A Step-By-Step Guide to Relocating to Portugal
With the rise of remote work opportunities available worldwide, it’s tempting to consider relocating to a new country, exploring new horizons, and embarking on a new personal adventure. The world is full of wonderful places to explore, and among the list of the best cities for digital nomads and expats, one country is becoming more and more popular. That place is Portugal, and its beautiful capital, Lisbon.
Having spent the last five years in Singapore—the last two in a “zero COVID” policy with drastic travel restrictions—my husband and I were looking for a new place to live. Lisbon had it all. Year-long sunny weather, ranked among the safest places to live, reasonable cost of living, and an attractive tech ecosystem to work in thanks to the various tech startups, entrepreneurs, and conferences, such as the Web Summit, that are set up there. You name it, Portugal has it. (Consider adding it to the top of your list too!)
I’ve lived and worked in different countries such as France (where I’m from), the UK, Germany, India, Singapore, and now Portugal, and I know relocating can be somewhat challenging. Beyond the excitement of the change, there’s also often an administrative reality. While I’m no expert on this matter, I know from experience that the administrative part of the relocation process can be challenging. This time, in Portugal, I was lucky enough to have my employer, Dashlane, make sure everything went smoothly for me. Our People Team liaised with a relocation consultant who helps new Dashlaners through some of the steps regarding social security and taxation. My welcoming colleagues gave me endless tips to make Lisbon my new home. And last but not least, my manager supported me with all the flexibility I needed when I had to physically attend several appointments during my working day.
Of course, everyone has a different experience depending on where you come from, your job, and your Portuguese language literacy.
If you’re considering relocating to Portugal any time soon, here are some tips and steps to consider that could help make your first few days easier.
Getting your NIF—your taxpayer number—is the first step once you arrive in Portugal. You’ll be asked for this identification number for the remainder of your relocation process. You’ll be asked to provide your NIF upon signing your employment contract, registering for taxes, and typically when making purchases in stores or supermarkets.
There are different ways to register depending on where you’re coming from. If you’re an EU resident, you don’t need a tax representative and can do it online through the finance portal or by emailing the finance offices directly. You can also visit the “Loja do Cidadao” in person. If you aren’t an EU resident, you need to have a tax representative: this can be someone you know who doesn’t mind taking the responsibility. If you don’t know anyone, you might need to go through an intermediary who will assist you and act as a tax representative.
Make sure you can work legally in Portugal.
As an EU citizen, my company didn’t need to sponsor a visa to hire me, but if you’re a non-EU citizen, the visa approval will take a few weeks or months, depending on your nationality and the type of job you have. And you can’t work legally without one, so be mindful of that.
- Get your SSN (Social Security number)
My company (Dashlane) took care of that while preparing the employment contract, as this is a mandatory step for your social contribution. This can take up to two months to obtain, but you can work while it’s being issued.
- Register yourself as a resident and obtain your certificate of residency
Once you get your NIF, you have to go to the citizen center or “Loja do cidadao” to register yourself as a resident in Portugal. They will issue you a certificate for five years. With this certificate, you can then register yourself at the finance administration.
- Register to the finance administration
First, you need to create an account online on their portal. Then, you’ll receive several codes through SMS, email, and one that will be mailed to your physical address (it can take up to five working days or more to arrive). Very important: don’t forget your password once you’ve set it up. If you forget, your password recovery will need to be mailed to you, which will take another week or so to complete. In Dashlane's personal password manager, there is a secure notes feature that allows you to safely store encrypted notes for safekeeping.
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Once you create your account, you must physically go to the finance department with your residence certificate to register. You can book an appointment online. Note that some cities like Porto or Lisbon currently deal with high volumes of people, and I couldn’t get an appointment near Lisbon. You might consider booking an appointment in other locations outside the bigger cities. In my case, I had a short getaway in the Algarve and made my appointment during that trip.
If you weren’t a resident in Portugal for the past five years, you might be eligible for a specific status called the NHR, the Non-Habitual Resident status. This government scheme allows you to access an attractive flat tax rate of 20% as an employee. Once you’ve done the steps above, asking for the status online is pretty simple. Once completed, you’re registered as a resident and can access the finance website. My application was approved in two days, and the tax rate application is immediate. Remember to send the document proving your new status to your employer so they can set the new rate for you.
- Register for the health center and get your SNS number
With a Social Security number, you’ll be eligible for Social Security, but you’ll still need to register with your Health Center (“Centro de Saude”) to access healthcare. I discovered this the day I went for a covid test: I had to pay for the test myself because social security numbers differ from SNS numbers. You’ll need to find the closest “Centre de Saude” and check available registration time slots. In my case, it was only possible to register on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 2–4 PM, and they only accepted five people per day. Try to be among the first five people to arrive. I had to physically go there three times to get a slot—so brace yourself for that step.
Create your health digital account online
As a French citizen, I already have an account, so it was pretty easy to register from Singapore to the Portugal Embassy, but this might depend on your nationality.
- Get insurance
Whether your company is taking care of it or you’re doing it for yourself, I recommend having health insurance. The public health sector has extremely skilled doctors, but getting appointments can take time, so having access to private clinics is a real time-saver.
To access all of these different websites, Portugal provides its citizens with a digital key that centralizes logins to the government online portals. Singapore and France have the same system, which makes navigation easier. Unfortunately, the government process for creating an ID for non-Portuguese citizens hasn’t been launched yet, so you can’t access those websites with that digital key.
That said, you’ll need to create and remember several accounts with various credentials and passwords for each website mentioned above.
As all those websites contain important information about you, I recommend using strong passwords that aren’t reused, shared, or written down. For more ideas on password management, use Dashlane's Password Generator or follow our best practices for how to create strong passwords.
If you are like my parents or me and feel like remembering all those passwords is a real pain, you can also keep them in a digital safe space with Dashlane, for example. This would temporarily replace the digital key provided by the government and help you navigate the internet in a simpler way for all the accounts you use.
Whether you are about to move or just arrived in Portugal, I hope this step-by-step guide gives you an overview of what you need to settle in. Like any administration, some aspects of the Portuguese administration can feel like a maze, so remember to stay patient and positive. After that, you just need to learn your first few words in Portuguese, and you are all set and ready to enjoy this amazing country!