I get a lot of enquiries about how to get a NIF in Portugal. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common concerns for new arrivals to the country.
That’s for two reasons: 1) having a NIF is essential for many important aspects of life in Portugal, and 2) the process for getting one can be very confusing.
Luckily, I’ve been through it all myself, so I’m well-placed to clarify things for you.
In this detailed guide, I’ll demystify what a Portuguese NIF is, what it does, and (most importantly) how you can get one.
What’s a NIF anyway?
Seasoned Portugal immigrants are very familiar with the term ‘NIF’. You’ll also see it mentioned a lot on forums and groups about Portugal. But newbies have probably never heard of it.
Wonder no more – the NIF is Portugal’s tax number. The full name is Número de Identificação Fiscal, also known as Número de Contribuinte. In English, it’s known as a fiscal number.
The NIF is Portugal’s equivalent of the UK’s national insurance number or the US’s social security number. But, in Portugal, its use extends far beyond either of those.
What’s a NIF used for?
While living in Portugal, you’ll use your NIF for opening a bank account, getting a phone, internet or utilities contract, buying or renting a property, investing for the Golden Visa, getting a health number, opening a business, dealing with the tax authorities, and many more.
That’s why it’s important that you apply for your NIF as soon as you land in Portugal. You don’t even need to have a Portuguese address in order to get one. And just having a NIF won’t automatically make you liable for Portuguese taxes.
When you’re out shopping, many retailers will ask you the same question at each purchase. They normally ask if you have a Número de Contribuinte.
That’s because many Portuguese use their NIF to claim these purchases as expenses on their tax return. As a foreigner in Portugal, this probably won’t apply to you, as you’re likely to be resident with NHR tax status and an income from outside of Portugal.
For example, if your business is incorporated in the UK, you’ll still claim business expenses on your UK corporation tax return. HMRC has a much tighter definition than Portugal of what it considers allowable expenses.
However, if you decide to open a business in Portugal or become a freelancer, then you’d want to claim as many expenses as possible. That’s when you’d get into the habit of giving out your NIF whenever you went grocery shopping.
Does having a NIF make me a tax resident of Portugal?
No. It’s possible to have either a resident or a non-resident NIF. For example, Golden Visa residents need a NIF, but they don’t need to be tax resident in Portugal (unless they choose to be).
If you’re resident in Portugal with the D7 visa, however, you WILL need to become tax resident in order to maintain your status. You’re considered a Portuguese tax resident from the date you change your NIF address to a Portuguese one. You can do this either via the Finanças portal or in person at one of the offices.
Here’s an example to illustrate how it works. I got my NIF when I first arrived in Portugal. Because I didn’t have a Portuguese address at that point, I used my UK address to get the NIF. That meant I wasn’t yet considered a Portuguese tax resident.
In the summer of 2020, I signed a rental contract for an apartment in Lisbon. Then I updated my address with Finanças. From then on, my NIF was linked to that address and I was considered a Portuguese tax resident.
That was fine for me, because I live full-time in Portugal while working towards the five-year residency mark to apply for citizenship.
Even though I changed my address, my NIF stayed the same. In Portugal, it’s normal to keep the same NIF for life.
How do I get a NIF?
So far, you’re probably clear on what a NIF is and what it’s for. But when it comes to actually getting hold of one, that’s where things can get confusing.
That’s because there are several different ways to get your hands on a NIF, depending on your residency status in Portugal, whether you’re an EU passport holder, and where you apply for the NIF.
Let’s go through the options one by one.
First, we’ll look at the process for citizens of the EU/EEA.
How to get a NIF as an EU/EEA citizen
As with most things in the EU, getting your NIF is easier if you’re an EU or EEA citizen. This section only applies to EU passport holders. Unfortunately, if you’re a UK national with no other citizenship, you’ll have to skip to the next section.
When I got my NIF (as an EU citizen in early 2020) I simply walked into my nearest Finanças office in Lisbon, took a ticket, waited in line for about half an hour, then was issued my NIF with minimal fuss.
The pandemic made things more complicated, as many Finanças offices shut down their walk-in systems and started issuing NIFs only by email.
In some cases, you could also make an appointment to go in person.
At the time of writing, some Finanças offices (e.g., those in Madeira) are accepting walk-ins once again.
But that might not be the case for all of them (especially in mainland Portugal where the Delta variant is still causing problems). I recommend you check with the exact office where you intend to get your NIF.
It’s worth noting that Madeira typically has lighter bureaucracy than the mainland, particularly Lisbon. For example, my most recent visit to the Finanças office in Funchal (to update my address), was a ridiculously pleasant experience.
I dealt with an employee who spoke excellent English and who even taught me a Portuguese song! Nothing like that has ever happened to me in Lisbon.
Let’s now look at the typical steps required to get your NIF as an EU/EEA citizen.
Step by step process to get your NIF
Step 1: Find your nearest Finanças office
Google Maps is useful for this. You can also check the opening hours and how busy it gets. If your nearest Finanças accepts walk-ins, I recommend that you arrive just before opening time to beat the queues.
Step 2: Collect proof of address from your current country of residence
For example, you could bring a bank statement showing the address where you lived before moving to Portugal.
Pro tip: If you’re an EU/EEA passport holder living outside the EU, you could open a free bank account with Wise or N26 using a friend’s EU address and then print a statement showing your name and that address. That should be sufficient for getting the NIF. You can open either account online in minutes, and both will be useful for life in Portugal.
When I did my own NIF, I used a UK bank statement showing the address of my family home (NB, this was before Brexit).
Step 3: Bring your passport and proof of address to Finanças
Once you get inside the door, first step is usually to push a button on the machine to be issued your number in the line. Typically, it won’t be labelled NIF, but instead Numéro de Contribuinte.
Step 4: Get your NIF
Go up to the counter when your number comes up and let them know that you would like a NIF. Staff normally speak at least some English, especially in Lisbon or Madeira.
Here’s a useful phrase: eu preciso de um numéro de contribuinte, por favor, which should get you on the right track if necessary.
The employee will ask you for proof of ID and address. In addition, they charged me a small fee of €7.
Next, they’ll give you an A4 sheet with your details and your NIF. Don’t lose this!
If the closest office to you is only accepting applications by email, then you’ll just need to send them a scanned copy of your passport and proof of address.
Add some simple text in Portuguese explaining what you want. Here’s a good European Portuguese online translator, better than Google Translate (which is Brazilian Portuguese).
They should email you your NIF in around a week.
Next up, let’s find out how to get a NIF if you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen.
How to get a NIF as a non-EU/EEA citizen
Unfortunately, non-EU/EEA citizens have a more difficult time when it comes to getting the NIF. Sadly, that now includes Brits (#brexitwinning).
The main sticking point is that Portugal requires non-EU/EEA citizens to appoint a fiscal representative (also known as a tax representative) before issuing them with a NIF. This person should be a Portuguese citizen or resident. They take responsibility for handling communications between you and the Portuguese tax authorities.
Notifications from the tax authorities generally require a prompt response within 10 to 15 days. If you don’t have a Portuguese address and don’t receive correspondence in time, it can cause major problems for you (e.g, large fines). This is where the fiscal representative plays an important role.
With that clarified, let’s launch into the steps.
Get your NIF in person
The steps are broadly the same as for the EU/EEA section above, except you’ll need to bring your fiscal representative to Finanças with you, with their ID.
Get your NIF via your lawyer
Many non-EU/EEA citizens use their lawyer to get the NIF. This is typically included as part of the visa handling service, for example if you’re applying for residency with a D7 visa or a Golden Visa.
The visa handling service should also include fiscal representation, at least for the first year of residency. The lawyer handling your visa application will get the NIF on your behalf. You won’t have to do anything except provide them with the required documents.
We can support your D7 or Golden Visa process, which includes getting the NIF and acting as your fiscal representative.
Get your NIF with an online provider
Due to the hassles involved in getting a NIF, several convenient online services have sprung up to cater for this need.
These are particularly useful if you’re doing your D7 application by yourself, without the help of a lawyer.
Here’s our trusted favorite.
Created by a Portugal-based American couple, Bordr started life by helping US citizens to get their NIFs. Since then, it has expanded its services to all nationalities.
The process is easy: you complete the order form, upload copies of your passport info page and proof of address, then sign the power-of-attorney document. It’s important for that signature to closely match the one on your passport, so Bordr recommend printing the POA document and signing it physically.
After that’s done, Bordr will send you your NIF in around a week (although there may still be some pandemic-related delays).
Bordr charges $150 per NIF, which includes one year of fiscal representation. You can get a $10 discount by using the code DIGITALEMIGRE at checkout.
Updating your NIF address
When you first get your NIF, you will probably use your original address from outside of Portugal. As we already discussed, this is fine. But if you later become a full-time resident, you’ll eventually need to update your NIF address to your Portuguese one.
There are several ways to change your NIF address.
- Walk into any Finanças office and change your address on the spot. You’ll need to take along proof of your new Portuguese address, such as a utility bill, rental contract or property deed.
- Change your address on the Finanças online portal. This method is useful if your local Finanças isn’t accepting walk-ins, or if you just don’t want to go there in person.
Let’s now take a look at the steps needed to access the portal and change your address.
Step 1: Register on the portal
Once you register, they will send you an access code and password. The tricky part here is that Finanças will only send them by physical mail, to whatever address is already attached to your NIF.
Yep that’s right, even if it’s an address outside Portugal. In my case, they sent it to my UK address. My mother received it and sent me a photo of the information in the letter. I was then able to access the portal. So when you apply for your NIF, make sure there’s someone at that address who can physically receive mail.
If you open the website in Chrome, Google Translate does a workable job of rendering the site into English. It should look like the below. Enter the requested details and click register. VAT number means NIF, tax address is the address you originally used to get the NIF.
Step 2: Log into the portal
Once you’ve received your details in the mail, you’ll be able to login with your NIF and password. Next, we’ll look at how to change the address.
Step 3: Check your NIF address
First, let’s check the address that Finanças already have on record. With the portal translated into English via your browser, navigate to the following section: You are here > Home > Your Services > Consult > Current Registration Status > General Data
Further down the page, there will be a list of all your personal information including your name, NIF, and the address where you’re currently registered. It should look like the below (minus the blacked out bits).
Step 4: Submit address change request
Next, we’ll head over to the e-balcão section to submit a request to change address. In your browser, click on the area that’s circled in red in the above image.
This will take you to the e-balcão homepage. Click on ‘customer service’ at the top.
Clicking on the customer service button will take you to a page where you can submit a ‘request for information’.
Choose the same settings from the drop down menu as shown in the ‘create new question’ page above.
Then you can write your request in the question box, and attach a copy of your proof of address.
A simple translated text is enough for this task, like the below:
Se faz favor, eu preciso de mudar meu endereço para:
[insert your Portuguese address here]
Tenho o arrendimento em annexo.
Se precise de mais informaçoes se favor avise-me.
It should take a week or two for the request to be processed. Please note, there are no email notifications. You’ll have to keep checking the portal in this same section to see if anyone has replied.
If Finanças has any queries, they will leave you a message in the same area. Once the request has been processed, Finanças will also send you a message in the portal with a downloadable proof of address document.
When your address has been updated, it will also change in your general data section.
Congratulations! You’re now an official tax resident of Portugal.