How to Retire in Portugal from the US: The Ultimate Guide for Americans

Home > Life in Portugal > How to Retire in Portugal from the US: The Ultimate Guide for Americans

This guide helps Americans explore how to retire in Portugal from the US. We’ll walk you through questions expats have when retiring to Portugal, like:

  • Can I retire in Portugal as a US citizen?
  • Can I remain a US citizen if I retire in Portugal?
  • How do I access my American retirement funds and Social Security in Portugal?
  • Is the Portuguese healthcare system good? Can Americans use it?
  • Can my family in the US inherit my house and assets in Portugal?
  • How much does it cost to retire in Portugal from the US?
  • What is life in Portugal like for American retirees?

can-us-citizen-live-in-portugalHow to retire in Portugal from the US: Immigration, visas, and more

In Portugal, from 2017 data, at present there are around half-million documented immigrants in Portugal. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of these numbers slowing down, either. Particularly for retirees, the warm climate, low prices of real estate, and wonderful beaches can be alluring. Most of the American expats in Portugal come from the East Coast states of the US, in search of warmer climates and respite from the rat-race mentality.

Visas for Americans who retire in Portugal from the US

As an American, you’ll need a visa if you want to retire in Portugal. You’ll need to do this beforehand, while still in the US. We always recommend deferring to experts to aid the process of relocating permanently to Portugal. Finding an experienced and trusted accountant or lawyer, or immigration assistance service will make the whole thing much quicker and simpler – you’ll also have peace of mind that nothing has been done incorrectly. You’ll need to fill in some visa paperwork, plus prove that you have money in your bank account, or a job to come to. If you would like to have a bit more assistance in these matters, we recommend using Facebook groups and online forums to talk to a community of others going through the same thing.

Retiring in Portugal from the US with a Golden Visa

There are a variety of different visas you can apply for as a US retiree. If you have a pension or money from a house sale in the US, you’ll probably get the most favorable tax conditions through Portugal’s Golden Visa program. The program was set up to attract wealthy individuals to invest in Portugal. The Golden Visa requires an investment, but one of the most popular ways to do that is through a qualifying home purchase. If you have a large enough capital contribution, we would recommend looking into the Golden Visa program.

Inheritance law and wills in Portugal

Something you might want to take into consideration is the laws on inheritance and wills in Portugal. The rules and costs associated with leaving your house in Portugal to family should be understood properly as they might be different to back home. Immigrating to Portugal might seem like a whole load of paperwork and bureaucracy, but don’t worry – organization and staying on top of documentation will make the whole process easier.

retire-central-portugalAmericans retiring in Portugal: What to expect

First thing’s first; visit Portugal before you decide to relocate permanently. You will then be able to choose which area you find most appealing too. We recommend traveling the country and visiting locations with retirement at the forefront of your mind. How does the place feel as a potential retirement town? Are there enough things to do in order to keep you entertained? Is there a community there that you feel you identify with?

The Portuguese lifestyle for US retirees

The culture in Portugal might be quite different to what you are used to back home. In Portugal, there is a slower way of living and more time is taken for personal life, hobbies and time with family. We really mean everything is slower, so don’t expect to rush through ordering a coffee or an appointment at the bank, it will take longer than expected!

Are American expats welcome in Portugal?

Yes, Americans are generally liked in Portugal. Portuguese people are generally friendly and cordial to anyone who is in their country and behaving respectably. Treat them as you wish to be treated and all will be well. If you have a chance to learn some Portuguese before heading to Portugal, we would highly recommend it. There can be a problem doing some things in Portugal because of the language barrier, so if you can brush up as much as possible on the basics that will certainly help. As well as helping to integrate you into your community.

retirement age in portugalHealthcare in Portugal: Can US citizens go to the doctor?

Portugal does actually have a public healthcare system available for its residents. However, the quality of care might not be up to the standards of what you have received beforehand if you have private health care in the US. It’s not entirely free either; you will need to pay each time you need a treatment or procedure. The name of this service is Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS). Medicare doesn’t cover medical costs outside of the US, so if you want to have access to care with similar standards of care you’ll probably need to invest in Portuguese private healthcare scheme. Choosing a private healthcare provider will involve opting for an international healthcare provider if you are thinking of retiring in Portugal as the Portuguese private healthcare schemes will only cover ages up to 55. International private healthcare schemes cover you beyond those ages. If you’ll need to have regular access to good hospitals, you’ll be better off in the cities of Lisbon, Porto or the Algarve region.

retiring-in-portugal-from-usHow to choose a place to retire in Portugal from the US

If you’re thinking of retiring in Portugal, you’ll need to establish what it is exactly you want to do with your retirement first. It might be that you want to play golf regularly, or volunteer with those who need help. You might want to take up a gardening project. Whatever your goals might be, it’s a good idea to base your decision of where to live on these goals. You might be hankering after a thriving expat community to get stuck in to, or you might want to step back and find a more remote and peaceful life. If it’s a certain type of lifestyle that you envision for your retirement, we advise you to figure out what exactly that is. The weather in Portugal can vary quite a lot so if you had a warm retirement in mind, you might consider the Algarve. The same goes for the decision around what kind of community you would like around you, whether that be a tight-knit expat community or a local Portuguese one. Another issue to consider is the surrounding environment. Do you envision going to art galleries and exhibitions often? Would you like to have access to a movie theater with English-language films? Do you love shopping and want lots of nice shops nearby? Finally, a big and important concern of your decision of where to relocate as a retiree is your budget. How much do you have to spend on a property? Will your budget allow enough money left over to actually live in Portugal and stay in retirement?

us-citizen-retire-in-portugalCost of living: How much money do Americans need to retire in Portugal from the US?

Where the costs of living are concerned, it can vary quite drastically from place to place in Portugal. Lisbon will obviously be more expensive than any other region as the capital for example. The cost of living in smaller towns is estimated at around $1,500–$1,700 per month, or around $2,400 for larger cities, such as Lisbon. Some common themes that come up when considering cost of living to retire as an American in Portugal are:

  • Budget: What kind of lifestyle do you want/can you afford?
  • Residency: Will you live in Portugal year-round or travel back to US part of the year?
  • Real estate: Are you more interested in a house, an apartment, or a retirement community?

can i retire in portugalRetiring in Portugal from the US: The pros and cons

The first thing we would recommend doing if you’re retiring from the US to Portugal is asking yourself what it is you are looking for in Portugal? Somewhere calmer and more peaceful, or a bustling city full of exhibitions and energy? Setting your priorities straight will help you narrow down where you want to live and will help navigate the next steps in the process. We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to help get you started on your retirement to Portugal.


  • Great weather in most parts of Portugal most of the year
  • Friendly people and a culture that fits well with retirement
  • Delicious fresh seafood and a thriving gastronomy scene
  • Lower cost of living and less expensive real estate prices than in the US


  • Healthcare: Medicare won’t cover you outside the US, so you’ll have to invest in some private international health insurance to have peace of mind that you will be treated with a high standard of care.
  • Often limited availability of goods and services as compared to the US
  • Moving away from friends and family has the potential for homesickness or culture shock


How much do I need to retire in Portugal?

How much money you need to retire in Portugal depends a lot on the town you’d like to live in. If you’re in a more urban area like Lisbon or Porto, a couple will need at least €2,400 a month to get by comfortably. But in smaller villages, a couple could get by on as little as €1,400 per month.

How long can a US citizen stay in Portugal?

As a tourist, a US citizen can stay in Portugal for 90 days without a visa. If a US citizen wants to stay longer than 90 days, that person should apply for a visa. The kind of visa you apply for depends on what you want to do in Portugal: retire, study, or work, for example.

Can an American live in Portugal?

Yes, an American can live in Portugal. You can get residency in Portugal in 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.

Where is the best place to retire in Portugal?

The best place to retire in Portugal depends on your interests. If you’re a beach lover, the best spots will probably be in the Algarve. If you like cities, check out Lisbon or Porto. Portugal also has beautiful vineyards, farms, mountains, and quaint villages throughout the country.

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