Yes, Portugal Now Has a Digital Nomad Visa

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“Portugal is a country for immigration. Every year, we receive thousands of immigrants, seeking opportunities in our country. A country that wishes to welcome immigrants as it wishes its emigrants to be welcomed, too” – The Minister in the Cabinet of the Prime Minister and for Parliamentary Affairs, Ana Catarina Mendes [1]https://www.portugal.gov.pt/en/gc23/communication/news-item?i=parliament-approves-amendments-to-the-law-on-foreign-nationals

There has long been talk of Portugal offering a digital nomad visa and many websites and blogs even claimed that Portugal already offered one. In actual fact, what they were usually referring to was the D7 visa, which many remote workers and freelancers had successfully applied for but wasn’t really designed for nomads – it was more designed with retirees in mind. 

But Portugal is offering a new visa for non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens and it’s actually aimed at digital nomads. The term “digital nomad” can be a little confusing – does digital nomad simply mean someone who works online in another country or does it specifically mean someone who hops from country to country while working online? This new visa seems to incorporate both types of nomads – it’s both a “temporary stay” and “residence visa” for digital nomads[2]https://www.portugal.gov.pt/en/gc23/communication/news-item?i=parliament-approves-amendments-to-the-law-on-foreign-nationals – which is good because Portugal attracts both. In Portugal, you’ll meet people who are spending a week or two here while working online, but you’ll also meet plenty of people who have moved to Portugal and become resident here. They might still travel every now and then, but they now spend the majority of their time in Portugal. They’re semi-retired nomads, if you will. 

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The visa also seems to be an all-encompassing visa for freelancers, remote workers, and digital nomads, even though technically they’re all slightly different things, referring to “professionals who work remotely, outside national soil, whether working for an employer, liberal occupations or entrepreneurs” [3]https://www.portugal.gov.pt/en/gc23/communication/news-item?i=parliament-approves-amendments-to-the-law-on-foreign-nationals

As with anything paper-work related in Portugal, it’s always a good idea to work with a lawyer. Residency visas are a confusing topic and the law often requires interpretation from a skilled lawyer, particularly if your case is unusual. 

With that in mind, let’s look at the two types of nomads.  

Globe-Trotting Nomad

The first type of nomad is the nomad who hops around the world, sometimes staying in a new place for a few days, sometimes for a few months. They usually do this on tourist visas and so their limitation is how long that visa allows them to stay. Most don’t stay longer than 6 months to avoid the risk of becoming a tax resident somewhere else (or whatever that country’s tax rules are). 

In Portugal (or anywhere in the Schengen Area) that limitation is typically 90 days in every 180 days. That means they can come to Portugal for 3 months, but they have to leave the Schengen Area for 3 months before they can come back again. 3 months is enough time for a lot of people, but if you fall in love with Portugal and make friends here, it can be heart-breaking if you have to leave. Many people try to get extensions for the Schengen Visa but usually without any success. 

It’s thought that the new digital nomad visa will allow you to come to Portugal for up to 180 days, making it ideal for those that know they want to come to Portugal for a longer period of time than the Schengen Visa allows. It’s also ideal for those that want to come to Portugal and do everything above board rather than hoping the murky rules about working in another country don’t come back to bite them. 

Semi-Settled Nomad

A lot of digital nomads come to Portugal and end up setting down here, particularly in nomad hubs like Lisbon, Madeira, Ericeira, and the Algarve (particularly Lagos). This is especially true of those that have been globe-hopping for a few years and are now looking for somewhere to be settled for a large portion of the year.

Portugal is a great place to have as a nomad base. There’s a big nomad scene, the weather is good, the beaches are fantastic, it has a great quality of life, and the timezones work well for international work. Then there are benefits like the NHR tax regime, the possibility of applying for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years, and access to Portugal’s public and private health system. Oh, and Portugal’s seemingly positive attitude to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, at least while that lasts[4]https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/05/19/portugal-will-close-a-legal-loophole-to-start-taxing-cryptocurrencies-says-finance-ministe

Until recently, most of these non-EU/EEA/Swiss nomads ended up moving to Portugal on the D7 Visa and sometimes the D2. (Those from the EU/EEA/Switzerland didn’t have to worry about getting a residency visa, and still don’t). But the D7 wasn’t really designed with digital nomads and remote workers in mind. When it was introduced, Portugal was mainly a destination for retirees and there wasn’t any consideration that young professionals would also want to move here. That changed when Lisbon became a major nomad hub, followed by other places like the Algarve and Madeira. Because digital nomads were able to support themselves in a similar way to a retiree on a pension, they were often accepted on the D7 (although not always), even if that wasn’t its original intention. 

Kathleen Lo and her husband experienced this when they tried to apply for the D7, using the income from their web design business as the income source. They contacted a number of lawyers, but most said that this type of income wasn’t suitable and some said it has to be entirely passive. They kept trying until they eventually found a law firm that had previously worked with digital nomads and remote workers and then applied through them. Although the person at the VSF Office in Washington, D.C. raised an eyebrow, describing them as the youngest people to apply for that visa, their application was ultimately successful. They now run Bordr, which helps people moving to Portugal obtain NIFs and open Portuguese bank accounts.

There are a few question as to the cost and what type of income you’ll need to show. Although this things remain to be seen, it’s very likely it’ll be at least as much as the Portuguese minimum wage, or around €705 per month, which was the figure given for the D7. Why? Because the Portuguese government has said this is the absolute minimum that you need to live in Portugal. In reality, the cost of living is higher, particularly in Lisbon where you currently won’t find a 1-bed apartment for €705 per month, nevermind pay for your electricity, food, and everything else.

Although it seems the new visa might essentially just be the “D7 for remote workers and freelancers” with a different name, at least it’ll get rid of the confusion of whether or not people could apply for the D7 with a salary or freelance income. This move, along with others, like the creation of the digital nomad vision in Madeira and Cascais Tourism Board’s campaign[5]https://www.visitcascais.com/en/article/cascais-for-digital-nomads to attract remote workers and nomads to the town for a remote working vacation shows that in Portugal, nomads are definitely welcome.

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Comments

  1. Hey guys,

    This was a good informative article but now it's been 5 days from 24th Sept but not able to find any info on this new DNV for Portugal. Neither VFS nor Google returns anything but this article.Does anyone has any official source of this info?

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Any official updates on where to find the application details associated with this, or any details at all? VFS isn't updated and I cannot find anything online except for this post.

    Reply
  3. The long stay version of this looks to be similar to Spain's digital nomad visa which they just announced but perhaps better. It takes 10 years to get citizenship in Spain vs 5 in Portugal. The Spanish visa might offer a better rate of tax for the first 4 years (15% base rate) but this is the base rate and so Portugal's NHR flat rate of 20% might be better. Both seem to offer family reunification.

    Lots of EU counties trying to attract digital nomads now. Portugal will need to make sure this is competitive.

    Reply
  4. I wonder if the minimum income requirement will be more than the (inaccurate) €700 per month figure that was given for the D7. Given that most digital nomads live in Lisbon it seems unlikely they would be able to survive on €700 per month. A reasonable room seems to cost at least €400 per month and an apartment at least €900. You could move to another part of Portugal but I have yet to meet many digital nomads in the center of Portugal.

    Reply
    • Good point. The other digital nomad hotspots (Ericeira, Lagos, and Ponta do Sol) all have higher than average rents as well.

      A lot of nomad visas in other countries have set minimums (e.g. €24,000 for Malaysia) and some have minimum savings requirements as well. It will be interesting to see if Portugal has a minimum amount.

      Reply
  5. This seems promising but as usual the proof will be in the pudding. There is only a line or two in the law. It will be down to interpretation and that's where everything gets messy in Portugal. It would be great if this was as painfree as the USA's ETSA but my guess is it won't be.

    Basically the 6 month digital nomad visa will be an extended tourist visa. It means people can come and stay here for 6 months and spend money by renting Airbnbs and spending money in restaurants and at the supermarkets. It will be interesting to see which group become more valuable to the economy. Short term tourists might only come for a week and spend a lot of money but nomads will potentially be here for six months so may spend more money in that time.

    Reply
  6. @Stuart Wood

    SEF won't cope. Portugal loves to issue new visas or talk about how it wants more foreigners moving there but they never mention the fact that their immigration system is completely backlogged. Yes you can move to Portugal but once you move here you'll wait months and maybe even years to get an appointment with SEF. You can stay here of course but you won't be able to travel or leave the Schengen Area while you're waiting on an appointment.

    Reply
  7. @George

    It's a visa for those with an income. Savings isn't an income. I imagine it'll be like the D7 where savings generally weren't accepted as they were looking for regular passive income.

    Also starting an Etsy shop may not be enough. They will probably be looking for proof that you can support yourself.

    Reply
  8. Good morning I found this information very informative I would like to look into it a bit more I have visited Portugal before many years ago now that I have reached my Senior Status I would love to spend more time there or possibly live there for an extended time again many thanks for this information
    Kind Regards,
    E.Floyd Forth Jr.

    Reply
  9. Interesting that a new visa type can be introduced at short notice, but biometric cards for resident ex pats have still not been rolled out after two years and there is still confusion at border crossings using the QR codes. I wonder how SEF will cope with this additional workload!

    Reply
  10. If in the process of setting up an online business (on Etsy for example) could we still apply for this visa with bank savings rather than a monthly income? I've been trying to contact the consulate in London but the phone just rings off the hook for 2hrs!

    Reply
  11. So this makes Portugal more appealing than other European digital nomad destinations like Gran Canaria, Barcelona, Berlin, Riga etc where you can only get the 90 day schengen entry. But is this separate for schengen? Can I come to Portugal for 180 days on the digital nomad visa and then go to a schengen country like Spain for 90?

    Reply
    • I didn't read anything about savings, so I guess we'll learn more in the next few weeks. I do think it's always a good idea to have some kind of safety net in Portugal, though. The job market is a bit limited for non-Portuguese speakers and nomads tend to gravitate towards places with high rental prices (e.g. Lisbon, Ericeira, Lagos, etc).

      Reply