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It’s the end of the old world. A place where you can sip the world’s best coffee on a cliff over the ocean, watch the sun set, and walk the cobblestone streets back to your flat all before it’s time for dinner. Portugal is a magical place, and this magic has made it one of the most popular countries for remote workers.
But before you pack your bags, there area few things you should know. That’s what this guide is for. It’s part of our Work From Anywhere series, where we walk through each piece you’ll need to evaluate before working remotely from a country.
Our goal is to provide you with insights and ideas you haven’t heard of before.
Ten minutes from now, you’ll know more than 99% of people about working remotely from Portugal. Let’s get started!
What it’s like to live in Portugal
Quality of life is an awkward term because it means different things for everyone. You may love Portugal while the guy in the flat next door can’t wait to book a ticket out. So instead of telling you whether it’s “good” or “bad”, we’ll provide you with the details. From there, you can decide whether Portugal might be a good place for you.
We’ll start with the key living metrics in Portugal.
Key facts about living in Portugal
- Capital: Lisbon
- Currency: Euro
- Average cost of living: $1k to $2k per month for a single person.
- Climate: One of the sunniest countries in Europe, with moderate temperatures.
- Language: Portuguese (naturally). But most young people know some English.
- Food: Traditional Portuguese food, like fish and meat dishes, but you can find almost anything in bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto.
- Taxes: You can expect to pay between ~15 and 50%. But Portugal’s Non-Habitual Resident tax program means you might pay close to 0% for your first 10 years.
These should help you figure out if Portugal is a place you might like.
But there’s a certain magic about places and if you’re interested, truly, you should go. When you do, here are some of the best cities for living and working.
Some of Portugal’s best cities
Top to bottom, Portugal is filled with incredible places. We can’t possibly list them all here. But, we’ll give a few suggestions of where you may want to start looking.
It’s quieter than Lisbon but just as beautiful. It’s also slightly more affordable. Think of Porto as the Valencia to Spain’s Barcelona. If something calmer is on your mind, check out Porto.
Lisbon is the world’s most popular city for remote workers and there’s a damn good reason why. It’s accessible, easy to navigate, lively, and beautiful. The quality of life here is second to almost none and you’ll find more sun on this coastal Portuguese city than you will in most of the world.
Nestled in the hills a few dozen kilometers from Portugal’s coast, Coimbra is a must-visit for tourists and an equally great place to live. You’ll find a much lower cost of living here than you’ll find elsewhere––and because Coimbra is a university town, there’s always something going on.
Aveiro sits between Lisbon and Portugal and it’s a quiet place to settle down, enjoy life, and enjoy work. You won’t find huge events held here, nor will you find loud streets until late in the morning. But if coffees and cafes and river views are your style, you might find home in Aveiro.
It’s so close to Spain you can smell the tapas. Braga, in the far north of Portugal, is the fourth-biggest city in the country and a place damn near everyone loves. Braga is one of the country’s greenest cities and it’s perfect for a calm, beautiful mountain lifestyle.
Want to live there? Great. So do we. But it’s not as simple as packing your bags and booking a flight.
First, you’ll need to figure out how you can legally stay and work in Portugal. We’ll cover that below.
Decide how long you want to stay in Portugal
You’re thinking about Portugal. But that doesn’t mean that you and another remote worker thinking about Portugal are the same – there are two groups here:
- You plan to stay in Portugal less than 6 months out of the year.
- You plan to permanently relocate to Portugal.
Why this matters: There are two reasons why this is important if you want to work from Portugal.
- Once you’ve been in Portugal for more than about 6 months (183 days) in a one-year period, you become a tax resident. That brings a new set of calculations and considerations you’ll need to work through.
- For most non-European citizens, legally spending more than 3 or 4 months per year in Portugal will require some heavy lifting on residence permits.
It’s easier to stay for a shorter period of time, yes. But you might want to stay for longer – and we’ll cover both. First, here’s what it’s like to live in Portugal, no matter your length of stay.
If you’re staying for less than 6 months in a year
If you want to work from Portugal for a few months but avoid applying for residence permits and paying taxes, this section is for you. And it all depends on what kind of passport you have right now.
You can go to Portugal without a visa if you have a passport from one of these places:
- United States
- Any country in the European Union, plus all European microstates
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- South Korea
How long can you stay with one of these passports?
The countries in the list above have visa-free access to Portugal for 90 days in a 180-day period. So you can stay for a total of 180 days in one year, but they can’t be consecutive.
For example: you could visit for 3 months, leave for 3 months, and come back for another 3 months.
You’ll have to apply for a visa if you have a passport from anywhere else
If you didn’t see your country on the list above, that’s OK. It just means you’ll have to apply for a visa that lets you enter Portugal. This is called a Schengen Visa: The visa also lets you visit every other country in the European Union. Just like the rules for people with visa-free passports, you’ll be able to stay in the EU for 90 days in a 180-day period.
If you’re staying for more than 6 months in a year
If you want to semi (or fully) permanently relocate to Portugal, there are some more rules you’ll need to be aware of:
- You can’t use a regular tourist visa. You’ll need a residence permit. After a while, you can turn your residence permit into a permanent residence.
- If you’re working remotely, you won’t be getting a work visa. Work visas are meant for people who are working for a business located in Portugal. So if you’re working remotely internationally, you’ll need a special type of visa.
If you are an EU citizen: You have the right to permanent residence in Portugal. You can enter without a visa – after 3 months, you’ll just have to register with your local city council to make your residence official. And after you’ve lived in Portugal for five years, uninterrupted, you can apply for permanent residence. Yeah, it’s that easy.
Portugal’s D7 Visa: The permit you want if you’re not an EU citizen
Let’s clear up one misconception: There’s no such thing as a digital nomad visa in Portugal or most places in the world. But one of Portugal’s visas, called the D7 Visa, is the easiest path for remote workers to get residence in Portugal.
In a nutshell: The D7 is a visa that lets you get a 1-year residency permit in Portugal. After that, you can renew in 2-year intervals. Later, you might be able to get permanent residency.
The visa isn’t just for remote workers: It was designed for retirees and investors who have passive income flowing in monthly. But, Portugal commonly grants this visa to remote workers who are working abroad. Here’s a quick checklist to see if you’ll qualify:
- Funds equivalent to the annual minimum wage in Portugal. In 2021, that’s €9,876 (or about ~$11,500). You’ll need to have more money if you’re bringing family with you.
- You need to be willing to live in Portugal for at least 8 months out of the year––at least for the first few years.
- You’ll have to open a bank account and find a place to live before you apply.
If you meet the three requirements above and don’t have a criminal record, the rest is fairly straightforward.
Timeline: It’ll take you at least 3 to 6 months, from start to finish, to get your first residency permit in Portugal. But to be safe, account for at least 6 months.
Other visas you may be able to get
D2 Visa: If you run a company and want to move it to Portugal (or if you want to build one in Portugal), this is a good visa to look at. This visa is meant for entrepreneurs, but even small freelancers who run their own business can qualify.
Golden Visa: If you’ve got a few hundred thousand Euros to spend, this is the easiest way to get residence in Portugal. There are a few ways you can get your Golden Visa – usually, people spend at least $300k on a government-approved property. Transferring at least 1M Euros into the country or hiring nearly a dozen people can work, too.
And that’s a wrap for visas and residence. Of course, there are many other types of residence permits and visas in Portugal. But for remote workers looking to relocate, the three mentioned above make the most sense.
Let’s close with a final look at the country.
Portugal: A Report Card
Here’s where we’ll grade Portugal on a number of objective factors about how hard it is to work and live there. You can use the report card and compare to other countries in our country index to see what might fit your needs best.
Ease of short-term stay: A
Why: As part of Europe’s Schengen Area, citizens from nearly one hundred countries can visit Portugal without having to apply for a visa. It’s one of the most accessible places in the world.
Ease of residence: B+
Why: If you want to work remotely from Europe, Portugal is one of the easiest places to get residence. And it’s definitely the easiest option for most people who want to get residence within the European Union as a remote worker. But, it’s not easy – not everyone gets accepted or meets the requirements.
Why: Portugal’s taxes are high, but they’re fairly standard compared to most of Europe. And, many foreigners moving to Spain will be able to reduce their taxes to near 0% for their first 10 years, which is rare.
Overall score: A
People have been falling deeply in love with Portugal as long as people have been in Portugal. And while we can’t tell you what to like, we think there’s a pretty good chance you’ll like it here. The cities are modern and gorgeous, the people are friendly, the language is beautiful, and it’s one of the easiest countries in Europe to legally live and work in. So, Portugal gets an A from us.