Portugal has long been a top location to retire to. With dreamy sunsets over beautiful beaches, an affordable cost of living, excellent seafood, and attractive tax benefits, it is understandable why so many retirees are turning their attention to Portugal. Indeed, American retirement in Portugal is becoming increasingly popular.
In this article, we’ll provide you with everything that you will need to know as a US citizen that is looking to retire in Portugal. First, we’ll provide you with practical information, before examining some of the top locations to retire to in Portugal.
American Retirement in Portugal: Why Choose Portugal?
There are several reasons why Portugal is regularly featured as one of the best countries to retire to, garnering praise from Forbes to International Living. One of the greatest draws to retire in Portugal from the US is that the cost of living in Portugal is much more affordable than in the US, from property prices to everyday living costs.
Portugal was named as the fourth safest country in the world (and the second safest country in the EU, behind Denmark), according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, due to its stable socio-economic and political climate, alongside low crime rates. Moreover, the Portuguese are amongst the friendliest people in the world, according to an Expat Insider Survey, conducted by InterNations. This inevitably makes it easier for an expat to navigate the process of moving to a new country.
It’s easy to fully immerse yourself in the relaxed Portuguese lifestyle, where you can simply sit and watch the world pass by, with a coffee and pastel de nata – perhaps sitting in a park in Braga, or from the balcony of your waterfront property in the Algarve. Simply soak up the atmosphere and take in the little moments – something the Portuguese do so well.
With good healthcare, excellent cuisine, full-bodied wines, and a balmy climate —over 300 days of sunshine per year in fact— American retirement in Portugal is likely to grow further.
The Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) scheme also allows American retirees to live with exceptional tax benefits for the first ten years of their residence in Portugal if structured correctly.
Indeed, there is an abundance of reasons why American retirement in Portugal is on the up. Picture sitting in your country home, watching the sunset over the green Portuguese countryside, with a glass of rich Douro wine in hand, or with sparkling wine and a beach view to admire. Portugal does not disappoint, and whatever property type you are looking for, you will be sure to find it here.
Important Information About American Retirement in Portugal
Moving to another country is an exciting journey filled with opportunities to try new things. Is there a local delicacy that you really want to try? (perhaps the world-famous pastel de nata?) or are you looking forward to settling down in your new home, personalizing it, and making it truly special for you? Regardless, you will need to be aware of crucial practical information when settling down in Portugal, which we will run over here.
Healthcare in Portugal
Rest assured that healthcare in Portugal is very good. The National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde) or SNS is, in general, excellent. Increasingly, they have been implementing personalized care programs for their patients, and, if you are a resident in Portugal, you will have access to the SNS, and will only need to pay a minimum cost for treatment. Note that for X-rays, scans, and other procedures, an additional fee will be required. For retirees, it is very good to know that the Integrated Medical Emergency System offers very quick response times.
Private healthcare in Portugal is becoming increasingly common with expats. Particularly in the bigger cities, you will find very good private healthcare units and most practitioners speak very good English. Waiting times will typically be less if you seek private healthcare, in comparison to longer queues that can sometimes be found with public healthcare.
Getting around in Portugal
As a relatively small country, you can drive by car from Sagres in the southwest to Bragança in the northwest in less than eight hours. While it is probably easiest to get around by car, particularly if you are living in the countryside or outside the bigger towns and cities, the public services in Portugal are good.
Buses and trains make it easy to get around the country. In Lisbon and Porto, the metro services are reliable, fast, and easy to use, and it is often quicker to travel by metro than by car in these cities.
Lisbon, Porto, and Faro are the three international airports in continental Portugal. You also have international flights to Madeira and the Azores, if you are considering retiring to the stunning autonomous islands, each with its own unique and breathtaking qualities.
The Non-Habitual Residence Scheme
The non-habitual residence scheme, or NHR scheme, provides individuals the ability to live with significant tax advantages for up to ten years. To be eligible for the NHR scheme, applicants must have the right to reside in Portugal and not have been a Portuguese tax resident in the five years prior to becoming a resident in Portugal. Note that to maintain residency in Portugal, you must have a place of abode in Portugal on the 31st of December of that year and the property needs to be intended for use as the habitual home.
The NHR scheme is excellent for retirees, as, if structured correctly, they can enjoy very attractive tax rates. The complete guide to the NHR scheme can be found here.
Cost of Living in Portugal
One of the main factors luring so many expats to Portugal is the country’s comparatively low cost of living. Americans will certainly find that most things are much more reasonably priced in Portugal.
The innovative Quality of Life Index from Global Citizen Solutions places Portugal in 12th place. This index takes into account the cost of living alongside the Sustainable Development Goals, level of happiness of citizens, personal freedoms, acceptance of migrants, and environmental performance.
Lisbon continues to be one of the least expensive capitals in western Europe, even though costs are rising in the capital. Your lifestyle decisions will have a big impact on how much things cost. According to Numbeo, the projected monthly costs in Lisbon for a family of four are €2,188, without rent, and the expected monthly costs without rent for a single person are €618 as of September 2022.
Rental and property prices in Lisbon
Portugal typically has substantially lower rental and real estate costs than the US. Here are some Lisbon rental and property price examples. Data from Numbeo shows the following for renting a property in Lisbon as of September 2022:
- A one-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city: €1,039
- An apartment with three bedrooms in the heart of the city: €1,981
- A one-bedroom apartment outside the city center: €779
- A three-bedroom apartment outside the city center: €1,240
In Portugal, buying real estate is a far better long-term investment than renting. Renting can be a good starting point because you can check out different parts of the city and buy a property based on your neighborhood preference. The average cost of an apartment in Lisbon was €5,139/m² in 2020. However, the costs drop considerably to €3,225/m² when considering the entire Lisbon Metropolitan Area. It’s crucial to remember that this is the asking price and that the actual price may be higher or lower.
Within the city of Lisbon, you’ll also find quite a range in property prices, depending on the neighborhood. This is because some areas are considered to be more desirable than others and therefore come with a higher price tag. Although prices in Lisbon have been increasing, compared to many other western European capitals – such as Paris and London, Lisbon is still very affordable.
Lisbon has its pricing range, but you can find real estate in other regions of the country at much lower prices. Continental Portugal’s average asking price for a home was €2,514, which is significantly less than the price in the capital region.
If you’re looking to buy property in Portugal, Goldcrest has released a new book – Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal, which contains information on how to buy property in Portugal step-by-step, how to finance your purchase, and the best locations to buy property in Portugal.
Daily essentials and eating out
In comparison to the US, eating out is quite affordable, daily essentials are fairly priced, and the produce is of very high quality. Portugal is known for its extensive coastline, and the fish and seafood in the country are simply excellent. Note that shopping locally for daily essentials is more cost-effective than purchasing foreign goods.
Portuguese wine is quite reasonably priced and of very good quality – another great benefit of relocating to Portugal if you are a passionate wine-lover. Portugal can compete with the very best wines in the world, and Californian wine-growers have even ventured to Portugal in the past to discover the secrets to winemaking.
To try this yourself, try the Vinho Verde, a delicious green wine that is ideal for a summer evening. This wine is produced in one of the biggest and oldest wine regions in the world, the Vinho Verde region in northwest Portugal. It supports thousands of producers, creates a vast amount of economic activity and employment, and significantly aids in the growth of Minho and the entire nation.
The following are some examples of the typical costs in Portugal for basic foods:
|Product||Cost in €|
|Milk (regular), (1 liter)||0,81|
|Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)||1,22|
|Eggs (regular) (12)||2,26|
|Local Cheese (1kg)||8,06|
|Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)||10,02|
|Water (1.5 liter bottle)||0,79|
|Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)||5,30|
You may well be startled by how close-knit everything is in Portugal if you’re an American. It is possible to travel in less than eight hours from Sagres in the southwest of the country to Bragança in the northeast of Portugal. Yes, Portugal is a staggering 107 times smaller than the United States.
Portugal has fairly reasonable travel costs. One-way public transit costs €1.60, while a monthly bus pass will set you back €40. For those who would rather travel by car, gas prices are €2.02 per liter.
Even though taxis are quite reasonably priced, Uber and Bolt are also fantastic options for getting around town. These services are quite affordable compared to taxis in the USA, especially in New York, and are simple to use with an app. In Portugal, Uber and Bolt’s drivers are fantastic knowledge resources who can advise you on everything from top eateries and the finest places to go sightseeing, to some of the Portuguese cuisine’s delicacies you should try.
American Retirement in Portugal: What Are the Best Places To Retire in Portugal?
From a quaint historic town in the north to sunny beach houses in the south, Portugal has plenty to offer when it comes to choosing a place to live, perhaps even too many options. Here, we’ll provide you with a rundown of some of our favorites.
For a more thorough overview of the many different locations to find properties in Portugal, plus additional information on retiring to Portugal, you can buy our new book, Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal, here.
For Americans that cannot shake the city life, but that also would like some peace and tranquility, Lisbon is an excellent choice. While many Portuguese can be heard saying that life in Lisbon is too stressful, when compared to cities in America, you will probably find that Lisbon is a calm place to live and there are several quiet neighborhoods where you can find lovely homes. With excellent eateries, bakeries, and activities to explore, Lisbon is a good option to consider.
For those looking for more space or seeking the much-deserved beach life, while still living a stone’s throw (a mere 30-minute drive) from the capital, Cascais is the place to live. With excellent seafood, picturesque beaches, and waterfront properties, Cascais is one of the best options for an American retiring to Portugal. With good transport links and the international airport in Lisbon, avid travelers will have this added bonus.
You can see more about Cascais in our article here.
Porto and the North
Porto is an excellent location for those looking to live in a historic European city. It has everything that you could want – top restaurants (indeed, locals claim that the food scene here is better than in Lisbon), beaches close at hand, and waterfront properties available.
Properties in other northern cities, such as Braga, Guimaraes, and Ponte de Lima are also good options to consider. Here, you will be able to find lovely country houses to enjoy your retirement.
Well known amongst the British as a favorite retirement location, more and more Americans are heading to the southern coast to enjoy the best things in life – sunshine, fresh seafood, and stunning landscapes and beaches.
It is also very easy to live an active lifestyle in the Algarve, with 300 days of sunshine. Indeed, most days it is possible to enjoy golf, hiking, watersports, and the many other activities on offer. One thing is for sure, if you move to the Algarve, come wintertime you will be asking yourself how is it possible for it to be so sunny and warm in December?
Madeira and the Azores
The autonomous islands of Madeira and the Azores are both beautiful in their own ways. Madeira is the more developed of the two, with its capital Funchal having all the amenities that you could desire – fine dining, five-star hotels, and shopping galore. The landscapes in Madeira are breathtaking, the seafood is out of this world, and you will never get bored of the sweeping ocean views.
The Azores is for those that are looking for complete peace and tranquility. While you can find a taste of luxury in Ponta Delgada, the capital, much of the islands remain relatively undiscovered, and you can find very affordable properties here. The green islands, the natural hot springs, and impressive hiking trails make it truly an exceptional place to live.
An overview of Madeira can be found here.
An overview of the Azores can be found here.
American Retirement in Portugal: Your Options
How to move to Portugal from the USA
Anyone traveling for leisure or work with an American passport may stay in the country for up to 90 days. So technically, Americans can enter Portugal without a visa. However, if you aim to relocate from the US to Portugal, you’ll need to obtain the necessary residency requirements.
The Portuguese government offers a variety of visas, including those for residency, employment, and family reunion. If you plan to stay in Portugal for more than three months, you must obtain a Portuguese residency visa. Also, five years of legal presence in Portugal are required before you may apply for citizenship or permanent residency.
The Visa process
As an American retiring in Portugal, you will need to obtain temporary residency. Some of the options are the D7 Visa and the Golden Visa.
The Golden Visa is a residency-by-investment program, while the D7 Visa is relatively straightforward – you will need to provide sufficient funds to live in Portugal, alongside a few other criteria.
The visa application procedure is handled by the immigration and border agency, or Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) in Portugal. The Portuguese government accepts online applications through this site.
Portugal D7 Visa
This visa category, commonly known as the Retirement Visa or the Passive Income Visa, was introduced by the Portuguese government in 2007. The Portugal D7 Visa is a great choice for you if you want to move to Portugal but do not want to make a significant investment in the country. It is a very good alternative to the Portugal Golden Visa. Any non-EU/EEA or non-Swiss citizen may apply for residency in the country with this residency visa as long as they have sufficient passive income.
You may be eligible to apply for the D7 Visa and subsequently obtain a residence permit, regardless of whether you are a retiree, business owner, or other expat looking to live in Portugal.
- Be a non-EU national
- Earn a passive income of at least €760 per month (your income can come from pensions, transferable equity, real estate, intellectual property, or financial equity)
- Show proof of a place to live in Portugal
- Be willing to reside for more than 183 consecutive days per calendar year in Portugal
If you meet all requirements to become a Portuguese citizen under Portuguese nationality law, you can apply for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship after five years and can renew the residence permit granted to you through the D7 Visa. You will have several benefits as a Portuguese citizen, including the ability to vote in Portugal and membership in the EU. Portugal provides dual citizenship as well.
You can find out more in our article on the D7 Visa.
Portugal Golden Visa Program
If you have enough finances, purchasing real estate in Portugal can be the best way for you to qualify for a Portugal Golden Visa. The most common method for obtaining a Portugal Golden Visa is real estate. If you’re planning to buy property, be aware that significant changes took effect on 1 January 2022. Here are the current investment options:
- Residential real estate: Buy a house in one of Portugal’s designated interior regions for at least €500,000, or €350,000 if you choose to invest in a rehabilitation project. A 20% discount is applied if the residential property is situated in a designated “low-density” region.
- Commercial real estate: Invest in commercial real estate worth at least €500,000, or €350,000 if you’re financing a renovation project, anywhere in the nation. A 20% discount is given if the commercial property is situated in a “low-density” region.
- Residential or commercial real estate in Madeira or the Azores: Purchase residential or commercial real estate anywhere on Madeira or the Azores, Portugal’s autonomous islands, for at least €500,000, or €350,000 if you decide to engage in a restoration project.
The remaining investment options are displayed below. Americans have proven to be quite interested in the investment funds alternative over the past few years.
- Scientific research: A minimum €500,000 investment in science or technology research.
- Subscription to a qualified investment fund: Contribute at least €500,000.
- Job creation: The incorporation of a company and the creation of ten jobs worth at least €500,000.
- Make a capital transfer of no less than €1.5 million.
- Donation: Make a minimum €250,000 donation to support the arts or the restoration of national heritage.
Americans living in Portugal can take advantage of some privileges provided by the Portuguese government’s Golden Visa program, such as:
- A waiver of the usual residence visa for Portugal
- The right to family reunification
- Permission to reside and work in Portugal provided that you do so for a minimum of one week during the first year and a minimum of two weeks during each following year
- A visa exemption for travel within the Schengen Area
- The ability to apply for both Portuguese citizenship and permanent residence after five years, as long as you meet the respective criteria
You can see further information in our article on the Portgual Golden Visa.
Moving to Portugal From the USA
The Portuguese government welcomes Americans living in the country, and the process is usually simple. There are a few things that you will need to know about Portuguese law regarding foreigners entering the country.
Portugal’s customs are straightforward to pass through, provided you stick to a few basic guidelines. You must visit the Portuguese Consulate or diplomatic post in your region before moving to Portugal and request a Certificado de Bagagem (Luggage Certificate). You can get this by providing a thorough inventory of all of your belongings and household items that you intend to bring to Portugal.
Keep in mind that your Certificado de Bagagem guarantees that the things listed on it will arrive within 90 days of your arrival.
Portugal demands some planning ahead for storage. It will be enough to do a brief online search for storage facilities in the area where you intend to move to. Most storage providers are very helpful to foreigners and are open 24/7. Remember that it can be challenging to find the exact price online and therefore you might have to contact the service by phone or email.
Shipping and flying goods
It’s simple to ship your belongings to Portugal. Due to the country’s excellent geographic location, you have a wide range of possibilities, including air freight and sea freight. Road freight is not an option from the US, but sea freight offers a more economical, if slightly slower, alternative to air freight.
|Departing - Destination||Price in $||Duration|
|New York City - Lisbon||1,229||14 days|
|New York - Figueira Da Foz||1,297||14 days|
|Los Angeles - Lisbon||2,993||27 days|
|Los Angeles - Figueira Da Foz||3,161||28 days|
You can choose to ship your belongings by air freight if you need to move them quickly. Express shipping normally takes two to four business days, while standard shipping typically takes five to eight days. Remember that sea freight is simpler for large quantities. The table below shows the average costs for shipping a single m³ 250 kg container of household goods. It costs roughly the same to arrive anywhere in Portugal as it does in Lisbon.
|Departing||Destination||Price in $|
There are no official vaccination laws in Portugal. Still, it’s always a good idea to schedule a consultation with your family doctor before traveling somewhere new.
If you have pets, you can travel confidently, knowing that Portuguese customs are more than happy to welcome your four-legged family members. Your pet must be at least three months old and have received a rabies vaccination. You could be required to sign a responsibility agreement and have a local veterinarian evaluate the breeds that might be deemed “dangerous” to obtain special permission.
Becoming a Permanent Resident or a Citizen in Portugal
You can apply for permanent residence or Portuguese citizenship after receiving your temporary residence permit in Portugal and renewing it when necessary for five years. The cost of a Portuguese permanent residence is $240, and SEF needs the following documentation:
- Two recent colored identical photos on a blank background
- A standard application form
- Valid temporary residence
- Proof of proper accommodation
- Proof of having sufficient means of subsistence
- Verification of a fundamental understanding of the Portuguese language
- There are some alternatives for this document: A certificate from an institution that the government recognizes; completing the language lessons prescribed by a school; completing the Institute for Employment and Professional Training’s requirements for elementary Portuguese (IEFP); Teaching Portuguese as a Foreign Language (CAPLE), approved by the Ministry of Education and Science, as a necessary Portuguese education certificate
- SEF approval to verify your criminal history in Portugal
Benefits of permanent residence in Portugal
Permanent residents of Portugal have access to a range of advantages, including social security, quality healthcare, and high-quality education. For American retirees in Portugal, social security is very crucial. Another perk is that the Schengen region is open to unrestricted travel for permanent residents of any of the Schengen countries. You can also apply for family reunification and bring your relatives to Portugal if you are a permanent resident.
Can American Expats in Portugal Obtain Portuguese Citizenship?
Yes, dual citizenship is permitted between Portugal and the United States of America. You can apply for citizenship after five years of residence in Portugal. Similar to when applying for permanent residency, you must demonstrate that you speak a little Portuguese.
When you become a citizen of Portugal, you automatically become a citizen of Europe. After that, you are free to reside, work, study, and access the healthcare system in any nation in Europe.
It can be a little challenging to apply to become a Portuguese citizen. We advise working with qualified experts to help you on your journey, and our professionals can help you to navigate the application process quickly and easily.
Accommodation for Americans in Portugal
Buy or rent
As mentioned previously, before moving, you must choose whether you want to rent or buy a house for living in Portugal. Pros and cons of each of the options are described below.
In the long run, purchasing property can help you save or make money. However, any costs, charges, and taxes relating to the property will be your responsibility. Although it is possible to obtain a mortgage in Portugal with favorable terms.
Renting will give you flexibility and help you easily find your way around town, giving you time to find the perfect neighborhood for you. Additionally, you can count on your landlord for upkeep costs, fixes, and renovations. In contrast to the United States, it is usually the landlord’s responsibility, not the tenants’, to cover the costs of condo maintenance.
Practical Information on Moving to Portugal
We’ll go over the crucial information that you’ll need to know before moving to the country in this section of our article.
Getting a NIF
You must obtain a NIF (Number of Identification Fiscal or Número de Identificação Fiscal, as well as Number of Contribuinte or Número Contribuinte) from a Finanças office (Government Tax Office). You will need this number when making transactions in Portugal.
You must bring your passport and proof of address to your local Finanças office. If you already live in the country, provide your Portuguese address; otherwise, your address outside of Portugal will suffice. As an American, you will also need to have a tax agent in Portugal to obtain your NIF, as is the case for all non-EU citizens. To avoid the huge lines, we recommend arriving at the Finanças office twenty minutes before they open. You will be given your NIF number, which you can use for any Portuguese transactions. You can also get your NIF easily via the getnifportugal service.
Opening a Portuguese bank account
To open a bank account in Portugal, you must have your NIF number. You must also have a valid ID (passport), proof of address (utility bill in your name), and evidence of employment with you. Millennium BCP, Novo Banco, Banco BPI, and Banco Santander Totta are some of the best banks to consider in Portugal. In many cases, you will also be asked to provide a deposit and, in certain cases, a Portuguese phone number. If you need help with opening your bank account in Portugal, you can refer to the bankaccountportugal service.
Taxes for American Expats in Portugal
The US requires all US residents, regardless of where they live, to report their global income to the IRS. It is suggested that you investigate the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, as you may be eligible for an exclusion that might save you money.
American citizens will be required to pay taxes on their American earnings in the United States as well as their Portuguese profits in Portugal. If you are an American expat living in Portugal, you must submit tax returns in both the United States and Portugal. The Non-Habitual (NHR) Program, which allows you to get large tax savings for up to 10 years, is one part of paying taxes in Portugal that you should be aware of and it can offer significant benefits to foreign residents.