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Why Are Americans Moving to Portugal?

Why Are Americans Moving to Portugal?

We are an American family moving to Portugal. I know it seems like everyone is moving to Portugal. But, there are only 7,000 Americans living in Portugal.

After 13 years of their famous golden visa program, I was astonished to learn only 781 Americans obtained residency.

For many of us disillusioned Americans the desire to leave the land we were born is strong. Portugal is a great option for many reasons that we will discuss here in this article.

I feel very lucky that Portugal has granted us permission to reside there. Here’s an overview of the reasons we have decided to relocate to Portugal.

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Living in Portugal as an Expat

Portugal’s Appeal of Safety First

As an American contemplating life abroad, you’ll find comfort in Portugal’s outstanding reputation for safety. Included in the top 10 safest countries globally according to the 2023 Global Peace Index, Portugal’s low crime rate sets the stage for a serene expat experience. Your new home could be one of consistency and reassurance, surrounded by friendly faces.

The Portuguese shores and landscapes contribute to a high quality of life, with beautiful beaches and landscapes providing a picturesque backdrop for your daily ventures. Imagine relaxing on the sun-kissed beaches of the Algarve or strolling through the lush, green hills of the Douro Valley. These natural wonders aren’t just easy on the eyes but are corners of tranquility that amplify the nation’s pacific essence.

Cherish the feeling of being part of a country that values harmony, as you join the community of Americans living in Portugal. Embrace a life where safety walks hand-in-hand with the charm of cobblestone streets and the warmth of the Mediterranean sun, reinforcing why a move to Portugal is more than a change of location, it’s a step towards peaceful living.

Cost of Living in Portugal

If you’re considering joining the growing number of Americans living in Portugal, the financial aspect is likely a major factor. The allure of Portugal lies not just in its charming landscapes but also in its affordable cost of living. For a single person, monthly expenses without rent average around €661.1.

Understanding Living Expenses

For families, the picture remains rosy, with estimated costs at €2,333.8 per month, housing excluded. These figures stand in stark contrast to average expenses in the U.S., showing that living in Portugal can significantly reduce your living costs by about 36.3%. Rent can vary widely, from €400 for a private room to €5000 for a luxury villa.

Finding Housing in a Foreign Country

Salary and Taxation

The financial benefit extends to earnings and taxation. Portugal's average salary is proportionate to living costs, and the minimum wage has been increasing steadily. As a foreign resident, you might be eligible for the non-habitual resident tax regime, offering a flat rate of 20% on your foreign-sourced income, considerably lower than many U.S. states.

When you combine these factors with Portugal's personal income tax benefits and generally lower tax rates, your financial picture can indeed look brighter. The move can be a smart choice for your wallet, reinforcing the country’s reputation as an economic paradise for expatriates seeking a high-quality, yet cost-effective, European lifestyle.

Portugal is Perfect for Families

Embracing the Portuguese Way of Laid-back Lifestyle

Embracing the Portuguese way means stepping into a lifestyle where balance and relaxation are a priority. With a warm climate that beckons you outdoors, your days in Portugal can be spent soaking up the sun and enjoying the many leisurely activities available. The pleasant climate not only supports a laid-back life but also provides ample opportunity for social gatherings and community events.

In Portugal, you'll find the attitude is a stark contrast to the hustle of American cities. Portuguese people are known for their friendly demeanor, easing you into a social fabric woven by community ties and shared experiences. As one of the many Americans living in Portugal, integrate smoothly by adopting the local customs and pace of life.

The Portuguese way of life is an attractive draw, where long lunches and late dinners under the stars are commonplace. This warm atmosphere facilitates interaction with locals, truly immersing you in the culture. Allow yourself to slow down, breathe in the coastal breeze, and appreciate the moments of day-to-day life in Portugal.

Portugal for Digital Nomads and Remote Workers

If you're an American considering a move to Portugal, you're not alone. The trend for Americans living in Portugal has been on the rise, especially with the country's new Digital Nomad Visa. This visa simplifies the process of settling in Portugal for digital nomads and remote workers, providing a legal basis for residency.

Why Choose Portugal?

Portugal has become a popular destination due to its mild climate, friendly atmosphere, and relatively low cost of living. With the Digital Nomad Visa, you gain easy access to this vibrant community. You'll find a blend of cultural heritage and modern conveniences, making it an ideal setting for work and leisure.

Digital Nomad Visa Requirements

  • Income: Demonstrate earnings of at least four times the Portuguese minimum wage.
  • Validity: Choose between a one-year temporary stay or a residency permit for up to five years.
Families Moving to Lisbon

Working and Living in Portugal

Portugal offers a supportive environment for remote workers. With high-speed internet widely available and co-working spaces thriving in cities like Lisbon and Porto, staying connected is easy. Whether you're a solo entrepreneur or part of a global team, Portugal can support your professional endeavors while providing a picturesque backdrop for your off-hours.

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The Food Scene is Beyond Just a Diet

As an American living in Portugal, the food scene is more than just sustenance. It’s a vibrant tableau of flavors waiting to be explored. Your taste buds will thank you for the diversity, from the local markets brimming with fresh produce to the traditional dishes that tell a story of cultural fusion.

Local Markets

Discover the rainbow of fruits, vegetables, and regional specialties at local Portuguese markets. It's an adventure in color and taste. Sample fresh olives, cheeses, and the real Portuguese custard tarts, pastéis de nata.

Port Wine 

Sipping on the world-renowned port wine is a practice steeped in tradition. This sweet, fortified wine, often enjoyed as a dessert beverage, perfectly encapsulates the rich and unique essence of Portuguese viticulture.

Bold flavors are not hard to find here, from the punch of freshly-prepared bifanas to the comforting embrace of an alcatra stew. You’ll engage with Portugal’s culinary heritage, where every meal feels like a hearty welcome to the local way of life.

Navigating the System Such as Visas, Residency, and Healthcare

Visas and Residency Permits

To join the growing community of Americans living in Portugal, you'll start with securing a visa. Opt for a D7 visa if you have a reasonable passive income. Upon arrival, apply for a temporary residence permit at the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF), essential for your legal stay.

After five years as a legal resident, you can apply for citizenship. A Portuguese passport grants you the right to live and work indefinitely anywhere in the E.U. As an alternative, permanent residence is a gateway to accessing Portugal's public services, with similar rights as Portuguese citizens.

Americans moving to Portugal

Accessing Healthcare

Your residency permit not only legalizes your stay but is also your ticket to the public healthcare system. Register at a local health center to receive a user number. It's your access to affordable health care.

For immediate and more comprehensive medical care, consider private health insurance. It significantly reduces waiting times and offers wider coverage. Yet, whether you rely on public or private sectors, rest assured that healthcare standards are high.

Finding Your Tribe, Community and Language

When you move to Portugal as an American, the Portuguese language might present an initial hurdle. However, it provides a rewarding opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. Learning the basics goes a long way in creating community ties and earning respect among locals.

The number of Americans living in Portugal is growing, which means you're likely to find fellow expats. Facebook groups for US citizens, such as "Americans in Portugal", can be a great resource to connect with your countrymen. These communities can be invaluable for support and advice, particularly when navigating the early days of your move.

Beyond online networks, Portugal hosts a variety of English-speaking meet-ups and international associations. Use these gatherings to expand your social circle and meet both American and foreign residents. Remember, forming connections often starts with a smile and an open mind.

English Language ResourcesDescription
Language ExchangesParticipate in language exchange meetups to practice Portuguese while helping others with English.
Expat GroupsJoin social clubs or sports groups where English is commonly spoken.
American ClubsEngage with clubs specifically for American expats to celebrate shared traditions.

Don't let the language barrier intimidate you. See it as part of the adventure. With patience and effort, you'll find your tribe among the warm and welcoming community in your new Portuguese home.

Investment and Financial Benefits

As an American living in Portugal, you're positioned to access a range of investment and financial benefits. Your venture into the Portuguese real estate market could be favorable, with rental income providing a steady cash flow. Portugal's friendly tax regime offers various benefits, especially with the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) program, potentially giving you relief from income tax on foreign-sourced income for ten years.

Remember, to ensure that you fully benefit from these financial incentives, it’s essential to understand the current conditions and regulations, as they are subject to change. Engaging with a financial advisor who is proficient with the specifics of the Portugal Golden Visa program and familiar with the needs of Americans living in Portugal can be invaluable.

Life in Portugal for Kids

Education and Family Life in Portugal for Raising Kids

As an American family contemplating a move to Portugal, your concerns regarding education and assimilation into family life are paramount. International schools in Portugal are an excellent choice for your children to continue an American-style education while immersing in a new culture. These institutions often offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) alongside national curricula, supporting a smooth transition for both students and family members.

For those who prefer local immersion, the Portuguese education system welcomes your kids from age 3, with kindergarten, and is compulsory until the age of 18. Family members can rest assured knowing the nation values educational inclusivity and quality, reflected by its robust public school system. Younger families find comfort in the supportive community that embraces expatriates and the wealth of extracurricular activities available to children.

Considering costs? The average salary of Americans living in Portugal often aligns well with living expenses, including tuition fees for private education. With affordable healthcare and a relatively low cost of living compared to many U.S. cities, your family can maintain a comfortable lifestyle. The main reasons American families are drawn to Portugal include the relaxed pace of life, the strong sense of community, and the emphasis on work-life balance, an ideal setting for nurturing a young family.

Exploring Life in the Azores and Madeira Beyond the Mainland

If you're an American considering life in Portugal, the Azores and Madeira islands offer a unique experience beyond the mainland. The Azores present a serene escape, with beautiful landscapes that range from volcanic craters to hot springs and green pastures. Madeira, often referred to as the "Floating Garden," is a subtropical haven for nature enthusiasts.

What You'll Spend 

Living in these archipelagos can be more affordable than you might think.

  • Azores: Expect a lower cost of living compared to the mainland. Items like groceries are cheaper thanks to a reduced VAT rate of 18%.
  • Madeira: Enjoy a cost of living that's competitive with other expat hotspots, although some imported goods may have higher prices.

Housing Insights 

Purchasing property offers value as well, especially when you compare it to mainland Portugal.

  • Azores: The average price per square meter in January 2024 was €1,636.
  • Madeira: Here, housing costs can fluctuate but often remain accessible for expatriates.

As an American living in Portugal, embracing island life in the Azores or Madeira means immersing yourself in stunning, evergreen surroundings without the necessity of spending much money. From Pico Mountain's peak to the thriving botanical gardens, these islands are ripe with natural beauty, creating a picture-perfect backdrop for your new European life.

Americans are Retiring to Portugal

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Starting a Business in Portugal

If you're one of the many Americans living in Portugal and you've decided to start a business, you're in luck. Portugal offers a dynamic market within European countries, appealing especially to foreign investors with its rich cultural heritage and strategic location. Before you dive in, you'll need to embrace the local bureaucracy and legal procedures to ensure your venture kicks off without a hitch.

Legal Requirements

  • Ensure you're a legal resident.
  • Obtain a Portuguese tax number (NIF).
  • Reserve a unique company name.

To start, make sure you're a legal resident with all the necessary permits. You will need a personal tax number, known as the NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal), which is crucial for all financial activities. You can then proceed to reserve your company name with the Portuguese Commercial Registry to secure your brand identity.

Banking and Finances

  • Open a Portuguese bank account.
  • Consider access to loans and credit. (reports say they are willing to loan to foreigners!)

Opening a Portuguese bank account is your next step, providing a foundation for your business's financial transactions. With this, you'll gain access to various banking services that could be essential, such as lines of credit or business loans, which can be helpful for initial investments and cash flow management.

By focusing on these steps and aligning yourself with the entrepreneurial spirit of your adopted home, you establish a solid groundwork. Portugal's friendly business environment and supportive structures for start-ups make it a fertile ground for your business aspirations.

Family Life in Portugal

Is Portugal Right for You?

We chose Portugal because of the short timeline to citizenship, cost of living, and safety ratings. Our kids will be attending an international school and we plan to purchase a vehicle.

Your considerations as an American should include the reduced taxes, lower cost of healthcare, and lack of gun violence. With it's warm climate, friendly population, and relaxed lifestyle Portugal might be the perfect place for you.

I've previously lived in a low cost of living country and can attest that being able to live comfortably reduces stress considerably. Income inequality is a complex issue, but being able to afford to solve all your problems is such a relief.

In Portugal my kids will never do an active shooter drill. We can attend parades, sporting events, and public gatherings without fear of a mass shooting. That is freedom to me. The freedom to go where I wish without fear. Stay safe wherever you are in the world.

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FAQ: Americans Living in Portugal


  • Veronica Hanson

    Veronica Hanson blogs from whatever country she happens to be in at the time, currently she's hanging out in Japan. She's been living as a nomad remote entrepreneur with her family since 2020.

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