How to Move to Portugal from USA: Steps, Tips, and Visa Info in 2024

If you’re planning to move to Portugal from the USA, you likely have many questions about where to start.
January 11, 2024
Ana Fankhauser
January 11, 2024

If you’re planning to move to Portugal from the USA, you likely have many questions about where to start. From visa processes to budgeting for your move, this guide offers clear and concise information to navigate your relocation. Learn about the essential steps, from bureaucratic considerations to settling into Portuguese life, and begin your journey with clarity and confidence.

Key Takeaways

  • Portugal offers a favorable climate, low living costs, and a strong expat community, attracting Americans to relocate there. After five years of legal residency, there is an option for permanent residency or citizenship.
  • There are several visa options for US citizens moving to Portugal, including the Golden Visa, D7 Retirement Visa, D2 Entrepreneur Visa, and Digital Nomad Visa, each with specific eligibility criteria and benefits suited to different needs.
  • Preparation for moving includes gathering essential documents, shipping belongings, and finding accommodation; integrating involves adapting to the local language and culture; and financial setup includes opening a bank account and understanding the tax system.

Why move to Portugal from the USA?

American family enjoying the sunny beach in Portugal
  • Portugal offers an affordable cost of living and property prices, lower grocery and dining costs, and a cost-effective healthcare system compared to the US.
  • The country appeals to expats with its mild Mediterranean climate, over 300 days of sunshine per year, and diverse, beautiful landscapes ranging from beaches to historic towns.
  • Portugal presents a safe, peaceful environment with a high-quality education system, attractive tax benefits, a welcoming expat community, and rich cultural experiences.

Affordability and Cost of Living

The affordable cost of living is one of the main reasons why many expats choose to move to Portugal., with a single expat needing around €1300 a month on average, and a family of four should expect to need at least €2600 a month. This cost of living is significantly lower than in the US, partly due to the Portuguese minimum wage being lower than in the US.

However, the cost of living is not the only aspect that makes Portugal an attractive destination for Americans. The Portuguese government has made efforts to promote economic development and attract foreign investment, which has resulted in an upward trend in prices, particularly in urban areas such as Lisbon. This growth indicates a promising future for those considering a move to Portugal.

Housing Costs

Lower property prices in Portugal compared to the US also attract many Americans. This makes it easier for Americans to buy or rent a home in Portugal. To buy a property in Portugal, US citizens need to apply for a Portuguese tax number (NIF), appoint a fiscal representative, and it’s advisable to open a Portuguese bank account. This process is similar to what a Portuguese citizen would have to do when purchasing property.

When it comes to renting, the average rental prices for a one-bedroom apartment in Lisbon are around €900 (about $1,100 USD) per month, and in Porto, you can find a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment starting from approximately €500-550 per month. These prices are quite competitive compared to other European countries, making Portugal an attractive destination for expats.

Food and Dining Expenses

Americans also find the cost of food and dining out in Portugal to be a significant advantage. Groceries and dining out come at a fraction of the cost compared to the US, especially in popular regions like the Algarve, where fresh seafood and local produce are abundant.

Not only is the food affordable, but the quality of the food is also high. Portugal has impressively strict sanitary and animal welfare standards compared to the US. The EU, including Portugal, has banned certain food practices that are allowed in the US, such as:

  • the use of chemical washes like chlorine
  • growth hormones in animal feed
  • unlabeled genetically modified foods
  • some pesticides

This makes Portugal a healthier option for expats and a more affordable one too.

Healthcare and Insurance

Portugal does not compromise on healthcare. The country offers a highly regarded public healthcare system and various private healthcare options to its residents. Private health insurance plans in Portugal offer great affordability, with costs typically ranging between $20 and $50 per month. These costs are generally lower than in other European countries, making Portugal an attractive destination for healthcare.

Accessing public healthcare in Portugal is easy for expats. All they need to do is obtain a health card (Carto do Utente) after registering with their local health center (Centro de Sade). While there may be some waiting times for non-emergency procedures, the public healthcare system in Portugal offers quality care and accessibility to all residents.

Climate and Scenery

Mediterranean Climate in Portugal

Americans are also drawn to Portugal’s Mediterranean climate and stunning landscapes. With consistently mild temperatures and over 300 days of sunshine every year, Portugal is one of the most pleasant Western European countries to live in. As a European country, the diverse types of weather in Portugal include cool and wet conditions in the north and central regions, mild and rainy winters in the north, and warm and sunny summers in the center and south. This makes it an attractive destination, not only for Americans but also for people from other western European countries.

The natural beauty of Portugal adds to the country’s charm. From the beautiful beaches and picturesque historic towns to sun-kissed vineyards, Portugal offers breathtaking landscapes to its residents. Whether you’re a nature lover or a city dweller, Portugal has something for everyone.

Weather Advantages

In Portugal, you can enjoy a pleasant climate throughout the year. With mild winters and warm summers, especially in regions like Lisbon, Portugal’s climate is a major draw for Americans. The country enjoys between 2500 and 3200 hours of sunshine annually, making it a great place for those who love the sun.

Portugal’s climate varies by region, offering a diverse range of climates across its territories. Here are some key characteristics of the different regions:

  • The south enjoys arid conditions
  • The northwest receives plenty of rainfall
  • The northeast boasts long and warm summers, with the sea temperature staying between +13°C and +19°C year-round

This diversity in climate means that you can choose a region that suits your personal preferences when moving to Portugal.

Natural Beauty

Diverse Landscapes of Portugal

Portugal is renowned not only for its wonderful climate but also for its natural beauty. The country’s breathtaking landscapes encompass beautiful beaches, picturesque historic towns, and the sun-kissed vineyards of Western Europe. There are stunning natural beauty spots in popular regions like the Algarve Region, known for its breathtaking coastline and picturesque countryside in southern Portugal, as well as scenic cities such as Lisbon, Porto, Braga, and Aveiro, among others.

Among Portugal’s natural gems are its stunning beaches. From Praia da Prainha to Praia do Carvalho and Praia da Marinha, Portugal boasts a wide array of beautiful beaches that are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, or just enjoying the view.

Safety and Peacefulness

Safe Environment in Portugal

The safety and peacefulness that Portugal offers is another reason to consider moving there. Portugal offers:

  • One of the safest countries in the world to live in
  • A peaceful environment for Americans to reside and raise their families
  • It ranks 6th on the Global Peace Index, making it significantly safer than the USA.

Portugal’s crime rate is also significantly lower than the average for the European Union. With a crime rate of 2,208 reported offenses per 100,000 population in 2018, the country has relatively low violent crime rates. This makes Portugal a great place to live, especially for families with children.

Quality Education and International Schools

Portugal prioritizes education and is committed to providing high-quality education to all its residents. Portugal has gained recognition for its outstanding educational quality, notably in 2018, when it outperformed several countries in reading literacy, mathematics, and science on the OECD’s PISA rankings.

In addition to its public schools, Portugal is home to numerous international schools, especially around Lisbon, Cascais, and the Algarve. Top-notch options like the Carlucci American International School of Lisbon and the International Christian School of Cascais are fantastic choices for American students.

Degrees from Portuguese universities are also widely recognized within the EU, opening up great opportunities for graduates to work in other countries within the European Union.

Tax Incentives and Benefits

American expats find the range of tax incentives and benefits Portugal offers to be attractive. The Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) tax regime provides financial benefits for new residents, including exemption from most taxes on foreign income such as pensions, investments, capital gains, rental income, and work-related earnings. Under the NHR tax regime, skilled professionals such as executives, programmers, engineers, scientists, artists, and entertainers are eligible for a reduced income tax rate of 20%. This provides a tax incentive for these professionals to reside and work in the country.

The NHR regime is set to end on January 1st, 2024, marking the conclusion of this tax incentive for new residents in a positive way. These significant tax benefits are a driving force for many Americans seeking a more affordable lifestyle in Portugal.

Job Opportunities and Remote Work

The burgeoning tech industry and the well-established tourism sector in Portugal offer an array of exciting job opportunities. The tech industry is thriving in Portugal, especially in cities like Lisbon and Porto, where both startups and established firms are flourishing thanks to the abundance of skilled labor and favorable business conditions.

For those who prefer to work remotely, Portugal offers a growing remote work culture and has introduced the Digital Nomad Visa. This visa requires a minimum earning of €3,040 a month, allowing individuals to live and work remotely in Portugal. This opens up an amazing opportunity for Americans seeking to work remotely in a beautiful and vibrant country like Portugal.

Vibrant Expat Community

Americans looking to integrate into their new home will find a welcoming and supportive environment in Portugal’s large and diverse expat community. In major cities like Lisbon and Porto, Americans will find a lively expat community comprising people from around the world. This can facilitate integration into the local community and provide opportunities to make new friends.

The expat community in Portugal is vibrant and diverse, consisting of many retirees, digital nomads, and young families. The biggest expat communities are located in the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto, which are vibrant and welcoming places for expats to settle in.

Rich Culture and Traditions

Americans seeking a deeper connection to their new home will find Portugal’s unique culture, history, and traditions captivating. Festivals and community celebrations play a significant role in bringing Portuguese communities together and adding vibrancy to their cultural traditions. Some of the events that beautifully showcase Portuguese traditions include:

  • Carnaval
  • Holy Week
  • Festa de Sao Joao
  • Sintra Festival
  • International Sand Sculpture Festival (FIESA)

Family plays a central and significant role in Portuguese culture, with strong family bonds underpinning the social structure. Social connections are incredibly valued in Portuguese culture. The locals prioritize engaging in conversations and cultivating relationships, creating a tightly-knit social fabric that brings great benefits to both natives and expats.

Visa and Residency Options

Golden Visa Program in Portugal

Americans have a plethora of visa and residency options to choose from in Portugal, including the Portuguese residence permit. The Golden Visa, D7 Passive Income Visa, and D2 Entrepreneur Visa are just a few of the fantastic options available. The D7 Visa offers a wonderful opportunity for individuals with sufficient funds to sustain themselves in Portugal, while the D2 Visa is perfect for entrepreneurs starting or investing in a Portuguese business.

The Portugal Golden Visa Program is an amazing residency-by-investment program that offers a variety of investment options, including:

  • Real estate investment
  • Investing in private equity or venture capital funds
  • Scientific research
  • Art and heritage projects
  • Film production
  • Depositing a significant amount into a Portuguese bank

After five years of holding a residence permit, individuals can apply for permanent residence or citizenship, unlocking the exciting right to live, work, and study in any EU country.

Healthcare System in Portugal

The Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), Portugal’s healthcare system, is highly regarded and holds the 12th best global ranking. Both Portuguese citizens and legal residents of Portugal have the opportunity to register for Portugal’s public healthcare system.

Navigating Portugal’s healthcare system might involve some administrative processes and waiting times for non-emergency procedures, but the overall experience is positive. After all, the healthcare system offers quality care and accessibility to all residents.

Language Learning Opportunities

Expats in Portugal can greatly enhance their experience and open up greater opportunities for work, social connections, and cultural immersion by learning Portuguese. Some fantastic language courses available in Portugal to help expats learn Portuguese quickly and effectively include:

  • Instituto Camões
  • CIAL Centro de Linguas
  • Lisbon Language Cafe
  • Portuguese Connection
  • Portuguese Lab

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, which can be an exciting opportunity for Americans to learn a new language and immerse themselves in a new culture.

Visa Options for US Citizens

Portuguese Golden Visa program logo with American and Portuguese flags

Once you’ve made up your mind to move, the next significant task is obtaining a visa. US citizens have a variety of visa options to consider, including:

  • Golden Visa
  • D7 Retirement Visa
  • D2 Entrepreneur Visa
  • Digital Nomad Visa

Each of these visas serves different needs and circumstances, and we’ll examine each in more depth in the ensuing subsections.

Golden Visa Program

The Portugal Golden Visa Program offers the following benefits for non-EU investors:

  • Long-term residence in Portugal
  • Right to reside, study, and work in the country
  • Unrestricted travel within the Schengen Area
  • Potential for residency and citizenship

The program offers various investment options, including:

  • making €250,000 in culture, art, or reconstruction of national heritage
  • €500,000 in investment fund shares
  • a business investment that creates at least five jobs
  • a research investment.

To be eligible for residency and potentially citizenship via the Portuguese Golden Visa program, individuals must:

  • Retain resident status for at least five years
  • Have a minimum of 35 days of physical presence over the five-year span
  • Meet other criteria like proficiency in Portuguese, a clean criminal record, and posing no threat to national security.

D7 Retirement Visa

The D7 Retirement Visa is another viable option, tailored for retirees and income holders seeking to relocate to Portugal. It enables retirees to:

  • Appreciate Portugal’s beautiful landscapes, vibrant culture, and favorable climate
  • Sustain a comfortable lifestyle
  • Eventually, pursue permanent residency and citizenship.

Financial stability is a key criterion for this visa. Individuals must demonstrate a steady passive income from sources outside of Portugal, amounting to a minimum of €760 per month. Passive income can be sourced from pensions, rental income, and earnings from remote work. These sources provide steady income with minimal effort..

The D7 Visa is valid for a period of two years, after which the Portuguese residence permit must be renewed. It’s necessary to confirm that income and other eligibility requirements are fulfilled during the renewal process.

D2 Entrepreneur Visa

For entrepreneurial spirits, the D2 Entrepreneur Visa is the perfect fit. This visa is tailored for US entrepreneurs aiming to initiate or invest in a business in Portugal, with the possibility of obtaining residency and potential citizenship. The Portuguese government introduced this visa to draw in external resources and investments, thereby stimulating the country’s economic development.

To apply for the D2 Entrepreneur Visa, one must show sufficient financial means to live in Portugal. Immigration firms typically advise a minimum share capital investment of €50,000.

American entrepreneurs have the opportunity to explore various business prospects in Portugal, one of the European countries, such as:

  • Using cities like Lisbon and Porto as European Headquarters for business and access to the rest of Europe
  • Opening businesses geared towards the growing tourism industry
  • Providing ancillary services supporting the tourism industry

Digital Nomad Visa

The Digital Nomad Visa is a recent addition to the portfolio of visa options. This visa is designed for remote workers seeking to reside and work in Portugal while continuing their employment in another location.

The process for applying for the Portugal Visa, specifically the Digital Nomad Visa, involves submitting your application, supporting documentation, and visa fee at your local Portuguese Embassy. It’s important to make sure you have all the required documents for the Portuguese visa application process.

This visa offers a unique opportunity for digital nomads to experience the rich culture and lifestyle of Portugal while continuing to work remotely in their existing roles.

Preparing for the Move: Documentation and Logistics

Stack of essential documents including passports and visas for moving to Portugal

With a clearer understanding of the visa options, let’s examine in more depth the logistics involved in preparing for the move. This involves gathering essential documents, shipping your belongings, and finding suitable accommodation.

Gathering Essential Documents

One of the most critical steps in the relocation process is gathering the necessary documents. These include:

  • Passports
  • Visas
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Other relevant paperwork

The necessity of collecting these documents cannot be emphasized enough. They are needed for legal procedures like visa applications, registration with Portuguese authorities, and facilitating a seamless entry into the country. It is advisable to contact your local Portuguese consulate for assistance in obtaining these documents.

If you need to obtain certified copies of birth or marriage certificates in the USA, here are a few options:

  • Reach out to the vital records office in the state where the event occurred.
  • For marriage certificates, you can also apply at the county clerk's or recorder’s office in the jurisdiction where the marriage took place.
  • After the ceremony, a certified copy of the marriage certificate can be issued upon request.

Shipping Belongings

After you’ve assembled all the required documents, the next step is to organize the shipping of your belongings to Portugal. You can choose between sea freight or air, depending on your budget and timeline.

The typical expenses for shipping personal items from the US to Portugal via air freight range from $1,690 to $1,790 for specific routes, with an estimated cost of approximately $4.10 per kg for shipping boxes and pallets weighing between 250 lbs. and 3,500 lbs. Sea shipping costs can range significantly depending on the size and quantity of belongings, with shipping from New York to Lisbon costing around $1,580 and taking 12 days, while shipping from Los Angeles to Porto costs approximately $3,360 and takes 39 days.

If you’re wondering how long it takes to ship your belongings, it generally takes 2 to 4 business days through air freight, whereas it takes approximately 159 days via sea travel.

Finding Accommodation

Securing accommodation in Portugal is another key step in the process of relocating. Several online platforms can assist you in finding suitable accommodation, including:

  • Idealist
  • Imovirtual
  • Uniplaces
  • Airbnb
  • OLX
  • Toad House
  • VRBO
  • BQuarto
  • CustoJusto

The reputation of real estate agents in Portugal is somewhat varied. While there are reliable agents that provide valuable assistance in the search for accommodation, it’s important to be cautious and do thorough research, considering multiple agents before committing.

Once you have selected a property, you will need to sign a rental agreement or purchase contract. Ensure that you understand all the terms and conditions of the agreement before signing.

Adapting to Life in Portugal

American expats enjoying traditional Portuguese cuisine in a local restaurant

Once the logistics of the move are managed, the focus shifts to adapting to life in Portugal. This involves learning the language, embracing the local cuisine, and building a social network.

Language and Communication

The official language of Portugal is the Portuguese language. Although not mandatory for relocating to the country, learning Portuguese is advantageous for daily activities and is a requirement to pass a language test for eligibility to become a Portuguese citizen.

Beginners can effectively learn Portuguese by listening to Portuguese music, using language-learning apps, taking classes or lessons with a tutor, and practicing with native speakers.

Though learning Portuguese is advantageous, it’s reassuring that English is commonly spoken in Portugal, particularly in large cities such as Lisbon. Therefore, you can definitely get by with English while you’re working on your Portuguese skills.

Food and Cuisine

Food carries significant cultural importance, and this holds true for Portuguese cuisine as well. It features a wide variety of dishes heavily influenced by the availability of fresh seafood, such as:

  • Bacalhau (salted cod)
  • Cataplana de marisco (seafood stew)
  • Amêijoas (clams)
  • Percebes (goose barnacles)
  • Carabineiros (scarlet prawns)
  • Lingueirão (razor clam)

Traditional Portuguese dishes like Bacalhau a Bras and Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato offer a different palate of flavors compared to typical American dishes such as Key lime pie, Tater tots, and Cobb salad.

In addition to the main dishes, Portugal offers a range of locally produced items, such as almond milk, olive oil, and wine, which are considered everyday items in Portugal but are often seen as luxury goods in the US.

Therefore, embracing the local cuisine not only allows you to enjoy delicious meals but also gives you a deeper understanding of Portuguese culture.

Social Life and Networking

Establishing a social network in Portugal can be immensely fulfilling. There are various social groups and events for expats in Portugal, including Expat Groups and Clubs,, and Americans in Portugal Expat Group. For local networking events, expats can attend networking events in Portugal, specifically in Lisbon.

Understanding Portuguese and cultural norms can aid in forming connections and camaraderie with locals. It provides a deeper insight into the culture and customs, which is essential for respectful and appropriate interactions while networking and socializing in Portugal.

When interacting with neighbors and colleagues in Portugal, it’s important to be knowledgeable about business and social etiquette. This includes:

  • Conduct during meetings
  • Communication
  • Conversation topics
  • Table manners

These elements play a significant role in establishing strong professional and social relationships.

Financial Considerations

Now, let’s shift our focus to financial considerations. This includes understanding the steps to open a bank account, obtain a tax number (NIF), and comprehend the local tax system.

Opening a Bank Account

To establish a Portuguese bank account, US citizens first need to obtain a Portuguese tax number (NIF), and then they must visit a local bank branch in person to complete the process. Obtaining a Portuguese NIF is crucial for US citizens moving to Portugal because it is necessary for various financial transactions such as opening a bank account, signing a lease, and purchasing property.

When choosing a bank, some recommended banks in Portugal for expats are Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Millenium BCP, Banco BPO, Novo Banco, and Banco Santander Totta.

Obtaining a Tax Number (NIF)

The NIF, also referred to as the tax identification number, is a sequential number used for tax and customs purposes in Portugal. It is a mandatory requirement for financial transactions.

Acquiring a NIF for non-residents in Portugal involves the following steps:

  1. Schedule an appointment with the nearest Finanças office.
  2. Collect address proof.
  3. Visit Finanças in person or go to a citizen’s shop.
  4. For businesses, the application can be made online at Finanças.

In order to obtain a NIF in Portugal, it is necessary to submit a civil identity document, such as a passport or ID card, along with proof of address.

Understanding the Tax System

Understanding the tax system in Portugal is crucial for managing your finances. The Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) program offers substantial tax advantages for new residents, including remote workers, who can benefit from it for a period of ten years.

The tax benefits under the Non-Habitual Residence program in Portugal encompass:

  • Tax exemptions on nearly all foreign-sourced income if taxed in the country of origin
  • A 10% flat tax rate on pensions from a foreign source
  • A fixed tax rate on income from employment
  • Exemptions on gifts, inheritance, and more

To apply for the Non-Habitual Residence program in Portugal, follow these steps:

  1. Obtain a Portuguese residence permit.
  2. Log in to Portal das Finanças.
  3. Navigate to the NHR section.
  4. Submit the NHR request.
  5. Download the NHR registration document.

Healthcare and Education

International school in Portugal with diverse group of students

Finally, let’s examine two vital facets of life in Portugal: healthcare and education. Both are important factors for US citizens moving to Portugal, with options for both public and private healthcare and a range of international schools.

Healthcare System

Portugal’s healthcare system offers universal coverage, guaranteeing fair access for all residents, and allocates a larger portion of its health budget to outpatient care than other EU countries. This is in contrast to the United States’ healthcare system.

As a resident of Portugal, access to the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) is possible with a small fee after registering in the National User Register. To register, individuals need to sign up with social security (Seguranca Social) and visit their local health center to fill out the required forms.

The healthcare system in Portugal is generally free of charge for all citizens and legal residents. This ensures accessibility to medical services for the population. However, there are charges for certain services, such as emergency rooms, family doctors, and ambulance services. The cost of an appointment with a general practitioner is usually less than 60 euros.

International Schools and Higher Education

If you’re relocating with your family, it’s important to weigh your school options. Some of the top international schools in Portugal include the following:

  • St. James’ Primary School
  • Oeiras International School
  • St. Dominic’s International School
  • United Lisbon
  • Greene’s College, Oxford
  • Prime School International
  • PaRK International School
  • King’s College School, Cascais

These schools have distinguished reputations and offer a variety of curricula, including those for the International Baccalaureate (IB) and British A Levels. They also provide education in various languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, and Mandarin, catering to the needs of international families.

To gain admission, you will need to provide a completed enrollment form and a copy of the student’s passport. Some schools may also require previous school reports and a letter of recommendation from a previous teacher.


In conclusion, moving to Portugal from the USA involves a series of steps and considerations, from visa options to financial considerations, healthcare, and education. But with careful planning and preparation, you can navigate this process smoothly and start your new life in sunny Portugal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How hard is it to move to Portugal from the USA?

It is straightforward for a US citizen to obtain permanent residency in Portugal as long as they have a reasonable salary from outside of Portugal or passive income, qualifying for a D8 'Digital Nomad Visa' or a D7 'Passive Income Visa'.

How much money does an American need to move to Portugal?

An American moving to Portugal should budget around $2,500 to $3,000 per month as a couple, and closer to €3,000 per month for living in the city center.

Is it cheaper to live in Portugal or the USA?

Yes, Portugal is generally more affordable to live in compared to the United States, with an average cost of living that is 36.6% lower than in the USA.

Can an American get a job in Portugal?

Yes, an American can get a job in Portugal by obtaining a work visa, specifically a Schengen Visa (type D) if they plan to work in Portugal for more than six months. The job market in Portugal offers opportunities in various sectors, including tech, hospitality, tourism, and health professionals.

What are the benefits of moving to Portugal from the USA?

Moving to Portugal from the USA offers benefits such as an excellent climate, beautiful beaches, diverse cuisine, a high quality of life, low living costs, and a vibrant expat community. These factors can make integration and socialization easier.

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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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