Can I Move to Portugal If I Have a Criminal Record?

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Last updated on March 5, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Thinking about moving to Portugal but worried your minor criminal record might be a problem? Concerned about the clean criminal record requirement for visas like the D7, D8, and golden visa? You’re not alone, and this is a common question that comes up in Portugalist webinars.

The good news is that Portugal might be more welcoming than you think. Let’s break down some expert advice from Lisbon-based lawyer Sandra Gomes Pinto in a way that’s easy to understand and hopefully puts your mind at ease.

Europe’s “Forgetful” Approach to Minor Crimes

Thankfully, Europe takes a different approach to many countries around the world when it comes to minor crimes.

According to Sandra, “In Europe, you have the right to be forgotten. This means that, after some time, minor crimes are forgotten. For something to affect your ability to apply for residency in Portugal, that crime would have to be punishable with more than one year of prison under Portuguese law.”

So, if you’re worried about a minor crime stopping you from getting residency in Portugal, the main thing to know is that it needs to be something pretty serious (like something that would land you in jail for more than a year) to cause you big problems.

Why Being Honest is the Best Policy

Now, just because minor crimes might not be a big deal, that doesn’t mean you should try to hide them. Sandra points out how important it is to be open about your past when you’re applying for residency. The personal statement is a great place to do this.

“We have had a number of clients in this situation, clients that other law firms didn’t want to take on, but we were able to create a personal statement based on Portuguese law and these clients were accepted.”

By being honest and explaining their situations clearly, these prospective expats were able to obtain residency in Portugal. It shows that having the right person to help you tell your story can make all the difference.


So, what’s the takeaway from all this? If you’re dreaming of living in Portugal but are worried that a little mistake in your past might ruin your chances, there’s good news. Portugal could still be an option for you. The key is to not hide your past. Instead, work with someone who knows the system, someone who can help you explain your situation in the best light possible.


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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.