Shipping from UK to Portugal can be a source of much stress and uncertainty for new arrivals in the country. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories on expat forums about mountains of paperwork, big fees, and even goods going missing.
One major change in shipping from UK to Portugal is due to the UK’s exit from the EU.
Despite this (or perhaps because of it), many British citizens are relocating to Portugal, using visa pathways like the Golden Visa or D7 passive income visa. But thanks to Brexit, shipping from UK to Portugal has become far more complicated.
But shipping from UK to Portugal doesn’t have to be a nightmare. The key to success is knowing what the process looks like end-to-end, and planning everything in advance.
Let’s start by taking a quick look at the process for shipping to Portugal from another EU country, so we can have a better understanding of how much things have changed.
Shipping from UK to Portugal: the good old days
If your goods are coming from another EU country, the process of shipping them to Portugal will be straightforward. You just need to pack them up and find a suitable removals firm to transport them to Portugal. I used Algarve Removals for mine.
In the summer of 2020, during the Brexit transition period, I shipped a container of furniture from the UK to Lisbon. All I had to do was have the boxes ready on the UK side, then inform the removals company about when and where to collect them.
First I flew to Portugal. Then Algarve Removals picked up my goods from my storage unit and delivered them about two weeks later. There was no paperwork to complete and no customs fees to pay. That’s another beauty of the EU – the Customs Union.
Since Brexit came into force however, shipping from UK to Portugal has become a very different story. Now, Brits suffer the same difficulties with shipping as everyone else from outside the EU.
In the next section, we’ll examine the process in detail and provide step-by-step instructions for shipping from UK to Portugal. We highly recommend that you hire an experienced shipping company, as they’ll know the procedures and will be able to guide you through.
Shipping from UK to Portugal: post-Brexit
Shipping to Portugal (or any EU country) from outside the EU is a tightly regulated procedure. Those regulations cause complications and expense for many people moving to Portugal with their personal effects.
First, you have two main options for bringing your possessions into Portugal.
1. Taking all your belongings on the flight
You should avoid sending your belongings in a container, if at all feasible. To pack as much as you can in luggage, it’s worth paying for extra baggage on your flight. For example, TAP Portugal offers the option to buy additional hold luggage, at reasonable prices.
You’ll avoid having to go through Portuguese customs and won’t have to fill out any paperwork. Furthermore, you will almost certainly save money. If you can manage to downsize your possessions and sell/give away larger items before your move, you’ll make things much easier for yourself.
Of course, if you choose this option, you can’t bring significant household goods like furniture or a car with you.
2. Shipping from UK to Portugal
If you absolutely must bring large household items, then we recommend working with an experienced international firm for shipping from UK to Portugal.
According to official Portuguese regulations, your shipment must arrive within 12 months from the date when you “established normal residence in national territory”.
That means the shipment must arrive within 12 months from the date when you receive your first temporary residence permit (for example, in the second stage of the D7 visa process, which happens at SEF in Portugal), and within 120 days after your Certificado de Bagagem is issued.
To qualify for duty-free import, you must have owned the goods being shipped for at least six months. You’ll need proof of your address in Portugal, along with the Certificado de Bagagem.
Logistically, all this can be a bit tricky to juggle. One potential solution could be to prepare your shipment and and store it in the UK, before arriving in Portugal yourself.
Alternatively, you could arrive in Portugal first, collect your residence permit at SEF, then return to the UK to prepare your possessions for shipping from UK to Portugal.
Dealing with Portuguese customs
When shipping from UK to Portugal, you’ll now have to deal with Portuguese customs. This can be an onerous task, which is a direct result of the UK leaving the EU.
To start with, you’ll need to prepare specific documents to include with your shipment.
This list sounds complicated, although in reality, your shipping company will guide you through the process. But we think it’s important for you to know exactly what’s involved in shipping from UK to Portugal, so you can stay on top of things.
Documents needed for shipping
- Your original passport
- Proof of residency in Portugal (Residency permit document or property deed)
- Certificado de Bagagem (certified inventory list), and Certificado de Residençia (certificate of residence in the UK). You can ask your nearest Portuguese embassy or consulate for these. They will need proof that you’ve lived in the UK for the last 12 months (e.g. utility bills in your name)
- An inventory of the goods being shipped. Your shipping company can provide this.
- Signed declaration of ownership, witnessed by a notary, stating that the goods in the shipment have been in your possession.
Source: Expat Network
Customs regulations in Portugal
- You must be present in Portugal when the shipment arrives, in case you’re asked to appear at customs
- Your shipment must arrive in Portugal within 365 days of your physical arrival in-country (i.e. the date your flight lands), and within 120 days of issue of your Certificado de Bagagem.
Getting your shipment out of customs
Once your shipment arrives in Portugal, you’ll need to get it out of customs. Take your original passport to the customs office in person, rather than handing it over to the shipping company.
Next, you’ll need to remove the fiscal representative from your NIF. You can do this at any Finanças office. Bring proof of your Portuguese address and your original NIF document.
Need help getting your NIF? Check out Bordr’s fast online service. Discount available with code DIGITALEMIGRE
Sending gifts from the UK
In the past, sending gifts from the UK to friends and family in Portugal was a smooth and easy process.
But of course, Brexit has thrown a spanner into the works. Now, that innocent gift from your aunt in the UK can cause you a lot of expense and hassle when it arrives in Portugal.
That’s because packages from outside the EU can end up in Portuguese customs. Customs also has the right to open the package to check for prohibited items.
If this happens to you, it can cost more than the value of the item to get your package out of customs. It’s best to ask your friends and family in the UK to avoid sending you gifts in Portugal. Letters and documents are generally ok.
These shipping issues extend to orders from websites such as Amazon. In the past, Amazon UK used to be a good way to buy things in Portugal. Now, we recommend sticking to one of the EU Amazon sites.
As Portugal doesn’t have its own version of Amazon, it’s best to use either Amazon Spain or Amazon Germany. In Madeira, I’ve had the best results with Amazon Spain.
Amazon Spain doesn’t have an English version, but Google translate works pretty well. Amazon Germany is available in both German and English. Prices often vary between the two sites, so it’s worth comparing the items you plan to buy to see which one comes out cheapest.
Shipping to Madeira
Shipping from UK to Portugal involves extra challenges when your goods are heading 1,000 km out into the Atlantic. That’s what new arrivals moving to the island of Madeira have to deal with.
We’ve put together a list of several companies that will handle shipping from UK to Madeira. All of them have been recommended by the local community in Madeira.
Companies that ship from UK to Madeira
Shipping from UK to Portugal has become more challenging since the UK left the EU. But you can make the process less painful with thorough preparation and a good understanding of the requirements.