Moving to Portugal is a big step for those who don’t speak Portuguese. In this guide, discover what Americans need to know before they move.

Last Updated on September 16, 2022 by Maryam Siddiqui

There’s a lot that Americans need to know about Portugal before relocating here. The good, the bad, and the best! It’s only fair that we have an honest conversation about this. 

So here are a few important things American expats should know before starting their relocation journey. From visa requirements and language barriers to the cost of living and job opportunities, there’s much to discover.

The rich culture and history, spectacular landscapes, mesmerizing beaches, and idyllic climate might make Portugal the center of attraction for tourists from all across the globe. However, Portugal offers much more than that to expatriates who want to settle here.

First things Americans need to know about Portugal

The confident growing economy – a treat to foreign investors, new modern tech companies with the latest advancements, and Lisbon being the hub for all the startups and entrepreneurs, Portugal is considered an ideal place for expats to live in.

Portugal is increasingly at the top of the list considered by Americans who want to settle in Europe for various reasons.

The high-quality life, low cost of living, great tax benefits, easy access to transport and healthcare, and the idyllic climate are a few of them.

US citizens in Portugal

According to research, among all 690,000 expats currently living in Portugal from around the globe, around 20,000 are US citizens.

Of course, it’s not a large number, considering the total number of expatriates, and this is because the USA discovered Portugal very recently in terms of the country to live in.

The British, French, Brazilian, and Chinese are citizens who have lived in Portugal for a long time, and the number keeps increasing.

If you’re an American citizen and you are thinking of moving and settling in Portugal, whether to escape the chaotic way of life in big cities, to enjoy retirement, or for whatever reason, you need to know a few things about how to live in Portugal.

Language Barrier

Learning a foreign language might be a challenging task, but for an expat to settle in some country and to avoid any kind of communication barriers learning its native language must be a priority. It will certainly help you a big way in settling up.

American expats in Portugal

Although Portuguese people are very hospitable and helpful to foreigners, many don’t speak English. Learning the Portuguese language will help you communicate with locals, buy land or maybe get a job.

Notably, learning Spanish is not enough because people might think it’s similar to Portuguese, but in fact, it is not and is most likely to be quite offensive to locals.

Fortunately, today there are several methods for learning Portuguese. Apps like Duolingo, Babbel, and Busuu are some of the most popular.

Also, if you want a more personal approach, we can recommend a very charismatic and professional teacher, Helena Palha, who works for a company called Lengalenga. All classes are 100% online, and you can learn and practice your Portuguese.

Cost of living in Portugal

Moving from the US to Portugal needs a bit of financial planning. The cost of living is one of the most important things Americans need to know about Portugal.

Usually, every foreigner, when visiting some other country, compares the cost of things, life, education, or health with that of their own country. It seems to be natural.

So when a US citizen settles in Portugal and compares the cost of living in Portugal with that of the US, there will be a pleasant surprise. After all, Portugal is much more affordable, from buying food to renting a house or an apartment.

Take a look at the comparative summary of costs of living in Portugal and the United States:

Family of four estimated monthly costs (without rent)€1,936€3,505
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre€1,265€2,799
A single person estimated monthly costs (without rent)€551€983
Apartment Rent (1 bedroom) in City Centre€726€1,676

Data is from Numbeo (as of September 2022).

Even buying a property is quite within reach compared to the US. According to the CEO World Annual Ranking, the USA is considered the 20th most expensive country in the world, while Portugal ranks 52nd.

Portugal’s Golden Visa

EU residents might not need a visa to travel or live in Portugal.

However, for all other non-EU residents, including US citizens, Portugal offers visas either to settle in or for study, establish a business, for a job, and much more.

Above all, Portugal is famous for offering Golden Visa for those who wish to be permanent residents and citizens of Portugal.

Thus, becoming a Portuguese citizen can be your choice after waiting just 5 years after obtaining your Portuguese resident permit through the Golden Visa process.

Working in Portugal

Settling in Portugal is not just about enjoying the great scenes of beaches, or some spectacular views, or maybe trying traditional cuisines.

You may also need some kind of income to live there. For that purpose, you might choose to get a job and work in Portugal.

Americans working in Portugal

To do so, you will need a work permit.

There is a procedure to obtain your D1 Visa for being able to work, and, luckily, Viv Europe will be able to assist you through the entire process.

So going through some legal steps, you will easily be able to obtain your Portuguese Resident Permit, allowing you to work there.

Great Tax benefits

Portugal is known for being a tax-friendly country for people who live there after retirement and also for those who are actually working in this country.

The most well-known tax regime is the Non-Habitual Resident program, which presents several ways for citizens to save a lot of money that would be used to pay taxes.

If you have been residing in Portugal for more than 183 days, you can take advantage of this regime since you will become a Portuguese tax resident.

Moreover, you won’t have to pay some taxes (or will have to pay smaller fees) during your first 10 years of residing in Portugal.

Expats are very welcome 

From around the world, we can see countries making policies to send immigrants back to their countries of origin for several different reasons.

However, Portugal’s policies differ here. Portugal values the people who live in this country, no matter where they come from.

If those who live in Portugal can help the country to grow in terms of the economy, whether by working, employing, spending money, and so on, they are more than welcome in the country.

Of course, if these people are not legal, they will have to go through a process to regularize their situation, usually through the Expression of Interest process.

Therefore, talents from all over the world are already living in Portugal, be it for tech companies or starting up their own business.

Alongside, there’s a lot more Portugal is offering to expats. This is why it has become the center of attention for most expats thinking of moving to European countries.

Religious background

There are many religions in Portugal that enrich the local cultures. Due to history, Catholicism is the most popular religion among them, which is also reflected in Portuguese culture.

And why is this information something Americans need to know about Portugal? Well, if you are religious, you will surely find a place to express your faith in this country.

Also, there are many magnificent churches and temples scattered throughout Portugal. It is really a wonderful thing to visit these beautiful places.

Although there are no restrictions on following a specific religion, studies show that 77% of adults in Portugal are Catholics. On top of that, a large population still prays and regularly attends mass.


Since June 2022, the National Health Service no longer charges healthcare fees to any legal resident, with the exception of unreferenced emergencies and those that do not result in hospitalization.

After obtaining the Utente number, an American citizen will be able to use Portugal’s Public Health system as a foreigner. If public hospitals aren’t something you fancy, there are excellent private hospitals too.

Needless to say, Portugal’s public healthcare system is one of the best in Europe. The quality of Portugal’s healthcare system ranks third best, according to the World Index of Healthcare Innovation (WIHI).

Read Also: Accessing Public Hospitals In Portugal As A Foreigner.

Uniform weather

Experiencing extremely hot and cold weather will no longer be a problem. You will find Portugal an ideal place to live in moving from the US.

The uniform weather with warm sunlight and cool ocean breezes will draw you in. Portugal has 300 days of sunshine and pleasant temperatures all year round.

Of course, there are cities where you can experience more extreme temperatures. But in general, the thermal sensation will not bother you at all.

Best places to live in Portugal

Being small in size, you will find variety in lifestyles of different places within Portugal.

Let’s have a precise look at the 3 most demanded regions to live in Portugal.


Known to be the central hub for startups and entrepreneurs, Lisbon offers you great opportunities for working in Portugal.

Many US citizens live in Lisbon Portugal

It is known to be an alpha-level-global city due to its impact on the world’s commerce and arts. If you wish to live in a big city, Lisbon will not disappoint you.

Check out our article Living In Lisbon: An Expat’s Point Of View Of The Capital Of Portugal for more insights.


The second-largest city in Portugal, Porto, is known as the industrial pole of the country. 

American expats in Porto Portugal

Besides that, Porto has fascinating old towns and alleys and many buildings that are included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

With excellent wine bars and golden rooftops, it’s the destination for travelers all across the globe. However, they say that living in Porto is a much better experience than just passing by.


When someone says Algarve, people will always associate it with beautiful beaches, stunning cliffs, and a peaceful lifestyle. It is also worth mentioning that it has one of the warmest climates on the European continent.

More Americans are moving to the Algarve Portugal

It was no accident that the British chose this as the best place to spend their holidays in Europe. It’s a great place to live, with the highest concentration of residents of foreign nationalities.

Definitely a top choice. See all about it in our complete article Living in the Algarve: All About Sunny Southern Portugal For Expats.

When are you coming to Portugal?

Now you know almost all the things Americans need to know about Portugal. Have you decided where you’re going to live yet? And which visa you’re applying for?

Read our article How To Move to Portugal from the United States of America to get deeper insights into your relocation plan. And join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats to connect with inidviduals just like you!

There are many things to consider, as you know. If you need any help in any step of your relocation process, count on Viv Europe’s experts to guide you.

Contact us and let us take care of your relocation journey. We’d love to see your Portugal dream become a reality!



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