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Want to Move to Portugal? Here’s How in 10 Steps

Are you thinking about moving to Portugal? Honestly, it’s a great idea, but it can be tricky to know where to start. So, if you want to move to Portugal, here’s how in 10 steps. 

Of course, depending on your situation, this might take more or fewer steps, but it’s a good baseline for preparing yourself to move to beautiful, sunny Portugal! So, let’s dive right in and find out what you need to do to make your expat dreams a reality!

1. Check Your Eligibility

First things first, you need to check whether you’re eligible to move to Portugal in the first place. There’s no point finding work or an apartment if you can’t legally live in the country on a long-term basis. Luckily, Portugal has a lot of different visas that you can choose from:

  • Sponsored Work Visa
  • D7 Passive Income Visa (great for retirees)
  • Golden Investor Visa
  • Study Visa
  • Family Reunification Visa
  • Digital Nomad Visa

Some of these visas are easier to get than others. Of course, if you have a spare 500,000 Euros lying around, buying an expensive property in Portugal or investing in a business will help you get the Golden Investor Visa which means you can live, work, and study in Portugal for up to five years, after which time you can apply for a permanent resident permit. 

If you’re a remote worker, Portugal has long been a digital nomad hotspot, with plenty of co-working spaces and communities. Depending on your income method, you might be better off going for a D7 passive income visa as the monthly minimum earning amount is a lot less than the Digital Nomad Visa, and there are some hefty tax breaks. Of course, this only works with passive income like investments, pensions, or affiliate streams.

Of course, if you’re moving from a country inside the European Union (EU), you can live, study, and work in Portugal freely. 

2. Find Work Options

If you need to get a Sponsored Work Visa to move to Portugal, you need to find a job that’s willing to hire and sponsor you. Not every company is going to do this as it does cost them to be a verified visa sponsor, so it’s worth asking early in the application process. 

two women looking at the laptop

As Lisbon is becoming a tech hub and a bit of a startup capital, if you work for a large multinational, it might be worth seeing if your company has an international office there and see if you can transfer internally. This is normally a much simpler process when it comes to getting a visa as you’ve already been working for the company for a long period of time.

If you’re not applying for the Sponsored Work Visa, you obviously can look for work closer to your move, or if you’re a remote worker, this will already be in hand. 

3. Work Out Your Finances

Portugal’s cost of living might be 40-50% cheaper than it is in the US, but that doesn’t mean that an international move is going to be cheap. To comfortably live in Portugal, you’re going to need between 2000-3000 Euros per month. 

coins in a jar

When you arrive, you’re going to need the first month’s rent and the same again as a deposit. You’re also going to have to pay visa fees, shipping fees, and international flights. So, although living in Portugal will be cheaper in the long run, the initial outlay could be up to $10,000 depending on if you’re bringing pets or dependents! 

You also need to know your financial situation before you apply for a visa. This is because the majority of visa applications require you to prove your income amount and show that you can support yourself while you’re here.

Some visas, like the D7 passive income or the digital nomad visas, also have set monthly minimum income requirements that you need to prove you can hit or exceed consistently. 

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4. Apply for Your Visa

Okay, now that you know all your financial information, where you’re going to work or how you’re going to make money while you’re in Portugal, and which visa you’re eligible for, you can apply for your visa.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do this as gathering all the paperwork can take a lot of time. On average, long-stay visas, like the ones outlined about take between 1-3 months to process, so plan your move accordingly.

If you’re going to apply for a Golden Visa, these do take longer – around 3-6 months – but that’s because there’s a lot of money, contracts, and investment taking place that needs time to be approved!

5. Make a List of What’s Important to You

Honestly, this is a step that should be considered throughout the moving process. When you’re figuring out whereabouts in Portugal you want to live, what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for, and what parts of your current life you want to hold onto, making a list helps.

Is being within walking distance of a school a must-have? Maybe you want to be surrounded by cafes and restaurants. Perhaps it’s important for you to be close to a surf beach for pre-work sessions. Maybe you need to be in a city with a major airport. 

Figure out what you want your life in Portugal to look like and then you’re going to be in a much better place to decide on things like accommodation, locations, work patterns, and more. 

6. Decide on a Location

Okay, sometimes you need to do this before you apply for your visa, especially if you’re a student and you need to show proof of accommodation. However, most people put down a temporary Airbnb or hostel in the meantime, so that they can look for more permanent rentals in person. 

That being said, you’ll need to decide on a ballpark location before you travel. Do you want to live in the bustling capital, Lisbon? Maybe you want the touristy, beach lifestyle in the Algarve? Or perhaps the windswept beaches and vineyards of the north are more your vibe?

There are plenty of great and affordable locations to choose from and your priorities list from the previous step should help make this decision a little easier.

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7. Start Learning Portuguese

Okay, English is widely spoken across Portugal, but as you’re moving to the country, you need to make an effort to learn the language. Portuguese is a relatively easy language for English speakers to learn and has influences from both Latin and Arabic. As such, it doesn’t really sound like Spanish or French, which a lot of people assume it will. 

Also, make sure you’re learning European Portuguese and not Brazilian Portuguese. They’re more different than you think!

8. Sell Your Property

If you have a property back home, it’s time to start the selling process. If you can afford it, I’d recommend holding onto it and renting it out.

By doing this, you’re earning passive income which can make you eligible for the D7 passive income visa. As the minimum monthly requirement for that is only 760 Euros, it’s one of the most affordable visas in Europe. 

Of course, if you need the money to fund the move, you’ll want to get your property on the market and bank that cash ASAP! Try and line up your sale with the 1-3 month visa timeline so you don’t spend money on hotels or temporary accommodation. 

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9. Book Your Flights

Once your visa has been approved, your house has been sold (if you have one), and you know where you’re going in Portugal, you need to book those flights. Most transatlantic routes are going to fly into Lisbon and then you can get the cross-country trains to your final destination, or hire a car.

There are also short-haul international airports in Faro and Porto so if you have to connect to another major European airline hub like London, Amsterdam, Madrid, or Frankfurt, you might be able to connect directly to one of these regional airports. 

10. Ship Your Stuff

Now that you know when you’re going to arrive, you need to plan for your stuff. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend shipping your entire life over the Atlantic – that’s very expensive – but if you have any sentimental or one-of-a-kind pieces that you want to bring, you’ll either need to ship by air or sea.

While shipping by sea is always a cheaper option, it can take a few weeks at the very least, if not months. Shipping by air means that your stuff is in Portugal within the week, but you do pay a premium for it. It’s all about how much you want to plan in advance and whether the shorter shipping time is worth it for you!

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