower investment, especially when investing in low-density areas.
  • D7 Visa: Ideal for individuals with a steady passive income, such as pensions, rental income, or other sustainable sources. The income requirement is linked to the Portuguese minimum wage, currently set at over €820 per month as of 2024. This visa is well-suited for retirees or those with a stable income who wish to enjoy Portugal’s lifestyle without actively working there, although the permit does not stop you from working. 
  • Digital Nomad Visa (D8): This visa is perfect for remote workers, freelancers, and digital nomads, including those in the tech industry such as programmers and web designers. Applicants need to demonstrate a monthly income of at least €3,280 as of 2024. This option is increasingly popular among the Chinese tech community who can work remotely while enjoying Portugal’s quality of life.
  • D2 Visa: Tailored for entrepreneurs and business owners. The D2 visa provides an opportunity to start and manage a business in Portugal, offering access to the diverse and growing Portuguese market. This is a valuable option for Chinese entrepreneurs interested in expanding their business presence in Europe.

In addition to these options, there are other visas available, such as student visas, which cater to a broad spectrum of needs and preferences. Each visa provides a unique pathway for Chinese residents looking to move to Portugal, with opportunities ranging from investment and retirement to entrepreneurship and remote work. These options reflect Portugal’s welcoming stance towards international residents and its appeal as a destination offering safety, quality of life, and access to the broader European Union.

Reasons to Move to Portugal

For Chinese individuals considering relocating to Portugal, here are some tailored factors to consider:

  • Safety: Portugal is renowned for its low instances of violent crime, making it a secure and tranquil destination. This safety aspect is particularly appealing to families and retirees who prioritise a peaceful living environment. The country is extremely family-friendly, with lots of care given to children and the elderly. 
  • Family Reunification: Portugal’s inclusive visa policies enable Chinese expatriates to bring along their spouse, partner, and other eligible family members. This is significant for Chinese families who value strong familial bonds and wish to maintain close family ties in a new country.
  • Healthcare: Like most EU countries, Portugal offers a public healthcare system funded by taxes and accessible to all residents. Additionally, there is a comprehensive private healthcare system available through direct payment or health insurance. 
  • Cost of Living: Generally, the cost of living in Portugal is more affordable than in many major cities in China, especially outside of Lisbon or in inland areas. This affordability is a key attraction for Chinese individuals looking for a high quality of life without the high expenses of larger cities. Portugal is more affordable than a lot of other European countries as well, particularly Northern European countries. 
  • Attainable Visas: Portugal’s visa requirements are relatively lenient, providing an accessible destination for Chinese citizens. For example, the D7 visa requires a passive income of just €820 or more per month, as of 2024, achievable for many. Similarly, the Golden Visa requires an average investment of €500,000, which is competitive compared to other European countries.
  • Citizenship: After five years of residency, it’s possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship through naturalisation. This offers a significant advantage for Chinese citizens seeking to become part of the European Union. The language proficiency requirement for citizenship is just the A2 level, which is attainable with dedication.
  • English Proficiency: English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in major cities like Lisbon and Porto. However, learning Portuguese is recommended for better integration into the community and to enhance employment opportunities, a consideration that might resonate with multilingual Chinese individuals.

These factors make Portugal an attractive destination for Chinese expatriates looking for safety, quality of life, and the benefits of living in an EU country.

Of course, there are plenty of downsides to moving to Portugal too. Nowhere is perfect, after all. 

Job opportunities are more limited and salaries lower, at least compared with the rest of Western Europe. This could be a downside if your main priority is your career. The vast majority of people that move to Portugal bring their own income, whether that’s as a remote worker or a pensioner. 

Other downsides include the quality of housing, which, in many cases, can be poorly insulated. This can cause issues with noise and damp. However, if you purchase the property it’s obviously possible to upgrade and improve it. 

Finally, the biggest downside is bureaucracy. Dealing with Portuguese companies or government bodies is always a challenge, although you can hire a lawyer to help deal with this. 

Overall, despite the challenges of living here, most people decide that the pros outweigh the cons and decide to continue living here. 

Where to Live

For Chinese individuals considering moving to Portugal, there are several key locations that cater to different preferences and lifestyles:

  • Lisbon: As Portugal’s largest city, Lisbon offers a vibrant urban experience. It has a significant Chinese and Asian population, providing a sense of community and familiarity for Chinese expatriates. Particularly, the area around Martim Moniz and Mouraria is known for its large Chinese community. Living in Lisbon means easy access to diverse cultural and commercial amenities, along with the hustle and bustle of city life.
  • Porto: The country’s second-largest city, Porto is known for being more affordable than Lisbon, although it has a wetter climate. While the Chinese population in Porto is smaller than in Lisbon, there are still more than 10,000 Chinese or Sino-Chinese living in the Porto region, according to Porto.pt. Porto offers a mix of historical charm and modern living, making it an attractive option for those seeking a balance between affordability and urban amenities.
  • Cascais: This coastal town is a popular choice among the affluent middle-class Chinese who prefer proximity to Lisbon but opt for a lifestyle away from the immediate city centre. Cascais is known for its scenic beauty, high quality of life, and upscale living, making it an ideal location for those seeking a tranquil, yet luxurious lifestyle.
  • Faro: Located in the southern part of Portugal, Faro is a much smaller city compared to Lisbon and Porto. It offers the benefits of being in the Algarve region, known for its stunning beaches and resorts. Faro is also conveniently close to Faro Airport, making it an attractive choice for those who prefer a quieter life with easy access to both local and international travel.

Each of these locations offers unique advantages, whether it’s the bustling city life in Lisbon, the cultural richness of Porto, the luxurious tranquility of Cascais, or the relaxed pace of life in Faro. The choice largely depends on personal preferences, lifestyle, and the kind of community and environment one is looking for in 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.