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Considering a Move to Portugal? Here’s What You Need to Know

Portugal attracts expats worldwide, with over 16% of its population coming from overseas. The lifestyle, culture and cost of living all have a part to play in attracting expats to Portugal. Here’s our guide to moving to Portugal.

For more information on Portugal Visas, and guidance applicable to your circumstances, do not hesitate to call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online.

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    What you need to know

    We explore everything you need to know to move to Portugal. Discover visa options, and considerations for medical, education, cost of living, language and more.

    If you need support with your visa application or relocation, our expert immigration attorneys can help. Get in touch for more information and guidance for your move to Portugal. Do not hesitate to call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online.

    Medical Care in Portugal

    Portugal boasts a high-quality healthcare system accessible to residents and expatriates alike. Public and private healthcare is affordable, and there are options:

    Public Healthcare

    Portugal’s public healthcare system (Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS) provides medical services at low or no cost to residents and expatriates with a residence permit. You can access the SNS once you have obtained your residence permit. Services include general practitioner visits, specialist consultations, hospital care, and emergency services.

    Prior to obtaining your residence permit, you will be limited to emergency service use. Applying for residency immediately upon entering Portugal is advisable to avoid limitations. Some expats choose to go private to offset this.

    Emergency Services

    Emergency services are reliable, and hospitals are equipped to handle various medical situations. In case of emergencies, dial 112 for an ambulance.

    Private Healthcare

    Many expats opt for private healthcare for shorter wait times and more personalised care. Private health insurance is advisable if you choose this route. Popular private hospitals and clinics are in major cities like Lisbon, Porto, and Faro.


    Pharmacies are widespread and well-stocked. Pharmacists can offer medical advice and over-the-counter medications. In larger cities, many pharmacies are open 24/7.

    Medical Treatment Visa

    For those seeking medical treatment in Portugal, a specific visa allows you to stay for the duration of your treatment. This visa requires a medical report and proof of treatment in Portugal.

    Education in Portugal

    Portugal offers a range of educational options for expatriate families.

    Public Schools

    Free for residents, including those on resident permits. Teaching is primarily in Portuguese, which can be a good option for younger children who want to integrate and learn the language quickly. Public schools follow the national curriculum. Portugal offers free primary and secondary education.

    Private and International Schools

    International schools and most private schools offer tuition in English or other languages. They follow international standards and often adhere to the English curriculum. This is attractive to many expats. International schools are primarily concentrated in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve region. They can be expensive, so budgeting for tuition fees is necessary.

    Higher Education

    Portugal has reputable universities offering a variety of programs. The D5 Tertiary Study Visa is available for students enrolling in Bachelors or Masters degree. Notable universities include:

    • University of Lisbon (Universidade de Lisboa)
    • University of Porto (Universidade do Porto)
    • University of Coimbra (Universidade de Coimbra)
    • NOVA University Lisbon (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa)
    • University of Aveiro (Universidade de Aveiro)

    Accessing Public Services

    Expatriates can access public education and healthcare services on a residence permit. Registering with your local health centre and school district upon arrival is essential.

    Our experts are available to help you settle in Portugal. We advise on visas, residency, rights and what you need to know before you go. For assistance on your Portugal immigration plans, call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online.

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    Lifestyle in Portugal

    Portugal’s lifestyle is one of the main attractions for expatriates.

    Cost of Living

    Portugal is generally cheaper to live in than in many Western European countries. This is particularly the case outside Lisbon and Porto. Rental costs are significantly lower in smaller towns and rural areas.


    Portugal enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. Its hot summers and mild winters make it ideal for year-round outdoor activities. Many locals holiday in the Algarve or the Azores to enjoy the sun and rich landscapes.


    Portuguese cuisine is rich and varied. Fresh seafood and local produce are a keen feature. There is also an emphasis on traditional cuisine, some of which are celebrated in culture. One such festival is the Feast of Saint Anthony or “Festa de Santo António”, where grilled sardines are enjoyed throughout the festivities. Regional markets, cafes, and restaurants are a big part of the Portuguese lifestyle.

    Culture and Recreation

    Portugal offers a unique culture with popular events, including:

    • Festa de São João – Lively street parties and traditions in Porto.
    • Lisbon Book Fair – Celebration of literature in the heart of Lisbon.
    • Fado Festival – Soulful melodies of Portugal’s traditional music.
    • NOS Alive – Major music festival in Lisbon.
    • Queima das Fitas – University student festivities in Coimbra.

    Portugal  enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, surfing, and golf. Football is considered the national sport. It has a unique cultural heritage, historical sights and arts scene. Some favourites include:

    • Livraria Lello – A historic bookstore in Porto, famed for its neo-Gothic architecture and literary ambience.
    • Berardo Collection Museum – Lisbon’s contemporary art museum showcasing international exhibitions.
    • Monastery of Batalha – Gothic masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage site, rich in history and artistic grandeur.
    • Alto Douro Region – Historic, scenic vineyards with world-class wine.
    • Sintra – Enchanting town is known for its palaces, mystical landscapes, and artistic allure.



    The official language is Portuguese. Many public services and official documents are in Portuguese, so basic proficiency is beneficial. It is always advised for integration. Many expats admit that speaking Portuguese improved their quality of life and experience. English is widely spoken, though. This is common among younger generations. In the past decade, the amount of Portuguese people who speak a second language has risen to 72%. Many of these speak English as a second language. Language courses are available across the country.

    Cost of Living and Housing

    Understanding the cost of living and housing options is crucial for planning your move.

    Rental Costs

    Rental costs vary significantly depending on the location. Lisbon and Porto are the most expensive cities. In Lisbon, a one-bedroom apartment costs around €800-€1,200 per month, while in Porto, it ranges from €600-€1,000. In smaller towns, rents can be as low as €400-€600 per month.

    Buying Property

    Portugal is a popular destination for property buyers. Prices are higher in urban centres and the Algarve. For example, property prices in Lisbon average around €3,500 per square meter, while in Porto, it’s around €2,500 per square meter.

    Restrictions and Considerations

    There are no significant restrictions on foreign property ownership. It’s important to understand the legal and tax implications. It is also appropriate to secure and maintain residency to access the property. Property taxes, maintenance costs, and utilities should also be factored into your budget.

    a woman traveler in Portugal

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      Understanding your legal rights and access to services as an expatriate is essential.

      Voting Rights

      Non-EU expatriates cannot vote in national elections. However, they may have voting rights in local elections if they reside in Portugal. EU citizens residing in Portugal can vote in local and European Parliament elections.

      Residency and Citizenship

      After five years of legal residency, you can apply for permanent residency. After six years, you may be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. This is subject to language proficiency and other requirements.

      Public Services

      Once you have a residence permit, you can access public healthcare, education, and other social services. Registration with local authorities, health centres, and schools is necessary.

      Work and Retirement Visas

      If you plan to work in Portugal, the D1 Work Visa is required. This visa is for non-EU/EEA nationals with a job offer in Portugal. The D7 Passive Income Visa is suitable for retirees. You could be eligible if you have sufficient passive income, such as pensions or dividends.

      Process of Getting a Residency Permit

      After successfully obtaining a visa, you must apply for a residence permit in Portugal. Here’s how the process works:

      Initial Steps

      Upon entering Portugal with your visa, you must schedule an appointment with the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) to apply for your residence permit. This must be done within four months of your arrival. Doing this as soon as possible is advisable to access public services with fewer restrictions.

      Application Process

      At your SEF appointment, you’ll need to provide several documents, including:

      • your visa
      • passport
      • proof of accommodation
      • proof of sufficient financial means
      • health insurance
      • sometimes a criminal record check from your home country.

      Processing Time

      The processing time for a residence permit can vary, but it typically takes a few weeks to a few months. You might have limited access to some services during this time, but urgent medical care is always provided.

      Temporary Access

      Without a residence permit, you may face restrictions in accessing non-urgent public services and enrolling in public education. Most expatriates apply for residence permits as soon as possible to avoid these limitations.

      Validity and Renewal

      Once granted, residence permits are usually valid for one to two years and can be renewed. After five years, you can apply for permanent residency, which grants more stability and fewer renewal requirements.

      Tram in Lisbon, Portugal

      Tips for a Smooth Transition

      Here are some additional tips to ensure a smooth transition to life in Portugal:

      • Join Expat Communities: Connect with other expatriates through social media groups, local meetups, and expatriate associations. They can offer valuable advice and support.
      • Open a Bank Account: A local bank account is essential for managing day-to-day expenses and paying bills. Some banks offer specific services for expatriates.
      • Understand Tax Obligations: Consult with a tax advisor to understand your tax obligations in Portugal, especially if you have income from multiple countries.
      • Plan Your Move: Consider hiring a relocation service to assist with the logistics of your move, including finding housing and schools and navigating bureaucracy.

      Our immigration lawyers can help in compiling the necessary documents and making sure you meet the requirements for a sponsorship licence. Contact Us

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        How Can Total Law Help?

        Our expert lawyers can help you get the visa you need to move to Portugal. Discover which visas your eligible for, and how you can live and work in Portugal. We help you through the entire process of obtaining visas, and any questions about the fees, requirements and more.

        We will help to make the entire process stress-free and straightforward with our expertise, increasing your chances of being successful with your Portugal visa application.

        Whether you need advice on the initial steps of an application, advice on your eligibility requirements or any restrictions that you might encounter, we will be able to help. For more information on how Total Law can help you, please call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online.

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