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How to Move to Portugal in 2024

Portugal has become a very popular country for people all over the world in recent years. The good climate, low cost of living, amazing food and picturesque landscapes are just a few of the reasons why people wishing to move have been choosing Portugal in recent years. On top of this, Portugal offers many incentives for qualified immigrants and investors, causing various different communities to develop from North to South. 

If you are immigrating to Portugal, you should inform yourself in advance in order to prepare for this important step in the best possible way. Below you will find our guide with all the information about entry requirements, Visa options and all the different backgrounds in the country – including healthcare, insurance and education. We at Pearls of Portugal are happy to help you make the move to Portugal as easy and efficient as possible!

Everything you need to know

What do I need to move to Portugal?

Entry requirements for Portugal

Because of the Schengen Agreement, all citizens of the EU, Switzerland and Liechtenstein can move to Portugal without a visa. The documents required for entry are either a valid identity card or a passport. Other citizens need a Visa. Portugal offers many options in this department. If you’re confused as to what’s the best option for you, we can help.

Finding accommodation in Portugal

After you take care of your Visa (if that’s the case), you’ll need to start thinking about buying or renting a house in Portugal. It can be difficult to choose a home from a distance, so we recommend you visit the country to see the potential properties in person. However, you can also remote visit them.

At Pearls, we offer a Buyer’s Agent Service, to make your relocation as easy and as trustworthy as possible. Right after your first call with us, the agents assigned to you will find properties aligned with your needs, in the areas best fit for you. If you have no idea yet, they will help you with information. You can also visit our real estate website to get a clue of the market.

Portuguese Tax Number (NIF)

The NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal or Número de Contribuinte) is the Portuguese Tax Number. It should be your first worry after you make the decision to move to Portugal, as it is needed for pretty much every process. This includes applying for most of the Visas. You probably won’t have a Portuguese address yet, so you’ll need a ‘Representante Fiscal’ to get it for you.

A Portuguese bank account

If you have a local income, regardless of whether you are self-employed or not, you will have to pay taxes. Tax invoices are issued on specific transfer forms, and foreign banks usually do not offer adequate models for this type of regularization. Plus, most employers only transfer salaries to Portuguese bank accounts.
The best known banks are Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Santander Totta, Novo Banco, BPI and Millennium. In some of them you can open an account online, in others you will have to go and open the account in person. To open a bank account, you will need:

  • Valid Identification Document
  • Tax Number (NIF)
  • Registration Certificate (proof of address)

In general, all banks offer applications to facilitate online transactions. ActivoBank does not charge any account management fees but not everyone is comfortable with online banking. It is therefore advisable to take a look at other offers and conditions.

Money Transfer

When moving to a new country, a money transfer is most definitely something you’ll have to worry about. And the process can be a headache if you’re moving from a non-EU country, due to foreign exchange fees. Thus, you should try to find a good solution. Banks are usually not the case, so we recommend you look into money transfer providers and apps. This can be included in your relocation package, when joining forces with Pearls.

Finding a job when you move to Portugal

As of January 1, 2023, workers will receive a minimum wage of 760 euros per month. The salary is paid fourteen times, resulting in a total of 9,310 euros at the end of the year. The legal minimum wage in Portugal is an essential reference for regulations in labor and social laws. Wages in Portugal are quite low compared to other European countries and minimum wage is mostly common in the retail and food services.

Higher salaries depend heavily on the specific industry. You will find most companies in Portugal’s two largest cities: Lisbon and Porto. The food and textile industries are important branches. The metallurgical industry and the financial sector are also becoming important employers in Portugal. Another very important job market is the tourism industry, which has many employees, especially in summer.

The labor market in Portugal for expats is mainly dependent on language skills. For foreigners without any knowledge of Portuguese, it’s possible to work from home for an international company or for foreign companies that have branches in Portugal. 

Do I need a work permit?

EU citizens do not need a work permit to work in Portugal. The only requirement here is that you must register with the registration office if you are staying for an extended period (more than 90 days). If you are still looking for a job, you must prove that you have enough resources for the period of the job search. In the case of an existing or potential employment relationship, the employment contract or a confirmation from the future employer must be submitted.

As stated before, non-EU citizens need a Visa. If you’re a highly qualified profissional, the D3 Visa would be the best option for you.

move to portugal
Porto, Portugal

How do I get a social security number in Portugal?

You can get your Social Security Identification Number (NISS) by requesting it from your employer, or, as a self-employed person, by email. You can also go to a Social Security office in person. Social Security benefits will only be paid after you’ve paid contributions for 6 months.

If you receive your pension from another country, you do not have to register. Social Security is a system that covers all types of social benefits: health insurance, unemployment insurance and welfare insurance, as well as occupational disability. It also includes sickness, maternity, child, and unemployment benefits. Social Security also functions as social welfare and youth assistance office in Portugal. So you should definitely consider it.

Taxes

Taxation is a complex issue in Portugal. All employees or self-employed people in Portugal are also required to file an income tax return. It is advisable to hire an accountant to fill out the IRS declaration.

IRS (Personal Income Tax)

It’s the tax on wages and income. IRS is issued for all other types of income, including self-employment. Total income is divided into five tax classes (brackets), and the tax class is based on annual income. It also depends on whether you have children, are otherwise dependent, or are married. The relevant IRS tables can be found on the Finance Portal.

These tables and tax laws are updated annually in the State Budget (OE). It has been possible to enter your invoices online for a few years now if a tax number has been provided. The system is called e-Fatura.

All invoices that are issued by February 15 can then be transferred to the correct section. As an additional help, the tax office provides an annual filing aid that you can download from your IRS portal. IRS filing runs from April 1 to June 30. Any tax refunds will be paid during this period, no later than August 31 of the same year.

Healthcare system in Portugal

Portugal has a public healthcare system (SNS) that guarantees the basic medical care of the Portuguese population and all the people who live and work in the country. If you’re employed in the country, then you already have a Social Security Number, which is needed for the SNS. However, in order to book a public doctor’s appointment, you must register with your local health center (Centro de Saúde). You can do this in person, and all you need is your identity card and confirmation of your registration.

The main advantage of the Portuguese public healthcare system is the fact that it’s free. One disadvantage is the long waiting time for an appointment (particularly in specific specialities). Since the benefits of compulsory health insurance are not sufficient for many migrants, it is advisable to take out private health insurance. There’s many options with different packages, so you should definitely look into what would best fit your needs.

What should I look for in private health insurance?

There’s many options of health insurance in Portugal nowadays, so there’s definitely at least one out there that’s suitable for you. What you should mostly take into account is:

  • Covering of your existing needs (known conditions/diseases)
  • If hospitals in your area have contracts with the provider you’re looking into
  • How many people you plan on including
  • Price

Private insurance also allows you to find doctors who speak English and even German, Spanish and French, which can help you avoid any language barrier at the beginning of your time in Portugal. What your health insurance should cover is a very individual decision, so it is advisable to take the time to get accurate information about prices and services and, if necessary, compare several insurance companies.

What are the costs of private health insurance in Portugal?

With health insurance, you only pay part the price of a private medical appointment. Full reimbursement of costs is only available from doctors and clinics in the respective insurance network.

The costs vary depending on the services, the number of people included and their respective ages. A regular package is usually between 10 and 150€/month. But there are also insurance packages that can cost much more. Dentist work is usually not included in most offers and often has to be booked as additional insurance, making it more expensive.

Here are some suggestions for private insurance providers in Portugal:

  • Médis
  • AdvanceCare
  • Medicare
  • Mgen Seguros
  • Allianz
move to portugal 2023
Start your new dream in Portugal!

Important information about sick leave, sick pay, and unemployment in Portugal

Under Portuguese law, lost working days (with justification or not) aren’t paid. If you have a cold and don’t go to work, that day will be deducted from your salary. Employees can only claim sick pay from the fourth day of illness. For self-employed workers it’s 11 days.

The amount of sickness benefit depends on the duration and type of illness. If the illness lasts from four to 30 days, you will receive 55% of your earnings. From 31 to 90 days, you will receive 60%, from 91 to 365 days 70%, and people who have been on sick leave for more than a full year receive 75% of their income. Note that only public health authorities (Health Center) can issue valid notes for sick leave. This is due to the fact that in case of inability to work, the state supports you in part.

Pension Schemes in Portugal

If you have a regular job in Portugal or have had one in the past, you are entitled to an old-age pension.

This applies to Portuguese citizens, immigrants from EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You can start receiving your pension when you have reached the retirement age of 66 years and 4 months (as of 2023). You may be entitled to an early pension in the following situations:

  • Long-term involuntary unemployment
  • Hazardous professions, such as mining, fishing, air traffic controlling, etc.
  • Long professional career subject to contributions
  • As part of the retirement age flexibility system (if you’re 60+ and have 40 years of discounts)

The amount of the pension is calculated on the basis of the contribution years and the declared income of the insured person.

If there is a need for care, the regular pension can be increased with the care allowance and also the solidarity allowance for the elderly, which is granted to pensioners residing in Portugal and with low income from the normal retirement age for pensions from the general social security system.

Vehicles

If you already have a car and don’t want to sell it, you can take it to Portugal. You will need a Portuguese Tax Number (NIF) for the import and registration process. You must also be registered online in the Finance portal. The tax office will send your password to the address you provided within a few days. With this access data, you also have full access to the official vehicle tax simulator.

What documents do I need to import a car?
  • Original registration certificate (Part I and II)
  • CoC document (Certificate of Conformity = homologação)
  • Engine number: where is it stamped / readable? (not to be confused with chassis number!)
  • Confirmation of the engine number from a Portuguese dealer
  • Purchase contract of the car with registration, mileage, purchase price, chassis number
  • Your NIF
  • ID document (ID card / passport)
  • Driver’s license
How do I register my vehicle in Portugal?

When you move to Portugal and register your vehicle for the first time in Portugal, you will need the form Impresso Modelo Único as well as a certificate from the tax office that proves that the vehicle is “debt-free”. If you only want to change the registration of your car inside Portugal, use the same form as for the first registration and submit your vehicle documents and your tax number. The registration is made by the ‘Conservatória de Registo’ of your municipality.

Do I need to change my driver’s license in Portugal?

If you’re from the EU or from an EEE country, then you don’t need to exchange your license at all. If you’re from a country Portugal has a bilateral agreement with (check here), you can drive with your foreign license freely for up to 185 days. The moment you acquire permanent residence is when you must get your license rewritten to a Portuguese one. All you need for this process is a health certificate issued by a doctor in Portugal. You will then need to apply for the reissue on the IMT website, which has a cost of 30€.

If you’re from a country with no bilateral agreement, then you will need to take a driver’s test.

Insurances in Portugal

What insurances are required in Portugal and where do I get them?

In addition to the health insurance mentioned above, you also need car insurance for your vehicle in Portugal. It is also advisable to take out house insurance for your home.

Car insurance

You need car insurance to drive your vehicle in Portugal. If you have registered your vehicle in Portugal, it must also be insured. You are advised to ask your bank if they can provide you with adequate insurance since most Portuguese banks work together with different insurance companies. In Portugal, all vehicles must have at least third-party liability insurance. Also, the car is not insured, but the driver is. This means that different people can drive your car if they have a valid driver’s license. The disadvantage of this type of insurance is that you cannot benefit from accident-free discounts, as this is not taken into account in Portugal. The insurance premium depends on factors such as the condition, age, make, and model of the car.

Home insurance

Two types of insurance are available:

  • Liability insurance: This is required by law and covers damage to other people’s property in the event of an accident.
  • Comprehensive Insurance: This also covers fire, theft, and bodily injury.

Especially in a rented apartment, insurance can protect against unpleasant surprises in case of damage. If you need to replace furniture, for example, you can be reimbursed for this and other items. It is advisable to make a list and indicate the amount you would have to spend in case of significant damage. Some insurers don’t cover appliances that are more than eight years old. These include, for example, TV or DVD player.

If possible, you should choose home insurance that offers you full compensation, regardless of the age of the damaged items. The value of your insured property is updated annually.

move to portugal 2023
Lisbon, Portugal

Education in Portugal

Are you planning to move to Portugal with kids or teenagers? Worried about their progress and adaptation to a Portuguese school? Or are you student looking to come to university here? Either way, good news! The Portuguese school system is rather good. And when it comes to Universities, Portugal has many – public and private – with seven of them being some of the best in the world.

Pre-school

Although not mandatory, it’s frequented for at least a year by the vast majority of children as preparation for real school. ‘Jardins de infância’ or ‘creches’ are also very much recommended by specialists, so as to make kids socialize and learn basics early.

Primary School (First Cycle)

This lasts 4 years, from 1st to 4th grade. One teacher lectures the main subjects – Portuguese, Math and ‘Estudo do Meio’ (science). Then there’s a different teacher for English and another for Physical Education (PE). Some schools offer additional subjects.

Second Cycle

This marks the beginning of a very different cycle. Subjects, timetable, teachers and often schools change. It last two years (5th and 6th grade). At the end of 5th grade, there’s exams for History and Geography and Portuguese.

Third Cycle

Lasts 3 years, running from the 7th to 9th grade. Subjects change again. Students have final exams for Portuguese and Math at the end.

Secondary Education

It lasts 3 years, from the 10th to the 12th grade. Students need to choose from the following areas: science, art, humanities or economics in general education schools, or other areas in vocational schools. Subjects then depend on the area chosen. Four exams must be taken, depending on what the students want to study in university.

Private or public school in Portugal?

Public schools in Portugal are free for all children and the costs of school books are also covered for most kids, in a loan system. For private schools, parents have to pay a certain amount every month. The amount is determined by the schools themselves – the more renowned, the more expensive. Private school’s classes are smaller, so teachers may be able to respond better to (new) international students. There are also language-specific international schools. It depends on what’s in your child’s best interest and, of course, on financial means.

Often, immigrants also choose international schools to give their children the opportunity to return to their home country after graduation so that they can easily look for a job or a place to study there.

Where can I find a suitable language school when I move to Portugal?

It is more than advisable to learn Portuguese if you move to Portugal. There are many ways to learn the Portuguese language. School or private language teachers, there are suitable options for everyone. Language schools usually offer a wide range of different courses -wweekend, evening or online courses and also individual lessons. The advantage here is the relatively low price and the opportunity to meet other expats.

Intensive courses are usually also offered by language schools. These are particularly useful in the early days to acquire basic knowledge as quickly as possible and to constantly consolidate communication skills. However, if you already have a job and don’t have time to devote to language learning, an evening or weekend course may be more appropriate for you.

Private or small group lessons are recommended if you want a teacher who can respond individually to you and your learning pace. They can also actively support your learning progress. A language tandem is ideal if you already have some prior knowledge and want to consolidate and improve it by actively speaking with locals. This way, you’re also meeting new people.

move to portugal 2023
Algarve, Portugal

What’s the Cost Of Living in Portugal?

It’s not easy to calculate a general average cost of living, as this depends not only on the different regions, but also on personal living standards, circumstances and requirements. The cost of living in Portugal has increased in recent years and has reached the general EU average in cities like Lisbon and Porto. This is especially true in the housing market. In rural areas or outside city centres, however, costs are still quite low.

Rent

Rent has been going up in recent years, particularly in the city centers of Lisbon and Porto. Many landlords raise rents in the summer because of tourists looking for apartments they can rent for several weeks. Therefore, it is advisable to look for a home in the fall or even in the winter, as rental prices go down again in the tourist spots and there is much more choice. If you move to Portugal in order to appreciate cheaper rents, it is better to settle down in smaller cities like Braga or Coimbra.

cost of living in portugal housing
Gastronomy

In Portugal, you can eat well for rather cheap prices. Traditional Portuguese restaurants in particular often offer daily dishes (Prato do dia) for 6 – 8 euros. They are also often available as a complete menu with salad, soup, and drink.

Groceries

There are a lot of brands of supermarkets in Portugal, spread everywhere. They generally don’t vary in prices much, so what we would recommend is you plan your shopping based on your needs, the offer in your area and the discounts of the week.

Most grocery stores work on a client card system, although mobile apps are becoming more and more popular. These memberships are completely free so we recommend you get affiliated to all stores of your interest. This way you can keep up with general discounts and access member-only benefits also. Some popular grocery stores are Continente, Pingo Doce, Lidl, Mercadona, Intermarché and Aldi.

Public transportation

In and around larger cities, you really don’t need a car. Lisbon and Porto, in particular, have great public transport connections.

Even if you decide to live on the outskirts of both cities, you have the option of using trains, metro, buses or even the ferry (if living on the other side of Tagus River – ‘Margem Sul’). Fares in Portugal are comparatively cheap, and the option of a monthly transportation pass makes it very easy for commuters. Other major cities like Braga and Aveiro also have good bus and train systems. As you get to smaller towns, though, public transportation options can be scarce.

Utilities

The difference from Portugal to other countries is that you do not pay a monthly flat rate for your utilities. Your meter readings are sent to your provider every month. Therefore, you only pay for what you consume. Central heating’s not common in Portugal, so many use electric heaters. Some models are very energy efficient, but the electricity bill in most households is accordingly higher in winter. For a two-bedroom, you can expect to pay around 60€ in summer and 80€ in winter.

A lot of households use gas for the cooking stove and hot water storage tank. This is usually also provided by your electricity company, unless you want to buy the gas cylinders yourself.

Water bills are, for the most part, cheaper than electricity/gas, not usually going over 20€. For a two-bedroom, you can expect to pay around 80-100€ for main utilities.

Communication expenses

Internet, TV and phone bills usually come in a package, but can also be separated. The main providers in Portugal are NOS, MEO and Vodafone. Your decision should be made based on your priorities – how fast you need your wi-fi to be; amount of data on your phone; how many channels you want on the TV or even if you want TV at all. You can compare communications plans here.

How do I get a Portuguese phone number?

Mobile contracts usually have a 24 month loyalty period. The services depend on the respective price, so it is also worth considering smaller providers such as UZO or NOWO.

Since 2017, there have been no roaming charges within the EU. So if you want to make phone calls in Portugal with your cell phone and your existing number, you can do so via the providers on the terms of your domestic tariff.

When moving to Portugal, it is advisable to get a Portuguese phone number as soon as possible. If you do not want to be tied to a contract, you have the option of a pre-paid card. Having a Portuguese cell phone number also makes it easier for you to get into other contracts, be contacted by services and talk to local people.

Leisure time 

Sports in Portugal

If you want to join a gym in your spare time, there are numerous options and offers, as well as sports clubs and groups. A regular gym membership costs around 30-40€ per month, depending on your area and the conditions you want.

Another popular option for sports in Portugal is water sports, due to the country’s big coastline. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity for you to take up surfing, for example.

Culture

Although most events are concentrated in Lisbon and Porto, in recent years a process called ‘descentralização’ (decentralization) has been bringing more and more culture to other places.

All over Portugal, there’s a lot of museums and galleries to visit and cinemas and theatres to go to. When it comes to music events, the big ones are still mostly held in the bigger cities, but there’s also a lot of mini festivals in smaller towns. This could be a great opportunity for you to explore a different side of Portugal and meet new people!

Some examples of this would be Mucho Flow, in Guimarães; Vilar de Mouros, in Viana do Castelo and Bons Sons, in Tomar.

Frederik
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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