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Types of Visas in Portugal
Portugal Residency Visas for U.S. Citizens
Please Note: I am not an attorney or an immigration expert. The information provided here is based on research and my own experience obtaining a residency Visa in Portugal. Do not rely solely on this information and be sure to conduct your own research and consult with your own immigration professionals prior to applying for a Visa in Portugal, as regulations and requirements can and do change.
Many people, when considering a move to Portugal, do not understand the different types of Visas to allow stays longer than as a tourist. This article may help to clarify the types of Portugal Residency Visas for U.S. citizens. This is a high-level overview of the types of Visas in Portugal. I have provided resources at the end of this article if you require more in-depth research and information.
Visiting Portugal as a Tourist.
If you want to visit Portugal as a U.S. (or Canadian) tourist, you don’t need a Visa. However, there are certain limitations for the number of days you may stay in Portugal and/or the Schengen area:
To visit Portugal as a tourist, your U.S. or Canadian passport must be valid for more than 90 days of your intended visit. So, if your passport is close to expiring within the next 6 months, you may want to renew it before traveling to Portugal or any other Schengen area country to avoid problems entering and exiting countries. Keep in mind that beginning in 2024, people from over 60 currently visa-exempt countries (U.S. included) will be required to have a travel authorization to enter most European countries including Portugal. Previously, American travelers with U.S. passports had visa-free access to many foreign destinations. But starting in 2024, the European Union will add this new requirement for U.S. visitors. You can find more information here.
Your passport must have at least 2 blank pages.
You may stay in Portugal and/or the Schengen area for a total of less than 90 days within a 180-day period. A new period begins after you have been absent from Portugal and/or the Schengen area for 90 days.
Staying in Portugal for up to One Year.
If you want to stay in Portugal for up to one year, you will need a Temporary Stay (also known as a National) Visa. You apply for this Visa prior to your travel to Portugal. Most people who apply for and are granted Temporary Stay Visas have specific reasons and fall under one of the following categories:
Work-related (such as independent work, research, seasonal work)
Study (such as study programs, exchange student programs, training programs, unpaid internships, or volunteer work)
Health (such as medical treatments)
Retired or living on own income (only in certain and justified cases and not to be confused with D7 residency Visas)
Religious purposes (such as religious training or studies only in certain and justified cases)
As with any other Visa, there are no guarantees of acceptance. Therefore, applicants should plan accordingly and allow ample time for preparation and processing. This resource provides more information on the application form and requirements.
So, what exactly are Residency Visas and why do you need one to stay or live in Portugal for more than one year?
If you want to stay in Portugal for more than one year, you will need to apply for a Residence Visa. Some people make the mistake of traveling to Portugal as a tourist from the U.S. or Canada, fall in love with the country, and think they can simply apply in Portugal to stay as a resident. This is not true. The Visa application process for Portugal begins in your home country and in many cases, you must appear in person when you apply.
Residence Visas can be known by different names which can make it confusing when looking for the correct Visa to apply for. In the United States, a residence Visa for a foreign country falls under the category of “Type 1 Visas” while in Portugal and other countries, residence Visas are known as “D” Visas, with the D7 Visa being the most common for U.S. citizens seeking a residency in Portugal for more than one year.
What are the different types of “D” Visas?
The most common “D” Visas are:
D2 – Entrepreneur or Business Visa – for entrepreneurs who wish to bring a business to or start a business in Portugal. This Visa is for skilled entrepreneurs who can among other requirements, provide a solid business plan and the financial support for the business.
D3 – Highly qualified professionals Visa is a Visa for specialized technical skilled workers. Some types of positions might include directors and C-Suite executives, information technology professionals, science and research professionals, education professors, health professionals, and experienced legal professionals. Applicants will need to prove they have an employment contract or other proof of employment in a highly qualified professional capacity.
D4 – Student Visa is for individuals who are studying in higher education institutions in Portugal for one year or longer.
D6 – Family reunification Visa is for the family of a Portuguese citizen that has a residence permit to allow his/her family to reside with them in Portugal.
D7 – Retiree, financially independent, passive/recurring income Visa is by far the most popular Visa and the one that my husband and I applied for. This is ideal for retirees or the financially independent, the self-employed, or the remote worker employed by a company outside of Portugal. Portugal wants the revenue you’ll spend in their country as a resident but doesn’t want to financially support you in the process. So, you’ll have to prove among other things, that you have an annual recurring income in a certain required amount, and that you won’t need a job when you move to Portugal. This is also an attractive Visa because you may be able to apply and receive Portugal’s Non-Habitual Resident Tax Regime (NHR) which allows tax breaks for ten years under this Visa.
D8 - Digital Nomad Visa. In 2022, Portugal introduced a new type of Visa aimed at attracting remote workers (also known as Digital Nomads). These are workers who work online and are not required to be in a physical office. Many employers provide employment contracts in the worker’s home country allowing those workers to work remotely from anywhere in the world.
Investor’s Golden Visa is a Visa for individuals who wish to become residents by investment – either monetarily, by real estate investment or rehabbing a property (only in certain areas of the country), or by creating a minimum of 10 jobs in Portugal (hiring Portuguese employees). It is a faster, but more expensive way to become a Portuguese resident and potentially citizenship. Note that this type of Visa has had modifications since its inception and the Portuguese government continues to make modifications and restrictions. Always do your due diligence before pursing this type of Visa.
Can I apply for a Visa on my own or do I have to hire someone?
For most “D” Visa types, it is possible to gather the paperwork, documentation and apply without using professional help. The exception would be the Golden Visa where it’s advisable to have professional legal and real estate advice.
When we decided to apply for D7 Visas, we did a lot of the work ourselves (after many painful hours of researching the requirements, encountering frustrations, and conflicting information during COVID-19), but we ultimately hired an immigration attorney, a Portuguese accountant, and a relocation service to help us with some of the more complex details. This was a personal choice. I know of many Americans who have managed the process completely on their own.
When I become a resident in Portugal, does that mean that I must give up my U.S. citizenship?
If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I’d be a wealthy woman! Residency and citizenship are two different things. Becoming a resident of a foreign country does not mean you give up your U.S. citizenship. And under most Residency Visas (except for the Golden Visa), you are not eligible to become a Portuguese citizen until you have been a resident for five years and you must pass a Portuguese language proficiency test.
How do I start the residency Visa process?
As mentioned above, you start the process in the United States. Once your Visa is approved, you complete your application in Portugal. There are specific timeframes and documentation required for each step. To learn more about the process and documentation needed for Visa applications, check out my article here.
Here are some resources for further reading about travel and Visas in Portugal.
Until next time…