Moving to Portugal From the USA: Ultimate Guide

Living in Portugal is a dream for many, but the process of moving from the USA can be daunting. If you’re a businessman or a retiree looking to move to this European country from the United States, it’s vital that you’re aware of some key differences in culture and lifestyle. The people are friendly, the culture is rich, and the language is beautiful. 

The American expat community in Portugal has been steadily growing in recent years and is now the largest group of foreigners living on the Iberian Peninsula. Although the majority live in and around the Algarve, you’ll also find people of other Americans in places like Lisbon, Cascais, Porto, and Madeira. Another significant reason for them to move to Portugal is the low cost of living and high quality of life.  

So, this blog post will provide an overview of how to get started with moving to Portugal and what you should consider before making your final decision. Along with that, we’re going to analyze the whole process in this article. So, read along.

Moving to Portugal from the US 

Although the process is a straightforward one, you need to do much research to have a smooth transition. Then, all you need is adequate knowledge of the country’s customs rules. From shipping the belongings to obtaining the visa and residence permit, we have got you covered. 

In addition, the one thing you need to keep handy is the Luggage Certificate or “Certificado de Bagagem”. To obtain this, you’re required to provide a complete inventory of your possessions and goods you’re planning to take to Portugal with you. This certificate will be issued to you with the help of your local Portuguese consulate or diplomatic mission.  

Note: You need to ensure that your belongings arrive within ninety days of your arrival in the country.

Shipping Household Goods

The country offers the expats a variety of options and modes to transport their goods to Portugal. Considering the favorable geographical location of the country, you can choose among air freight, road, or sea. 

Air Freight

Air shipping is the fastest but the most expensive mode of transporting your goods to Portugal. If your budget allows, you can save your time and get your stuff in the country within two to four business days if you go with the express shipping option. If you choose standard shipping, it usually won’t take more than eight business days.

Here’s a table to give a rough estimate of the cost for shipping a 250 KG container of household items by air:

Shipping fromShipping toAverage cost
New York, USALisbon, Portugal$2,705
Los Angeles, USALisbon, Portugal$3,205

Note that the cost of shipment to any city in Portugal is almost the same. So, we’ve taken Lisbon as the parameter.

Sea Freight

Sea freight is the most preferred option as it’s quite pocket-friendly. However, the rates may vary depending upon the location of departure and arrival. To give you a rough estimate, we’ve drafted a table of the cost of sea freights for a single 20ft container of furniture.

Shipping fromShipping toAverage costDuration
New York, USALisbon, Portugal$1,230Two weeks
New York, USAFigueira Da Foz, Portugal$1,300Two weeks
Los Angeles, USALisbon, Portugal$3,000Three to four weeks
Los Angeles, USAFigueira Da Foz, Portugal$3,150Three to four weeks

Sea freights can carry large quantities in a single go which is difficult to transport through air freight.

Storing Goods

The odds are that you might need to store your possessions in a storage house after they reach the country. Therefore, this needs to be planned well in advance since there are not many storage companies in the country. 

Although you’ll be able to find these companies online, you won’t be able to find the prices or even book the storage house online. So, if you wish to avail of their services, you are required to email or call their company beforehand. 

Vaccinations and Health Requirements for Portugal 

There is no official Portuguese law for vaccinations for anyone who is relocating to Portugal from the USA. However, it’s advisable that you make an appointment with your local doctor and regularly take all the routine shots. Besides, you can also check with the doctor whether you need any vaccines before visiting a new place.

Moving with Pets 

Wondering if you can bring your four-legged friend with you to the new house? Well, the Portuguese government has always given a green signal for the pets to join you in the country. But you need to make sure that they’re vaccinated for rabies. Another essential factor to keep in mind is that the animal must be three months or older.

Apart from that, there are a few breeds that fall under the ‘Dangerous’ category. If yours too is included in the list, you might be required to sign a liability waiver. In addition, make sure to get a vet to examine them to obtain a special permit.

Visa and Residence Permit Requirements 

US passport holders are allowed to enter Portugal without a visa and stay there visa-free for 90 days. But, if you wish to extend the stay for more than three months, a visa along with a residence permit is mandatory.

Various Portuguese visas have been introduced by the country’s government, such as a residence visa, a work visa, and a family reunification visa. Most probably, you will be required to apply for a residence visa. 

The two preferred options to acquire your initial temporary residence permit are the Portugal Golden Visa and the D7 Visa. It can be done through the SEF, Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras.SEF is the Portuguese immigration and border service and is responsible for handling the whole visa process. 

You can make an application through the SEF online portal. The Portuguese government has also added a feature that allows automatic renewal of the residence permit. Therefore, the applications for the resident permit are accepted after entering the country. The residence visa and permit together might cost you around $88. Thiss residence permit will be valid for one year and renewed once the term has been completed.

Documents Required to Move to Portugal

Once you’ve checked with your embassy or consulate about the customs and regulations, you can make your move. Here’s the list of required documents:

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of finances to support yourself financially
  • Luggage certificate issued by a Portuguese consulate
  • Inventory containing the price of each item for custom purposes (in Portuguese and authenticated by the consulate)
  • List of electrical appliances you’re carrying
  • Address proof, employment permit, or contract of ownership of a property
  • Documents to register with the tax authority
  • Notarized and signed declaration of your goods

Housing in Portugal 

Housing is a significant factor when deciding whether or not to move to Portugal. Therefore, you need to get a glimpse of the housing market of the country. This way, you’ll be able to determine which city fits your cost of living and lifestyle.

So we’re exploring some things you should know before looking at properties in Portugal.

Buying a Property in Portugal as a Foreigner 

Is it possible to buy a property in Portugal as an American expat? Yes! 

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information about the process of property acquisition in Portugal, you’re good to go. 

Based on your preference you can find your ideal house In Portugal. The country offers a good range of accommodations available for housing.

So, if you have a slight idea of which part of the country you’ll reside in, here’s the step-by-step process to buying property in Portugal.

First of all, obtain a Portuguese Tax Number (NIF). You can get this at any government finance office. In addition to this, there are a few more requirements to buy a property as a foreigner in Portugal.

  • A photo ID from both parties
  • Contrato-Promessa De Compra e Venda (CPCV), if available
  • The property’s energy certificate
  • The Imposto de Selo or (payment of the stamp)
  • The Caderneta Predial(land register)

Now, coming to the process, it includes three main steps.

  • Reservation

Once you’ve found your dream house in Portugal and have settled at a price with the seller, you’re required to make a reservation to show the intent of purchasing the property legally. By doing this, you get the assurance that property doesn’t go to another buyer or flashes as ‘on sale’ in the country’s property market. 

Moreover, you can have a lawyer go through the property licenses and check that everything goes well with the purchase. 

  • Promissory

After your lawyer has checked all the real estate documents, they’ll provide you with the property report. In addition, a promissory report will be asked from the seller that contains all the details of the deal and a complete check of the property.

If you and the seller agree with the promissory contract, you’ll be required to pay a second amount, which is 10 percent to 60 percent of the final sale price. If you’ve reached this step, the seller cannot pull out of the deal, no matter the cause. 

  • Deeds

If the property you’ve selected to purchase is off-plan, the lawyer will further examine the property whether it’s debt-free and has all the property licenses. Once all these certificates have been verified, you can proceed with the remaining balance. Now, your lawyer will register the property under your name in Portugal.

If your selected property is ready and you have the finances, you can skip the second step, Promissory, and jump straight to the third step, Deeds. 

Not to mention, the whole process of property buying in Portugal is transparent. Make sure you check our definitive guide on Buying Property in Portugal.

Utilities in Portugal 

As a tenant, you might have to pay your own utility bills. Hence, you also need a contract with the companies where you’re availing of the utility services like electricity, water, etc. Also, make sure that the contract is signed under your own name and a bank account. 

However, these utilities are included in the monthly rent if you’ve moved to a short-term rental house. Although it’s advantageous to some extent, it also has a drawback. Sometimes, you might be paying more than you’re using.

For water, this would require visiting the company’s offices in person with your rental contract. In fact, when in Portugal, you won’t need to spend on drinking water at all since the tap water is safe for drinking. 

Internet and Mobile Phones in Portugal 

It’s effortless to set up an internet connection, TV, and landline in Portugal. All you need to do is call the service provider and install it within a few days. You’ll find a high-speed network throughout the country since there is good coverage for fiber optic internet. 

The most popular and preferred service providers are Vodafone, NOS, MEO, NOWO. Moreover, to get a Portuguese number, you can connect with any of these service providers and request a sim card online. Make sure that you’re providing correct details like the name, address, NIF, and email.

Where To Live in Portugal as an American 

Here are some of the cities in the country which remain on the list of most of the American expats. These cities offer them easy transportation, a business environment, and English-speaking locals.

Lisbon 

Being the capital city of the country, Lisbon is the heart and soul of Portugal. The plus is that it’s one of the cheapest European capitals and attracts many Americans to live here for work or leisure. Besides, the city has become an economic hub with a massive number of tech companies and startups moving here.

Moreover, living in the country, especially real estate, is expensive compared to other cities in Portugal.

Porto 

This mystifying fishing town is located in the north of the country. Many Americans moving to Portugal prefer Porto, mainly because it offers some excellent beachfront options for the property.

The thing that entices most Americans is that Porto is both a touristic and a commercial hub. Moreover, with the property market growing immensely, it’s now considered a good place for investment.

Cascais 

Cascais, located on the Estoril Coast of the country, is one of Portugal’s wealthiest metropolitan areas. It’s close to Lisbon and offers a comparatively cheaper cost of living.

The Algarve 

Most American investors who choose to buy property in Portugal prefer the Algarve region as their residential location. Being the world-famous Golden Coast, there is a wide range of properties, including villas, luxury houses, and apartments with ocean views.

Apart from that, investing in the Algarve is going to benefit you in the long run, as it’s growing as a touristic and economic pillar in Portugal.

The Silver Coast 

The Algarve is not the only region that is home to pristine beaches and properties. The Silver Coast, situated between Lisbon and Porto, has got a lot to offer the Americans moving to Portugal.

If you’re looking for a beachfront property but don’t have a high budget, Silver Coast is your ideal destination.

Healthcare in Portugal 

The healthcare system of Portugal is beneficial for all the residents and is divided into two sectors, private and public. So, if you’re a legal resident of the country, you have access to their healthcare system. On top of that, if you have healthcare insurance, you can avail yourself of the best medical services in the country. 

The public healthcare of Portugal is managed byServiço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), the Portuguese national healthcare system. Therefore, to benefit from the state medical services, you’re required to register with your local council, junta de freguesia. After registering successfully, you’ll receive a healthcare number known as Número de Utente

So, whenever you’re accessing public healthcare services, you need to show this number. Medical care is mainly free. However, sometimes, you may have to pay some fees when visiting emergency rooms, family doctor, or requesting ambulance services. 

Please note that you might need to wait if you’re using public medical facilities so you can consider having a private healthcare insurance.

Healthcare in Portugal for the US citizens 

As an American in Portugal, you’re allowed to access the subsidized state healthcare. You’ll find several public hospitals throughout the country. Each municipality is also covered by local health centers, which provide primary medical care. 

Banking in Portugal for the Americans 

Portuguese government allows Americans to move to Portugal to open a bank account. So all you have to do is procure a NIF in Portugal and then go to a branch and open a bank account.

Let’s proceed to the steps on how you can easily open a bank account.

How To Open a Bank Account in Portugal 

Most of the banks in Portugal expect the residents to visit the branches to open their accounts. In addition, even if you have the option to do it online, you’re still required to visit the branch physically to wrap up the process. 

Documents Required to Open an Account

  • Your national identity card or your passport
  • The Portuguese tax number aka NIF
  • Proof of address (recent bill in the past three months that displays your name and address)
  • Proof of employment (last payslip or a statement from an employer)

Tax System in Portugal for the US citizens 

Wondering how much your income and other possessions are going to be taxed. Here’s a detailed summary of the tax system in Portugal for US citizens. If you’re residing in Portugal for a minimum of 183 days a year, you’ll become a tax resident of the country. The tax types in the system are income tax, social security, corporate tax, and value-added tax.

NIF: Getting a Portuguese Tax Number 

The tax number in Portugal is known as the NIF, Número de Identificação Fiscal. Getting a NIF is the first thing you need to do as you enter the country. You need it to open a bank account, utility services, get a Portuguese sim or sign a contract, and so on. 

To apply, you need an address, proof of your last country of residence, and a tax representative (must be a Portuguese national). 

Now, the higher your income is, the more will be the tax amount. On the other hand, if you earn less than $720 per month, you’ll not have to pay any taxes on the income.

The NHR (Non-Habitual Resident) Program 

There is a unique tax regime for non-habitual residents in the country. If you apply for this program, you’re taxed at a flat rate of 20 percent for up to 10 years.

Getting Around in Portugal 

Getting around in the country is not a daunting task at all. You can quickly and efficiently get anywhere through a bus, train, or flight.

Public Transportation in Portugal 

Coaches 

Regional, local buses as well international, there are all bus services available in the country. Also, you can decide whether you want the express of ordinary service between all the major cities of the country. However, prices do vary with the distance, time, and company.

Trains

There is an extensive network of regional, inter-regional and suburban trains that connect the whole country. The best thing is that the fairs are reasonable and you can get to your destination within the specified duration.

Metro

Major cities like Lisbon and Porto have metro trains. The tickets for metro travel aren’t expensive and can be bought at the stations.

Taxis

With so many taxi companies in the country, it’s not difficult to get into a taxi. The charges vary with the taximeter, and for longer distances, they charge according to the kilometers. 

Main Airports in Portugal 

There are three main international airports in mainland Portugal. These are located in Lisbon, Porto, and Faro. Moreover, with the construction of New Lisbon Airport, it’ll be easier to travel to Portugal, literally from any part of the world. 

Apart from that, there are also a few smaller airports that mainly fly domestic. You’ll also find taxis and buses connecting you to other cities from the airports in a short time. 

Driving in Portugal

This beautiful country is connected through a good network of highways which means you can reach from the northernmost countries to the Algarve region in just six hours. 

You can enjoy driving in Portugal, provided that you have a valid license. 

Driving in Portugal with a US Driving License

For Americans moving to Portugal, you can also exchange the US driving license with a Portuguese license.

You need to represent the IMT with an Abstract of Driving Record from your state of residence in the US. This way, you can prove that your license is authentic and valid for the exchange. Besides, make sure that the IMT is legalized with an Apostille certificate, usually at the Secretary of State’s office in your state.

Schooling in Portugal

With a well-developed education system, Portugal is an ideal country for your children’s schooling. There are both private as well as public schools.

The Portuguese Education System

Public schooling is free for all citizens as well as expats from the USA or other countries. Moreover, in recent years, the education environment in public schools is improving.

However, private schools are still preferred by most for their superior quality education. Moreover, they have a stricter schedule, attendance, and compliance with school rules.


International Schools in Portugal


International schools are best for children who are yet to learn the Portuguese language. There are international schools in major cities like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. So, if you’re willing to send your children to international schools, do note that you will be required to pay a high tuition fee. You will find all British, French, and German schools in Portugal.

Cost of Living in Portugal

Cost of living is a significant factor why Americans are choosing to relocate to Portugal. It’s one of the most affordable countries in the world to offer a quality lifestyle.

Is Portugal Expensive?

To be specific, the cost of living in Portugal is 42 percent cheaper than that in the USA. Be it real estate, grocery, or electricity, everything in the country will fit into your budget easily. It might sound surprising, but restaurant prices in Lisbon are 57.21 percent lower than in Washington, DC.

Moreover, your expenses depend on the part of the country you choose to live in. For instance, Lisbon and Cascais are the two most expensive cities in Portugal, followed by Porto and Faro.

American Expats in Portugal 

The American expats in Portugal have added much diversity to this nation’s culture, economy, and society. It is considered a wonderful place to live, mainly due to its picturesque cities, beautiful landscapes and excellent climate. Not to mention, the favorable tax treatment is one of the primary reasons for this. 

You will find the most significant American expat communities in major cities like Lisbon, the Algarve, and Porto.

The American Embassy in Portugal 

There is a US Embassy located in Lisbon, Portugal, so that any Americans in Portugal can access it for any consular services. However, it is mandatory to make a scheduled appointment to visit the embassy. It can be done on their website online.

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