Advice for British Expats Moving to Portugal

Life expectancy is higher in Portugal than in the UK and many say that they live happier with less income.

2/2/202420 min read

1. Introduction

This guide is aimed at British nationals who are relocating from the UK to Portugal, and need information on what steps they must take to comply with the Portuguese authorities. It should be read alongside our Living in Portugal guide, which provides more detailed information on the relevant subjects. The information provided is based on information available from the Portuguese authorities at the time it was written, as well as the experiences of British nationals already in Portugal. It is provided for general guidance only and is not intended to be an authoritative statement of Portuguese law.

1.1. Overview of Portugal

Portugal is a country located in Western Europe. It is the westernmost country in Europe and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the east and north. Portugal’s history has had a lasting impact on the culture, history, and architecture of other countries, such as Brazil, Macau, Mozambique, and others. Portugal has an advanced economy and a high standard of living. The majority of the population of Portugal is Roman Catholic, and the country is home to some of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, such as Fátima. Portugal has wonderful natural landscapes, with a 1,800km-long coastline and numerous islands, and is the perfect home for those who love the outdoors, water sports, and relaxing by the beach.

1.2. Reasons for British Expats Moving to Portugal

One of the most attractive reasons for many British expats relocating to Portugal, has got to be simply the weather. With around 3000 plus hours of sunshine each year, it is claimed to be one of the sunniests places within Europe, along with there being a much lower amount of rainfall (on average just 115 days per year as opposed to the UKs 133 days). Moreover, the weather is relatively mild, with the Algarve having a micro-climate, hence winters are generally mild, and summers get very hot and so this all sounds very attractive to people who are fed up of the temperamental British weather. Another reason that attracts many British expats to Portugal is the lower cost of living.

1.3. Importance of Proper Planning

Create a detailed list of the step-by-step process that will come with your move and what exactly is needed once you arrive in Portugal. You will find that when it comes to essential legal documents, you usually need much more paperwork than one might think. For example, should you wish to open a bank account here, you will need an NIF number, proof of address and proof of identification. These are just a few examples when it comes to important documentation needed to move abroad. In this chapter, we will give you a step-by-step guide of how to obtain an NIF, obtain your residency card and also make sure all your documentation is legalised.

2. Preparing for the Move

Preparing for the move to Portugal can be daunting, but some research can really help make the move easier. Make sure to consider the Portuguese culture and lifestyle, in particular how it differs from British culture. It’s also important to make a note of the necessary legal and administrative requirements that differ from Portugal to the UK, as well as important financial considerations, such as taxes. Finally, it’s crucial to get a grip on the healthcare and insurance options that are available, how they differ, and what you may be entitled to.

2.1. Researching the Portuguese Culture and Lifestyle

You should prepare yourself for cultural differences. Begin by researching the social customs and portuguese etiquette. Portugal has a different concept of personal space, people tend to stand closer together and make more physical contact, like touching somebody’s shoulder or back. Furthermore, when it comes to communication, portuguese people know how to speak but will not miss an opportunity to take a break and laugh. They do not line up, will just apply all possible words and actions to never be forgotten. In terms of work, portugueses usually work 40 hours per week, 8 hours per day, from Monday to Friday. In general they are more flexible than other Europeans, and you can work a 9 to 17h or a 10 to 18h, as long as you work the required 8 hours.

2.2. Understanding the Legal and Administrative Requirements

This website is run by the Portuguese government and contains a wealth of information on tax matters, social security, public services, driving and transportation, voting and legal advice. It is the best place to start to get a good overview of what you need to know. It is also worth visiting [Link], which is the UK government’s portal, and contains information on what your rights are abroad. Also, the Money Advice Service has useful tips on how to manage your money while living abroad. If you have a pension, DWP and some UK pension providers are useful sources of information. For insurance rights ABTA and the British Insurance Brokers Association have relevant information. If you are employed, ACAS is useful for advice on employment rights. If you need to exchange your British driving license, you should check the IMT website for detailed information. In general, government sites are better sources of information than private sector companies that are looking to sell their services. If you haven’t got everything you need from these sources, then, by all means, check insurance providers, banks and local estate agents, but remember that their advice can be oriented to what they want to sell rather than fulfilling your official obligations.

2.3. Financial Considerations and Banking Options

It is wise to avoid transferring large sums of money between countries using high street banks. These have limited currency conversion options and typically offer uncompetitive exchange rates and charge high transfer fees. Instead, a number of specialist currency brokers provide better rates and allow you to browse the market for the most suitable rates. It is easy to open bank accounts in Portugal, but there are some differences compared to the British system.

2.4. Healthcare and Insurance

To register in the NHS, you must have an EHIC in place. You should also register with a local GP, and find out which hospitals have an accident and emergency department with 24 hour cover. If you know you are only here for the short term, and you are here under the residency rules, you can still receive emergency care under the EHIC, but you should start to move to private insurance with immediate effect. Since you have made Portugal your country of residence, in order to apply for the early retiree’s form you will be committing to taking the liability of health care for both you and your dependents. We recommend that all members register with a private health insurer.

3. Finding a Place to Live

Portugal’s binge for tapping traditional energy sources has contributed to rising living costs. As result, ex-pats of employing professional advice through either real estate agents or rural planners, who have expert knowledge of the loca property market and who can also offer comprehensive guidance on every step of the process. A Good Estate Agents in Portugal. It’s also worth pointing out that British immigrants of Portugal in the future may encounter further Spanish disincentives for moving documents, if Portugal decides to opt of the Ankara Agreement and the European Union’s freedom of movement. Portugal makes no difference to Spain in the level of documentation which is required from British immigrants, this could be a significant issue for British immigrants of Portugal if regulations across the border diverge adverse.

3.1. Exploring Different Regions in Portugal

The Algarve, in the south of Portugal, is a popular region to move to, especially with British retirees. It is a well-developed, safe area, and boasts 300 days of sunshine. The Central region of Portugal is often overlooked by people from the UK, but is an affordable and welcoming region. The Silver Coast, which stretches from the city of Porto down to Lisbon, gets its name because of the clear beaches and bright white homes that line the coast. The biggest draw to this region is the surfing beaches, and outside of the summer months these are fairly quiet.

3.2. Renting vs. Buying Property

The process of renting a property in Portugal would initially involve looking online to find suitable options. Sites such as Idealista, OLX or Casa SAPO would be useful for English speakers, as they offer many different types of properties in different areas. The listings are usually displayed in Portuguese, so it is useful to learn some basic Portuguese property vocabulary (bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, furnished, unfurnished, etc) which will make it easier to identify what you are looking for. It is also useful to bear in mind -locations you would like to be in, the length of time you wish to reside in the property, and your rough budget. It is very important to take into account the arrangements for them prior to arriving.

3.3. Working with Real Estate Agents

When you start working with a real estate agent, you start on a blank page with a lot of research to do. First of all, ask your friends who live in Portugal if they have any suggestions. If you are coming through an association or company in Portugal, they may also have recommendations for you. You may also need the services of a gestor or attorney at this point. A person you can ask is Lourdes Rodrigues, who is a fanastic gestor working in the Alcobertas/Torres Vedras area.

3.4. Understanding Rental Agreements and Contracts

There are two types of rental agreements in Portugal. One is the Contrato de Arrendamento, and the other is the Contrato de Aluguer. The Contrato de Arrendamento is a long-term rental contract, which usually lasts for a minimum of five years. However, at the end of the first three years, the owner can only terminate the rental agreement if he or a close family member requires the property for personal use. At the end of the contract, the contract can only be terminated or renewed by the tenant. The Contrato de Aluguer is a short-term rental contract, which can last up to a year. However, this type of contract is not very popular in Portugal. You should bear in mind that legal disputes can arise, and therefore, it is always recommendable to have a legal counsel.

4. Settling In

While the requirement for Portuguese language knowledge will vary depending on the region of Portugal to which expats relocate, with Brits in the cosmopolitan capital city of Lisbon, for instance, more likely to manage well in English, many of those living in rural areas will find that their daily life and communication are made easier through understanding and embracing the local language. An expat moving to Portugal can expect some challenges in adapting to the change, but it’s easier than ever before to fit in and enjoy everything that Portugal has to offer.

4.1. Registering with Local Authorities

When registering with local authorities, the first step is to register at the local Finanças (tax office). Once registered at the Finanças, you will receive a government-issued document which states your fiscal number. Next, visit your local Junta de freguesia (parish council) where you should register as resident. The information will be confirmed by mail and passed to SEF (Portuguese immigration). The final process, depending whether you are a pensioner or not, is to register at the Centro de Saúde (health centre) and your local social security office.

4.2. Learning the Portuguese Language

Especially among the younger generation, English proficiency is high, and most people in city centres speak at least basic conversational English. However, learning the local language is the key to integrate well in Portugal. Portuguese people generally appreciate any effort to embrace their language as a sign of cultural respect. The field of job opportunities is also widening for those who speak Portuguese. Public administration services, the health system, the legal and financial sectors, among others, require the use of Portuguese. Finally, it is nearly impossible to build and maintain personal relationships with people if you are not able to communicate with them. Anyhow, gotta be said, the Portuguese language is one of the hardest things of Portugal. It is not a necessary (or easy) for all expatriates to learn it, even if living in Portugal, because some find it difficult. A problem with the pronunciation of several words is the way vowels and consonants are (or are not) emphasised. Mastering the language in unique ways and novelties can be a bit annoying for new comers, but if you manage it, you'll remember it really well!

4.3. Navigating Transportation Systems

Portugal’s public transport system is relatively good, with air, rail and bus travel extensively available. While you will get by just fine without a car in Portugal, a vehicle will enable you to explore the country a lot more easily. Public transport is also reliable and easy to access. There are five main airports in Portugal: Madeira, Porto, Lisbon, Faro and the Azores. Portugal’s airports host a good choice of flights, not only to other European destinations (with many budget airlines using them as hubs), but also increasingly to the US and Canada. If you prefer trains, Portugal also has a dense national railway network that covers all the main cities and towns in the country. For example, you can take a train from Faro to Porto in one day, stopping at Lisbon and Coimbra on the way. Additionally, Portugal has a bus station in most towns and cities, and there are regular intercity buses running throughout the country. An alternative way to travel around is by taxi. Car hires companies are quite cheap and usually won’t require a credit card to book. Also, in cities such as Lisbon and Porto, you have a Metro, buses and trams to get around.

4.4. Familiarizing Yourself with Local Customs and Etiquette

224. The Portuguese are known for being very warm, helpful, and friendly, so be prepared to be embraced with two kisses, one on each cheek, when meeting new people as a gesture of welcome. On the same note, it is important to be polite and respectful when dealing with the locals, and maintaining a sense of modesty will serve you well in this environment. Simple gestures such as saying “good morning,” “please,” and “thank you” in Portuguese when addressing people gain a great deal of respect. Both of these observations are ritualistic among the local people and are greatly frowned upon by peers if not reciprocated. It is worth noting, however, that many Portuguese speak a great deal of English and are usually more than willing to accommodate expats who are learning.

5. Education and Healthcare

In Portugal, the schooling system is divided into public and private schools and into nursey, primary and secondary schools. Children don’t need to start school until they’re 6 but many start at an earlier age, for example, from 3 when they can attend pre-school. The school day tends to be longer than in Britain and children are set a considerable amount of homework. From the age of 15, children take national examinations (non-Portuguese speaking children don’t have to do the language papers). These are very important in terms of university entrance but in order to take them, the student must have a good attendance record and internal marks from their school. Overall, exams are seen as positive in building a child’s self-discipline. As a parent, you can either opt for your children to go to a Portuguese school or a private international school. The international schools naturally follow a curriculum similar to those in the UK and are more expensive than the Portuguese State system.

5.1. Enrolling Children in Schools

For state schools in Portugal, the education is free from ages 6 to 18. Normally, classes run from 9am to 4pm. They cannot guarantee English speaking classes for those who don't speak Portuguese but a lot of the time teachers will help to translate. There are international schools available, particularly in Lisbon which have classes taught in English, that may be more suited to your needs if any of your children are struggling with the language. Some schools offer transport services, some only offer it to those who are 5km way or more from school.

5.2. Understanding the Portuguese Education System

Starts with pre-school or creche, which parents are responsible for financially, with places obtainable via local schools or private provision. Next is the Ensino Basico (Basic Education) which runs for nine years from age six or seven, and will usually start at 9am or 9.30am and finish at 3.30pm, with a two-hour lunch break at home. This teaches a solid mix of academic, creative and technical skills, and determine a child’s progression onto the next stage. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a child moves to a different school, but will be placed in the appropriate ‘course’ – if they’ve qualified to make this choice.

5.3. Healthcare Options for Expats

One of the first things you should do when you move to another country is to get signed up for healthcare. Portugal has a decent health service, where you pay for your treatment, then claim the money back. Be aware that it might not cover all the expenses of your treatment and it is important to have a private healthcare cover, which is easily available. However, to get the normal national healthcare rates you also need to get a social security number from your regional social security office. To apply for this, you need to fill in the form modelo 9 and provide a fotocopy of your passport or ID and a copy of your residency documents. Contact your local social security office for more details on how to do this.

5.4. Finding English-Speaking Doctors and Specialists

The majority of Portuguese people speak at least a little English, but that might not be the case for your doctor. Even those who claim to speak English sometimes struggle with medical terminology, as you might expect. You may be assigned an English-speaking doctor within the health centre system, but many people prefer to use the private health provision for various reasons. An alternative is to use a broker to find a specialist. Online private doctor services in English also exist. Health Permits may pick up the cost of your consultation with a private specialist if you have been referred by your GP. To find an English-speaking doctor, ask people you know or consult the British Embassy website.

6. Employment and Business Opportunities

When considering economy and employment in Portugal, the cost of living is significantly lower than in larger European cities, where oneself of one's income can be significantly compromised and surpass the gains of an otherwise adequate salary. The real estate and property market in Portugal has jumped by the roughly 3.8% y/y in 2017, and is expected to keep thriving, offering good chances for anyone invested in turning to onwards investments or even someone looking forward to acquire their primary real estate. Other sectors Portugal's economy is thriving on and currently leaning towards include IT and web development, with startups popping up anytime, anywhere, and getting worldwide recognition only by word of mouth due to the outragous cost-returns and pace of globalisation.

6.1. Job Market and Work Permits

Portugal has a fairly average unemployment rate, although it is traditionally higher than the UK. This is coupled with a social security system that is struggling to support pensioners due to Portugal's aging population. Unfortunately, Portugal's economy has not fully recovered since the financial crisis and this has led to financial troubles within the country.

6.2. Starting a Business in Portugal

There are various options when selecting a roommate these include: Friends, Colleagues, Strangers and Family. It is a good idea to look online for potential roommates. There is a lot of choice and therefore prices will be competitive. Prices can range depending on your personal preferences and location. It is important to make sure you are getting good value for money, not just considering the monthly rent but bills as well.

6.3. Networking and Building Professional Connections

Social media can also be a useful tool for expanding your professional network and building connections within the country. Consider joining various Facebook groups and LinkedIn circles for expats living in Portugal, and community or volunteer organizations. Expanding your web in the country will greatly increase your odds of finding a professional role. Finally, consider attending business networking events such as those on Meetup, the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, and other. These are where you will find industry influencers, decision-makers, potential employers, fellow mentoring candidates, and even clients. It’s all about getting yourself out there and taking any opportunity to build connections with native professionals. After all, as they say, it’s not what you know, but who you know!

7. Social Life and Integration

Social networks and clubs are a matter of life for various expats, and also typically play a crucial part of adjustment. No matter whether you prepare to be with your kids, expand your service network or even fulfill brand-new individuals, the commonness of creating brand-new links can not be overemphasized.

7.1. Joining Expat Communities and Clubs

Expat clubs are a great way to meet new people and to get valuable advice and support from those who have been living here for many years. Generally, these clubs are open to people of all nationalities and there won't be any problem if you are not just British but any other nationality. There are various clubs in our area, among them are Rotary clubs, car clubs, sports clubs and many more. Most have membership fees but it is well worth paying to have access to their pool of resources and wealth of knowledge.

7.2. Engaging in Local Activities and Events

Many towns and cities in Portugal have an active expat community that run groups and workshops. You can sign up for newsletters and join social media groups to keep informed of the local events. Social media groups have thousands of members and events range from small local interest groups to groups who set up regular meets. There are professional groups, book clubs and walking groups and everyone is very welcoming and reflective of the community in which they live. Keep an eye on local Facebook events which are frequently updated. If you are interested in reading about live events or anything else in more detail you can sign up to your local weekly newsletter.

7.3. Embracing Portuguese Traditions and Festivals

Portuguese people love to celebrate and wherever you are in the country, you are sure to come across some kind of local traditional festival. These might be religious festivals, celebrating their patron Saints' days, or simply local fairs celebrating regional food and produce from time of year. Religious festivals may also be accompanied by processions through the streets, usually by night and often with large crowds. This is an important opportunity for Portuguese people to get together, reaffirming their friendship and group identity, and enjoy time together. There is often music and dancing at these events, so don’t be shy and join in! Festas (festivals) are held across the country to celebrate all sorts of things, from the local speciality dish to the year’s corn harvest. These are important community events and you will need to make an effort to take part if you are to make friends and feel like you belong. Accommodation may be more expensive around these times because Portuguese people travel from far to take part.

8. Financial and Tax Considerations

As a new resident in Portugal, you will be subject to the Portuguese tax system. Residents must normally declare their worldwide income to the Portuguese tax authority. This will include income from employment, self-employment, pensions, dividends, savings and rental income. There is also a double taxation agreement in place with the UK so you are not taxed twice on the same income. Portugal has a number of tax incentives, both for new residents and non-residents. New residents may benefit from a special tax regime called the non-habitual tax regime. This tax regime can reduce your tax burden significantly. Another benefit is that Portugal has the most attractive pension tax regime in the EU and no tax is levied on foreign sourced pensions.

8.1. Understanding Portuguese Tax System

Income tax rates start at 14.5% for anyone earning €7,091 to 20% for earnings over €80,882 a year.Once you receive tax-residency status in Portugal, it is worth exploring this idea further with a financial consultant, as it can be tax efficient to have your assets in a diversified portfolio outside of Portugal. Inheritance and gift tax ranges between 10% to 40% for non-spouses and non-children of the deceased. Non-capital-gains and non-income tax residents will be subject to a 28% tax rate on any income earned in Portugal. It is important to understand Portugal's tax liabilities, especially when there are so many different rates and schemes.

8.2. Managing Finances and Currency Exchange

Finding the right bank and currency to use is likely one of the responses to 'What should I do to find the proper bank for me?’ Maybe you prefer a bank that offers benefits in the United Kingdom as effectively like HSBC, or perhaps you need to be freed from fees, or you desire a financial institution that gives every little thing online. While many banks have a number of the similar key benefits, it is important to think about ‘which certainly one of these is the most important to you?’ You will need to think about what sort of account you want, whether or not the financial institution speaks english, on-line banking choices, and also whether you need worldwide entry. Many banks need you to be thought of as a resident of Portugal which could be a massive hold up. Though some banks do not require this and let you open up with a passport you still need to have a neighborhood address. However if you are an expat, we might advocate getting a NIF and residency as soon as you probably can.

8.3. Seeking Professional Financial Advice

Remember not to limit your search on UK regulated advisories. Always check with the Portuguese regulatory bodies too on the professional background of the specialists you are considering. If unsure, request guidance from a legal advisor or someone knowledgeable in the area. Ask questions, too many if needs be. Understand that you are paying the professional and the best professionals will always be willing to give you the time and correct advice you need.

9. Traveling and Exploring Portugal

When you are in Portugal, make the most of your experience traveling the country and discovering its attractions. The main cities you should stop by when you are in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. When you are in Lisbon, you should visit the Monastery of Jeronimos, the Belem Tower, the 25 de Abril Bridge, the Sao Jorge Castle, and the Hieronymites Monastery. When in Porto, the must visit attractions are the Livraria Lello, the Clerigos Tower, the Dom Luis Bridge, the Bolsa Palace, and a boat tour of the Douro River. Finally, while visiting the Algarve, you should stop by the Marinha beach, the Cape St. Vincent, and the Tavira Island.

9.1. Must-Visit Cities and Tourist Destinations

We highly recommend visiting Porto. This city is famous for its port wine, but it also offers a chance to step back in time and enjoy the natural beauty of the Portuguese countryside. Close to the center, you will find mountains and forests, while the coast is a short drive away. The city has plenty of attractions including river cruises and port wine cellars. It’s also a good place to start a Douro Valley guided tour. However, Porto is not the only city worth visiting. In fact, it could take many years to get to know all the different corners of this country. Not to be missed are also Lisbon, Óbidos, Sintra, Faro, Coimbra, Braga, and Guimarães.

9.2. Discovering Portugal's Natural Beauty

In the north of the country, you'll be able to discover the amazing landscapes of the Alto Douro Wine Region, the steep slopes with centuries-old vineyards make this region an unmistakable place in Portugal. The Natural Park of Peneda-Gerês is the only one in the country and it was considered a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2009. It's an incredible place to visit; especially if you love nature. In the Centre of the country, you'll be able to visit the Natural Reserve of the Serras de Aire and Candeeiros, the Natural Park of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros is a protected landscape. Here, you are going to find some of the most incredible caves, valleys, footprints of dinosaurs and underground water courses. In the south of the country, you may explore the Vicentine Coast, the Vicentine Coast Natural Park. The region stands out for its landscapes, its rich cultural heritage and for the large number of local seafood and fish that are part of the typical Mediterranean diet.

9.3. Exploring Portuguese Cuisine and Wine

Portuguese cuisine is diverse and full of flavour. From cod to port, there are a number of dishes and drinks that make Portugal the culinary paradise it is. Portuguese cuisine incorporates flavors from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean. It has a strong influence from the sea and features fresh fish dishes such as Bacalhau a Bras or fresh fish grilled on coal or wood. Portuguese cuisine also features a lot of spices and herbs such as piri piri, black pepper, and coriander. It has a large variety of cheeses and sausages, among them the Alheira, which is enjoyed by everyone. If you love your pork, duck, squab, and offal dishes, then this country has a lot of it to offer. Last but not least, Portuguese cuisine is known for its amazing range of pastries and cakes. Several cakes and pastries are specifically connected with certain feast days, such as the Bolo Rei (King cake) served at Christmas, the Folar to celebrate Easter, and the Malasadas eaten at the carnival. Portuguese wines include the popular Mateus Rosé, the fortified port wine, and a variety of vinho verde. You can find some of the best and the most famous wine regions in Portugal, such as the Douro, Vinho Verde, and Alentejo.

10. Conclusion

Make sure to always do extensive research before moving and apply for residency as soon as you can, which you can do at your local Camara Municipal without using an intermediary. Avoid paying a large sum of money to an adviser or fixer - this process is easy to do and the people in the Camara Municipal will speak English to a great degree. You can also apply for residency at the nearest SEF office. All requirements are listed online if you search for the website for your local office. You will be required to attend an appointment in person. Promptly register with the Portuguese NHS when you arrive - to do this you need to take proof of your residency to the nearest health centre. If you don't speak Portuguese, take a friend or someone from your local Camara Municipal to help you sign up.

10.1. Recap of Key Points

- Ensure you have the correct paperwork organised before you move - Make sure you’rre aware of any tax liabilities on income from the UK - The NIF number is vital to daily life and without it, you will find it impossible to establish things like bank accounts, utilities, healthcare, property rentals or purchases. You will also need a Portuguese bank account in order to obtain the NIF number.

10.2. Final Tips for a Successful Transition

Most importantly, don't rush! It can be all too easy to try and speed the process along - perhaps even trying to open a bank account or find a property on the first day you arrive in Portugal. However, keep in mind that this is a marathon, not a sprint. For the most part you will need to have accounts set up and registration in place before you can do anything in Portugal, so just focus on the process and not the end goal.