Moving to Portugal from Germany

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Written by: | Last updated on February 21, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 8 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

For many Germans, the idea of relocating to Portugal is not just a dream but a real opportunity. Portugal, with its sun-soaked beaches and idyllic, cobblestone streets, offers a stark contrast to Germany’s cooler climate, particularly during the winter months. And because Portugal is in the EU, making the move is relatively straightforward for German citizens (or other EU/EEA/Swiss citizens).

However, to settle in Portugal, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can support yourself, whether through employment, a pension, savings, entrepreneurship, or other means. Fortunately, the criteria for proving financial stability are more flexible for EU citizens compared to non-EU nationals, making the transition smoother for Germans.

Why Portugal and not another southern European country like Spain, Italy, or Greece, for example?

  • Safety: One of Portugal’s standout features is its safety. Ranked as one of the safest countries in Europe, it offers peace of mind for those relocating, especially for families and retirees.
  • Cost of Living: While Southern Europe is known for its quality of life, Portugal stands out for its affordability, particularly when compared to Greece and Italy. From housing to daily expenses, your euros stretch further here, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle on a reasonable budget.
  • Expat Community: The presence of a large and well-established German and international expat community in areas such as the Algarve, Lisbon, and Madeira offers an instant network for newcomers. This community can be invaluable for social connections, advice, and integrating into Portuguese life. English is also widely spoken in Portugal, particularly along the coast and in the cities, making it easier to start a new life here.

Obtaining Residency

Moving to Portugal from Germany is relatively straightforward. This simplicity stems from the shared European Union framework, which eases the residency process significantly compared to non-EU nationals. Below, we detail the steps for Germans and residents of Germany to secure their place in the sun-drenched landscapes of Portugal.

For German (or EU/EEA/Swiss) Passport Holders:

Upon your arrival in Portugal, the process to establish residency is not complicated. After living in Portugal for 90 days, you’re eligible to visit the local municipal office, known as the câmara municipal, to apply for your CRUE (Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia).

This certificate serves as your residency permit, typically valid for five years, affirming your right to live, work, and study in Portugal. Our comprehensive guide further explores moving to Portugal as an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, offering detailed insights and tips. We also have information about moving to Portugal with a non-EU family member.

For Non-EU/EEA/Swiss Citizens Residing in Germany:

Individuals not holding an EU/EEA/Swiss passport but resident in Germany may need to explore alternative routes to obtain Portuguese residency. The Portuguese government offers several visa options catering to diverse needs and circumstances:

  • Golden Visa: This route is favoured by those looking to gain residency through investment. It requires a commitment to spend at least seven days per year in Portugal and involves an investment, typically around €500,000, with some programs offering lower thresholds. The most common route is to invest in funds, such as venture capital funds, however, it’s not the only way.
  • D7 Visa: Designed for retirees or individuals with a steady passive income (e.g., pensions, rental income), this visa necessitates proof of income above the Portuguese minimum wage. As of 2024, this is €820 per month.
  • Digital Nomad Visa (D8): Tailored for remote workers, freelancers, and digital nomads, this option requires evidence of a substantial monthly income of four times the Portuguese minimum wage (this equates for €3280 per month). It’s especially suitable for professionals in the tech or digital fields.
  • D2 Visa: Best suited for entrepreneurs eager to start or expand a business in Portugal, accommodating a wide array of business types and sectors.

As mentioned, if you are a German passport holder (other other EU/EEA/Swiss) you do not need to apply for a residency visa such as the golden visa or D7. Instead, all you need to do is register at your local town hall and obtain your CRUE. Some family members (e.g. the spouse of an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen) can bypass the need for a residency visa, such as the D7, as well.

Reasons to Move to Portugal

There are countless reasons to move to Germany, but these are just a few of them.

  • Better Weather: Portugal offers a milder, more temperate climate compared to Germany, with more sunny days throughout the year. The Algarve, for example, enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine per year.
  • Beautiful Beaches: Home to some of Europe’s most stunning coastlines, Portugal boasts numerous beaches renowned for their beauty and surf conditions.
  • Scenic Landscapes: Beyond its beaches, Portugal offers a diverse landscape, including rolling hills, vineyards, and historic towns, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities and exploration. Areas like the Douro, Madeira, and the Azores, for example, are all renowned for their natural beauty.
  • Lower Cost of Living: Generally, the cost of living in Portugal is lower than in Germany, including housing, food, and services. This is particularly the case when you compare rural Portugal to German cities, such as Munich. However, it should be noted that the cost of living in some parts of Portugal, e.g. Lisbon, is higher.
  • High Quality of Life: Portugal ranks highly in terms of quality of life, with a relaxed lifestyle, friendly locals, and a strong sense of community.
  • Strong Expat Community: A thriving expat community exists in Portugal, offering a support network for newcomers adjusting to life in a new country. This is made up primarily of other Germans, Dutch, British, and Americans, as well as people from India, Ukraine, and Brazil.
  • English Widely Spoken: While Portuguese is the official language, English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas and larger cities, making the transition easier for German expats that speak English.
  • Cultural Richness: Portugal has a rich cultural heritage, with a history that spans centuries, offering numerous festivals, historical sites, and museums to explore.
  • Food and Wine: Portuguese cuisine is diverse and delicious, with an emphasis on fresh seafood, while the country is also famous for its wine, particularly Port and Vinho Verde.
  • Safety: Portugal is considered one of the safest countries in the world, with low crime rates, particularly in small towns and rural areas.

Of course, nowhere is perfect and there are quite a few downsides too, particularly if you’re coming from Germany. However, what you trade in efficiency you gain in terms of warm weather and a better quality of life.

  • Quality of Housing: The standard of housing in Portugal may not match what you’re accustomed to in Germany. Issues with noise and dampness are more common, reflecting not just construction standards but also less stringent regulations and communal norms around noise.
  • Efficiency and Bureaucracy: Portugal is known for its bureaucracy and relaxed pace of life, which can impact efficiency in both business and government sectors. This laid-back culture means processes and services might not be as swift or straightforward as in Germany.
  • Connectivity: Despite having good flight connections within Europe, Portugal’s geographical position can make it feel somewhat isolated compared to central European hubs like Germany or France. The range and frequency of international flights may not compare to those available from Munich, Frankfurt, or Berlin.
  • Job Opportunities: The job market in Portugal offers fewer opportunities and generally lower wages than in Germany. This economic climate tends to attract retirees and digital nomads rather than those seeking traditional employment.

Where to Live

While you could move anywhere in Portugal, the following are some of the most popular locations for people from Germany to move to.

  • The Algarve: Known for its pleasant climate, the Algarve boasts beautiful beaches perfect for surfing and a laid-back lifestyle. It has a noticeable German community, reflected in local businesses and social circles. While it has been a traditional choice for retirees, it’s now drawing in younger families and digital nomads, blending leisure with work possibilities.
  • Lisbon: Portugal’s capital offers a slower pace of life alongside a dynamic, tourist-friendly environment. It’s especially attractive for its mild winters, distinctive cultural experiences like pastéis de nata, and a booming remote work scene. However, the cost of living can be high, akin to cities like Munich. Alentejo: For a more rural and cost-effective lifestyle, Alentejo presents a less developed option than the Algarve. Its coastal regions feature pristine natural beauty, while areas closer to Spain can get quite hot. Ideal for those desiring a peaceful, countryside existence.
  • Porto: As Portugal’s second city, Porto provides a more genuine Portuguese experience with a smaller expat community. It experiences a cooler, rainier winter climate but is more budget-friendly than Lisbon. Porto also offers convenient access to the natural wonders and historical sites of Northern Portugal.
  • Madeira: Famous for its breathtaking scenery and consistently mild climate, Madeira is perfect for outdoor lovers and those looking for tranquility. While traditionally favoured by retirees, there’s an increasing number of digital nomads, especially in areas like Funchal and Ponta de Sol.
  • Azores: The Azores are known for their stunning volcanic landscapes and offer a distinctive living experience. They’re more secluded, offering privacy and unspoiled natural beauty. São Miguel and Terceira are the largest and most accessible islands, but all nine islands have their own unique charm.
  • Silver Coast: Becoming more popular with a diverse international crowd, including Germans, the Silver Coast is seen as a more economical alternative to the Algarve. It provides a less crowded coastal lifestyle with cooler winters.
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.