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Immigration Central: Why is everyone moving to Portugal?

Portugal ranked high in terms of quality of life, ease of settling in, and safety in recent surveys and reports.

July 23, 2022 / 08:58 AM IST
Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal. Immigrants to Portugal can apply for citizenship after five years as a legal resident while keeping other citizenship(s). (Image: Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash)

Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal. Immigrants to Portugal can apply for citizenship after five years as a legal resident while keeping other citizenship(s). (Image: Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash)

Portugal is ranked the world’s fourth best country to live in the Internations Expat Insider 2022 report. Portugal made it into the top 10 in terms of quality of life (4th), ease of settling in (7th), and personal finance (10th) categories. Ninety percent of surveyed expats said they enjoy the weather in Portugal, 89 percent were happy with the air quality and 93 percent said they believe it is easy and safe to travel by bike or get around on foot.

Big reasons to move to Portugal

• Portugal is now the cheapest country in Europe to live. The cost of living in Portugal is around 30 percent cheaper than in the UK, with rent around 33 percent cheaper.

• Cost of consumer goods – from food and wine to new cars and property – is significantly lower than in other parts of Europe.

• Portugal has some of the lowest levels of violence in Europe, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

• In 2021, Portugal was ranked the 4th most peaceful country in the world by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which assesses levels of world peace.

• Ranked 4th in the 2021 Global Peace Index.

• 7th best English proficient country in the world, according to the 2021 EF English Proficiency Index ranking

• Ranked 35th in the Working Abroad index of Internations Expat Insider 2022 Report

• Overall, 45 percent of expats intend to stay in Portugal forever, while just 35 percent of expats worldwide say that about their respective host country.

Top 5 Cities

• Lisbon (capital of Portugal)

• Porto (314 km from Lisbon)

• Cascais (31 km from Lisbon)

• Coimbra (205 km from Lisbon)

• The Algarve (280 km from Lisbon)

Expats in Portugal

As of 2020, there were 662,095 foreign citizens resident in Portugal, accounting for 6.4 percent of Portugal population. Of these, there were 330,413 foreigners with the legal status of residents in the metropolitan area of Lisbon, that is 11.5 percent of the Portuguese capital’s total population. (Source: Pordata).

Average age: 53.5 years; 53 percent female, 47 percent male

Top reasons for moving:

Better quality of life: 24 percent

To retire abroad: 14 percent

Financial reasons: 8 percent

Top income groups:

Less than US$ 12,000: 24 percent

US$ 25,000 - 50,000: 21 percent

US$ 12,000-25,000: 19 percent

Working Hours:

Part time: 34 percent

Full time: 66 percent

(Source: Internations Expat Insider 2022 report)

Jobs in Portugal

Top sectors:

IT: 11 percent

Finance: 8 percent

Education: 8 percent

Advertising, Marketing & Communication: 8 percent

The growing number of international companies based in Portugal has made it easier for expats to work in the country. Job opportunities in the fields of IT, marketing, and in other online and tech jobs are increasing. Jobs in real estate and tourism have long been a safe option for expats. For hospitality businesses, speaking English is mandatory.

Minimum Wages & Average Salary: The average annual salary in Portugal varies by profession, qualification, years of experience, and so on. The average salary in Portugal is US$1,200 gross per month. For highly qualified employees, the number goes up to an average of US$2,000. For those without a university degree, the number lowers to US$990. The minimum salary in Portugal established by law is US$660 a month. This minimum wage is not subject to taxation; you start paying taxes at an income of US$720. (Source: internations.org)

Working as a Freelancer or Sole Trader in Portugal: If you are going to be a sole business owner or a freelancer, you need to first register with Finanças. You might be able to pay your taxes with a simplified tax regime, as long as your business’ turnover does not exceed US$ 220,000. Freelancers often work under a taxation regime called recibos verdes (green receipts). (Source: internations.org)

Cost of living in Portugal versus the USA: Overall, living in Portugal is 42 percent cheaper than living in the USA in terms of both daily expenses and housing prices.

Housing: Rent is almost half in Portugal - the average rent for a single-bedroom apartment in central Lisbon is around $900 whereas it is $2,000 in the city center of Washington D.C.

Public transport: Monthly pass for transportation costs around $50 in Portugal and $75 in the USA (pass cost may vary in the US states).

Grocery: Grocery prices in the USA are 98.95 percent higher than in Portugal.

Eating out: Meals in Portugal are typically 43 percent cheaper than the USA.

Education: Public schools in Portugal are free for all foreign residents as well as Portuguese citizens, whereas private schools cost a minimum of $11,000 annually - in the USA, it costs an average $35,000.

Healthcare: In the Portuguese public healthcare system, most procedures are either free or with minimal co-pay. Seniors and children get medical care for free. A GP visit in Portugal will cost $55 as opposed to $110 in the US.

The downside of moving to Portugal

Unpromising career prospects: 25 percent expats feel they are paid unfairly for their work based on their industry, qualification, and role, compared to 20 percent globally. Expats are also not only unhappy with their income, 21 percent also rate the state of the economy negatively. Portugal ranks among the bottom 10 world-wide in the Career Prospects Subcategory (43rd): 39 percent expats are unhappy with the local job market and their personal career opportunities. Overall, 27 percent even say that moving to Portugal has made their career prospects worse. Portugal ranks 48th for this factor, only ahead of Cyprus, Greece, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Accomplishing Admin Tasks Is Not Always Easy: Portugal ranks 19th in the Expat Essentials Index. More than half the expats (52 percent) find it hard to deal with local bureaucracy/authorities (vs. 39 percent globally), and 24 percent are unhappy with the availability of administrative/ government services online (vs. 21 percent globally).

Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program

The Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program is a five-year residence-by-investment program for non-European Union (EU) nationals. The residence permit gives the right to live, work, and study in Portugal and allows freedom of travel in Europe’s Schengen Area. Furthermore, the program requires an average stay of just seven days a year in Portugal, which can also count towards citizenship eligibility after five years.

Key Benefits

• Visa-free travel in Europe’s Schengen Area and the right to live, work, and study in Portugal

• Low physical presence requirement (seven days during the first year of residence and 14 days for the two subsequent years)

• Attractive taxation system

• Eligibility to apply for citizenship after five years as a legal resident while keeping other citizenship(s)

• High quality of life, local cuisine and wines, rich culture, mild climate, and a high level of security

• Family reunification

Investment requirements for Golden Residence Permit Program

Applicants can choose any one of the qualifying options in any of the below categories:

Capital transfer

• EUR 1 million minimum capital transfer into a Portuguese bank account or approved investments or approved investment options

• EUR 350,000 for research activities of public or private entities that are part of the national scientific and technological system*

• EUR 250,000 in support of artistic production or in the recovery or maintenance of national cultural heritage*

• EUR 350,000 for the acquisition of units of investment funds or venture capital funds committed to the capitalisation of companies incorporated under the Portuguese law, with a maturity of at least five years and with at least 60 percent of the investment portfolio in companies that have a head office in the national territory.

Property acquisition

• EUR 500,000 minimum real estate purchase

• EUR 350,000 minimum real estate purchase for the refurbishment of properties older than 30 years or in an area of urban regeneration, including the cost of renovations

Business

• Creation of a minimum of 10 new jobs

• EUR 350,000 for the incorporation of or increasing the share capital of a company that is registered in Portugal, creating or maintaining a minimum of five permanent jobs for a period of three years.
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.