Visa, Residency, and Citizenship Options for Americans & Canadians Moving to Portugal

Portugal has become a very popular destination for Americans & Canadians moving abroad, and their attractive visa options are a key reason.

The Three Best Visa Options for Americans Moving to Portugal

There are 3 main types of visas for Americans seeking to move to Portugal: the D7, the 'Golden visa', and the D2 visa.

D7 (Type 1) visa 

A visa for those who can live off their own income & have income above Portuguese minimum wage (€705/month in 2022)

Basic requirements

  • Income above minimum wage + additional for dependents

  • Portuguese accommodation

  • Recommended: savings deposited in a Portuguese bank (€8500+)

  • Criminal record check

Benefits

  • Live & work in Portugal

  • Public universal healthcare

  • Freedom of travel across the EU

  • NHR tax scheme

  • Avoid dual taxation between Portugal & USA

  • Family reunification options to bring spouses, partners, & dependents into country

  • Eligible for permanent residency or citizenship in 5 years

Golden visa/ARI

A visa for those with the resources to invest €350,000+ in Portugal and don't want to live in the country full-time

Basic Requirements

  • Investment in the country in the form of real estate, capital transfer, investment in local economy, or job creation

  • Criminal record check

Benefits

All benefits of the D7 visa plus:

  • Easy residency requirement: spend 7 days of the first year in Portugal and 14 days during every subsequent 2 years

  • If a non-resident, only pay tax on local sources

Need to Know: Portugal changed its golden visa investment requirements effective January 1, 2022

D2/Entrepreneur visa

A visa for entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Portugal

Basic requirements

  • Portuguese incorporation of business

  • Proof of financial means to run business or loan

  • Portuguese bank account and NIF number

  • Recommended: €5,000+ investment in business

  • Criminal record check

Benefits

All benefits of the D7 visa plus:

  • No minimum investment required

  • No limitation on type of business

  • Does not require job creation

The D7 (Type 1) Visa

  • A 'passive income' visa available to anyone who can show sufficient income to support themselves while living in Portugal. This may be particularly relevant for retirees with Social Security, 401k, or pension income. It may also be a good fit for remote workers. The income requirement is to exceed Portuguese minimum wage (€705/month in 2022), with any secondary applicants (spouses/partners) requiring 50% of that amount. We also suggest depositing at least 1 year of income (€8460 for single applicant) into a local bank account.

  • The D7 visa comes with a requirement to spend most of the year in Portugal - at least 16 months over the first 2 years.

  • could be right for you if you want to live in Portugal most of the year and can live on income from a pension/401k/Social Security, remote work, or investments

The Entrepreneur (D2) Visa

  • The "immigrant entrepreneur visa," available to anyone who can prove their business can survive in Portugal. There is no minimum investment required (although we suggest you invest €5,000+), no limitation on type of business, and no requirement to hire employees. You will have to show proof that you can support yourself, which normally translates to opening a Portuguese bank account with at least one year's worth of funds (12 x Portuguese minimum wage + extra for dependents). You'll also have to share a business plan.

  • Note that Portugal does have relatively high corporation, dividend, and personal income taxes that will apply if you are successful in securing a D2 visa.

  • could be right for you want to start a new business, bring an existing business to Portugal, or work as an independent service provider, and are happy to live in Portugal 6+ months out of the year

Additional visa information - D7 & D2
  • For D7 and D2 visas, you will apply for the visa itself while in your home country, then apply for a residence permit once you are physically in Portugal

Expected fees - D7 & D2
  • Processing fees: €50-300 per applicant

  • Approval fees: €50-200 per applicant

  • Renewal fees: same as initial fees, subject to regular increases

  • Lawyer's fees: €1000-3000 should you choose to use a lawyer

Expected timeline - D7 & D2
  • Open a Portuguese bank account in advance, to allow for transfer of sufficient funds

  • Apply for the visa at your nearest Portuguese consulate or embassy in the U.S. You cannot apply while in Portugal.

  • Once your visa is granted, you have 120 days to move to Portugal

  • Rent or buy a property to get a Portuguese address

  • Request an interview with Serviço de Extrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF)

  • Attend your appointment with your local SEF office. Be sure to bring all required paperwork with you to the appointment.

  • SEF will issue your residence permit

The Golden Visa (ARI)

  • A great visa option for non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens able to make a sizeable investment in Portugal. There are many options for how that investment may be made (updated for 2022):

    • Invest in property: typically must be €500k+ in value OR

      • €400k+ in low density areas

      • €350k if the property is 30+ years old or in a designated urban rehabilitation area

      • €280k if the property meets €350k price criteria AND is in a low density area

      • Residential property in Lisbon, Porto, and most coastal areas is not eligible as of 2022, but there are commercial property opportunities in those regions

    • Investment - Invest €500k+ in a qualifying project or fund (e.g. equity fund, venture capital fund)

    • Research & development investment - Invest €500k (€400k in low density area)

    • Capital transfer - Transfer €1.5 million+ to a Portuguese bank

    • Company Incorporation - Transfer €500k+ and incorporate a business in Portugal

    • Job creation - Create 10 jobs (8 jobs in a low density area)

    • Cultural investment - Invest €250k+ in the Portuguese arts & culture sector

  • One of the great benefits of this visa is that you only need to spend an average of 7 days per year in Portugal. If you want an easy path to citizenship without moving to Portugal or just want more flexibility than a standard residency, the golden visa may be for you. After 5 years you can apply for citizenship or permanent residency.

  • The golden visa does have higher fees than other residency options, as well as requiring a high level of investment in Portugal.

  • could be right for you if you have sufficient wealth to invest at least €350k (typically €500k) in Portugal and you don’t want or can’t live in Portugal full-time

Changes to the Golden Visa

As of January 2022, there have been some changes to the Golden visa scheme. Currently, residential properties only qualify for the Golden visa in designated low-density or interior areas. Unfortunately this means that residential properties in Lisbon, Porto, and much of the Algarve no longer qualify. Commercial properties throughout the country still qualify, and the Azores and Madeira still qualify for the Golden visa!

Expected timeline - Golden Visa

The total residency process takes about 10-12 months. The process involves three main stages:

Stage 1 (~3 months)

  • Obtain Portuguese tax ID number

  • Define route of application (ie: housing or fund investment)

  • Open Portuguese bank account

  • Search for and identify investment

  • Transfer requisite funds into Portuguese bank account

  • Submit personal documents and application

  • Note: You do not need a deed or official registration to submit the application. You can submit the visa application with promissory contract and proof that requisite amount has been invested. However, all documentation and processes must be complete before the first visa renewal (at two years years).​

Stage 2

  • Travel to Portugal to complete biometric information process

  • Appointment booking is currently taking 4-5 months due to COVID

Stage 3 (~6-8 months)

  • Residency is issued. Must spend 14 days over next two years in Portugal

Expected fees - Golden Visa

Citizenship/Residency

  • Processing fee for main applicant: €533

  • Processing fee per family member: €83.30

  • Residency permit fees per person: €5235

  • Renewal fees per person: €2663

  • Typical lawyer fees: ~€6000-10000,+ additional amount per family member

Additional visa information

  • For all visas, you will be eligible for permanent residency or citizenship after 5 years. To become a citizen you will need to pass a Portuguese language test at the A2 (upper beginner) level. 

  • Portugal recognizes dual citizenship

  • Family members (spouse, common law partner, dependent children and parents, and other dependent family) can be included in all visas for an additional fee

  • The Non Habitual Residency (NHR) tax scheme is open regardless of visa type, and provides significant tax discounts for the first 10 years of residency. Note that D2 visa holders may not benefit as much as others, since NHR only applies to certain types of income.

Language test for Portuguese citizenship/permanent residency

A2 ("Elementary") language level required for permanent residency or citizenship after 5 years

  • At the A2 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  • Understand frequently used expressions in most intermediate areas such as shopping, family, employment, etc.

  • Complete tasks that are routine and involve a direct exchange of information.

  • Describe matters of immediate need in simple terms.