Updated: February 2, 2024
Portugal has become one of the top locations where American expats choose to retire abroad. With dreamy sunsets over beautiful beaches, excellent seafood, and an affordable cost of living, it is understandable why so many expat retirees are turning their attention to this stunning Western European Union country when choosing to retire abroad.
This article is for US citizens and other non-EU residents looking to retire in Portugal and will provide you with everything that you need to know about Portuguese life. We will explore everything from the Portuguese visa options, such as the Portugal Retirement Visa and Portugal Golden Visa, to the tax implications, such as double tax treaties that can help you avoid double taxation on income tax. We will also help prepare you for every step of the journey ahead, from opening a local bank account to finding the best places in Portugal to retire.
Why Retire in Portugal
There are several reasons why Portugal is regularly featured as one of the best EU 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. If you’re retiring in Portugal, you will be pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome of the Portuguese citizens who are also a large English-speaking population. Living in Portugal also offers the opportunity to enjoy visa-free travel to other European countries that are part of the Schengen area.
According to the 2023 Global Peace Index, which assesses the economic stability and overall peacefulness of countries across the world, Portugal was named the seventh safest country in the world. This is due to its stable Portuguese law and socio-economic and political climate, alongside low crime rates in major cities and rural regions alike.
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 one of Lisbon’s charming parks. With a massive coastline, it’s easy to begin your love affair with water sports, or if you prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, you’ll find a wide selection of world-class golf courses across the country. Simply soak up the atmosphere and take in the little moments – something the Portuguese do so well.
With a good national healthcare system, excellent cuisine, full-bodied wines, fresh seafood, and a balmy climate that offers over 300 days of sunshine per year, the captivating charm of Portugal is likely to continue to lure Americans to its shores for many years to come.
Important Information About American Retirement in Portugal
Moving to another country is an exciting journey filled with opportunities to experience new things. From trying local delicacies to visiting a UNESCO world heritage site, and eventually finding a new home in a major city or on the Portuguese Riviera to settle down in. Considering all this, you will still need to be aware of crucial practical information when settling down in Portugal, which we will run over here.
Healthcare in Portugal
The public healthcare system Portugal offers is very good. The National Health Service or Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) provides free healthcare to children under 18 and people over 65. In addition to providing generally free healthcare for basic health needs to citizens and residents.
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.
For your visa applications, private health insurance will be a requirement. Finding a private insurance scheme at an affordable cost is possible in Portugal. With private health insurance, you will be able to book an appointment with a healthcare professional or specialist quickly and who is fluent in English.
The Non-Habitual Residence Scheme
Until the non-habitual residence scheme, or NHR scheme, ended in January 2024 the program provided individuals the ability to retire in Portugal with significant savings and tax advantages for up to ten years. To be eligible for the NHR scheme, applicants had to 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 residential address in Portugal on 31 December of that year, and the property needs to be intended for use as the habitual home. The NHR scheme was an excellent draw card for retirees, as, if structured correctly, they enjoyed very attractive tax rates. Expat retirees who had registered for NHR prior to its ending are still eligible for the tax benefits for the ten year period. In addition to this, Portugal offers the benefits of double tax treaties with the USA and other countries. This means you will not be required to pay US income tax on Portuguese-source income or worldwide income, avoiding tax implications like double taxation when you become a tax resident in Portugal.
The cost of living in Portugal expat retirees
One of the main factors luring so many expats to Portugal is the country’s comparatively low cost of living as it is known for being one of the most affordable European countries. American expats will certainly find that local bills and living expenses 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 the European Union, 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. Here, we will take a deeper look at the cost to retire in Portugal.
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 for a US citizen looking to retire in Portugal of the typical costs in Portugal for basic foods:
Cost in €
MILK (REGULAR), (1 LITER)
LOAF OF FRESH WHITE BREAD (500G)
EGGS (REGULAR) (12)
LOCAL CHEESE (1KG)
BEEF ROUND (1KG)
WATER (1.5 LITER BOTTLE)
CIGARETTES 20 PACK (MARLBORO)
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.
Visa Options to Retire in Portugal
If you’re ready to leave your home country and retire in Portugal, you must apply for residency. For the residency application process you will need to provide information and supporting documents such as your passport, proof of income, health insurance, and a clean record. Let’s take a look at the Portuguese visa options, such as the Portugal Retirement Visa and Portugal Golden Visas, and explore every step of the journey to becoming expat retirees in Portugal and potentially EU citizens.
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 this gem in Western Europe, you’ll need to obtain the necessary residency requirements.
Portugal 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.
To be able to move to Portugal as a retiree, you will need to apply for a Portuguese residence permit. For EU citizens, getting residency in Portugal is easy. For US citizens and citizens from non-EU countries, the process is straightforward but may take some time to complete. For the application, you must provide your valid passport, proof of regular income, and proof that you have health insurance. You will also need to complete a criminal background check.
The visa process
Retirement in Portugal for EU citizens is a fairly simple process. However, if you are an American retiring in Portugal -or an expat from another non-EU country – you will need to obtain temporary residency, which you can apply for at an official immigration service office. Some of the most popular options are the D7 Visa and the Golden Visa.
There are several visa options to consider, including the Golden Visa residency-by-investment program for non-EU residents and the D7 Visa. The application for both these visa options and the other visa programs is relatively straightforward. Once you decide on the option that meets your lifestyle and requirements, you will need to provide proof of sufficient funds to live in Portugal, alongside other criteria. If you are an American citizen, you can apply for your visa application from the USA.
Portugal D7 Visa
The Portugal D7 Visa, commonly known as the Portugal Retirement Visa or the Passive Income Visa, was introduced by the Portuguese government in 2007. The Retirement Visa is a smart strategy 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 and can afford retirement comfortably. Your passive income can be from an offshore pension scheme, retirement savings, or any other social security benefits in your home country.
You may be eligible to apply for the Retirement Visa and subsequently obtain a residence permit, regardless of whether you are a retiree, business owner, or other expat looking to live in Portugal.
In order to apply for the visa you need to:
- Be a non-EU national
- Earn a passive income of at least €760 per month (your income can be pension income, social security benefit, 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 the requirements to become an EU 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 Portuguese citizens, including the ability to vote in Portugal and membership in the EU. Portugal provides dual citizenship as well.
Portugal Golden Visa Program
The Portugal Golden Visa, also known as the residence permit for investment activity (ARI), is a five-year residency-by-investment scheme for non-EU nationals with minimum investment requirements starting from €250,000. Citizens from EU countries who are part of the European Free Trade Association are also be eligible for this residency by investment program. If you have enough finances to invest in Portugal, the Golden Visa Program can be the best option to retire in Portugal.
Following significant changes to the investment eligibility criteria, you can no longer purchase real estate or simply make a capital transfer to a local bank account, as these are no longer eligible investment options. The current investment options are as follows:
- 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.
- 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
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 the following documentation will be required:
- 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 and proves that you have completed school-prescribed language lessons.
- 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
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.
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 the best places to retire in Portugal.
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, investing in Cascais, Portugal, real estate is a great option.
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.
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 by, and waterfront properties available.
If you are interested in the northern cities, such as Braga, Portugal real estate offers several luxury property options, as well as the areas of Guimaraes, and Ponte de Lima. 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 who 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. Discover more in our comprehensive list of the Top Ten Places to Live in Portugal.
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 apply for your NIF easily online and from your home country through our partner GetNIF Portugal.
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 visit the GetNIF service.
Goldcrest: How We Can Help You
Goldcrest is a buyer’s agent that is based in Lisbon. We provide expert, impartial advice on real estate investments and how to buy property in Portugal. From scouting out the perfect property through to property acquisition, we have you covered throughout the process.
If you are looking to purchase property in Portugal, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our team of skilled experts is available to solve all your real estate doubts, helping you with the property search and offering insightful expertise and strategic advice.
Why choose Goldcrest?
- Local knowledge: With offices located across Portugal, our presence nationwide allows us to assist you personally across the country.
- Independent service: As an independent buying agent, we do not represent any development or project. Our service is entirely tailored toward each individual client, providing you with everything you need to secure the perfect property at the best possible price. As an impartial advisor on the market, we work solely on behalf of our client and provide a service tailored to your needs and requirements.
- Streamlined process: Our real estate agents speak English and Portuguese, and our service is completely focused on providing you with a hassle-free buying experience, saving you time.
- Experienced team: Our expert real estate team has a vast local knowledge of the Portuguese property market. We have cutting-edge technology and metasearch tools at your disposal to provide full market coverage, ensuring the best investment choices and negotiated prices.
- Network of partners: Lawyers, property management services, builders, architects, designers, and landscape gardeners, again saving you time and hassle by providing you with trusted experts in their field of work.
Frequently Asked Questions About American Retirement in Portugal:
How can an American retire in Portugal?
To retire in Portugal, you will need to apply for Portuguese residency. The process is straightforward but may take some time. For the application, you must provide your passport, proof of regular income, and proof that you have health insurance. You will also need to complete a criminal background check.
What are the best places to retire in Portugal?
For the best places to retire in Portugal consider Lisbon and Porto if you are looking for a good life in the city. Cascais is an excellent location a short 30-minute drive from Lisbon. Consider the Algarve for a relaxed retirement with plenty of beaches and golf courses.
For historic flair, the towns of Braga, Guimaraes, and Ponte de Lima are for you, and the Silver Coast provides a more authentic side to Portugal, which is also worth exploring. The autonomous islands of Madeira and the Azores are each excellent options, for those seeking more peace and tranquility.
Can you retire in Portugal from the US?
Can you retire in Portugal from the US? Yes, you can, but you must apply for residency to retire in Portugal.
How do Americans live in Portugal?
If Americans want to visit Portugal as a tourist for up to 90 days, they will not require a Portuguese visa. If they intend to stay in the country for an extended period, they will be required to get a visa. In case Americans want to live in Portugal, they must get residency or Portuguese citizenship, and there are several ways to do this, including marriage, descent, naturalization, and investing.
Why do Americans live in Portugal?
Many Americans choose to live in Portugal because of the excellent climate, high quality of life, and inexpensive cost of living. In many respects, Portugal has become the European country to migrate to. Favorable tax treatment is also a huge bonus, and Portugal consistently ranks as one of the greatest countries to live in the world.
Can I live in Portugal as a US citizen?
A US citizen can enter Portugal and remain for 90 days without a visa. For an American to live in Portugal, you must apply for residency. There are six basic ways: Marriage, family reunification, study, work, investment, or retirement. For any of these, you need to apply for a visa, then apply for residency with the Portuguese government.
What are the cons of living in Portugal?
Even though Portugal is a great country to live in with lots of benefits, there is a downside of retiring to Portugal: Bureaucracy can be an issue, which is associated with activities such as property purchases and immigration procedures.
If you want, Goldcrest’s professionals will guide you through the bureaucratic procedure using local expertise. If you don’t know the language, you may receive further information from our team of specialists.
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Portugal?
In Portugal, the minimum living wage is €775. The amount is sufficient to meet basic requirements such as food, housing, utilities, transportation, and clothes. The average monthly wage in Portugal is around €1,200. Note that how much you’ll need to live comfortably in Portugal strongly depends on your lifestyle.
Can Americans retire in Portugal?
In order retire in Portugal as an American, you need to apply for Portuguese residency. The process is simple, but may take some time. To apply you need to provide your passport, proof of income, proof of health insurance, and pass a criminal background check.