Moving to Portugal
Moving to Portugal from another EU country is relatively straightforward. This has made Portugal a popular destination for retirees from wealthier European countries, happy to take advantage of low property prices; and ready to enjoy some of the warmest nights and winters on the continent.
The benefits of setting up home in Portugal – in coastal Porto or more inland Braga – go well beyond the economic and practical. The capital city of Lisbon is populated by just 3 million souls. A large number of small villages have barely changed in layout since medieval times (there are fifteen UNESCO World Heritage sites).
It is perhaps this outward looking perspective that lead Portugal to develop the world’s first global empire, one which spanned colonies as far flung as Brazil in South America and East Timor in Southeast Asia.
The landscape ranges from craggy coastline to expansive woodland to granite mountains and hosts a great diversity of wildlife. So Portugal offers a home in Europe away from the hustle and bustle of big city living but that is still vibrant and exhilarating.
Another big draw for English speaking migrants is the proficiency of the locals in the English language. On a global scale of English skills, Portugal ranks only just behind Switzerland and well ahead of Spain, Italy, and France.
Visas and how to become a Portuguese citizen
EU nationals have the right to live, study and work in Portugal for an unlimited period. However, if you intend to stay in the country long term it is advisable to apply for a Certificado de Registro, or Registration Certificate, and an employer or landlord may request copy of this.
This will also grant you the right, after five continuous years’ residence, to request a Certificado de Residencia Permanente, or Permanent Residence Certificate, to formalise your situation. The next step would be looking into acquiring Portuguese citizenship.
Non-EU citizens moving to Portugal
Other nationalities are required to apply for a visa in order to live and work in Portugal. There are a number of different visa options such as long stay visas for work, study, training or retirement, as well as the Golden Residence Permit Programme, which provides incentives for those who undertake investment activity in the country.
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Since 2002 Portugal’s state healthcare system has undergone major reform and is currently ranked 12th overall in the world. Healthcare in the country is free to all who have the right to reside there and residents may seek treatment at any state hospital, clinic or GP’s surgery.
Registering for healthcare
In order to access the system as an overseas national, you must register at your local Centro de Saude, or health centre, on your arrival, or visit the local Posto de Atendimento ao Cidadao (these are help desks operated by the Ministry of Health).
You will need to take with you your passport or ID card, your tax number, proof of residence and social security number. EU nationals will also need to present their European Health Insurance Card, as will those from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Opting for private medical insurance
As with many state-provided medical services, waiting lists can sometimes be long although this can be overcome through the use of private medical services. If you wish to go private you can simply pay for your consultation and treatment or consider taking out medical insurance with an international provider such as BUPA or a domestic health insurance specialist.
After several stagnant years the Portuguese job market is picking up and there are more and more opportunities opening up for Portuguese nationals and expats alike. Unemployment remains higher than average, however, amongst recent graduates and women.
The hospitality and tourism sectors are popular choices for expats, especially those with multiple language skills, and these individuals are also in demand within the rapidly growing call centre sector.
As Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon offers the broadest range of employment options, from media and entertainment to banking and finance and just about everything in between. Doctors and IT specialists are in particularly short supply at present, so if you have skills in this area it is well worth considering Portugal for your new move abroad.
Speaking Portuguese in the workplace
With communication vital whatever your occupation, if you are intending to work in Portugal you will need a high level of proficiency in the language in order to be considered for employment.
Of course, as arguably the most effective way of learning to speak another language is immersion, you can always choose to enrol for an intensive language course on your arrival to bring your skills up to scratch before you embark on your Portuguese job search.
Salaries in Portugal
Salaries in Portugal vary widely but are noticeably lower than in many other leading European cities, at an average of 15,000 Euros per annum after deductions. This is, however, rebalanced to some extent by the country’s lower cost of living and high quality of life.
Essential information for Portugal
|International dialling code:||+351|
|Drives on the:||right|
|Tipping:||10% or more depending on the service|
|Unusual fact:||As the cork tree is a native tree to Portugal, it is one of the largest exporters of cork products.|
Renting is a popular choice when you first relocate, providing you with an opportunity to find your feet in your new country before committing to buying in a particular city or neighbourhood.
Typical rents in the capital are around 1,000 Euros per month for a three-bedroom city-centre apartment, compared to 640 Euros in Porto and just 450 Euros in Braga. Smaller one-bedroom apartments in the same locations cost around 560 Euros, 350 Euros and 280 Euros respectively, with prices noticeably cheaper in the suburbs. Expect to pay somewhere in the region of 100 Euros or less per month for your utilities.
Buying property in Portugal
At over 70%, Portugal has one of the highest rates of owner-occupation in Europe. Prices are rising, particularly in the Lisbon Metropolitan area and in certain areas of Porto, although growth is relatively slow overall.
In the year to March 2015 prices rose by 1.81% countrywide, to an average of 1,011 Euros per square metre, although buyers can expect to spend more for high-end city-centre luxury and considerably less for a property in a quiet, rural location. Despite this fledgling growth, prices are still down on pre-2008 levels and many investors maintain that now is a good time to buy on the Peninsula.
If you are considering buying in Portugal it is worth exploring the NHR (Non-Habitual Residents) and GRP (Golden Residence Permit), both of which encourage non-Portuguese nationals to invest in the country’s real estate in return for residence or tax reduction incentives.
In general there are no restrictions on foreigners owning property in Portugal and purchase costs are relatively low in comparison to other markets.
Cost of moving to Portugal
Moving country is never cheap but if you are relocating from mainland Europe or the UK you are likely to find moving to Portugal is certainly affordable without breaking the bank.
With the benefit of being able to load your possessions straight onto a truck and unload directly at your final destination, the process is also relatively trouble free. If you are moving from elsewhere, however, you will probably need to pack your life into a 20ft or 40ft container to make its way by land and sea to Portugal.
|London to Lisbon||£1,000|
|Paris to Lisbon||£1,000|
|New York to Lisbon||£2,300|
|Toronto to Lisbon||£2,300|
|Dubai to Lisbon||£3,000|
While there are certain regional differences when it comes to pricing, on the whole the cost of living in Portugal is refreshingly low. If you are moving here to live on a pension or other private income, you will find your Euros stretching a very long way indeed, although those in work, particularly in lower paid jobs, will need to plan budgets carefully to ensure that money out really does match money in.
A meal in an inexpensive restaurant will cost around 5 Euros in the northern city of Braga, 6 Euros in Porto and up to 7 Euros in Lisbon, while the cost of a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is around 30 Euros as standard.
A leisurely cappuccino in a city-centre café ranges between 89 cents and 1.30 Euros, while fresh groceries are also good value wherever you are.
Outings and transportation
Leisure pursuits such as visiting the cinema to watch a new release are also refreshingly affordable, with a ticket costing just 6.50 Euros in Lisbon and slightly less in Braga and other small towns and cities.
Transport costs vary widely according to location and the means of transport used, with public transport unsurprisingly significantly cheaper than private taxis.
Schools and education
Education in Portugal begins with optional nursery and kindergarten, followed by compulsory school from first grade until the age of 18. State schooling is free of charge to all residents and Portuguese nationals although as in many countries some families choose to send their children to private school instead.
Registration for state schooling usually takes place by 15 July each year and is carried out via the individual school you have chosen to attend. If you are arriving in Portugal for the first time with little ones in tow, contact the Direcçao Regional de Educaçao (Regional Education Authority) to find out about your options and the necessary steps you need to take to ensure that they are slotted into the system.
*Note that if your children do not already speak fluent Portuguese, they will be eligible for extra one-to-one language support within the state system until they have mastered it.
International schools in Portugal
If you do not envisage staying in Portugal forever, or you simply wish your children to acquire or retain their proficiency in another language, there are plenty of international schools to choose from, especially in and around Lisbon and the Algarve.
English, French, German and Spanish speaking options are all available, following the respective national curriculum alongside the Portuguese basics.
Universities in Portugal
Higher education courses are offered at various polytechnics and universities on campuses throughout the country. In total, five of Portugal’s universities are ranked in the world’s top 700 according to the QS World University Rankings, with the University of Porto leading the way at 293rd.
This is closely followed by the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the University of Coimbra, which was established as long ago as 1290, the University of Lisbon and the Universidade Catolica Portuguesa Lisboa. Fees are refreshingly low compared to countries such as the UK and the USA in particular, with some starting at less than 1,000 Euros per year.
Driving in Portugal
On arriving in Portugal you are permitted to drive immediately using your existing driving license or an international license. However, if you intend to remain in the country you should apply to the Ministry of Transport (Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes) for a Portuguese driving license, for which you will need to produce your original driving licence, ID card or passport and a completed application form.
All drivers are bound to carry a triangle and fluorescent vest in their vehicle at all times and any accidents must be reported to the local police who will attend the scene to evaluate any damage. Speed limits are 120 km/h on motorways, 100 km/h on dual carriageways and non-urban highways and 50 km/h in built-up areas.
With pockets of expats all over the country, wherever you settle and whatever your country of origin you are likely to find kindred spirits around you. The Algarve, Lisbon, Porto and Braga are all popular choices for those looking to start a new life in the sun, and expats are increasingly discovering the beauty of inland Portugal too.
Even if you find yourself in an area with few expats on your doorstep, there are several online forums in which you can swap news and ideas or seek advice about just about any aspect of your life in Portugal.
Ranking against the world
Portuguese is the world’s sixth most spoken first language and Portugal was a founder nation of both NATO and the OECD.
The capital city Lisbon is a major economic and cultural centre and still has the busiest Port on the European Atlantic coast.
Portuguese cuisine exemplifies the rich and complex yet understated character of the nation perfectly. Fresh local ingredients like olives, bread, cheese, red wine and seafood need little in the way of preparation. A little seasoning, drying or smoking to enhance the flavour and you’re all set. And yet these ingredients are combined in a thousand different ways, each resulting in a sumptuous feast. The Portuguese are no slouches when it comes to feasting either – the calendar is packed with festivals, fairs and parties.
A recent survey of British expats listed Portugal as number 12 in the list of countries in which they felt healthiest and wealthiest, in good company alongside locations such as Australia, Canada, the UAE, New Zealand, France and Spain.
Market research specialist Numbeo ranks Portugal higher for its quality of life than many other countries including such sought-after destinations as Croatia, Italy, Greece, Hong Kong and Bulgaria. Residents describe feeling safer in Portugal than in New Zealand, the UK and Sweden, while the country’s consumer prices are lower than Nigeria, Uruguay, Lebanon, Estonia, Russia and many other ‘low-cost’ destinations.