How to Get Portuguese Residency for Non-EU Citizens

Moving to Portugal and gaining Portuguese residency might seem like a complicated process for non-EU citizens. This article walks you through various paths to residency, and makes the process a little more manageable.

Establishing residency in Portugal will always be smoother with a little expert help. That’s why we recommend seeking advice from trusted professionals such as real estate agents, immigration lawyers, and accountants.

Planning to visit Portugal and have no clue on which travel insurance to pick?

Check out these options:

World Nomads

Simple and flexible travel insurance, even if you've already left home.
Get a quote: [ins-worldnomads]

HCCMIS Atlas Travel

Built for individuals traveling outside their home country for more than 5 days – includes coverage for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2)*
Get a quote: [ins-hccmis]

Planning to visit Europe? Get Schengen Zone Insurance

Check out these options:

Axa Travel Insurance

Extensive protection and 24-hour assistance
Get a quote: [ins-axa]

Europe Travel Schengen

The number 1 global insurance with 24-hour assistance
Get a quote: [ins-schengen]

Looking for the best health insurance in Portugal?

Check out these options:

Cigna Global Health Insurance

Get access to an extensive global network with 24/7 multi-lingual support, in-house clinical treatments, and more.
Get a quote: [ins-cigna]

Allianz Worldwide Care

Your medical expenses will all be covered when living abroad.
Get a quote: [ins-allianz]

What is Portuguese residency?

Portugal has become a place that’s high on the list of places to relocate to in Europe. This is largely because of great weather and relatively good values in the Portuguese real estate market.

The Portuguese government has enticed many foreigners to Portugal through several advantageous visa programs. This was done to attract foreign capital investment to stimulate the Portuguese economy. The Golden Visa Program, for example, has attracted many non-EU nationals to Portugal.

apply portugal residencyWho should apply for Portuguese residency?

If you are not an EU citizen, you will need a residence visa to study, live, or work in Portugal. The type of residence visa you need depends on how long and why you plan to stay in Portugal.

Your residence visa allows you to enter Portugal for the purpose of applying for a residence permit. Basically, that visa is the first step to getting permanent residency. The name of the department responsible for processing and issuing residence visas is the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF).

The second step in the process happens right after you arrive in Portugal. That’s when you need to visit SEF to apply for your residence permit (note, that’s different than your residence visa).

As mentioned before, citizens of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA), as well as Swiss nationals, don’t need a residence visa to live in Portugal.

If you are eligible to live and work in Portugal without a visa, all you have to do is register with Portuguese tax authorities and your local city hall (camara municipal). They’ll issue you a residence certificate valid for five years.

Ways to get Portuguese residency

residency investmentResidency by investment

Portugal has one of the most successful residency-by-investment schemes in Europe. Commonly known as the Golden Visa Program, the program gives residency permits to individuals who invest in Portugal.

There are a number of different ways to make Golden Visa investments, although the most popular method is through real estate. Requirements are different depending on the type of investment route that you choose. Real estate investments are typically around €500,000 but can be less in certain circumstances.

Here are some other routes to Golden Visa investment:

  • €350,000 in scientific research
  • €250,000 in Portuguese arts and culture
  • €250,000 into the creation of a business that employs at least 10 people
  • €500,000 in a small to medium enterprise (SME) in Portugal

One of the advantages of obtaining residency through investment is that you do not have to relocate permanently to Portugal. As  a Golden Visa holder you have fairly relaxed residency requirements – especially as compared to other EU countries.

residency by workResidency by work

One route to Portuguese residency is through employment. This means emigrating to Portugal, then living and working in the country with an approved work visa.

Citizens of some non-EU countries with bilateral agreements with Portugal are allowed to apply for this work residence visa in Portugal within 90 days of arrival into the country.

These countries include:

  • US
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Japan
  • Israel

Other non-EU nationals must have a job lined up in Portugal as a prerequisite, before applying for a residence work visa in their home country.

After entering Portugal with a Portuguese work visa, you will eventually have to change it to a residence permit.

If you are an employed worker without a residence visa and wish to apply for a residence permit (Article 88, paragraph 2), you will need to register on the SAPA portal (website is in Portuguese) first. See the SEF Article 88 website for further information.

residency family reunificationResidency by family reunification

Portuguese laws allows holders of a residence permit to be joined by their immediate family members or dependants.

The holder of a residence permit valid in Portugal will apply to SEF for family reunification for entry into Portugal and residence of the members of his family.

Some of the documents you will need to present to SEF include the following:

  • authenticated supporting documents proving the family links involved
  • authenticated copies of the identification documents of the applicant’s family members
  • proof of accommodation
  • proof of means of subsistence
  • a criminal record certificate from the country of origin or the country where the applicant resided for more than one year

For more information on the family reunification visit SEF’s website.

residency by studyResidency through study

Studying in Portugal is also a great way to get Portuguese residency.

This is only a short-term option though, as the period of study can be no longer than six months to qualify you for a residence permit in Portugal. With this residence permit, students are only allowed to take part-time jobs depending on the approval of SEF.

However, after the study period, students are given a one-year job search permit to find paid employment in Portugal. If you get employed, you can change to a worker status which allows you to live and work in Portugal.

If you are looking for student health insurance, take a look at [ins-hccmisstudent].

retire portugalResidency through retirement

Retiring in Portugal is also a way to get Portuguese residency if you’re at that stage of life. You will have to apply for a Portuguese residence visa in your home country.

The usual requirements for this visa include the following:

  • a valid passport
  • proof of income
  • proof of health insurance
  • a criminal background check

The visa process takes at least a month. To get the residence permit you will have to prove that you have a monthly regular income of at least €1,070.

It is also possible to include your dependents in this kind of application for residency.

A temporary residence permit is issued for one year and renewable for two-year periods as long as you continue to meet the requirements of the residential status.

One major benefit of this residency program is that you will have a full tax exemption on foreign-source pensions, dividends, royalties, interest income for 10 years.

Some of the common places people choose to retire to in Portugal are:

For more information on the best places to retire, check out our article here.

residency marriageResidency by marriage

Marriage is another path to Portuguese residence. By marrying a citizen of Portugal, you can apply for residency and, eventually, citizenship.

The  first stage in this process is getting a temporary residence permit for five years and then you can opt for a permanent residency. During this five-year period, it is not necessary to live continuously in the country.

Alternatively, if you wish to obtain Portuguese citizenship, you must be married to your partner for at least three years, have sufficient understanding of the Portuguese language and effective links to the Portuguese community.

For more details on what you need for this type of residency, see the Consulado Geral de Portugal website and the Diário da República Eletrónico (DRE) for the exact legal requirements (websites are in Portuguese).

Get expert advice on residency in Portugal

Investment consults, real estate portfolio strategy, tax residency advice or second home location planning - we’re on hand to help with whatever you need.
Global Citizen Solutions - Schedule a free 15 min call with our specialists

What if I already live in Portugal but want to become a resident?

You can still apply for a temporary residence permit if you are already living in the country. You’ll want to look at Article 77 of SEF legislation first. This will help you understand how to apply for Portuguese residence if you’re already here.

Some of the requirements will include:

  • A valid residence visa
  • Proof of accommodation, showing you already live in Portugal
  • A clean criminal record in Portugal
  • Enrollment in the Social Security system
  • Proof you haven’t been denied a visa for health reasons

If you have any doubts, contact the SEF office for assistance.

How long is Portuguese residency valid for?

A temporary residence permit is valid for one year from date of issue. It can be renewed for a further two years, and again two years after that.

After five years of temporary residence, you can apply for a permanent residence permit (or citizenship). A permanent residence permit has to be renewed every five years.

You might also be interested in: SEF Portugal: Immigration and Residency Assistance.

EU residencyWhat are the advantages of Portuguese residency?

  • Live and work in one of the safest countries in the world
  • Benefit from good value in real estate compared to the rest of Europe
  • Travel visa-free within the Schengen Area
  • Enjoy a high quality of life, education, and healthcare
  • Apply for citizenship after five years
  • Hold dual citizenships if you so desire

In all, Portuguese residency allows you to live, study, work, or retire in a beautiful and sunny country.

Attaining your Portuguese residency could also be worth it in the long term if it means you end up with a Portuguese passport. This would allow visa-free travel to over 171 countries in the world.

The process of becoming a resident in Portugal as a non-EU citizen is different dependent on your situation. With good information, a bit of organization and the help of trusted professionals the process can be smooth and simple.


How can I get residency in Portugal?

You can get residency in Portugal in six basic ways: Marriage, family reunification, study, work, investment, or retirement. For each of these, if you live outside the EU, you’ll need to apply for the relevant visa. Once that visa is accepted, you’ll apply for residency with the Portuguese government.

Is it easy to get residency in Portugal?

It is fairly easy to get residency in Portugal. The key is to be organized and persistent. You’ll navigate a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy to get residency in Portugal, and you’ll start by applying for a visa. The visa you apply for will depend on your circumstances: student, investor, or retiree, for example.

How long does it take to get residency in Portugal?

In simplest terms, you can receive permanent Portugal residency once you’ve lived in country for five years with a temporary residence permit. To become a permanent resident of Portugal, you need to have a long-stay visa and fulfil minimum stay requirements.

How can I settle in Portugal?

To settle in Portugal, you need a visa to establish residency. Once you have your visa, you can set up home in Portugal and apply for your residence permit. Part of your residence permit requires that you have a Portuguese address, and that you spend a minimum amount of time in Portugal each year.