Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Victor Queiroz
Moving to Portugal also means having to understand the bureaucracies of immigration. In order to live in Portugal, foreign citizens need a Portugal residence permit. But how can do you get one? Isn’t my visa to Portugal enough? Well, no.
Don’t worry, we will explain all about Portugal’s residence permit in this article. Find out how to apply and obtain it, and why it’s so important that you know its details.
Do I need a Portugal residence permit to live in Portugal?
Yes, as long as you aren’t an EU citizen and want to live in Portugal for more than 90 days. To establish yourself as a permanent resident in Portugal, you must have a resident permit.
I am an EU citizen in Portugal, do I need a residence permit?
No, to reside in Portugal for more than 90 days, you need only a Registration Certificate. In the case of nationals of member countries of the European Union, as well as the European Economic Area and the Principality of Andorra and Switzerland, the visa process and obtaining a Portugal residence permit are waived.
Portugal residence permit vs visa
The residence permit and visa are completely different documents. While residence visas grant foreigners permission to legally enter Portugal to live, they aren’t enough to let you stay for long.
Visas for Portugal have a short validity, so that when you enter Portugal, you register at SEF and apply for a Portugal Residence Permit, which is your new ID card.
The residence permit is what is going to be your national identity card when you live in Portugal. As the Portuguese nationals have their own Cartão Cidadão (Citizen Card), foreigners usually have either a Título de Residência (Residence Title) – for short stays, or a Cartão de Residência (Residence Card) when it’s permanent.
These documents also have a validity period, which can last from 1 to 5 years and can be renewed. It all depends on your activity in Portugal and how long you have been in the country.
How to obtain a Portugal residence permit?
To get a resident permit, you must meet one of the following:
- Have a job in Portugal, employed or self-employed, thanks to a residence visa for work;
- Be enrolled in higher education, research, or volunteering, and have a Study Visa or similar;
- Open a company or a Start-Up in Portugal and have a Business Visa;
- Have your own retirement pension or any regulated passive income and have a D7 Visa;
- Make a big investment in Portugal, according to the Golden Visa rules;
- Be a dependent family member of a citizen who fits one of the above options and carry out Family Reunification;
In case you are already in Portugal and want to stay for good, you can submit an Expression of Interest to obtain a Portugal residence permit. However, you need to be contributing to Social Security and have either a job contract or a promise.
Obtaining a residence permit with a Portuguese visa
The usual way to obtain a Portugal residence permit is through the residence visa process. There are a number of different visas for Portugal, covering everything from retirement, studies, work, to starting a business. For holders of residency visas, the process is as follows.
From the first date of validation of your residence visa, you have a certain period to enter Portugal and apply for your residence permit.
Although the visa process was probably carried out at the Portuguese embassy or consulate, the Portugal residence permit is different. This document is issued by SEF, the Foreigners and Borders Service in Portugal.
So, once in Portugal, you must schedule via an electronic platform and personally submit your application form at any SEF’s directorate or regional delegation near you.
After proceedings and decision, SEF will send your new Residence Permit to your address or the SEF delegation closest to you.
Expression of Interest
Now for those people who were in Portugal initially for tourism and then decide that living here would be even better, there is also a way to apply for a Portugal resident permit. It is the so-called Expression of Interest, of Manifestação de Interesse.
Anyone who has entered legally Portugal, and has registered in Portugal’s Social Security and a work contract can submit it an Expression of Interest.
This way, you could obtain a residence permit and enjoy all the rights and duties that residents in Portugal have for public service, labor rights, and so on. And let’s not forget that, after 5 years contributing to Social Security and legally residing in Portugal with the residence permit, you get to apply for Portuguese nationality.
- Valid Passport;
- Evidence of regular entry into the Portuguese territory;
- Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence;
- Criminal record from the country of origin;
- Permission for SEF to check your Portuguese criminal record;
- Evidence that you have adequate accommodation in Portugal;
- Proof of registration with the Social Security, except in the case of a promised employment contract;
- Evidence of registration in the tax authority;
- Contract of employment or promised employment contract.
If you are living in Portugal only with an expired visa or as a tourist, it is highly recommended that you regularize your situation before being deported. The Expression of Interest is the best way to get legal in Portugal under these circumstances.
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Residence Permit for Investment Activity: the Golden Visa
The most famous type of Portugal residence permit among expats is the Golden Visa. This, despite the popular nickname, is not a visa, but a special residence permit for investors and their families.
The Portuguese government launched the Residence Permit for Investment Activity (ARI) program in 2009. And, despite many controversies, it continues to this day as one of the main attractions for foreign investment in Portugal.
The ARI is given to international investors who perform different types of investments in Portugal. From investments in Portuguese funds, capital transfers to a national bank, investments in real estate, companies, and even scientific research. As you can read in our Complete Guide to the Golden Visa, this process allows investors to:
- Enter Portugal without the need for a residence visa;
- Live and work in Portugal, as long as they stay in Portugal for at least 7 days in the first year and 14 days in the subsequent years;
- Visa exemption for traveling within the Schengen Area;
- Family reunification;
- Apply for permanent residence;
- Apply for Portuguese citizenship, by naturalization, after 5 years.
Investment amounts for the Golden Visa were updated in 2022, and range from €350,000 to 1.5 million euros. As it is a complex process and values depend on the type of investment, it’s very important to have legal and financial support when applying for it.
Benefits of the Portugal Residence Permit
So we’ve heard all about what it is, but how does it benefit an expat?
Portugal offers custom residence permits for its diverse expat base. From a permit for study purposes to one for family reunification, the permits help in accommodating expats to the new country.
The Portugal Residence Permit allows holders to travel freely within the Schengen Area. You can live and work in Portugal yet travel to other Schengen countries for tourism or business without the need for additional visas or permits.
Additionally, Portugal’s Golden Visa program offers a fast-track route to residency for those who invest in the country’s real estate market. This makes it an attractive option if you are a high-net-worth expat looking for a European base.
Then the Family Reunification permit allows you to move in with a family member who is a Portuguese citizen, while the Study permit is to help international students. This provides an option to switch to a work visa if you wish to land a job after completing your education.
There are different uses for each type, and all of these permits allow you to live a life with an excellent standard of living.
Step-by-step guide to apply for a Portugal Residence Permit
Applying for a permit can be a tedious process. You need to figure out which residence permit works best for you before you apply for one.
To apply for the Residence Permit, you must follow the steps below:
- Compile your documents;
- Consult a lawyer (optional);
- Schedule an appointment at SEF;
- Submit your application.
You will need the following documents for any permit:
- Valid passport
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of financial means
However, preparing permit-specific documents can be a tricky part. Be sure not to mix up the guidelines of each permit. Photographs and tax and social security documents are necessary for a work permit, while for the family reunification permit, an additional document of health insurance is required. Visit this link to find all the documents required for each permit.
Once you have your documents prepared, you need to schedule an appointment at a Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) office in Portugal or a Portuguese embassy in your home country. Remember that you need a valid residency visa to apply for a residency permit which takes 60 days to be processed.
Do I need to apply for a Portugal residence permit myself?
Not necessarily. You can hire assistance in Portugal, for example, to be your legal representative and apply for a residence permit for you. Many people choose this option because it’s often rewarding to have a professional attend all the bureaucratic events involved. Not to mention, it also decreases the chance of errors and residence permit denials.
How much does the permit cost?
Permit cost varies with the category and duration of validity. However, it remains constant for some criteria. For your ease, these are listed below:
- Permit for Family reunification: €157
- Permit for self-employment: €332
- Permit for investment: €5,274
- The initial application for a residence permit: €84
- Renewal of a residence permit: €52
Do note that additional fees for translation, document authentication, and medical examination may be charged.
How long is the permit valid?
It is essential to keep track of the validity of your permit and to have it renewed timely. This would save you from additional bureaucratic paperwork.
Following are the typical durations for residence permits in Portugal:
- Work purpose: One year – renewable for another two years
- Self-employment: One year – renewable for another two years
- Studying: The duration of the study program – renewable if necessary
- Family Reunification: One year – renewable for another two years
- Investment: Two years – renewable for another two years
Are you moving to Portugal?
The relocation process to Portugal can be complex and take months, depending on the case. As you prepare for change, why not have a support network that understands what you are going through?
Join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats to meet other foreigners who are moving or living in Portugal. Sharing is caring, and you can find answers to all kinds of questions there.
And if you need professional help to take care of the bureaucracy while you relax, contact Viv Europe! Our team of experts is always ready to help at any stage of your relocation. Have a great journey!