Immigrate to Portugal from USA

Updated on Friday 19th March 2021

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Portugal can be a great choice for many Americans looking to move to a European country. In order to immigrate to Portugal from the USA, an individual or a family will need to comply with the current requirements for obtaining long-stay visas, the documents that allow them to legally stay in the country in order to be able to request their residency authorization.
 
Moving to Portugal is a multi-step process that starts with a visa application at a Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the US city of residence.
 
Our team of immigration lawyers in Portugal is ready to assist applicants who wish to take this step and could use specialized legal aid. Talking to a specialist is usually recommended because the visa application should be successful the first time it is submitted. This way, the applicant can start planning the trip to Portugal, purchase airplane tickets and handle the accommodation matters, apart from handling the last details for employment, if this is the case.
 

Long-term visa application for Portugal immigration

 
Visas for residency purposes are the ones required for U.S. citizens who wish to move to Portugal. The visa application will consist of providing additional support documentation according to the purpose of the stay. Below, our team of immigration lawyers in Portugal lists the main purpose of stay categories:
  • employment: when the applicant is pursuing a career in Portugal, has a work agreement and can prove that he/she has the required means of subsistence. 
  • highly qualified experts: those individuals who are highly qualified and have an employment agreement or an invitation letter for a cultural activity; can also apply to highly qualified teachers.
  • independent professional: for those individuals involved in liberal professions who can certify their competence with the Portuguese authorities.
  • study: for research or higher education purposes, if the applicant had been enrolled or accepted by a research center or university.
  • investment: the Golden Visa Program is a visa for investors who are allowed to apply for residency and can also later apply for becoming Portuguese nationals; conditioned by substantial investments in real estate or in businesses.
 
Other two cases in which individuals can apply for residency purposes include family reunification or retirement purposes. Religious purposes are also an option.
 

General visa application in Portugal

 
Once the purpose of stay has been established, the applicant can begin to gather the needed documents and fill in the forms in order to start the first stages needed to immigrate to Portugal from the USA. The general list of documents includes the following:
  • filled-in application form, according to the purpose of stay;
  • valid passport and copies thereof plus a set of updated passport-size photographs;
  • proof of valid travel insurance;
  • criminal record certificate;
  • proof of accommodation as well as means of subsistence. 
 
Our team of Portugal immigration agents can assist all U.S. citizens who are submitting their visa applications. We can help answer questions about the current policies set forth by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and can also guide you so that your visa application stands adequate acceptance chances. We can help you with more details about obtaining residency and, ultimately, Portugal citizenship through investment.
 

Reuniting with family in Portugal

 
US nationals who have a spouse or relative living in Portugal as a citizen or legal permanent residence permit holder can apply for residence in the country based on family reunification purposes. In this case, the family member is granted a residence permit of the same duration as that of the residents who are already in Portugal. The following family ties are accepted for this type of residence permit:
  • spouse;
  • underage or incapable children as well as children who are under the guardianship of one or both spouses;
  • minors adopted by the unmarried applicant or by a married applicant provided that the adoption decision is acknowledged by Portugal (also subject to other conditions);
  • first-degree ascendants in a direct line to the resident, who are dependent on either of the spouses;
  • underage siblings who are in the resident’s custody; subject to a decision from US authorities for this purpose, and as long as this decision is recognized by the Portuguese authorities.
 
Family reunification in Portugal for the US national with a residence permit holder for study purposes is possible for the spouse, the underage or incapable children under guardianship as well as adopted minors.
 
The documents attesting to the relationship between the parties, as well as any other relevant documents issued in English, are to be accompanied by a certified Portuguese translation.
 

The Golden Visa application process and investment routes

 
The golden visa in Portugal can be an attractive option for Americans who have the capital to purchase real estate or make other types of investments in a Portuguese company (including starting their own business in the country). It is a suitable solution because it allows non-EU nationals to obtain a five-year residency in the country based on their investment and they can also bring their family members who will have the right to live, work and study in Portugal compete with receiving permits for free movement in the European Schengen Area.
 
There are several investment routes, highlighted below by our Portugal immigration specialists:
 
  • Real estate investments: the minimum value is 500,000 Euros in new properties;
  • User real estate investments: a minimum investment value of 350,000 Euros for properties that will be renovated;
  • Capital transfer: this is available to those entrepreneurs who are able to make a transfer of or above 1 million Euros;
  • Venture capital or investment funds: a capital of at least 350,000 Euros; capital injected in the Portuguese economy that has at least five years’ maturity at the times o the investment and at least 60% of the investments are in commercial companies with their head office in Portugal;
  • New jobs: to an investor who, through their investments, contribute to the creation of at least 10 job positions;
  • New company and jobs: a capital of at least 350,000 Euros for the creation of a newly incorporated Portuguese company combined with creating at least five permanent jobs.
 
According to statistical data from the Foreigners and Borders Service, investments in real estate that need renovation have become more popular in 2020, with 28% of foreign investors who applied for the Golden Visa during January and September choosing this option. However, the main investment route remains to buy a property of at least 500,000 Euros.
 
Other investment routes such as those in national heritage, arts, and culture or those that target research are also available.
 
Please note that the conditions for these investments are only briefly stated above and those who wish to immigrate to Portugal from USA should reach out to our agents for complete information on the granting of the residence permit in Portugal via one of these chosen routes.
 

Steps for residency application upon arrival to Portugal

 
If the visa application is approved, U.S. immigrants to Portugal will need to handle the second stage once they arrive in the country. The residency permit is to be applied for with the local Foreigners and Borders Service, the authority tasked with handling immigration applications according to the Government and Constitution. 
 
Our team of agents who specialize in matters concerning immigration to Portugal can help you set an appointment with the Foreigners and Borders Service. Each individual is required to schedule this appointment, which is not a long one but will require a comprehensive set of documents and one of our immigration specialists can help you prepare yourself for this appointment. 
 
Another subsequent step after arriving in Portugal is obtaining the fiscal identification number (it can sometimes be applied for before the appointment with the Foreigners and Borders Service). Our Portugal immigration agents can also help you get in contact with the local financial office from which you will obtain this number.
 
The application for a residence permit in Portugal for an investment activity will differ because of the requirements to prove the actual investment. An immigration lawyer in Portugal from our team can help you submit this application, one that also allows the applicant family reunification options. 

Other issues that are relevant to those who wish to immigrate to Portugal from USA include following the steps for accessing the National Medical System and exchanging their driver’s license.
 
Health services are available to permanent and temporary residents and access to the National Medical System is possible once the applicant has registered for tax purposes and then registered with the Health Center in his or her area. This registration is important as then the individual can obtain a user card required for services within the national health service units. Of course, private health insurance is also an option and the details are set forth in the insurance company agreement.
 
The driver’s license is exchanged at the Portuguese equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles (Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes Terrestres (IMT)) and the applicant must bring proof that the license was issued by the applicant’s last state of residence (abstract from the driving record can be required for this purpose). When presenting the required documents, notarized and apostilled versions are needed. Our team of agents who specialize in immigration can provide more details about the execution of a document that bears an Apostille Seal.
 

The duties of a US national who holds a residence permit in Portugal

 
Individuals who have obtained a residence permit in Portugal have a number of rights and duties. They are implicitly entitled to education and study as well as professional guidance and improvement, taking up remunerated employment, health care, access to law and justice,  family reunification, and undertaking self-employment activities.
 
Those who immigrate to Portugal from USA have the right to equal treatment in terms of social security, the recognition of diplomas, participating in unions, fiscal benefits, and the rights to access goods and services available to the public.
 
Notwithstanding their rights, US nationals who hold a valid residence permit in Portugal also have a set of duties. These are summarized below by our immigration specialists:
 
  • inform the authorities of any changes to their civil status or place of residence; this is done within 60 days following the occurrence of the said change;
  • notify the Foreigners and Borders Service of their intention to leave the country during the validity period of the residence permit, for a period longer than six consecutive months or eight nonsequential months; the notification must be sent before leaving the country; the same applies for US holders of long-term residence permits who wish to be absent from the country for a period of more than 24 consecutive months or 30 nonsequential months in a 3-year period.
  • the long-term residence permit holder cannot be absent from EU territory for a period of more than 12 consecutive months or from Portugal for a period of six consecutive years – this may lead to losing the long-term residence permit;
  • US students who have a residence permit for study purposes need to inform the Foreigners and Borders Service if they intend to undertake a remunerated or independent professional activity; for this purpose, they need to submit the employment agreement at the beginning of their activity; they also need to make the necessary registrations with the tax authorities and for social security contributions;
  • US nationals who hold a temporary residence permit are required to apply for the renewal within 30 days before the end of its validity period.
 
In addition to these duties concerning regular entry, legal permanence, and the duty to notify any changes to the authorities, a US foreign national who wishes to remain in Portugal for the purpose of immigration will also respect public order, public security, and health. This means that the American citizen will not engage in activities that can lead to imprisonment (one-year imprisonment for separate or cumulated convictions).
 
Failure to comply with the requirements results in administrative offenses. Our team of Portugal immigration lawyers can provide more details on the Aliens Act as well as the other Acts, with their subsequent amendments and additions, which provide details on the rights and duties of a foreign national living in the country. Please keep in mind that the list of duties and responsibilities mentioned herein is not an exhaustive one. We encourage US nationals living in Portugal to seek complete information from our team if they are interested in knowing more.
 

US nationals in Portugal

 
The Foreigners and Borders Service is the one responsible for overseeing immigration and asylum in Portugal, as per the laws in force set forth by the governmental guidelines and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The 20218 report issued on the number of foreign nationals who reside in the country and have obtained a residence permit reveals that there were more than 3,000 Americans living in Portugal at the time of the survey. The data is the following:
 
  • total number of United States of America nationals living in Portugal: 3,254;
  • out of the total, 1,634 were men;
  • there were 1,620 women US citizens living in Portugal at the time of the survey;
  • the data also showed that 714 Americans were included in the migration flows category.
 
US nationals are also interested in the Portugal Golden Visa, as per the data issued by the Foreigners and Borders Service. In 2010, from January thru September, 36 applications for the Golden Visa investment were submitted by United States citizens. Their percentage is not as high as that of Chinese investors, who are the most numerous, with 240 applications during the same period in 2020.

Americans who have lawfully lived in Portugal for a number of years can apply for Portugal citizenship with the help of our specialists.
 
For more detailed information about moving to Portugal from the USA, please feel free to contact our team.