Now could be a perfect time to consider a move to Portugal from USA.
Portugal is rapidly becoming one of Europe’s most popular relocation destinations. In fact, it’s one of the easiest countries for Americans to move to.
This small Atlantic country has so much to offer, from scenic destinations like the Algarve, Silver Coast and Madeira, to generous tax breaks for remote workers and online business owners.
Not only that, but the cost of living in Portugal is one of Western Europe’s lowest.
For those who move to Portugal from USA for the long-term, there’s the option to apply for Portuguese citizenship after just five years – one of the fastest timelines in the European Union.
Having dual citizenship can bring you some awesome benefits, including more freedom of travel, better scope for tax planning, increased quality of life, and access to a safe haven.
Armed with an EU passport, you’ll benefit from freedom of movement across the entire Eurozone. That includes not just freedom of travel, but the full rights to live, work, study and retire across all countries in the EU.
As you can see, living in Portugal as an American is a great idea.
Without any further ado, let’s dive in and look at 11 reasons to move to Portugal from USA in 2023.
11 Reasons to Move to Portugal from USA
1. Political stability
Are you fed up with constant conflict between Republicans and Democrats?
Are you concerned that Trump might somehow get back into power in 2024?
Alarmed by the SCOTUS decision to revoke Roe vs Wade?
If you move to Portugal from USA, you can leave all of those stresses behind.
Of course, Portuguese politics isn’t perfect. But as a foreigner in Portugal, you won’t have to deal with constant anxiety about the country’s political direction.
What’s more, Portugal is politically stable and lacks the toxic polarization that presently characterizes the United States.
And if you’ve had enough of sovereign citizens, QAnon obsessives, and anti-vaxxers, then a move to Portugal from USA will make for a refreshing change of pace.
2. Affordable state healthcare
Europe has long been known for its state healthcare, and Portugal’s no exception.
When you move to Portugal from USA and become a resident, you’ll be eligible to access good quality healthcare anywhere in the country – free or low cost (depending on the treatment).
All you need to do is get an SNS number to join the Portuguese healthcare system.
If you still prefer to go private (to get faster treatment), then health insurance in Portugal is very affordable compared to the US.
Also, health issues don’t get as politicized as they do in the US.
For example, Portugal legalized abortion in 2007.
The country held a referendum on the issue in February 2007. 59% voted in favor of legalization.
Now women are much safer, as the number of deaths from abortion complications has reduced to zero.
Then there’s the drug issue. In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize the consumption of all drugs.
Since then, it has seen dramatic drops in drug overdoses, HIV, and drug-related crime.
3. Low gun crime
You might be surprised to discover that Portugal has some of the most relaxed gun ownership laws in the EU. Portuguese citizens can own guns for hunting, target shooting, pest control and collecting.
There’s even a permit for self-defense, but it’s hardly ever granted to civilians. This policy has caused tensions between Portugal and the rest of the EU, which has far more stringent laws on gun ownership, such as the EU Gun Ban.
Despite all this, gun crime in Portugal remains extremely low. Mass shootings on a United States scale are practically unheard of. In 2016, Vice News tracked all the mass shootings across Europe. Portugal featured only twice. In both instances, five people were injured. None died.
In the same year, the US had 133 mass shootings within just 164 days, including the notorious Orlando nightclub attack in which 49 people were killed.
4. Safer food
Thanks to EU regulations, Portugal has significantly stricter sanitary and animal welfare standards than the US.
For example, the US uses chemical washes such as chlorine, growth hormones in animal feed, genetically modified foods that aren’t labeled and pesticides that are banned in the EU. That means no chlorinated chicken or high fructose corn syrup.
In some regions, such as Madeira, locally grown produce (such as bananas and avocados) is plentiful and low-cost. Produce that doesn’t grow in Portugal is often brought in from nearby Spain, reducing environmental costs in terms of transportation.
5. Easy residency visa pathways
For starters, all US citizens can enter Portugal visa-free as tourists and stay for up to 90 days.
During that period, you can use your 90-day allowance to travel freely across other countries in the Schengen zone.
There are also plenty of options available if you want to stay in Portugal for the long term. Let’s take a look at what each one involves.
The D7 Passive Income Visa
The first is the D7 visa, a popular choice for those retiring in Portugal. It’s often known as the ‘passive income’ or ‘retiree’ visa. You can use this flexible residency pathway with income from pensions, rentals, dividends, investments, or royalties.
if you’re a salaried remote worker wishing to move to Portugal, you should use the Portugal digital nomad visa instead of the D7.
The most important factor in getting either of these visas is showing proof of income. Depending on the embassy, you’ll also be asked to show proof of having enough savings in the bank to support yourself and any dependents for a period of one year.
Income levels are based on the equivalent of the Portuguese minimum wage, which at €740 per month is one of the lowest in the EU.
(NB, the digital nomad visa requires proof of a salary at four times the Portuguese minimum wage)
The Portuguese government wants to know that D7 applicants can support themselves in Portugal without needing to ask for state funds. If you can do that, and don’t have a criminal record, then the D7 visa is easy to get.
The initial D7 residency is valid for two years. After that, you’ll need to renew your status again for a further three years, which means showing evidence of sufficient income and savings.
Once you hit the five-year residency mark, you’ll become eligible to apply for permanent residency in Portugal or Portuguese citizenship.
It’s important to note that getting residency with the D7 visa means that Portugal should be your main home.
You’ll need to become a Portugal tax resident and declare your worldwide income to Portugal every year, although you won’t necessarily have to pay tax on it.
The Portugal Golden Visa
The second immigration pathway is via Portugal’s residency by investment program, known as the Portugal Golden Visa.
This gives you temporary residency for five years, which brings you to the point when you can apply for either permanent residency or citizenship.
In return, the government of Portugal wants you to make an investment in the country.
Real estate is the most common route, but you can also get residency by investing in private equity or venture capital funds.
Investing in funds is a fast and hands off route to the Golden Visa. This is due to faster processing times, professional management, and better tax efficiency compared to direct real estate investment.
Funds are becoming an increasingly popular way to get the Golden Visa, due to faster processing time and better overall tax efficiency when compared to real estate.
Funds participating in the Golden Visa program are closely regulated by the Portuguese government and subject to frequent audits. Many funds invest in real estate based projects, with others focusing on Portuguese startups and later-stage tech companies.
You can also get the Golden Visa by investing in scientific research, art and heritage projects, film production, or simply depositing €1.5 million into a Portuguese bank.
Portugal has one of Western Europe’s lowest costs of living. Hence, Golden Visa real estate investment thresholds can be quite affordable.
They range from €280,000 for rehabilitation projects in low density areas of the country to €500,000 for any sort of real estate in eligible areas of the country.
Please note – Lisbon, Porto, and some of the Algarve region are no longer eligible for Golden Visa investment in 2023.
Perhaps you want to move to Portugal from USA with the Golden Visa, but can’t manage it until later this year or beyond.
In that case, the funds route is one of the quickest ways to secure a foothold in Portugal – and start your timeline to citizenship – without having to relocate.
But if traditional real estate investment is the route for you, then you might want to consider investing in Madeira for your residency.
This up-and-coming island makes an interesting alternative to Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve – which are no longer included in the Golden Visa program.
Check out our full article about first-hand experience of living in Madeira.
The Portugal HQA Visa
Another investment-based route to residency is the Portugal HQA Visa (‘Highly Qualified Activity’).
This program was introduced in 2019 and is designed for entrepreneurial investors who wish to undertake a research project in Portugal.
The HQA visa program combines two key components:
- Setting up a business in Portugal
- Making an investment in high-value research and development activities at one of Portugal’s universities.
The HQA visa offers a number of key benefits over the Golden Visa:
- Faster processing timeline. Applications are normally approved in around 30 days. This means you’ll get your residence permit in hand faster and start the clock ticking to citizenship more quickly.
- Lower overall cost. The HQA visa requires an investment of just €175,000. That’s significantly cheaper than the lowest threshold for the Golden Visa.
- No-risk refund policy. If your HQA Visa application fails, your entire investment will be refunded in full. That means there’s no risk whatsoever!
- Build a flourishing start-up and establish an EU business presence. Depending on the success of your business idea, you could generate intellectual property which could be patented and become a valuable asset. Your business could make great returns for you in the future.
To discuss the HQA Visa in more detail, please contact our team.
6. Generous tax breaks
Let’s now look at wha’s on offer in terms of tax benefits when moving from Portugal to USA.
Portugal isn’t a tax haven or even a low tax country. It uses a progressive income tax scheme with a top threshold of 48%.
But one of the main attractions for foreigners who move to Portugal from USA is the non habitual residency (NHR) tax scheme. This name is misleading, because it’s full-time tax residents of Portugal who typically use the NHR scheme.
So, what exactly is Portugal’s NHR scheme and what does it offer?
The NHR grants preferential tax treatment for a period of 10 years to individuals (foreigners or citizens) who haven’t been taxed as a Portuguese tax residents during the preceding five years.
You can apply for NHR status from the moment you register as a tax resident of Portugal.
Benefits include tax exemptions from non-Portuguese sourced income in most categories, including foreign dividends, salary, real estate income and capital gains on property.
NHR status also gives you a flat rate of 20% tax on most Portuguese-sourced income, if it comes from one of the eligible professions.
NHR is extremely beneficial for those moving to Portugal from USA with EU citizenship as their end goal.
The NHR timeline extends far beyond the citizenship timeline, allowing you to work towards Portuguese citizenship while still benefiting from preferential tax treatment.
It’s important to note that US citizens must file taxes with the IRS every year no matter where they live.
The US has a citizenship-based taxation scheme, but, thanks to the double tax treaty, you won’t be taxed twice in both the United States and Portugal.
What’s more, the IRS has certain exclusions designed to help those who live overseas, such as foreign tax credits and exclusions from income.
If in doubt, you should seek advice from a qualified US tax advisor with cross-border knowledge.
7. Better safety and security
Safety is yet another reason why so many people are moving to Portugal from the USA.
Portugal has recently been ranked in position 6 by the Global Peace Index, which ranks 163 countries on their levels of peacefulness. That makes Portugal one of the safest countries in the world.
‘Peacefulness’ is made up of several factors, including the following:
- Number of violent deaths
- Impact of terrorism
- Nuclear capability
- Conditions of peace
- Social security
- Internal conflicts
- International relations
In contrast, the USA ranks in position 126.
8. Five years to full EU citizenship
Here at Digital Émigré, our number one goal is helping people to get EU citizenship. We’re firm believers in the many benefits of dual citizenship, which go beyond those of mere permanent residency.
So how does Portugal measure up when it comes to getting citizenship? The answer: extremely well.
In fact, Portugal has one of the fastest citizenship by naturalization pathways in the whole EU.
Five years is as quick as you’re going to get without having family ties to an EU country.
What’s more, Portugal allows dual citizenship, so you’ll get to keep your US passport. Language skills are a requirement for citizenship, but Portugal’s required level is one of the lowest in the EU.
A massive benefit of having a Portuguese passport is full freedom of movement across the EU countries, with the right to live freely, travel, access study at EU-level tuition rates, and retire anywhere you want in Europe.
Portugal’s passport is also one of the strongest in the world in terms of visa-free travel, even ranking higher than the US.
Fancy spending your golden years in Greece or Italy instead of Portugal? That’s easy to do, once you’re an EU citizen.
What’s more, if you get into trouble while travelling abroad, as a Portuguese-US dual national you’d be entitled to consular assistance from the embassy of any EU country (if Portugal isn’t represented), as well as from the United States embassy.
FASTEST Portugal residency routes
You can apply for Portuguese citizenship after just five years of residency. That’s one of the fastest timelines in the EU.
But when exactly are those five years counted from? Well, the clock starts when you receive your residency permit.
That’s why it makes sense to get to that point as quickly as possible, avoiding any unnecessary hold-ups or complications.
Here are the fastest Portuguese residency routes.
|Residency route||Basic requirements||Timeline to residency permit (estimated)||Minimum physical stay requirement|
|Portugal Golden Visa (Investment Funds)||Minimum of €500,000 invested into an eligible Portuguese fund.||6 to 8 months from time of investing and submitting application at SEF.||7 days per year|
|Portugal Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) Visa||Minimum of €175,000 investment, plus company setup in Portugal. Can all be done via a concierge-style incubator service.||1 to 2 months from submitting application at SEF.||7 days per year|
|Portugal D7 ‘Passive Income’ Visa||Minimum of €740 per month in passive income, plus 12 months of savings (for one person).||4 months from time of submitting application at embassy.||183 days per year|
|Portugal Digital Nomad (D8) Visa||Minimum of €2,828 per month in remote work salary, plus 12 months of savings (for one person).||4 months from time of submitting application at embassy.||183 days per year|
9. Access the entire Schengen zone
Remember that 90 days in 180 limit on travel across Europe?
Well, as a resident of Portugal, you’ll be able to reset it by going back to Portugal (instead of leaving the Schengen area altogether).
But once you’re a Portuguese citizen, the limit gets removed completely. You can travel across Europe for as many days as you like.
You can also move freely to any other EU country if you decide that Portugal is no longer the right fit.
10. Diverse choice of destinations
Portugal is full of stunning places to live in. Whether you’re a fan of year-round sunshine, or prefer a cooler climate, Portugal has it all.
Madeira is a great place to opt out of winter permanently with the fabulous Madeira beaches, while Porto offers a similar climate to San Francisco.
The Algarve region is loaded with golden sand beaches and boasts a lively international community, while cosmopolitan Lisbon has everything a world capital should offer.
Central Portugal has countless historical towns, such as the old university city of Coimbra. It also offers affordable real estate investments with plenty of mileage for the Golden Visa in 2023 and beyond.
11. Tolerant and progressive
Despite its conservative Catholic heritage and recent dictatorship, Portugal has evolved into a progressive and accepting country.
As an LGBTQ foreigner, you’re highly unlikely to experience any form of homophobic violence. People are more likely to just accept you with a relaxed indifference – considering that it’s none of their business anyway.
That’s a good recipe for a peaceful life.
FAQs: Move to Portugal from USA
Can a US citizen move to Portugal?
Yes, a US citizen can move to Portugal quite easily. First, you’ll need to decide what sort of residency visa to go for. You can use the D7 Visa if you have passive income, for example from pensions, rentals, dividends, or remote work. Alternatively, if you want to make an investment in Portugal, such as real estate or investment funds, then you can go for the Portugal Golden Visa.
Can US citizens retire in Portugal?
Yes, US citizens can definitely retire in Portugal, and many do. As before, you’ll need some sort of residency visa, usually either the D7 passive income visa (which you’ll be eligible for via your US pension income), or the Portugal Golden Visa (if you want to invest in Portuguese real estate or investment funds).
Where do most American expats live in Portugal?
American expats can be found scattered all over Portugal, with the biggest expat communities located in the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto. There are also growing numbers of US expats living in Madeira and the Azores.
Can US citizens buy property in Portugal?
Yes, US citizens can easily buy property in Portugal. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property. Before making your purchase, you’ll need to apply for a Portuguese tax number (NIF) and appoint a fiscal representative. It’s also useful to open a Portuguese bank account. If you want to live full time in Portugal in your new property, you will need a residency visa, such as the D7 Visa or Golden Visa.
How long can you stay in Portugal as a US citizen?
US citizens can stay in Portugal for up to 90 days in every 180 days as tourists, without needing any visa. After that, you’ll need to leave the Schengen area for another 90 days, before you can re-enter. If you want to stay in Portugal for longer than 90 days, you will need a Portugal residency visa.
How long can you stay in Portugal if you own a property?
If you own a property in Portugal, it’s possible to become eligible for the Golden Visa (depending on the value of the property). The Portugal Golden Visa allows you to maintain residency rights in Portugal, without needing to actually live there (unless you want to). You only need to spend a minimum of seven days per year physically in Portugal.
Is Portugal a safe place to live?
Yes, Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world to live in. It was ranked fourth most peaceful country in the world on the Global Peace Index 2021, and third in the World Population Review’s Most Peaceful Countries 2022.
What is non-habitual residency in Portugal?
Non-habitual residency in Portugal, also known as NHR, is a preferential tax status available for new residents of the country. NHR is valid for 10 years and enables certain tax benefits on income from overseas, as well as on certain professions with income derived from within Portugal. To be eligible for NHR, you need to live full time in Portugal and have a Portuguese address. In addition, you must not have been resident in Portugal previously within the last five years.
Is abortion legal in Portugal?
Yes, abortion is legal in Portugal. The laws governing abortion were liberalized on April 10, 2007, following a referendum. Since then, abortions can be performed on request if pregnancy hasn’t exceeded its 10th week. There is a mandatory 3-day waiting period between pre-abortion consultation and abortion procedure.
How many US citizens live in Portugal?
According to the latest data from the Portuguese border agency (SEF), there were over 7,000 US citizens living in Portugal at the end of 2021. That’s the highest number of Americans living in Portugal over the last 10 years.
Why are so many Americans moving to Portugal?
Common reasons for many Americans to move to Portugal include more affordable cost of living compared to the US, access to state healthcare, lack of gun crime, better overall safety, and an excellent climate.
Before you go…
Are you considering leaving America for a new life in Europe? You won’t be alone.
In fact, the number of Americans in Portugal increased by 45% during 2021.
Here are 11 great reasons to consider a 2023 move to Portugal from the USA:
- Political stability
- Affordable state healthcare
- Low gun crime
- Safer food
- Easy residency visa pathways
- Generous tax breaks
- Better safety and security
- Five years to full EU citizenship
- Access the entire Schengen zone
- Diverse choice of destinations
- Tolerant and progressive
Portugal’s high quality of life, low cost of living, affordable healthcare, excellent weather and high levels of safety all combine to make it a compelling destination for Americans looking for a better lifestyle.
Will 2023 be the year you finally make the move to Portugal?