Portugal is a country located in the southwestern Europe, enjoying a prime location, good climate and an immense natural beauty from sandy beaches and cliffs along the Atlantic Coast to mountains in the country's interior.

Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, has been ranked 43rd in the 2017 Quality of Living Index, the list compiled by Mercer Consulting which measures 39 factors deemed important to quality of living.

With a low cost of living and a good quality of life, Portugal proves to be perfectly recommended for families, modern investors, business people and retired people.

Security levels in Portugal are high when compared with most countries in the World, including Western European countries.

Portugal ranked 3rd most peaceful country in the Global Peace Index.

The Global Peace Index, created by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), measures “global peace” using three broad themes: the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarization.

When is a visa not required?

In the case of short stays, citizens of countries that are not part of the European Union but within Schengen Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) as well as citizens of some third states such as the United States of America, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions (among others) do not require a visa to enter Portugal. The full list of countries to which the waiver is applicable is available in https://imigrante.sef.pt/entrada-em-portugalIn such cases, only the presentation of an ID or passport issued by the country of origin will be sufficient.

On the other hand, citizens of EU countries wishing to reside in Portugal for more than three months must apply for a registration certificate at the City Hall of the Portuguese area of residence within 30 days of the end of the three months of residence.

Holders of a registration certificate who reside more than five consecutive years in Portugal will have to apply for a permanent residence certificate, which will be issued by SEF (Foreigners and Borders Service).


When is a visa required? 

In order to enter Portuguese territory, citizens of Non-EU States must obtain a valid visa appropriate for the purpose of travel, travel document recognized as valid and not be subject to any alert issued by SEF Integrated Information System or the Schengen Information System.

Citizens of third states wishing to reside in Portugal must apply for a residence visa from the consular services of the Portuguese Embassy in their country of residence. Residence visas are long-term visas, allowing their holders to stay in Portugal for a period of four months that allows them to apply for a temporary residence permit issued by SEF.

There are several subtypes of residence visas, namely:

  • Visas for the exercise of subordinate professional activity;
  • Visas for the exercise of independent professional activity or for entrepreneurial emigrants;
  • Visas for teaching, highly qualified or cultural activity;
  • Visas for research, study, exchange of higher education students, secondary school students, internship and volunteering; and
  • Visas for family reunification.

Foreign citizens who do not have sufficient means of subsistence are not permitted to enter the country, either for the period of stay or for travel to the country in which their admission is guaranteed, or who are not in a position to acquire those means legally.

Golden Visa

The Residence Permit under Investment Activity (ARI), commonly referred to as a «gold» visa, or «golden visa», is intended for investors from third states wishing to obtain a residence permit in Portugal. «Golden visa» gives its holders the right of free movement in Portugal and other Schengen countries.

The «golden visa» regime allows the granting of residence permits for investment activities to citizens of countries outside the EU who wish to make a significant investment in Portugal and meet certain requirements.

Thus, in addition to the general requirements applicable to residence permits, to obtain a 'gold' visa it is mandatory to make an investment in Portugal, in particular through:

  • Carrying out transfers of a minimum amount of €1.500,000;
  • Creating at least ten job positions;
  • Acquiring real estate at least €500.000 worth;
  • Acquiring and renovating 30-year-old buildings, or older, or of buildings located in an area of urban renovation, at least €350.000 worth;
  • Carrying out a transfer of €550.000 destined to research studies in public or private scientific research institutions, integrated in the national scientific and technological system;
  • Conducting a cash transfer of €250.000 to support artistic productions or the recovery of national cultural heritage;
  • Carrying out a cash transfer of €500.000 for the acquisition of shares in investment funds or venture capital funds for the capitalisation of companies; and
  • Conducting a cash transfer of €500.000 to invest in the creation of a company or giving an equal contribution to an existing company plus the creation of at least five permanent job positions throughout a minimum period of 3 years.

The residence permit is renewed in two moments: after the first year on the date of its grant, and again every period of two years elapsed since the date of issue of the subsequent Residence Titles ("card"), totaling a minimum of five years of temporary residence permit. Over the five years of the golden visa program, the applicant must demonstrate that he maintains the investment made (without prejudice to the right to replace it with another type of investment allowed by Law), otherwise he will not be granted the renewal of his residence permit.

The investment may be carried out in his/hers own name or through a single-person limited company, based in Portugal, of which the applicant is a member or, in the case of the acquisition of property, under a shared property regime, provided that each owner invests the minimum required value.

In the hope of diverting investment in real estate sector to the areas of the interior of Portugal, the Government has implemented changes to the Law. Thus, since 1 January 2022, only property located in the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira or in the territories of the interior are eligible for gold purposes (this applies for property bought for living purposes, as property intended for trade or services are not covered by this restriction)

These changes do not affect the possibility of renewal, or the granting or renewal of residence permits in the context of family reunification where the residence permit for investment has been granted under the legislation applicable on the date of their approval.


How to obtain a golden visa

In addition to one of the investments already listed, to obtain a «Golden Visa» the applicants must also:

  • Be physically present in Portugal, have or rent a residence in the country and have sufficient means to support themselves;
  • Be registered in the Portuguese Social Security Authorities if activity in question is subject to registration in Portugal;
  • Not have been convicted of criminal offences, punished with imprisonment for a year or more or with entry ban in Portugal;
  • Not have been flagged in the Schengen Information System and in the Portuguese authorities information system for the purpose of banning their entry in in the country;
  • Hold a valid Schengen visa (if not exempt by any visa waiver); and
  • Apply for the legalization of the stay in Portugal within 90 days after the first entry in Portugal.

The application for ARI («golden visa») must be submitted online (http://ari.sef.ptfor prior validation by SEF. Once the application has been validated, the applicant is then allowed to make the appointment to go to a SEF facility, since the submission of documents related to the investment and the collection of biometric data is mandatory to be done in person.

The administrative cost of a residence permit application is approximately €5.900, and €3.300 for each renewal. If all requirements are met at the outset and no further due diligence is required by the services, the authorization is normally granted within 120 days of the submission of the form and its documents.

The holder of a «golden» visa may benefit from special taxes applicable to non-usual residents and is entitled to apply for family reunification.

In addition, the holder will be eligible to obtain the right of permanent residence, as will his family, after five years of holding a temporary residence permit in Portugal under the «golden» visa regime.


The education system includes public schools run by the State, autonomous regions, municipalities and other public entities, and private schools operated by private entities under license issued by State. Education in Portugal is universal, free and compulsory until the age of 18.

The Portuguese educational system has improved significantly in the last decades.

Recent reforms include new arrangements for the setting of learning goals, the reorganization of the school network, and the diversification of educational offerings.

Portuguese State and private schools are now better prepared for the education of children of all ages from foreign countries.

Compulsory schooling was extended recently and ceases when the student obtains a diploma certifying the completion of high school 12th grade or completes 18 years (regardless of having completed high school).

Parents are obligated to enrol children with a State or private school and the student has the obligation to attend school.

The Portuguese school system organised in three levels: pre-school education (ages 3 to 5), primary education (typical ages 6 to 14) and secondary education (ages 15 to 17).


Education levels

Pre-school, primary and secondary education

Pre-school education covers children from the ages of three to five years. The State is responsible for ensuring a network of pre-school facilities allowing the enrolment of all five-year children and education for such children, free of charge. It is provided by the State, by private and cooperative bodies, by private social solidarity institutions and not-for-profit institutions.

State primary school is universal, compulsory and free of charge in respect to enrolment, attendance and certification fees and costs. It is intended for children aged between six and fifteen. 

Secondary education is a cycle of specific studies and includes various courses intended principally to prepare young people to go on to higher education or to enter the labour market.

Access to secondary education requires a prior completion of primary school. It takes three years with a large variety of courses including professional courses. Upon completion and approval, the students are granted a certificate for purposes of access to the university or employment, as the case may be.


Higher education

At present, higher education in Portugal is divided into two subsystems: university education and non-university higher education (polytechnic education), and it is provided in State and private universities and non-university higher education institutions (both State and private). Access to higher education requires prior completion and approval in secondary school or equivalent.

Universities award first degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates, including Ph.D. Polytechnic institutions award first degrees and master’s degrees.

Students over 23 years, who have not completed secondary school, may also have access to higher education provided they complete and approve specific entry tests.

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of 2016-2017, there are eight Portuguese Universities ranking in the Top Universities in the World.

The Financial Times has ranked Nova School of Business and Economics in 14th place in the Masters in Finance Ranking and Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics in 43rd in the Executive Education Ranking.


State and private schools

Portugal has a network of State schools which covers the entire country, and serves approximately 1.2 million students.

There are also many private schools in Portugal, spread nationally across all main cities in the country. According to the official data, more than 200,000 students are enrolled in private schools.

In general, private schools have better facilities than State schools and offer many extra-curricular activities. Private schools tend to top the national education rankings, which measure the students results at the end of second and third learning cycles.

The differences seem to result from the different approach and better resources of private schools, but also from the students social and economic differences. Several State schools also show goods results.

To be admitted to private schools may require passing admission tests and the payment of a tuition. Admission is at the discretion of the school board. There are English-speaking international schools in Portugal, especially in primary and secondary education, which can be found mainly in Lisbon, Oporto and Algarve.

Some schools follow international programmes such as the «International Baccalaureate» programme, the British «GCSE and GCE» examination systems, and the «Council of International Schools» accreditation, which allow students to access several foreign universities without the need for special admission procedures.

Some countries have established schools in Portugal with dual language teaching which follow their national curricula and are also recognised by the Portuguese Government.

France established the «Lycée Français Charles Lepierre» in Lisbon and the «Lycée Français International» in Oporto, Germany has two schools, «Deutsche Schule» in Lisbon and Oporto, and Spain one school in Lisbon, «Instituto Español, Giner de los Ríos». The most well-known School that teaches in English is the St. Julian’s School, located in Carcavelos, near Lisbon, founded in 1932.

Graduation in these schools gives access to universities in the respective home countries.

Many State and private schools in Portugal offer the opportunity to learn other languages besides English, such as Spanish, German and French.


Public health system

Portugal has public health system financed by the State budget, the National Health System (Sistema Nacional de Saúde, SNS).

SNS beneficiaries pay reduced fees (in many cases, much below cost) for consultations, exams, surgeries and other clinical services.

The World Health Report by the World Health Organisation ranked Portugal’s healthcare system in 12th place of its ranking.

There are also public health sub-systems that include several professional sectors which operate independently or under agreements with the SNS.

The main State health subsystem is the health assistance system for the civil servants, named «ADSE»; other examples are the clinics and hospitals of the bank workers («SAMS») trade union and the military personnel health system.

The Portuguese State pays part of the cost of most medicines. Some medicines, as is the case of vital medication for treating serious illnesses, are subsidised in full. The State subsidy is deducted from the price charged to the patient when purchasing the medicine.

EU citizens residing in Portugal and working in another EU country are entitled to health treatment in both countries.

In this case, the individual must obtain an «S1 Form» (certificate of entitlement to health care in another EU country) from the social security of the country where they are registered and deliver it to the Portuguese local district social security centre of their place of residence. The «S1 Form» gives access to health care in Portugal on the same terms as Portuguese citizens.

The same applies to retirees living in Portugal who receive a pension from an EU country.

Citizens of the European Union countries, as well as of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland may obtain treatment in Portuguese SNS hospitals with an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) (issued in the country of origin).

Overseas citizens holding Portuguese residency permits must be registered at a Health Centre and must hold a «User's Card» (Cartão de Utente), which may be obtained at the Health Centre by presenting a document showing proof of residence authorisation.

Non-EU citizens may have to pay some additional fees for public healthcare in Portugal; the amount will depend on whether there is a reciprocal healthcare agreement between Portugal and the home country.


Private Healthcare Hospitals

Portugal has several private hospitals. Private hospitals have agreements to provide services under lower fee rates to SNS beneficiaries, other public health subsystems’ beneficiaries and insurance policy holders.

According to the Portuguese National Statistical Institute, Portugal had 111 private hospitals, about half of the 225 hospitals that exist in the country.

Emergency consultations in private hospitals more than doubled between 2005 and 2015, rising from 7.1% to 15.2% of all emergency services provided in the country.

In general, private hospitals can provide any medical care services that may be required, which in some cases achieved worldwide reputation. Fundação Champallimaud has created a leading research and care centre specialising in the fields of neuroscience, cancer and vision.

In very complex medical specialties, SNS hospitals are usually better equipped than private hospitals, albeit pressed by demand. For instance the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is part of the SNS, is one of the world’s leading institutes in the field of tropical diseases.


Health insurance

A significant part of the Portuguese population is covered by private health insurance.

Portuguese and international companies offer their employees health insurance which usually covers the employee and his/her family.

Multicare, Fidelidade, Ocidental and Tranquilidade as well as international insurers that are present in Portugal, like Allianz, are some of the leading insurers that offer health insurance policies.

Usually, health insurance policies are renewable annually. Insurance premiums are also set every year.

Insurance premiums vary according to a number of factors such as age, pre-existing illnesses and conditions and the overall health risks. The premium will vary according to the insurance coverage.

Some of the expenses incurred with private health insurance may be deducted from the to taxable income under the personal income tax.

Relevant legislation

Law on the Entry, Stay, Exit and Expulsion of Foreigners [Portuguese Only]



Entry Declaration Form [Portuguese / English / French]

Application for Residence Permit Form [Portuguese / English / French]


Macedo Vitorino's briefings

«Why Portugal: Living in Portugal» (2021) [Portuguese] [English]

«Portuguese Golden Visas» (2021) [Portuguese] [English]


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We are used to working with foreign nationals wishing to work or take residence in Portugal. We represent private clients as well as their employers in all matters required to work or live in Portugal.

We can assist you in:

  • Obtaining your residence visa
  • Applying for golden visa
  • Negotiating employment, secondment agreements and services contracts with expats
  • Negotiating the acquisition, lease or disposal of property 

If you have any question or wish us to provide a budget, please contact us to: whyportugal@macedovitorino.com

For more information on our practices and expertise please go to www.macedovitorino.com/en/expertise