Portugal is a country that has recently become popular among Americans expats and retirees as a destination for living, working, and enjoying a comfortable lifestyle. The country boasts a warm Mediterranean climate, beautiful beaches, and a high quality of life.
However, there are some challenges that Americans face when they move from the US to Portugal, such as the language barrier, bureaucracy, and limited job opportunities.
Why Americans are moving to Portugal?
Climate in Portugal
Portugal has a warm Mediterranean climate that is characterized by long hot summers and mild winters. This makes it an ideal destination for those who enjoy outdoor activities and year-round sunshine.
The country’s coastal regions are particularly popular among expats and retirees because of the mild temperatures and the abundance of beaches.
Portugal's healthcare system
Portugal is known for its high-quality healthcare system, which is both publicly and privately funded. The country has a national health service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde or SNS) that provides free or low-cost healthcare to all Portuguese citizens, as well as foreigners with a residence permit or who are covered by a reciprocal healthcare agreement. Here are some key facts about healthcare in Portugal:
Portugal’s healthcare system is based on the principle of universal coverage, meaning that everyone who is legally resident in the country is entitled to receive healthcare services. This includes emergency treatment, primary care, specialist care, and hospitalization.
The cost of healthcare in Portugal varies depending on the type of service and whether it is provided by the public or private sector.
In general, healthcare costs in Portugal are lower than in many other European countries. Public healthcare services are free or have low copayments, while private healthcare services can be more expensive.
Quality of care
Overall, the quality of healthcare in Portugal is considered to be very good. The country has a high number of doctors and nurses per capita, and many Portuguese doctors have received training and education abroad. In addition, Portugal has a high standard of medical facilities and equipment.
Prescription drugs in Portugal are generally cheaper than in many other European countries, and they can be purchased at pharmacies with a doctor’s prescription. The SNS also provides free or low-cost drugs to certain patient groups, such as those with chronic conditions.
Portugal is considered one of the safest countries in the world and in 2023 occupied the 7th place according to the Global Peace Index, with low crime rates and a low risk of terrorism.
The country has a strong police force and a low incidence of violent crime, making it an attractive destination for families with young children.
Quality of life in Portugal
Portugal is known for its high quality of life, with a laid-back and relaxed lifestyle that is conducive to health and happiness.
The country has a strong cultural heritage, with many historic sites and cultural events throughout the year. The food and wine are also highly regarded, with a focus on fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
Culture in Portugal
History and Heritage
Portugal’s rich history is a tapestry of cultural influences and significant eras. The Roman occupation, dating back to the 2nd century BC, left impressive architectural legacies like the Temple of Diana.
The Moorish period from the 8th to the 13th century is evident in cities like Lisbon and Silves, where Moorish architectural elements endure. Portugal’s Age of Discovery in the 15th century, led by explorers like Vasco da Gama, expanded the Portuguese Empire to global territories, including Brazil and Macau.
The 20th century saw political shifts, from monarchy to dictatorship under António de Oliveira Salazar, before the peaceful Carnation Revolution in 1974 paved the way for democracy.
Fado music is a deeply ingrained cultural treasure in Portugal. It is a genre characterized by soulful melodies and heartfelt lyrics, often expressing themes of longing, nostalgia, and melancholy.
Traditionally performed in intimate settings such as tavernas, Fado singers, known as fadistas, pour their emotions into each lyric, accompanied by a Portuguese guitar (guitarra portuguesa) and sometimes a classical guitar.
Several areas in Lisbon, such as the historic Alfama neighborhood, are renowned for their Fado houses.
Art and Literature
Art and literature play integral roles in Portuguese culture, showcasing the country’s rich creative heritage. Renowned painters like Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, Paula Rego, and Vieira da Silva have left indelible marks on the international art scene.
Fernando Pessoa, considered one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language, is renowned for his inventive use of heteronyms.
Other influential Portuguese authors include José Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, whose novels delve into social themes.
Azulejos are beautiful ceramic tiles that hold a special place in Portuguese culture and architecture. These hand-painted tiles are an iconic feature of Portugal, adorning buildings, churches, palaces, and even train stations throughout the country.
The history of azulejos in Portugal dates back to the 15th century when the Moors introduced this artistic tradition to the Iberian Peninsula. The word “azulejo” itself comes from the Arabic word “al-zuleique,” meaning polished stone.
Where do Americans live in Portugal
Portugal has long been a popular destination for Americans looking to relocate abroad. The country offers a high standard of living, a relaxed lifestyle, and beautiful scenery, making it an attractive option for retirees, families, and young professionals alike.
While Americans can be found throughout Portugal, there are a few areas that are particularly popular among the expat community. Here are five places where Americans tend to live in Portugal:
The capital city of Lisbon is a top destination for Americans in Portugal. The city is a bustling hub of culture, history, and nightlife, with plenty of opportunities for entertainment and relaxation.
Lisbon (Lisboa in Portuguese) had a total population of 2,884,170, of which 343,995 were foreigners, accounting for 11.9% of the total population. The city is also a relatively affordable city, with a lower cost of living than many other European capitals.
The neighborhoods of Chiado, Bairro Alto, and Alfama are particularly popular with expats, offering a mix of historic charm and modern amenities.
Located in the north of Portugal, the city of Porto is another popular destination for Americans. Known for its historic architecture, charming streets, and world-famous wine, Porto is a great place to experience Portuguese culture.
The city is also home to a growing startup scene, making it a popular destination for young professionals. The neighborhoods of Ribeira and Foz do Douro are particularly popular with expats.
Cascais / Estoril
The towns offer beautiful beaches, a mild climate, and a range of outdoor activities, from golf to surfing. Cascais and Estoril are also well-connected to Lisbon by train, making it easy to access the city when needed.
The southern region of the Algarve is one of the most popular destinations for expats in Portugal, including Americans. According to official information available on Pordata, more than 469,938 people reside in the Algarve and over 105,000 foreigners residents (22%). The region is known for its beautiful beaches, warm weather, and laid-back lifestyle.
The towns of Lagos, Albufeira, and Vilamoura are particularly popular with expats, offering a range of amenities and activities.
What is the cost of living in Portugal vs USA
Portugal is a relatively affordable country compared to other Western European countries. The cost of living is generally lower than in neighboring Spain or France, and it is possible to live comfortably on a modest budget. This makes Portugal an attractive destination for retirees and expats who are looking for a high quality of life at a reasonable cost.
According to recent Numbeo statistics (as of May 2023), the cost of living in Portugal is, on average, 36.6% lower than in the United States. This means that you can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in Portugal for much less than you would pay in the US. One major contributor to this lower cost of living is housing.
Cost of renting an apartment in Portugal vs USA
The rent prices in Washington, DC are 101.8% higher than in Lisbon, Portugal. This means that on average, you would have to pay significantly more for rent in Washington, DC than in Lisbon for the same type of accommodation. The rent prices in San Francisco, CA are 160.4% higher than in Lisbon, Portugal.
However, it’s important to note that the cost of living can vary depending on several factors such as location, lifestyle, and personal preferences.
Price of buying a property in Portugal vs USA
The price of buying an apartment in Portugal versus the US can vary widely depending on several factors such as location, property type, and market conditions. Generally speaking, Portugal is less expensive than many parts of the US when it comes to real estate prices.
Dining cost is Portugal vs USA
Transport costs in Portugal vs USA
Utilities expenses comparison between Portugal and USA
How to move from the US to Portugal?
If you’re considering moving from the US to Portugal, there are several steps you’ll need to take to make your relocation as smooth as possible. Here’s a general guide to help you get started:
Portugal D7 Visa
Portugal D7 Visa, which is perfect for retirees or those with passive income. This visa requires proof of regular income or savings, and the ability to support yourself without working in Portugal. It’s a great option for those looking to enjoy the country’s relaxed lifestyle and stunning natural beauty.
Portugal Digital Nomad Visa
Digital Nomad Visa Portugal, or D8 Visa, for remote workers and freelancers allow them to live and work in the country for up to a year, enjoying all the benefits of the Portuguese lifestyle while earning an income from their remote job or business.
Portugal D2 Visa
Portugal Golden Visa
The Portugal Golden Visa program in Portugal, also known as the Residence Permit by Investment Program, is an investment immigration program that grants residency and citizenship rights to foreign investors who make a significant economic contribution to the country.
Investment funds: Contribution of €500,000 or higher, for the acquisition of units of investment funds or venture capital fund of funds under the Portuguese.
Business Investment: Minimum investment of €500,000 for constitution of a company in Portugal, combined with the creation of five permanent working jobs.
Scientific research: Capital transfer with a value equal to or above €500,000 for investing in research activities conducted by public or private scientific research institutions.
Cultural heritage contribution: Known as the Cultural Golden Visa, donation of a minimum of €250,000 for investing in artistic output or supporting the arts, for reconstruction or refurbishment of the national heritage.
Job Creation: Incorporating a company and creation of at least, ten jobs positions.
In the last three options mentioned above, if the investment is located in a designated ‘low-density’ area, then a 20 percent discount applies.
Processing time for a visa application to Portugal
Most of the Visas follow the same application process which you can find below
Documents required to move from the USA to Portugal
Obtaining residence visa for Portugal requires the following documents, but depending of the Portuguese consulate or embassy or VFS it might be required some additional documentation.
- Visa Application Form
- Your Valid Passport
- Two recent passport-size photos
- Criminal Record certificate
- Valid travel insurance, including medical coverage and repatriation
- Documentary evidence of having accommodation in Portugal
- Proof of sufficient means in Portugal (latest 3 months bank statements)
- Declaration with the reasons for requesting Portuguese Residency
- Depending of the visa additional documentation might be required such as for student visa, working visa or opening a business
Portugal Taxes vs. USA Taxes
Taxation in Portugal
Personal Income Tax: Progressive tax rates ranging from 14.5% to 48%. Special flat tax rates for non-habitual residents on certain types of foreign income (as low as 10%).
Value Added Tax (VAT): Standard VAT rate of 23% and a reduced rates of 13% and 6% for specific goods and services.
Social Security Contributions: Both employees and employers contribute to social security, with total rates around 34.75% for employees and 23.75% for employers.
Property Taxes: Property transfer tax and annual property tax (IMI) with rates varying by location and property value.
Inheritance and Gift Taxes: No inheritance tax, but there is stamp duty on gifts.
Wealth Tax: wealth tax starting from 0,7% for high-value local properties over €600,000.
Taxation in the US
Personal Income Tax:: Progressive federal income tax rates ranging from 10% to 37%. State income taxes vary by state, with rates and brackets specific to each state.
Value Added Tax (VAT): The USA does not have a national VAT. Instead, it uses a state-level sales tax, which varies by state and locality.
Social Security Contributions: Social Security and Medicare taxes are levied on employees and employers, with a combined rate of 15.3%.
Property Taxes: Property taxes are levied at the state and local levels, with rates and rules varying widely.
Inheritance and Gift Taxes: Federal estate and gift taxes apply to larger estates, with various exemptions and credits available. State-level estate and inheritance taxes also exist in some states.
Wealth Tax: The USA does not have a federal wealth tax, but it has an annual federal tax on net investment income for high-income individuals.
Comparison Portugal vs USA
Direct flights from the US to Portugal
Here is a list of some of the direct flights from the US to Portugal, along with the airline, origin cities, destination cities, ticket price, and frequency:
- Origin Cities: New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Miami (MIA), and Newark (EWR)
- Destination Cities: Lisbon and Porto
- Ticket Price: depending on the season, but can range from $500-$1200
- Frequency: Daily flights from JFK and EWR, 5-7 flights per week from BOS, and 3-4 flights per week from MIA.
- Origin Cities: Newark (EWR) and Washington, D.C. (IAD)
- Destination City: Lisbon
- Ticket Price: Depending on the season, but can range from $600-$1200
- Frequency: Daily flights from EWR and 5-7 flights per week from IAD.
- Origin City: New York (JFK)
- Destination City: Lisbon
- Ticket Price: Depending on the season, but can range from $700-$1200
- Frequency: Daily flights
- Origin City: Philadelphia (PHL)
- Destination City: Lisbon
- Ticket Price: Depending on the season, but can range from $800-$1500
- Frequency: Daily fligh
Shipping your belongings from the USA to Portugal
Shipping costs for moving a 25ft container from Washington, DC to Portugal can vary based on several factors. As an example, let’s consider two options: shipping by sea and shipping by air.
Shipping by Sea
If you choose to ship the container by sea, the cost is estimated to be around 1300€, and the transit time is approximately 15 days. This option is generally more cost-effective but requires a longer time for delivery.
Shipping by sea involves loading the container onto a cargo ship and transporting it across the Atlantic Ocean to the designated port in Portugal.
Shipping by Air
If you prefer to expedite the shipping process and send the container by air, the cost increases to around €2,750, but the delivery time significantly reduces to approximately 5 days.
Shipping by air is faster but more expensive compared to shipping by sea. It involves transporting the container via airfreight on cargo planes to the nearest airport in Portugal.
Bringing pets from America to Portugal
If you plan to bring a pet from the US to Portugal, there are certain requirements that you need to fulfill to ensure a smooth entry for your pet. Here are some general guidelines:
Your pet must be microchipped with an ISO-compliant microchip. This microchip serves as a permanent identification for your pet and contains a unique identification number. It is important to ensure that the microchip is implanted before or at the same time as their rabies vaccination.
Your pet must be vaccinated against rabies. The vaccination should be administered at least 21 days before traveling to Portugal but not more than one year before the travel date. Make sure the vaccination is valid and up to date.
Obtain a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian in your home country. The certificate should confirm that your pet is in good health, free from infectious diseases, and fit to travel. The health certificate is generally required within 10 days prior to the travel date.
American institutions in Portugal
The United States Embassy in Lisbon
The US embassy is the main American institution in Portugal. It is located in the capital city of Lisbon and serves as the diplomatic mission of the United States in Portugal. The embassy provides a range of services to American citizens in Portugal, including passport and visa processing, emergency assistance, and consular services.
Luso-American Development Foundation
The Luso-American Foundation was established in 1985 as part of an agreement between the Portuguese and US governments to promote economic, cultural, and scientific cooperation between the two countries.
The foundation provides funding for research, education, and cultural exchange programs.
American Club of Lisbon
The American Club of Lisbon is a social club for Americans living in Portugal and Portuguese citizens with ties to the US. The club hosts social events, such as dinners and wine tastings, and provides a forum for cultural exchange and networking.
American Chamber of Commerce in Portugal
The AmCham is a business organization that promotes economic and commercial ties between the US and Portugal. The chamber provides a range of services to its members, including networking opportunities, business events, and market intelligence.
The American Corners national network is the result of a partnership between the US Embassy in Lisbon and several universities and other educational institutions.
Their mission is to provide access to scientific information and to carry out cultural exchange and scientific dissemination activities.
Currently, there are several American Corners located in Lisbon, Porto, Aveiro, and other cities.
How Americans can find a place to live in Portugal?
Once you have your visa sorted out, you’ll need to find a place to live in Portugal. For many Americans, the idea of buying or renting property in Portugal may seem like a daunting prospect. The unfamiliar legal and financial systems, as well as cultural differences, can make the process seem overwhelming. Here are some tips for Americans who are unfamiliar with buying or renting property in Portugal:
Work with a reputable real estate agent
A good buyer’s agent can provide valuable guidance and advice on the local property market, as well as help with the legal and financial aspects of the transaction. It’s important to choose an agent who is familiar with the local market and has experience working with international clients.
Understand the legal system
Portugal has a different legal system than the United States, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations related to buying or renting property. Working with a lawyer who is familiar with Portuguese property law can help ensure that you are protected throughout the process.
Consider the cultural differences
Portugal has its own unique culture and way of doing things, which can take some getting used to for Americans. For example, the pace of life may be slower than what you are used to, and communication styles may be different. It’s important to be patient and open-minded when dealing with cultural differences.
Can Americans apply for a mortgage?
Yes, Americans can obtain a mortgage in Portugal to buy property, but the process may be more complex than for Portuguese citizens. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Interest rates for mortgages in Portugal can vary depending on the lender and the borrower’s creditworthiness.
In some unique situations US citizens may be subject to higher interest rates than residents.
Maximum loan-to-value (LTV)
The maximum LTV ratio for non-residents is typically 80% of the property’s value. However, some lenders may offer higher or lower LTV ratios depending on the borrower’s financial situation.
Subscribing a life insurance is requested by the Portuguese banks and it provides financial protection for your loved ones in the event of your death.
Mortgage documents in Portugal are typically in Portuguese, so it’s important to work with a lender or a mortgage broker who can provide translation services or who can provide documents in your native language.
Required documentation for applying for a mortgage
Non-residents will typically need to provide the following documentation to support their mortgage application:
- Portuguese Tax Number (NIF)
- Proof of Address
- Credit report
- Last 3 pay slips
- Recent bank statements
- Most recent tax returns
- A copy of the tenancy agreement
- Floorplan of the apartment /house
Benefits of Portuguese residency
The Portugal resident permit allows you visa-free entry and circulation through the Schengen Area.
Live, Work, Study
Once you become a resident in Portugal you are entitled to conduct any professional activity as an independent professional and you gain access to the National Education Service, schools, and vocational training.
Access to Healthcare System
Being a resident in Portugal you gain access to National Healthcare, also called SNS (Serviço Nacional de Saúde) and covers primary and secondary healthcare needs.
Path to Citizenship
After five years of legal residency, you may apply for permanent residency or to citizenship. However, in this case you’ll have to pass a Portuguese language test.
You are entitled to bring your family members who are already in Portugal or who will be joining you in Portugal. You may request family reunification in SEF at the same time as your visa application, or after you have received your visa.
The following is the list of family members that may qualify for family reunification:
- Your spouse or partner.
- Your children under 18 years of age or incapacitated children of the couple or of one of their spouses/partners.
- Children over 18 years of age who are dependent on you or your spouse which means that they are single and studying.
- Your parents or your spouse/partner’s parents if they are dependent on you.
- You minor siblings.
Non-Habitual Tax Resident (NHR)
One of the Portugal resident permit benefits is the access to a special tax regime known as NHR (non-habitual resident).
Under this program, you are exempt from or pay very little taxes on any foreign-sources income. The benefits of non-habitual resident Portugal includes:
- Special individual tax treatment on incomes for a period of 10 years
- Differentiation between Portuguese-sourced and foreign-sourced income
- Trend for exemption on the foreign-sourced passive income
- Flat rate (20%) for high value-added activities
- Tax residency within the EU in a white-listed country
- Exemption of tax on gifts or inheritance to family members
- No wealth tax
- Free cash remittance to Portugal
Here you can find a detailed guide for the NHR Portugal Tax regime.
Exchanging US driving licence to a Portuguese one
Driving licenses issued by member states of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which includes The United States of America, allow you to drive in Portugal without having to exchange them for a Portuguese driver’s license for 185 days (about 6 months), provided you are not a resident.
If you live in Portugal, you must exchange your foreign driving licence for a Portuguese licence within two years after taking up residence in Portugal.
American Schools in Portugal
Portugal is a popular destination for expatriates and international families who are seeking a high-quality education for their children.
As a result, there are many international schools in Portugal that cater to a variety of nationalities and offer curricula from different countries.
Currently, there are 51 International Schools in Portugal in seven different cities, providing a range of educational options for families.
Regarding the American schools you should know that you can count with three schools located in greater Lisbon:
If you would like to explore all the international schools in Portugal please take a time to read the detailed guide of International Schools In Portugal.
Why work with us for your move to Portugal?
We know Portugal. Due to our extensive local knowledge, we believe that concentrating our services in a single country destination is the best way to give you the most thorough and useful information.
One single channel of communication for the entire process. We provide you with a comprehensive service that covers all aspects of your move, from identifying the ideal residency visa to finding your new home or helping you to settle.
We recommend what’s best for you based on an extensive process experience that saves time and money to clients. Our pricing is clear and competitive, and we don’t sell services that make us more money.
Technology plays a very important role in our company. We minimize our clients’ involvement in paperwork. We are customers ourselves and we know how to serve you.
Frequent asked questions about Americans moving to Portugal
What is the cost of living like in Portugal compared to the US?
The cost of living in Portugal is generally lower than in the US, although it can vary depending on the city and region.
Housing and healthcare are typically less expensive in Portugal, but consumer goods and imported products can be more expensive.
Do I need a visa to live in Portugal as an American?
Americans can enter Portugal without a visa for up to 90 days as tourists. If you plan to stay longer, you will need to apply for a residence permit.
There are different types of permits available, depending on your circumstances.
Can Americans bring their family members when moving to Portugal?
Yes, Americans can bring their family members when moving to Portugal.
Depending on the circumstances, family members may be eligible for family reunification visas or permits, allowing them to join the primary visa holder in Portugal.
How do I open a bank account in Portugal?
To open a bank account in Portugal, you will need to provide identification, proof of address, and a tax identification number.
Some banks may require additional documentation or proof of income.
How do I get healthcare in Portugal?
Portugal has a public healthcare system that is available to residents and citizens. To access the public system, you will need to register with a local healthcare center and obtain a national health card. You can also choose to purchase private health insurance.
Can I work in Portugal as an American?
Americans can work in Portugal if they have a valid work permit or residence permit. It’s important to note that the job market in Portugal can be competitive, and speaking Portuguese can be an advantage.
Are there any special programs or incentives for Americans to move to Portugal?
Portugal offers a few special programs that may be of interest to Americans. For example, the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) program provides tax benefits for foreign residents, including Americans, who become tax residents in Portugal.
What is the weather like in Portugal?
Portugal has a mild Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The climate can vary depending on the region, with the southern and coastal areas typically having warmer temperatures.
How can Americans apply for a residence visa for Portugal?
To apply for a residence visa, Americans will need to contact the Portuguese embassy or consulate in their home country.
It is advisable to start the application well in advance of your planned move, as it can take some time to gather the required documents and for the visa to be processed.
Is it easy to make friends in Portugal as an American?
Making friends in Portugal can depend on your personal interests and social skills, but generally, Portuguese people are known for being friendly and welcoming to foreigners.
There are also expat groups and social clubs that can provide opportunities to meet new people.
How do I learn Portuguese?
Learning Portuguese can be a challenge, but there are many language schools and courses available in Portugal. Immersing yourself in the language by practicing with locals and watching Portuguese-language media can also be helpful.