Thinking of Moving to Portugal? The complete guide to getting started
Everything you need to know to prepare for a new life in the tranquility, beauty and warmth of Europe’s most westerly country.
All that’s left is to pack your suitcase.
1. Getting a fiscal number
A fiscal number is the first thing you will need to forge your new life in Portugal. It’s a tax identification number required to do things like open a bank account, buy or invest in property and receive income. In Portugal, it’s known as a “Número de Identificação Fiscal” (NIF).
As a EU resident, you can apply for your own NIF in person at a local Portuguese tax office (Finanças). You’ll need to bring your passport or EU identification card with you. If you’re not a EU citizen, or living in a post-Brexit world, seek the help of a Portuguese lawyer, as they can apply on your behalf.
2. Residency permit
If you are planning to live, work and bask in the Portuguese sun for more than three months, you will need to apply for a residency permit. This applies to everyone; working, students, self-employed, or retired, everyone must have one. Fortunately, it’s relatively straightforward to get this certification, particularly as a EU/EFTA citizen.
It is known as Autorização de Residência, and the formal application can be found at the Portuguese immigration service website, or by visiting the town hall closest to your new address in Portugal. Do remember though, this certificate is only valid for the first five years, after which you will need to apply for permanent residence with the immigration services.
3. Opening a bank account
Portugal has plenty of choice when it comes to banking, so do take the time to consider which option is most suited to your needs. You could decide to go with one of the international giants or you might prefer to choose a local Portuguese bank as branches have English-speaking customer service reps on hand to discuss your needs.
There will be forms to complete and you’ll need to show personal documentation for this process. It does vary depending on the bank, but typically this includes your passport or ID card, fiscal number, residency card and a proof of address. Some banks do allow you to open an account as a non-resident, and even make the application from abroad.
Like the UK’s NHS, Portugal has a universal healthcare system that, once you have registered with the town hall and been given residence certification, you will be entitled to use. In the meantime, though, do make sure to arrange short-term travel insurance so you’re covered.
Once you have residency, and if you are working in Portugal or the dependent of someone who is, you can request a ‘NISS’ number from your nearest social security office. Once you have this, you can head over to your closest GP surgery where you will be given a medical card that entitles you to free healthcare. Remember to inform your GP in the UK once you have done this.
Those who are moving to Portugal in retirement must contact the Overseas Healthcare Team to make arrangements for their exportable DWP benefit, but entitlement to free healthcare in Portugal is still available with a residence certificate and British passport.
Private healthcare is a popular choice among expats who want to enjoy shorter waiting times, wider choice and a more personalised service. The cost of private insurance can vary considerably depending on your circumstances. If you already have private healthcare cover at home, you might be able to extend it to cover you in Portugal.
Buildings and contents insurance is available through several Portuguese and British companies. Make sure to read the small print, double check the excess fee and ensure that your policy includes extreme weather cover.
6. How to import a car
Picture yourself cruising along the sunny Algarvian coast? The good news is that with your residency permit sorted, you can register to get on the road and even bring your car with you when you move.
You can import a car or motorbike from the UK to Portugal so long as the vehicle is in the name of the person with residency, is brought into and driven in Portugal by its registered owner, and is used for private use only. For some vehicles, an import duty is payable at customs, so check beforehand with Portugal’s Department of Motor Vehicles, IMT. As a resident, you’ll have 12 months to apply for legal registration, which is useful because it is a lengthy process.
Your vehicle will need to conform to Portuguese road standards and undergo an inspection from IMT. For the official registration, you’ll need personal documentation such as passport, fiscal number, driver’s licence, as well as certification for the vehicle itself, confirming tax clearance, compliance and roadworthiness.
7. Your driving licence
While it remains in the EU, a British driving licence is fine to use in Portugal, providing it is valid and there are no driving offences against it. Once you have residency, however, you must register with the IMT within 60 days to receive a guia – a slip of paper to accompany your driver’s licence. You’ll need to present proof of identity, residency, a photocopy of your driving licence and a completed Modelo 13 form, available from a local IMT office or online.
The IMT can also assist if you wish to exchange your licence for a Portuguese one, for a small fee. They have offices all over Portugal, including Lisbon, Faro and Coimbra, but English isn’t widely spoken so consider asking a representative to contact them for you if you don’t have Portuguese yourself.
8. Getting UK TV for your home
We know that there are many reasons to want to pack up and move to Portugal, but leaving behind Eastenders and Bake Off certainly isn’t one. Since the satellites were updated in 2014, UK television is slightly trickier to access in Portugal – but not impossible.
With a strong internet connection set up at home, you can stream UK channels via an IPTV box. There are several companies offering IPTV installation and subscription services in Portugal.
You can still view UK TV via a satellite connection, although it is complicated now since transmission became protected with an access key, which is changed regularly. It’s best to contact a local satellite service retailer in Portugal to discuss their solutions around this.
9. Internet for your home
They say home is where the wifi connects automatically, so once you’re all moved into your new Portuguese pad, it’s likely getting the internet up and running will be high on your list.
Portugal has several high-speed broadband providers to choose from, the biggest being MEO, NOS, Vodafone and Nowo.
Before you can have internet set up in your home, you will need to have your residency certification finalised and it’s advisable to have a bank account open for ease of payment. When signing the paperwork, you’ll need a proof of ID, address, residence and telephone number.
10. Schooling options
Receiving an education in a foreign country can be an extremely enriching experience for a young person, giving them language, knowledge and familiarity with a new culture that will stay with them into adulthood.
Public schools in Portugal offer free education for children. As an expat, you can enroll you child into the public school within the catchment area of your address. The curriculum is taught exclusively in Portuguese, so integration can be harder for older students who do not yet have the language.
Alternatively, Portugal has many private and international schools. An international school is a popular choice with expats as the standard of education is usually very good, teaching in both English and Portuguese, and integration for the child is well supported. Tuition fees vary from school to school.
11. Moving with pets
They become part of the family so much so that we cannot imagine life without them, so of course you will want your furry companions to join you in this adventure. Portugal does not have a quarantine requirement, however, there are some regulations that you’ll need to follow to safely bring Jasper and Felix into the country.
Your pet will need an ISO compliant 15-digit pet microchip, followed by a rabies vaccination. If you are planning to travel into Portugal with your pet (or within five days thereof), a UK veterinarian must complete the non-commercial EU health certificate for your pet within 10 days of travel.
There are some further regulations if your pet is below 12 weeks old, or if you wish to travel with more than five pets. You can read them at the European Commission website.
12. Organising utilities
When moving into your new home, it is a good idea to collect final utility bills and readings from the previous owner/occupant, and switching over from them or setting up a new policy should be relatively simple.
To set up your mains water supply at your local town hall, you’ll be asked for personal details, proof of address and tax number. Electricity is available from a number of suppliers such as EDP Comercial, Endesa and Iberdrola, and you’ll need to arrange a certified technician to turn on your gas supply and then expect to be billed monthly or bimonthly.
Generally speaking, you will be billed an estimated reading 11 months of the year, with readings taken on the 12th month and your payment adjusted depending on usage. You can call each month to give accurate readings yourself, if you prefer. You can pay by direct debit, at the Post Office, at a Multibanco ATM or with your debit or credit card.
By Rae Delanie Passfield