Moving to Portugal: Everything you need to know

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Portugal has become a hotspot for both American and European expats, but it often remains a vacation-home destination, rather than a permanent residence.

This makes Portugal the perfect place for an authentic, European experience. Situated on the border of Spain, and renowned for its welcoming culture, it’s little wonder you’re considering it as your next adventure.

As you’d expect, there are vast differences between America and Europe – but what about Portugal in particular?

This guide offers you all you need to know about making the move:

How to get a visa for Portugal

We’ll keep the visa section short and sweet, under the presumption that if you’re looking at moving to Portugal, you’ll know if you can can move to Portugal.

Initially, American citizens can visit Portugal for up to 90 days Visa-free. However, after this period, things will become a little more difficult.

You do have several options however, from student visas for those studying to investors. Portugal also offers a Golden Visa, for those who will do one of the following: Bring in over US$1.36m, buy a property for $618k minimum, or create at least 10 jobs in the country.

For those who don’t fall into the above categories, most US and Canadian citizens opt for the Type 1 Visa, which covers many other reasons to move to Portugal, from retirement to starting a business. If you apply for this visa, you must also prove you have private healthcare which is valid in Europe, and have the funds to cover living and accommodation costs in Portugal.

What the Portuguese economy is like for Expats

There are no two ways around it, the Eurozone recession hit Portugal hard. The economy is steadily trying to crawl upwards, however as with most places in Europe, unemployment is on the rise whilst wages are declining.

That is not to say that jobs don’t exist, and if you speak both English and Portuguese, you’ll be highly employable for those jobs which do exist. However, if you’re not moving due to a job-role relocation, or for retirement, it’s pretty vital to have a job lined up in advance.

The Portuguese equivalent of a social security number is an NIF number, which will need to be presented in any formal activities, including opening up a bank account…

Opening up a bank account in Portugal

The good news is once you’ve gone through the visa process, opening up a bank account in Portugal is an easy process, just bring along your passport, a proof of address, and your NIF number.

There are literally hundreds of options for banking in Portugal – which is a eurozone country – from public and cooperative banks to international banks. It also boasts one of the most advanced inter-bank networks worldwide through Multibanco.

There are some notable differences between American monetary exchange, and European. For instance, drive-thru ATMs don’t exist in Europe, which means you’ll be taking cash out from a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ as they’re known in the UK. Another thing worth noting is chip and pin is the European way of life, although most places also take contactless cards now too.

Where to live in Portugal

There’s a whole lot to consider when moving house, whether that’s interstate or across the other side of the world.

If your home isn’t job-dependent, Portugal is home to some incredible towns and cities, rich in history and architecture, so if anything you’re spoiled for choice. The most popular Portuguese towns and cities for expats are:

The capital of Portugal, Lisbon provides the most job opportunities, whilst also offering a diverse range in lifestyles. It’s proximity to the sea means you truly get to live the best of both worlds, and with a metro system you can leave the car at home.

Porto is Lisbon’s largest competitor, with a reputation as the culture and entertainment capital. Situated on the Douro River, it is very popular with tourists and expats alike, for its vibrant way of life. However, for those looking to relocate for the weather, Porto’s Northern location makes it’s summers shorter than average, and its winter rather wet.

In the north of Portugal, sits Braga, the country’s oldest city. With cheaper house prices and a slower-paced way of life, Braga offers a chilled-out alternative to Lisbon and Porto.

If you’ve spent any time around Europeans, or you are European, the chances are you’ve heard of the Algarve – the destination of choice for the majority of European tourists and expats. Renowned for its strong sense of community and great weather, the south of Portugal is the place of choice for many.

Renting or Buying in Portugal

Once you’ve determined your location, you’ll be questioning whether to rent or buy in the country.

Something to remember is that owning your own house is an extremely UK/US priority, with many Europeans not buying a property until they’re much older, prioritizing saving and renting instead.

Buying vs renting will depend on your long-term plans. As with properties in the US, furnishing is dependent entirely on the landlord/seller but isn’t to be expected.

Either way, you’ll need to consider what you’re bringing to your new home in Portugal. What furniture will you be bringing? Many movers want to have a little familiarity and look to move some of their belongings overseas. If this is you, your options are air-carrier or shipping. Whilst flying your items over may be quicker, shipping is often the preferred method with movers, due to the lower costs.

If you do choose to ship your belongings, remember to look for a mover with no-hidden-fees. Many quotes will differ significantly to the price presented at the end, so ensure you’ve accounted for any tax and customs expenses. To cover all bases, it’s worth looking into what to ask your moving company.

UPakWesShip is an experienced moving company with over 30 years expertise in shipping internationally. With a range of options to suit your needs and a self-packing service, we endeavor to make your move as stress-free and low cost as possible.

The Moving Doctor
The Moving Doctor
"The Moving Doctor", Mark Nash has been in the moving business for over 33 years and currently sits on the board of the International Shippers Association and the Commercial Affairs committee at the International Association of Movers (IAM).

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