“Unprecedented number” of foreigners choose Portugal

2021 saw almost 700,000 foreign resident, says study

Portugal reached, in 2020, “the unprecedented number” of 662,095 foreign residents in the country – a number that in 2021 already stood at around 700,000 people, according to immigration statistics released today.

In 2020, foreigners represented 6.4% of the total number of residents. 

In 2021, they became 6.8% (698,887 people), according to the Migration Observatory’s Annual Statistical Report 2022.

“The country reaches at the end of the decade unprecedented numbers of nearly seven hundred thousand foreign residents, which has never before been reached in Portugal,” says the document, released as part of the Immigration in Numbers Collection.

Reasons for entry of foreigners into Portugal remain essentially associated with study, family reunification and retirement: in 2019 these three types of visas together accounted for 85.1% of total residence visas granted at consular posts (46.6 % for study, 14 % for retirees and 24.5 % for family reunification).

The trend was repeated in 2020, “when they accounted for 88% of all visas (53.6% for study, 12.8% for retired people and 21.6% for family reunion).

In 2021, they accounted for 82.4% of the total number of residence visas granted (46.5% for study, 21.5% for retired people and 14.4% for family reunification).

But, as Catarina Reis Oliveira, director of the Migration Observatory and author of the study, stresses, with Portugal being in a situation of marked demographic aging, “not all immigration profiles alleviate the country’s demographic situation”. Indeed, retired foreigners “tend to reinforce the relative importance of elderly residents” and, unlike the working-age and child-age immigrant population, they “do not alleviate the country’s demographic aging”, they actually accentuate it.

Permits that have grown the most in the last 10 years are residence permits for subordinate professional activity (from 7,501 in 2011 to 32,872 in 2019, 30,795 in 2020 and 62,206 in 2021).

Holders of residence permits for family reunification also increased. In 2017 there were 11,811, having increased to 32,081 in 2019, to 30,829 in 2020 and to 36,290 in 2021.

A Yearbook, launched on the occasion of the conferences of the Migration Observatory (OM) that mark the 20th anniversary of the Observatory and the International Migrants Day (on December 18), also contains European context indicators, showing Portugal to be among countries that receive the least immigration.

There are only nine countries with countries below Portugal: the Czech Republic (5.8% of foreigners in total residents, with 625,500 foreign residents), Finland (5% or 278,900), Lithuania (2.9% or 79,900), Croatia (2.5% or 101,000), Hungary (2% or 194,500), Bulgaria (1.9% or 128,600), Slovakia (1.5% or 82,000), Poland (1.2% or 457,000) and Romania (0.8% or 144,600).

On the opposite scale, Luxembourg continues to lead the way, with 47.2% of foreigners in its resident population.