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Moving to Portugal: Living, retiring and working in Portugal

With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, must-try cuisine, distinct architecture and idyllic coastlines, it’s no wonder you’re considering immigrating to Portugal.

Portugal has long been a sought after destination for foreigners, particularly retirees, which make up a significant percentage of expats living in the country.

According to recent data, an estimated 39% of Britons living in Portugal are aged 65 and over; however, that’s not to say the younger population cannot build a dream life in the Mediterranean gem.

Due to its popularity with immigrants, Portugal has a large expat community so you’ll find many non-natives to befriend. Lisbon, Porto and Cascais are home to some of the liveliest expatriate communities; although as many natives speak English, you won’t have to worry too much about a culture shock.

Brits currently living in Portugal or considering settling down permanently may have concerns over their rights to stay post-Brexit as the current rules are likely to change after the transition period.

After January 1st 2021 you will be required to obtain a visa for stays of more than 90 days in Portugal.

However, as these conditions are akin to those already in place for other non-EU citizens, who successfully move to Portugal each year if it’s in your plans to emigrate, you can still do so!

That being said, whether you’re retiring, emigrating for work or considering relocating to Portugal permanently, you should understand the visa requirements for entry.

Our complete guide on immigrating to Portugal will walk you through the steps needed to obtain a visa as well as tips on how to manage your finances and protect your funds against downside risks to ensure your move abroad is seamless.

Emigrating to Portugal

Emigrating to Portugal: How to obtain a visa

Whether you’re moving to Portugal to work, live or retire, all non-EU citizens will need to obtain a Portuguese visa.

Those emigrating from EU member states won’t need to apply for a visa but may be asked to register their presence with the local authorities and apply for a residence certificate if they plan to stay in the country for more than 90 days.

While there are several routes non-EU citizens can take to apply for a visa, some of the most commonly used are the employment visa, the student visa and the investment visa.

However, no matter which pathway you take, all applicants must meet specific criteria to be granted entry into the country.

Working visa – Portugal

If you’re immigrating to Portugal for work, you must secure employment before you travel as your employer will be required to send documentation proving that you have become an employee.

Aside from a formal letter of employment, you must also submit the following to your local embassy or consulate obtain a work permit:

  • A completed visa application, which can be found online
  • A valid passport, no less than three months from expiry
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Two passport photos
  • Flight documentation
  • Proof of accommodation, whether that be a hotel or place of residence

The work visa is valid for one year; after this, it will have to be renewed every two years. However, after working in Portugal for five years, the visa holder can apply for permanent residency.

If you’re emigrating to Portugal to start a new business or make a significant investment, you may be more interested in the “Golden Visa”.

Golden Visa Programme – Portugal

The Golden Visa is one of the most popular residency-investment programmes in the world, entitling the holder and their family the right to work, live and travel in Portugal, as well as travel freely across the Schengen area.

Providing the investment is upheld for five years; the holder may also apply to become a permanent resident or Portuguese citizen.

You will also have the opportunity to become a non-habitual resident and pay no tax for ten years. However, to be eligible for a Golden Visa, the applicant must be a non-EU or non-EEA citizen and fulfil the following requirements:

  • Make a minimum investment of EUR 250,000 in Portugal’s arts, culture or heritage scene (there are other routes of investment available)
  • Spend a minimum of 7 days in Portugal during the first year and 14 days every subsequent two years
  • Maintain the investment for a minimum period of five years

Those considering applying for the Golden Visa should note that the Portuguese government has proposed implementing changes to the programme which are expected to come into effect in 2021.

However, no matter the route you choose to obtain legal status in Portugal, all visas come at a cost.

In most cases, long-term work visas cost EUR 80; however, investment visas are considerably more expensive.

The processing fee for the Golden Visa is EUR 514.80 and EUR 80.20 for every accompanying family member, while the initial price for both the holder and immediate relatives is EUR 5,147.80. Meanwhile, permanent residency fees could cost as much as EUR 200.

If you’re applying from abroad and need to make regular international money transfers, you could avoid exposure to high costs and fees by using a foreign exchange specialist

While many of us believe banks are the most cost-effective way to transfer money overseas, as they operate at the mid-market rate, they often overcharge their customers with high fees to compensate.

If you’re having to exchange a substantial amount of your income into euro’s (EUR), and vice versa by using an FX specialist such as Halo Financial you could save on your overall costs.

Use an FX specialist to fulfil international money transfers

Halo Financial is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Unlike banks, they can offer you maximum flexibility on your international currency transfers as well as several options to protect your funds against adverse fluctuations in exchange rates.

While banks offer foreign exchange services, as this isn’t their area of expertise, few can provide insight into the often-unpredictable currency market landscape or their customers’ transfers.

Halo Financial can access the mid-market rate and better rates to offer its clients a competitive advantage and maximise their currency transfers.

They also assign each of their clients a dedicated and experienced account manager, who will provide invaluable market guidance into the currency market to help their customer make decisions appropriate to their needs.

Moving to any country can be a complicated and expensive process, especially when having to exchange between two currencies as this can have a significant impact on your income and savings.

Halo Financial, which provides a fully transparent service, can mitigate against fluctuating exchange rates to ensure your money goes further.

Retiring in Portugal

Cost of retiring in Portugal

Portugal is a hotspot for non-native retirees, especially the beautiful southern coastline of Algarve which boasts year-round sun, a low crime-rate and dazzling beaches.

Retirees will also benefit from Portugal’s low cost of living, which is significantly lower than most Western European countries.

According to Numbeo, consumer prices in Portugal are 24% lower than in the UK, while restaurant prices are 40% lower and rent prices nearly 27% lower.

With the UK leaving the European Union in 2021, British retirees will be treated like other third country retirees. As a result, they will have to obtain a visa and residence permit for stays of over three months in Portugal.

As there is no official retirement visa, retirees moving to Portugal will need to apply for a Schengen Category D visa, which is valid for an initial period of four months after which you will be required to apply for a residence permit.

However, compared to some of Portugal’s other visas, the long-term stay visa is relatively affordable at EUR 99.

Government officials have eased residency and tax requirements in Portugal over the years to increase the country’s appeal for expats.

While all Portuguese residents are subjected to tax on income earned overseas, those on the non-habitual resident scheme can receive all of their overseas income-tax-free for up to ten years.

That being said, as the cost of living is low in Portugal even if you are not signed up to the scheme, you can retire comfortably on a monthly budget of approximately EUR 1,400 or less.

Retirees who become permanent residents or citizens in Portugal will also benefit from the countries free, universal public healthcare system, which operates on a system similar to the UK’s NHS in that it is tax-funded.

According to the International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2020, Portugal ranks first place in the healthcare category, primarily due to the quality, affordability and facilities available.

However, not all healthcare costs are covered by the public service so you may want to invest in a private health insurance plan.

Allianz is one of Portugal’s largest private health insurers, and they offer affordable plans for over 55s.

Cost of living in Portugal

As aforementioned, the cost of living in Portugal is cheaper than most Western European countries and the US, where consumer prices, including rent, is nearly 51% higher.

Although rent prices in Portugal’s capital city Lisbon are higher than other cities or towns in the country, you could save more than 69% on a three-bedroom apartment in Lisbon than a city centre apartment in the United States.

However, you could save approximately EUR 500 by renting a three-bedroom apartment in the heart of the Algarve than in Lisbon, with prices averaging at EUR 1,112 and EUR 1,624 respectively.

That being said, if you’re immigrating to Portugal in search of work, the highest-paid salaries can be found in the country’s more metropolitan cities.

While salaries are considerably lower in Portugal than in the UK and the US, a couple can live comfortably on as little as EUR 1,000 a month after tax in the capital city as accommodation, travel and food are all relatively inexpensive.