How to Move to Portugal From the USA

Thinking about moving to Portugal from the USA? Get expert advice and learn everything you need to know about making your move to Portugal efficiently.
February 14, 2023
Ana Fankhauser
February 14, 2023

According to the US State Department, around 10 million Americans currently live overseas.

What about you? Are you ready to leave your old life behind and move out of America?

Moving overseas presents amazing opportunities, but it comes with its own set of challenges too. Some countries are much easier to move to than others, which is one reason why moving to Portugal is a top choice for many Americans.

Are you considering making the move to Portugal? Why have thousands of Americans already chosen to make Portugal their new home? Most importantly, what do you need to do to qualify for a visa to move abroad?

We'll answer these important questions and much more, so keep reading below!

Why Move to Portugal?

Maybe you have friends who have moved to other popular places like Mexico or Costa Rica. Why should you head across the pond and move to Portugal instead?

Here are five reasons to seriously consider it.

1. The Weather

Some parts of Portugal get over 300 days of sunshine every year, which is reason enough to consider a move — especially if you're used to dreary winters. The weather ranges from mild to hot year-round, so you can say goodbye to snow and ice pretty much forever.

Here are the weather averages for some of Portugal's most popular destinations.

  • Lisbon's average January highs and lows are 59F and 47F, while July's average highs and lows are 82F and 65F
  • Porto's average January highs and lows are 57F and 43F, while July's average highs and lows are 75F and 59F
  • The Algarve's average January highs and lows are 61F and 43F, while July's average highs and lows are 91F and 66F

Just like the US, the farther south you go, the warmer and sunnier it gets. Overall, though, Portugal is one of those "Goldilocks" countries that's not too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. Most residents will tell you it's just right.

2. The Food & Wine

You're probably already familiar with Italian, French, and Spanish cuisine, but what about Portuguese food? Some experts think it's one of the best-kept culinary secrets in Europe — if not the entire world.

In Portugal, the olive oil flows like wine (and don't worry, there's plenty of wine too). The Portuguese eat more fish than any other nationality in mainland Europe, so seafood lovers will be in their element here. Expect to see plenty of shellfish, sardines, bacalao (salted cod), and other tasty offerings on every menu.

Groceries are surprisingly affordable compared to food costs back home. And when you're ready to dine out, you'll find a thriving food scene waiting for you, especially in the big cities of Lisbon and Porto. Finish each meal with some cheese, quince paste, and a glass of wine, and you'll wonder why you didn't move here sooner.

If you aren't yet acquainted with Portuguese wine, you're in for a treat. Try a fresh, crisp glass of Vinho Verde with your favorite seafood dish. Or discover the delightful red wines of Dao, which many people compare to French Burgundy.

3. The Cost of Living

If great weather and food aren't enough to tempt you to move to Portugal, the cost of living might. On average, the US is 53% more expensive to live in than Portugal!

For example, a $4 cappuccino in the US would cost you about $1.50 in Portugal. A one-bedroom apartment that costs $1,200 in the US would cost around $600 in Portugal. The only major item you'll pay more for in Portugal is fuel, but if you live in one of the bigger cities, you won't even need a car.

Perhaps the biggest perk of moving to Portugal (at least for Americans) is the healthcare system. Portugal's public healthcare system ranks among the best in the world, and it's available to all temporary and permanent residents. Doctor's visits are free (or a mind-blowing 5 euros), while major medical procedures might incur a small co-pay.

If you do opt for private insurance, as many ex-pats do, expect to pay anywhere from 4-40 euros per month for full coverage. That's right. A year's worth of private health insurance is probably less than your monthly premium in the US!

4. The Overall Quality of Life

Unlike some other countries, Portugal is very welcoming to Americans. The locals are warm, generous, and helpful, which will come in handy when you first arrive and start settling in.

Bonus: About one in three Portuguese (especially younger people) also speak English!

Portugal consistently ranks among the safest countries in the world, with extremely low rates of violent crime. In 2020, it ranked number one for best places to retire. It also has a very high life expectancy of 82 years.

When you factor in all these statistics, they add up to a wonderful quality of life. No one in Portugal is in a hurry; the locals enjoy a laid-back lifestyle. It's a terrific place to slow down and enjoy your retirement or find a better work-life balance if you work remotely.

5. The Tax Benefits

Another compelling reason to consider moving to Portugal is the double taxation treaty that Portugal has with the US.

If you qualify for Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) status, you can enjoy partial or full tax relief for 10 years. Depending on your amount of income, you can potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year!

For more information about NHR registration, you can view the Portuguese government's guide on the subject.

Praça do Comércio, Lisbon

The Most Popular Portugal Visas for Americans

Now that you know why Portugal should be on your radar, let's talk about how to move to Portugal from the USA.

There are a number of different paths you can take, such as getting an NHR tax regime or getting sponsored for a job with a Portuguese company. You may also apply for a family reunification visa if you already have relatives there.

For most Americans, though, there are three main options: the Golden Visa, the D7 visa, or the D2 startup visa. Let's take a closer look at two of these paths — the Golden Visa and the D7 visa — and see which one you might qualify for.

Portugal Golden Visa

Many countries offer Golden Visas, and no — it's not synonymous with retirement or your golden years. Rather, a Golden Visa is a way to "buy" citizenship (or at least permanent residency) in a foreign country.

How does it work? Basically, you give the country an economic boost by investing in one of two things: a local cause, or local real estate.

Since 2012, over 6,500 people (including many Americans) have gained permanent residence or citizenship through the Portugal Golden Visa program. If you have the financial means to do so, this is one of the easiest tickets out of America to an exciting new life abroad.

Some of the options for investors to obtain a Golden Visa include:

  • Real estate: 280,000 euro in rural areas
  • Real estate: 350,000 euro in Porto, Lisbon, and Algarve
  • Hotel shares: 350,000 euro (buyback)
  • Treasury securities/government bonds: 1 million euro
  • Band deposits: 1 million euro

If you're sitting on a decent chunk of change, you can quite literally buy your way into Portugal. Or, if you're an aspiring entrepreneur and you want to start your own company, you could make Portugal your base of operations.

Aside from the obvious — the chance to move to Portugal and start a new life — why should you consider pursuing this type of visa? Here are three compelling reasons.

1. An EU Passport & Dual Citizenship

How would you like to hold two of the world's most powerful passports? The US currently ranks fourth and Portugal is sixth, so the opportunity of dual citizenship is a huge draw for many.

Keep in mind that Portugal is part of the European Union, which functions in many ways like the US. A Portuguese visa or passport allows you to live and work, not just in Portugal, but in any of the other EU countries as well.

2. Benefits for Your Entire Family

If you qualify for the Portugal Golden Visa program, you can also extend your benefits to:

  • Your spouse
  • All dependents under 18
  • Unmarried dependents under 26
  • Parents over 65

Think about what this could mean for your entire family. If you have elderly parents, they could benefit from a more affordable retirement and access to good healthcare. Meanwhile, your children and spouse are free to live, work, and study in Portugal and the rest of the EU without the need for additional visas.

3. No Need to Live in Portugal Year-Round

If you don't plan to live full-time in Portugal, it's no problem.

Under the Golden Visa, you only need to spend 14 days a year in the country during the first two years and 21 days per year for the next three years. After five years, you're eligible for citizenship and you can be there as much (or as little) as you like.

Portugal D7 Visa

Understandably, many of us don't have six-figure savings accounts that would enable us to apply for the Golden Visa.

If this is you, don't despair! There's another visa that can make your dream of moving to Portugal a reality — for a lot less financial investment.

The D7 Visa was originally designed for retirees and pensioners. But with the rise of the digital nomad and the ability to make money from anywhere, the D7 visa can open doors for Americans of all ages.

To qualify for the D7 visa, you need to show proof of:

  • 7,200 euros/year for the primary applicant
  • 3,600 euros/year for a spouse
  • 2,160 euros/year for each dependent child

As you can see, that's a much more attainable figure than what you'd need for the Golden Visa. You can earn this money from your social security benefits, an online business, remote work, or passive income through a rental property. As long as your source of income comes from outside Portugal, you're in!

What Should You Know About the D7 Visa?

The D7 visa allows you to live, work, and study anywhere in Portugal. You can travel freely around the rest of the EU and you also gain access to the public healthcare system. If you have a family, your spouse and children can also enjoy these same benefits.

However, you should be aware that the financial requirements change each year based on the current Portuguese minimum wage. You'll need to make sure you have enough money coming in each year to meet the income requirement.

Also, the D7 visa has stricter requirements for the amount of time you must spend in the country. For the first five years, you need to spend at least six consecutive months or eight consecutive months in Portugal. After that, you're eligible to apply for permanent residency or citizenship.

Moving Abroad: Understanding the Visa Process

No matter which type of visa you apply for, you'll need five things first:

  • Citizenship in a non-EU country (such as the US)
  • A clean criminal record
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
  • No history of being denied entry to Portugal or a Portuguese territory
  • A NIF number issued by the Portuguese government

Another important thing to note is that the application process must start in your home country! Don't expect to fly to Portugal as a tourist and convert that passport stamp into a residency permit — it just doesn't work that way.

For the D7 visa, you'll need to make an appointment at a Portuguese Embassy or consulate in your home country. You'll apply for a temporary residency visa, which allows you to enter Portugal for up to four months. This gives you time to find a home and set up an appointment with the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) to apply for your renewable residency visa.

The process to apply for the Golden Visa is considerably more complicated and takes more time. Most importantly, you'll need all the documents to show proof of your investment in the country.

Famous Americans Living in Portugal

There are a number of famous Americans who have lived or currently live in Portugal. Some examples include:

  1. Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey is an American media executive and television host who owns a home in the Algarve region of Portugal.
  2. John Malkovich: John Malkovich is an American actor who owns a property in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
  3. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have a home in the Algarve region of Portugal.
  4. Michael Fassbender: Michael Fassbender is an Irish-German actor who owns a property in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
  5. Madonna: Madonna is an American singer and actress who owns a property in the Algarve region of Portugal.
  6. Bruce Springsteen: Bruce Springsteen is an American musician who owns a property in the Algarve region of Portugal.

Move Out of America and Start a New Life in Portugal

If you've been researching options, it's time to put Portugal at the top of your list. It's one of the most popular destinations for Americans moving overseas — and for good reason!

Understandably, you might feel lost or even overwhelmed by the visa application process. That's where can step in and help!

Are you ready to take the leap and move to Portugal from the USA? Would you like to learn more about the requirements and what type of visa best suits your needs?

Written by
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Ana Fankhauser

Ana has worked in many startups and moved to a few countries, which led her to create MovingTo. She believes that remote work is a growing trend that is here to stay and that digital nomads will move to countries that have more to offer than the ones you were born into. She mostly writes opinion pieces for MovingTo.

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