Moving to Portugal from Singapore

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Written by: | Last updated on February 8, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 11 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

More and more people are moving from Singapore to Portugal. While Singapore offers fantastic job opportunities, conveniences, and a good quality of life, Portugal offers a more laid-back lifestyle that is less work-orientated and more family-focused.

Like Singapore, Portugal is relatively safe. It has a lower cost of living, beautiful beaches, and year-round warm weather. It also has thousands of years of history and culture, which are reflected in its beautiful buildings, historical sites, and enticing cuisine.

As well as the benefits that come from living in Portugal, you will also have access to the rest of Europe. This means having the freedom to hop on a flight and visit places like France or Italy, as well as the protection that comes from living in an EU country.

Portugal also has one of the fastest paths to citizenship. It’s possible to apply for Portuguese citizenship after just five years, and you’re only required to have an A2 level of Portuguese, which is upper-beginner.

For those in Singapore considering a move to Portugal, here are the most popular residency visas:

  • Golden Visa: A top choice for Singaporeans seeking Portuguese residency via investment. This program requires a minimal presence in Portugal, averaging just 7 days per year, providing flexibility for those not ready for full-time relocation. As of 2024, investing in funds, especially venture capital, is increasingly favoured. The usual investment is €500,000, but some agencies offer more accessible entry points into the program.
  • D7 Visa: Ideal for individuals with a steady passive income, such as pensions or rental earnings. The income requirement is tied to Portugal’s minimum wage, demanding a monthly income above €820 as of 2024. This visa is a viable option for many in Singapore, known for its robust investment and savings culture.
  • Digital Nomad Visa (D8): Designed for remote workers and digital nomads, the D8 visa is perfect for Singapore’s tech-savvy professionals. Applicants must demonstrate a monthly income exceeding €3,280 as of 2024. This visa is particularly suitable for tech roles, like software developers and web designers, aiming to work remotely from Portugal.
  • D2 Visa: For entrepreneurial Singaporeans, the D2 visa provides an opportunity to start and run a business in Portugal. From tech startups to innovative business concepts, this visa opens avenues in Portugal’s diverse market.

These are just some of the visa options available, with others like student visas also offered. Each provides a unique pathway for Singapore residents looking to relocate to Portugal, catering to various lifestyles and professional backgrounds.

Reasons to Move to Portugal

Why leave Singapore? After all, Singapore is safe, has great job opportunities, and is a gateway to South East Asia. For many people, particularly expats living and working in Singapore, they’re simply ready for a change and feel drawn to the European way of life.

With its attainable residency visas and affordable cost of living, Portugal stands out as one of the most attractive countries to move to.

  • Climate Variety: Portugal offers a range of climates, from the mild Atlantic weather in Lisbon to the warmer Algarve. This contrasts with Singapore’s tropical climate and provides a change of scenery and weather. And, Portugal has some of the best beaches in the world for you to enjoy this culture.
  • Cultural Experiences: Portugal’s rich history and diverse cultural heritage offer new experiences in architecture, music, and festivals, distinct from Singapore’s modern and multicultural background.
  • Cost of Living: Generally, the cost of living in Portugal is lower than in Singapore, especially in terms of housing, groceries, and dining out, making it an attractive option for those seeking a more affordable lifestyle. This makes Portugal, and in particular warmer places like the Algarve or Madeira, popular with those ready for retirement or at least considering cutting back their hours.
  • Laid-back Lifestyle: Portugal is known for its relaxed pace of life, which can be a refreshing change from Singapore’s fast-paced, high-pressure environment. With less of a focus on work, you’ll have more time to focus on food, family, and relaxation.
  • Scenic Landscapes: Portugal’s varied landscapes, including stunning beaches, rolling hills, and historic cities, provide a stark contrast to Singapore’s urban setting. Portugal is a truly unique country with white sandy beaches along the coast, volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic, and sloping vineyards in the North of Portugal.
  • Quality of Life: Portugal often ranks high in terms of quality of life, with good healthcare, safety, and a friendly expat community, appealing to those looking for a stable and comfortable environment.
  • Educational Opportunities: For families, Portugal offers good educational options with international schools and universities, providing an alternative to Singapore’s highly competitive educational system. Once you and your family obtain Portuguese citizenship, you’ll then have the opportunity to study at schools and universities throughout Europe, opening yourself to a wider range of opportunities and experience.
  • Entrepreneurial Opportunities: Portugal’s growing startup scene and supportive environment for entrepreneurs can be a draw for Singaporeans looking to launch or expand their businesses in a new market. Despite conferences like WebSummit, Portugal’s startup scene is still growing and there are lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs, particularly those looking to expand into the Portuguese-speaking market.
  • Access to Europe: Living in Portugal offers easier access to other European countries, perfect for those who love traveling and exploring different cultures. Spain is next door and other countries like Ireland, the UK, France, and Germany are just a few hours on a plane.
  • Accessible Visas: Portugal’s visa regulations are comparatively flexible, making it a reachable goal for expatriates from Singapore. For instance, the D7 visa only demands a passive income (such as from a pension or rental earnings) of at least €820 per month, as of 2024. This is quite manageable for many in Singapore, known for its strong savings culture and investment opportunities.
  • Citizenship Prospects: Living in Portugal for five years qualifies you to apply for Portuguese citizenship. This presents a substantial opportunity for Singaporeans, offering a chance to become a member of the European Union. The language requirement for citizenship is a reasonable A2 level in Portuguese. In contrast, Spain, for example, requires a 10-year residency for citizenship and often does not recognise dual citizenship.
  • English Language Environment: In Portugal, English is widely spoken, particularly in major areas like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. This eases the transition for English-speaking Singaporeans. However, learning Portuguese is beneficial for deeper integration and broader job prospects.
  • Healthcare System: Portugal, like many EU countries, offers a tax-funded public healthcare system. Residents gain access to this system. Additionally, there is a private healthcare sector, accessible through direct payment, health insurance, or a combination. Many expatriates from countries accustomed to private healthcare, including Singapore, opt for private health insurance and use private hospitals in Portugal.

While moving from Singapore to Portugal can offer exciting opportunities, it also comes with its share of challenges. Here are some of the key obstacles a Singaporean might face when relocating to Portugal:

  1. Cultural Differences: Despite Portugal’s welcoming nature, the cultural shift from Singapore’s highly urbanised and diverse environment to Portugal’s more laid-back and homogeneous culture can be significant. Understanding local customs, social norms, and the relaxed pace of life in Portugal might take time for those accustomed to Singapore’s fast-paced lifestyle.
  2. Language Barrier: While English is widely spoken in Portugal’s urban areas, particularly Lisbon and Porto as well as the Algarve, in more rural regions, Portuguese is predominantly used. Those moving to Portugal might find communication outside major cities challenging and learning Portuguese becomes essential for daily interactions and integration into local communities.
  3. Religious differences: Moving from Singapore, a multicultural city with a rich tapestry of religions, particularly Buddhism and Islam, to Portugal can be a significant transition for the religiously devout. Portugal is predominantly Catholic, which might contrast with the religious diversity one is accustomed to in Singapore. This could pose a challenge in finding communities or places of worship for non-Catholic religions, potentially leading to a sense of isolation or a need for adjustment for those deeply engaged in religious practices.
  4. Property Market Navigation: The real estate market in Portugal can be quite different from Singapore’s well-organised property scene. Finding well-built properties can be challenging if you’re on a budget, although most new-builds are built to much higher standards.
  5. Adjusting to the Climate: Portugal’s climate varies significantly from the consistent tropical weather of Singapore. Adapting to the cooler and damper winters in the north and the distinct seasons in Portugal might require some adjustment for those used to a warmer, more humid climate.
  6. Employment Market Differences: The job market in Portugal can be quite different from Singapore’s. There may be fewer opportunities, particularly English-speaking job opportunities, and wages are lower. Additionally, networking and personal connections can play a significant role in job hunting in Portugal. Generally speaking, most people that move to Portugal come as remote workers or retirees to navigate this particular challenge. However, as the startup and tech scene grows, there are more and more opportunities that offer better compensation.
  7. Healthcare System Adaptation: While Portugal has a good healthcare system, navigating it can be a challenge, especially for those used to Singapore’s highly efficient healthcare services. As with most European countries, Portugal’s healthcare system can be over-strained, particularly in more popular parts of the country. Many expats take out private health insurance to cut down the costs of using the private hospitals, however,
  8. Educational System Changes: For families with children, adapting to the Portuguese educational system, which may differ in structure and teaching methodology from Singapore’s, can be a challenge. This includes finding suitable schools and dealing with language barriers in education.
  9. Bureaucracy and Paperwork: Dealing with Portuguese bureaucracy can be a time-consuming and sometimes confusing process, particularly for legal and residency matters. This includes navigating visa requirements, residency applications, and other official procedures. It is recommended that you hire lawyers and accountants to deal with these challenges.

These challenges, while significant, are often part of the journey of adapting to a new country. With patience, effort, and an open mind, many expatriates from Singapore find their relocation to Portugal a rewarding and enriching experience.

Where to Live

When considering a move from Singapore to Portugal, selecting the right region to settle in is crucial, as each area offers its unique charm and lifestyle. Here are some parts of Portugal that might appeal to someone moving from Singapore:

  • Lisbon: As the capital city, Lisbon is the heart of Portugal’s cultural, political, and economic activities. It offers a vibrant mix of historical charm and modern living, and is the closest you’ll find to Singapore’s dynamic urban environment — however, it’s worth noting that European cities are typically smaller and slower-paced than Singapore. The city is known for its lively neighbourhoods, historic trams, and stunning views. Due to the cost of living, it’s particularly popular with remote workers, digital nomads, and younger expats who are still working.
  • Porto: Known for its port wine and stunning Douro River views, Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, presents a blend of traditional charm and contemporary living. It’s less busy than Lisbon but still attracts a number of expats and tourists and offers a range of cultural experiences, making it suitable for those seeking a balance between city and relaxed living.
  • The Algarve: Famous for its beautiful beaches, golf courses, and sunny weather, the Algarve region is a popular destination for expatriates, particularly retirees and families. It’s ideal for those seeking a laid-back lifestyle, outdoor activities, and a warmer climate. The Algarve is a large region that covers the entire southern coast of Portugal, and you’ll find expats dotted around the entire region. The majority are located around the Central Algarve, but there are foreigners living in just about every part.
  • Coimbra: As the home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, Coimbra is a hub for education and has a vibrant student population. It’s a perfect choice for families or individuals looking for an intellectual atmosphere, with its rich academic history and lively cultural scene.
  • Madeira and the Azores: For those seeking a truly unique living experience, the islands of Madeira and the Azores offer breathtaking natural beauty, from volcanic landscapes to lush greenery and ocean views. These regions are ideal for nature lovers and anyone looking for a peaceful, slower-paced lifestyle.
  • Braga: Known as the “Portuguese Rome” for its abundant religious architecture, Braga offers a deep dive into Portugal’s historical and religious roots. It’s ideal for those who appreciate history and culture, combined with a modern lifestyle. Its proximity to Northern Spain offers expats the chance to easily explore both Portugal and Spain.
  • Cascais and Estoril: These coastal towns near Lisbon are known for their luxurious atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and golf courses. They are ideal for expatriates seeking an upscale lifestyle with close proximity to the capital but who don’t want to live in the heart of Lisbon.

Each of these areas offers a unique experience, catering to different preferences and lifestyles. From bustling cities to serene islands, Portugal’s diverse regions provide a range of options for Singaporeans looking to start a new chapter in their lives.

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.