Last Updated : 4 Sept 2023
Atlys in the news
The process for a US citizen to become a permanent resident of Portugal is a complicated one, but the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through all you need to know to complete this process and ultimately become a permanent resident of Portugal.
On the other hand, obtaining Portuguese permanent residency is extremely simple. Citizens from the EU/EEA/Switzerland have the right to live in Portugal, therefore moving there is simple.
In this guide we’ll cover all the required documents for a Non-European Union citizen to make the move, focusing on the type of visa you’ll need as well as the supporting documents.
If you are unsure whether permanent Residency in Portugal is the right move for you, you can consult our Expert Portugal Visa Guide to see what other options you have to make Portugal your home away from home.
Individuals from other countries who desire to work and live in Portugal for more than 90 days must apply for a Portugal residency permit. The residence permit usually is for an extended time, ranging from one to three years. However, depending on why you are moving to Portugal and how long you want to stay, you may be eligible for different types of permits.
Portugal has risen to the top of the list of European destinations for expats. This is partly due to the excellent weather and relatively low real estate prices in Portugal. Other factors include great education and one of the best healthcare systems in Europe.
For the last couple of years, the Portuguese government has encouraged foreign investors to make a permanent move to Portugal by offering several attractive visa options. This was done to increase the Portuguese economy by attracting foreign capital. For example, Portugal’s Golden Visa Program has brought a large number of non-EU citizens to Portugal.
A resident permit in Portugal is an official document that allows foreign nationals to work and live in Portugal.
Currently, there are two types of residence permits:
Temporary Residence Permit
A Portuguese Residency visa is a travel document that is issued with a time limit. This time limit is usually 3 or 4 months. The Portuguese Embassy provides them just to allow the applicant to enter Portugal before registering as a resident, and after 5 years, a permanent resident. When a foreigner enters Portugal on a residency visa, they have four months to register with the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) to obtain a resident permit.
The Portuguese Residence Permit is what allows you to stay in Portugal (legally) for an extended amount of time. Once you receive your Residence Permit, you're allowed to stay in Portugal for 2 years. After 2 years, you will be able to renew it for another 3 years consecutively. After 5 years, you can apply for a permanent residency, also known as Portuguese citizenship
Bear with me.
When you first start your journey to permanent residency in Portugal, you need to apply for the Portuguese Residency Visa within your home country. The Residency Visa will allow you to enter Portugal and apply for your Residence Permit.
Once your Residency Visa is approved, you must travel to Portugal and apply for your Residence Permit. You start your application at a SEF office in Portugal. As soon as you receive your permit, you are allowed to live in Portugal.
I know it sounds confusing, but think of it as a 2 part application process that leads to your Permanent Residency in Portugal.
When you start your visa application for Residency in Portugal, you'll most likely apply for the Portugal D7 Visa.
I'll be frank. The Portugal D7 Visa is a very complicated visa if you don't understand how it works. Therefore, I recommend reading our official post on the matter (linked above). It explains everything (and I mean everything) you need to know about the D7 Visa application, it's requirements, and what to expect once you arrive in Portugal.
If you plan to apply for permanent residency in Portugal, I highly recommend reading the guide mentioned above.
I'll briefly discuss the requirements for the Portugal Residency Visa
Next, you'll find a list of important documents you need to submit during your Portugal Residency Visa Application. For more in-depth detail about each required document and how to obtain them, check our Portugal D7 Visa guide.
Your Valid Passport
2 Passport Sized Photographs
Proof Of Regular Income Or Passive Income Known As Proof Of Sufficient Funds
Proof Of Accommodation
Proof That You Have Legal Residency In The US (If Applicable)
The FBI Criminal Record Certificate
Request For Criminal Record Enquiry By The Immigration And Border Services (SEF)
Proof Of Valid Health Coverage
A Cover Letter Which Indicates The Reason For Your Request
A few things to consider:
You need to have accommodation for the entire duration of your stay. So, if you plan to stay for 1 year, ensure that you have a rental agreement for up to one year.
For a successful Residency Visa application, you need to meet the minimum financial requirements. A neat part of the Portugal D7 Visa is that the financial requirements are not as heavy as other types of "Residency Visas".
Currently you need the following amounts:
For the lead applicant, you'll need to present a minimum amount of €8 460 per year.
For dependant applicants (like a spouse), you'll need to present a minimum amount of €4 230 per year (each).
For any dependant children you might have, you'll need to present a minimum of €2 538 per year child.
With that being said, the government defines these financial requirements as passive income requirements. Meaning you need to show proof of regular income. So, keeping this in mind you can expect to have the following per month:
For the lead applicant: €705 per month
For dependant applicants (like a spouse): €352,50 per month
For any dependant children: €211,50 per month
As I explained earlier, the Portugal Residency Visa is used to travel to Portugal to apply for your Residence Permit.
Once you receive your Residency Visa, you need to schedule an appointment at SEF to apply for your permit. As soon as you have an appointment, you need to travel to Portugal to attend it. You probably already guessed that you need to submit additional documents at your SEF appointment.
Here they are:
2 Recent Photographs
Your Valid Residency Visa
Proof Of Sufficient Funds
Proof Of Accommodation
A Document Proving Your Tax Situation
A Social Security Document
Supporting Document That Proves You Have Medical Insurance
As soon as you've submitted the above mentioned documents, your application will be processed and you'll receive your new Residence Permit within a few weeks.
There are four reasons, or motivations for the Portuguese Government to issue a residence permit.
Residence permit for work purposes.
Residence permit for study purposes.
Residence permit for family reunification.
Special residence permit.
Recently, the Portuguese government has added other ways of making Portugal your new base. One of these is the digital nomad visa. For more information on this exciting travel document and to see if you qualify, check out our Portugal Digital Nomad Visa Guide For Tech-Savvy Travelers .
For now, we will look at each of the earlier mentioned motivations in detail.
If you have a job offer in Portugal, you may be eligible for a Portuguese work permit. The work position you applied for must not have been occupied by an EU national during the last month to qualify for this residence permit.
When you want to apply for a work permit, your employer must file a work permit application with the Portuguese Labor Authorities. Following that, you apply for a Residency Visa at the local embassy in your own country.
After obtaining a residency visa you must travel to Portugal to apply for a resident permit at the Immigration and Borders Service once you have received a residency visa (SEF). Your initial residence permit is valid for one year, but it may be extended based on your needs and contract.
Alongside your residency permit, you’ll be issued a supporting work permit, which ensures that you are a legal worker in Portugal.
International students from outside the EU who have been admitted into a Portuguese educational institution are granted a residence permit in Portugal. This permit is also valid for a year and can be renewed annually for the duration of your studies.
If you wish to stay in Portugal after finishing your education, you'll need to find employment to switch to a Portugal work visa.
If you want to move to Portugal to join a close family member who is either a resident or a citizen, you must apply for this residence permit.
Among the members of a family are:
A spouse or a registered partner.
Minor's child (biological or adopted).
A child who is of legal age but is financially dependent on the Portuguese resident.
A direct descendant who is financially reliant on the resident
The permit is valid for the same period as the Portuguese resident's residency permit. Thus, when a couple has been married for five years, the permit is valid for two years and must be renewed every three years. Holders of this permit are free to work and study in Portugal, and after five years, they can apply for permanent residency.
A residence permit in Portugal can be issued in certain circumstances. Naturally, these all depend on the applicant's unique situation;
However, some of the most common types of special situations residence permits include:
Individuals with health conditions that involve long-term medical care may be granted a residence permit.
Individuals who have completed military service in the Portuguese Armed Forces are eligible for a residence permit.
Minors born in national territory to foreign parents who have a residence permit are eligible for a residence permit.
Residence permit children of resident permit holders who have reached the age of majority and have resided in the national territory regularly since the age of ten.
Individuals of legal age who were born in national territory and never left or who have lived in Portugal since they were 10 years old are eligible for a residence permit.
One of the most important requirements for applying for permanent residency in Portugal is that the applicant has lived in the country for five years in a row. Furthermore, they must have held a Registration Certificate during this time, which is required for all individuals who wish to stay in the country for more than three months, whether for educational, work or business reasons. In addition, residents of third countries and those from non-EU countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) must first obtain a residency visa before applying for permanent residency in Portugal.
Those interested in applying for citizenship to Portugal should apply to the Foreigners and Borders Service for permanent residence in Portugal.
Investment is another way for a person to gain permanent residency in Portugal. Our dedicated Portugal Golden Visa Guide will tell you all you need to know about this process. This method of applying for residency is available to third-country citizens who invest in the country as an individual trader or through a Portuguese company (or another company incorporated in an EU Member State that provides service in Portugal). This option is also a lucrative way to retire to Portugal. For more information you can consult our Retire To Portugal Guide.
There are several investment options available:
Purchase of at least 500,000 Euros in real estate or investment of a property with a total value of at least 350,000 Euros when it is located in an urban regeneration area or was built more than 30 years ago.
Capital transfer of at least 350,000 Euros in research activities or capital transfer of at least 250,000 Euros in artistic outputs
Capital transfer of at least 350,000 Euros for the incorporation of a company with its head office in Portugal, combined with creating at least 5 permanent jobs;
Create At least 10 new jobs
At least 1 million Euros in capital transfer
Another way of becoming a permanent resident of Portugal is through the Portuguese D7 visa. This visa requires you to provide proof of a passive income, and in exchange, you’ll be granted a Portuguese Residency Permit.
As a holder of a Portugal residence permit, you will receive the following benefits:
Visa-free travel to the EEA/EU and the Schengen Zone.
Having access to the workforce
Unlimited access to education
The ability to access and use the Portuguese healthcare system.
Unemployment benefits (in case you lose your job).
You have the option of bringing other family members with you.
The opportunity to become a Portuguese citizen.
Now that you have temporary residency in Portugal for a period of five years, you can proceed to the following stages of Portuguese bureaucracy:
Obtaining a NIF (if you don't have one)
Making an application for NHR
Registering with you local centro de saúde and getting a número de utente
Getting private health insurance (if interested)
Applying for Social Security
Obtaining or exchanging your driver's license
If you lose your residence certificate or move during those five years, you must apply for a new one.
The low cost of living in Portugal is one of the most appealing aspects of living there. Whether it's a coffee or the “menu do día” (menu of the day) from a typical Portuguese bakery or a train ride from Lisbon to Porto, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the low prices.
Suppose you avoid buying expensive imported goods and instead eat fresh produce from local markets and drink local wine. In that case, your food budget will be reduced significantly (of which there are many great varieties).
You will also notice that the cost of living decreases as you move away from the major cities. Lisbon will always be more expensive than the rest of the country. Outside of cities, public transportation is also inexpensive and effective.
Check out the Atlys community discussion forum for more questions.
A NIF number is your legal tax number in Portugal. Without a NIF, you will not be able to carry out any fiscal activities in Portugal.