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Moving To Portugal – The Ultimate Guide

Posted Country Guides / January 17, 2018

Hiring an international moving company and moving to Portugal is a life-changing decision, and you need to be fully prepared for what this step brings. It is situated in the westernmost part of Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula. It borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Apart from sunshine, olives, and wine, it is also home to amazing world heritage monuments. There are architectural gems of Baroque and Neoclassical style with the Islamic influences due to a turbulent history of clashes between the Christian and Moorish cultures. Choosing to hire an overseas moving company and to opt for relocating to Portugal can’t be a bad decision, and we’ll show you why.

Since it is popular among tourists and others who are moving internationally to come and live here, most young people speak English. Still, older people do not, so you should work on breaking the language barrier – it will be considered as a token of respect if you learn a bit of Portuguese, apart from the usual “Bom Dia” (good morning) and “Obrigado/a (thank you.) People that reside here are generally warm and welcoming, so just be flexible after moving overseas, and you will get to like what this place has to offer. In case you were wondering, can I just move to Portugal or how to move to Portugal, don’t worry – we’ll answer that question too.

Is Portugal a Good Place to Live?

It is safe to say the living conditions here are excellent since it is one of the sunniest and warmest countries on the continent. One of the main advantages of international moving and residing in Portugal is that each resident is entitled to free health insurance. With about 10.3 million inhabitants, the population is not large. The population density is the highest in the northern part of the west coast, including the cities of Lisbon and Porto. Further south, Algarve is another region popular for settling down. However, everywhere, the job markets are the largest in metropolitan areas.

Along with the native Portuguese population, there are numerous newcomers from Eastern Europe and other parts of the EU. There are also communities of people who came from the former colonies in Africa and South America and also from China. According to some data, today’s percentage of immigrants is about 20%, whether they came by hiring an international moving company or by relocating themselves.

It is a Mediterranean country, and as such, it shares some values with other countries in the region, like family ties and personal relationships. Building trust is very important for business, both between business partners and colleagues.

The VAT (value-added tax) is one of the highest in Europe and amounts to 23%, with the exemption of food, taxed at 6%, and wine which is taxed 13%. Personal income tax ranges from 14.5% to 48% and increases with the rise of income.

As for security, it is one of the safest countries in the world now, even though it has seen some rough days, especially with protests during the economic crisis. However, moving abroad alone shouldn’t worry you at all.

Expat Guide for Americans Moving to Portugal: Getting a Regular or Golden Visa and Permits to Live, Work and Retire

So, how to move to Portugal? Portugal is an EU member state, and it grants frictionless travel and work to other citizens within the Schengen Area, which means they are exempt from entry visas as long as they have a Schengen visa. Other countries’ citizens must comply with Portuguese legislation and their visas. Other documents needed to travel abroad will depend on the purpose of their visit and the duration of stay.

Are you wondering Can American citizen live in Portugal? If you’re moving to Portugal from the US, keep in mind that foreign citizens who intend to stay here up to one year or more have to apply for a long-stay visa. They can do that at the Portuguese Embassy in their residence countries, indicating the purpose of stay, such as work, study, investment, research, teaching, medical treatment, etc. Make sure you start doing all of this before booking international moving services or ordering the packing of your items for overseas shipping to the desired place.

Retirees have it relatively easy. They start by getting a visa that lasts four months. All they need is a police clearance and proof that their pension check is no smaller than $1,200. The next step is acquiring a temporary residence permit that lasts for one year. That permit can be renewed for two-year terms. After five years in Portugal, pensioners can apply for permanent residency, but their passport has to remain valid, or their residency permit will be revoked.

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The Best Ways of Getting Residency for Americans and Others Looking to Relocate to Portugal

Residency can also be obtained if a prospective expat has enough money to get himself a ‘golden visa.’ Let’s get through a short guide on possibilities.

The first option is to transfer into the country at least one million euros. It doesn’t matter how you will invest them, the only condition is that the funds come from abroad. You can also gain residency by starting a business in Portugal and invest at least half a million euros. That is the preferred choice for many expats. There is also the option to create at least ten jobs or to buy a property worth at least $625,000. If the said property is older or located in a specific place, the price limit is much lower.

To be eligible to become a citizen after moving to Portugal, you need to have residency for six years. However, you don’t have to be there for the entire time. Two weeks per annum is just enough. Once you obtain citizenship after moving to Portugal from the USA, you’ll have access to public healthcare and all other real benefits.

The Cost of Living in Portugal Is Rather Affordable

Even though it is considered to be among the cheaper countries in Western Europe, thriving tourism in Portugal’s capital has had an impact on the prices. It is still affordable, though,  except for accommodation, which is getting rather expensive – almost double as compared to some ten years ago. However, food is cheap and public transport too. The average monthly salary is around $1,000, and the minimum salary is $830. This might be odd for someone who is living in Europe as an American since the cost of living in the US is much higher.

Portugal’s Economy and Job Market

Being a popular tourist destination, it offers hospitality jobs for qualified workers. However, finding a job isn’t easy, even though the unemployment rate dropped from 6.8% to 6.3% in the second quarter of 2019. The youth unemployment rate increased to 18.1%. In general, the economy is not booming after the financial crisis it suffered, but there are signs of recovery. As the conditions are favorable, more and more entrepreneurs are settling in the cities, especially digital nomads and IT experts, creating a vibrant tech community. Information and communications technology sector is expanding fast, as well as research and modern technologies specialized in renewable energies. There are also other fast-growing sectors, such as services.

One of the challenges that companies are facing here is a relatively limited local market that cannot produce large public consumption. This has quite an impact on the tax earnings as well. It’s good to know that if the company is registered here, its overall income is taxed in the country, regardless of where it originated.

Finding Homes After Moving to Portugal

Some time ago, the country had a very competitive real estate market, as the prices were rather attractive. However, economic growth has led to the rise of prices in the housing market, making it difficult to find a home. Foreigners are allowed to buy properties without any limitations, so those who are planning on settling down permanently can buy a place instead of renting if they can afford it, of course.

If you want to buy an apartment in downtown Lisbon, it will cost you from $1,400 up to $6,000 per square meter, and outside the city center, it will cost you from $1,200 to $3,000.

Apartments for rent in some attractive parts are not easy to find, and the rents are not cheap if you consider the relatively low per capita income compared to other EU countries. According to the website Numbeo, the median rent you will pay after moving to Portugal for a one-bedroom apartment is around $700, and for a three-bedroom apartment, it will cost you about $1,300 in the central part of Lisbon. Outside of the city center, you can expect a price of a bit less than $900.

What Are the Best Places to Live in When You’re Moving to Portugal?

Lisbon is the capital, with beautiful buildings in Pombaline and Manueline architecture styles, and some are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Jeronimos Monastery. Several Pritzker Architecture Prize winners designed modern buildings.

The municipality is small, but its metropolitan area is quite large and developed. Transportation is rather good and affordable. Apart from job opportunities, especially in the tertiary sector, it offers cultural and historical sites to visit.

Porto is a city you first think of when one mentions moving to Portugal. That’s no wonder since this is the town that gave the country its name. It is also one of the most famous wine hubs in the world, known for the production of Port, maturing in cellars along the Douro River banks. The old city displays Medieval architecture and Neo-Gothic interiors and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another gem is Evora, full of tourist attractions you can enjoy after moving abroad. There are plenty of historical monuments, it’s home to the world’s oldest universities, and many students choose to come and reside here, even if it takes moving across the world.

Watch this video to find even more interesting places to visit or reside in after moving to Portugal.

There are Plenty of Education Opportunities

Learning a language such as Portuguese, the ninth most spoken language in the world with approximately 230 million speakers, is quite an asset. So, what better way to study than to travel here and let the magic guide you to explore its beauty.

Both primary and secondary education is compulsory, while higher education can be obtained at universities and higher education institutions, both public and private. Private higher education institutions have to be approved by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education to operate. There is also the Portuguese Catholic University instituted by the Holy See and approved by the state. Some of the reputable universities are the University of Lisbon, the University of Porto, the University of Algarve, and others.

If you are relocating to Portugal with a family, there’s an international school in both Lisbon and Porto, and also in the southern Algarve region and on Madeira. The working language in many of them is English.

How Will Your Life Look Like After Moving to Portugal?

Firstly, you will get to enjoy the many possibilities to travel wherever you want. Portugal is an entry point into the EU, and Lisbon is only two and a half hours away from Paris or London by plane. You can take regular lines to major world destinations, including American cities such as New York, San Diego, Miami, and so on.

If you prefer shorter trips, know that Spain’s culture is just across the border, with countless great places to visit. It’s a perfect place for travelers that want to explore and find the best European countries to live in. And since most of the air travel on the continent is done via low-cost airlines, you can go to every place you ever imagined in the Old Continent at just a fraction of the cost it would usually entail. Your new life can be really good that way.

Enjoy Great Weather Conditions When Living in Lisbon and Other Cities

The climate is warm and pleasant, featuring hot and dry summers and mild and wet winters. This is one of the warmest countries on the continent, so don’t forget to pack your summer clothes and items. From November to March, there can be a lot of rain in the coastal areas, especially in the north, whereas the highest mountain range can see some snow as well. But the rest of the year is warm and sunny, and it can even get pretty hot in the southern and eastern parts. With a climate like that, you may expect less frequent health issues.

Easy Life With Light Baggage

If you are worried about how to live in another country, Portugal will make it easy for you. It’s such a diverse place, featuring long sandy beaches, beautiful mountain landscapes, and cosmopolitan cities with vibrant communities. It’s offering a laid-back lifestyle everyone who plans on living overseas would wish for. It is convenient to transit everywhere, but you might not want to leave as you have everything you need – from water sports, golf terrains, beautiful nature, amazing architecture, and excellent food and wines.

Their Rich Culture Will Become a Part of Your Every Day

Besides the excellent school and healthcare systems, there is one more thing why moving to Portugal is perfect for single folks as well as for family life – rich culture. And perhaps most recognizable of its features is local folk music, Fado. If for nothing else, songs of globally popular artists such as Amalia Rodrigues, Mariza, or group Madredeus should be incentive enough to study the Portuguese language and dive deeper into the vibrant and great culture.

Public Transportation and Getting Around Won’t Be a Problem

You will be able to get everywhere on foot in a matter of half an hour after relocating to Portugal. The only downside is that Lisbon is a hilly town, and wherever you go, except for the riverside, you will have to go up and down. There’s public transport, which is very efficient and cheap, and Uber, also very affordable. Public transportation comprises buses, trams, and metro lines. There are also transport cards for reduced prices. If you take a taxi, bear in mind that they often try to operate without turning on the meter, so make sure they do.

There’s one trick, though, to help you navigate the ups and downs of Portugal’s cities – learn to use shopping malls. There’s quite a few of them, and they’re all multistoried. Since (naturally, we might add) they have escalators, just move up to the town’s desired level and go on with your business on the top of the hill.

Driving Conditions in Portugal

In case you decide to ship your car overseas, keep in mind that you have to drive on the right-hand side of the road. The seat belt is obligatory. If you own a driving license written in the Latin alphabet, you will have no problem driving your car for at least six months. If not, you have to get an international driver’s license in English. But if you register your residence, you will have to get a Portuguese driving license within 60 days.

Mediterranean temperament is reflected in driving here, as speeding is common, and the driving style is rather aggressive. The legal alcohol limit is 0.5%, and the fines for driving under the influence are harsh. The road infrastructure is significantly improved. There are parking restrictions in urban areas you have to follow. You can also rent a car in major cities both in internationally known and local companies.

Keep in Mind This Advice for International Moving

If you’re currently googling can I just move to Portugal and how to get a job in Europe as an American and you wish to save some money, you should know How much money do I need to move to Portugal. Depending on where you want to reside, you should save enough for at least four rents with spare money for a deposit. That could be somewhere between $2,300 – 3,500.

You won’t spend much on food, but don’t forget that it might be costly to bring all of your belongings here in baggage. If you plan on doing that, schedule a free home estimate and make moving abroad checklist. Gather as many quotes about moving as you can, buy boxes, and decide what to pack when moving abroad. If some of your things need custom crating or you need storage, find a reputable overseas moving company that can provide you with that.

Eva Johnson

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.

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