How To Successfully Retire in Portugal
All you need to know about the Portuguese Retirement Visa Process as well as a step-by-step guide.
Portugal is becoming a top destination amongst retirees, and for good reasons. Retirees can benefit from the low cost of living, high-quality health system, the NHR tax regime, and much more. The process to retire to Portugal might seem tedious if you don’t know what to do. We will walk you through an in-depth guide to ensure that you can retire to Portugal and enjoy everything it has to offer.
In This Post We Will Discuss The Following:
An introduction to retiring in Portugal
How to retire in Portugal?
What About US Citizens?
Who Can Apply For The Retirement Visa?
What Are The Documents Required For A Retirement Visa
How To Apply For Your Retirement Visa - A Quick Step-By-Step Guide
How Does The Portugal Health Care System Work?
How Does Portugal Retirement And Pension work?
What Does The Portugal Retirement Tax Entail?
What Are The Inheritance Implications In Portugal?
What Is Life in Portugal Like
Finally, we'll look at some FAQs
If you need any other information on the types of Visas available for Portugal, or even how to get an appointment for your Portuguese visa application, you can consult our Definitive Guide On Portugal’s Visas Application And Appointment Process.
An Introduction To Retiring In Portugal
Portugal is a top destination for retirees. It offers sunny beaches, charming architecture, and incredible coastlines. In 2009 Portugal’s tax regime changed, making it more attractive for foreigners seeking to relocate. Retirees may be eligible to receive up to 10 years of tax benefits, making it a worthwhile retirement destination while extending their retirement savings. According to CNN and Forbes, Portugal is the best place to retire in the world. Younger people are also making Portugal their new home, thanks to the innovative new Digital Nomad Visa that caters to a remote working existence.
How To Retire In Portugal?
The Portuguese Golden Visa Program
The Golden Visa Program is a popular option, but it requires some capital catering to wealthier retirees. There is a minimum investment required to qualify for the Golden visa. Investment categories include the transfer of capital, company formation, donations, real estate, etc.
It offers many benefits, and the minimum stay requirements are not as strict as the Retirement visa (below). After 5 years, applicants can apply for a permanent residency which can lead to citizenship. It is currently one of the most popular programs in all of Europe and stands out above similar programs from other European countries like Spain and Greece.
For more information on the Portugal Golden Visa Program, you can visit our dedicated guide How To Obtain A Portuguese Golden Visa and we’ll take you through the entire process, step by step.
The Portuguese Retirement Visa
The Retirement visa is a temporary residency visa for non-EU citizens who wish to live in Portugal. The process is straightforward, it has few requirements, anyone can apply, and it is relatively cheap, making it an attractive option for most applicants. Also, the Retirement visa offers many benefits and can be converted to a permanent residency, eventually leading to citizenship. Because of Brexit, this visa is now also available to citizens of the United Kingdom.
Take note that the Retirement visa is only a temporary visa used to obtain permanent residence in Portugal. Once in Portugal, you need to apply at SEF to start the application process for your residence permit.
In this article, we will be focusing on everything you need to know about the Retirement Visa.
What About US Citizens?
For US citizens, the application is relatively easy. A 120-day stay visa is the most common option, it requires applicants to provide proof of income. Note that applicants should have a passive income of at least $1070 per month available throughout their stay. If you wish to extend your visa, Portugal allows you to apply for a 1-year residence permit. Renewable twice for another two years. After 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency status.
Who Can Apply For The Retirement Visa
Anyone can apply for a Retirement visa, provided that they meet the minimum requirements and are eligible.
According to the Retirement residency law, non-European Union citizens who wish to relocate to Portugal need to apply for a retirement visa at their nearest Portuguese consular office, or Portuguese embassy located in their home country.
The Retirement visa is valid for 1 year and can be renewed twice for another 2 years. After a 5 year stay in Portugal, applicants can apply for a permanent residency permit and Portuguese citizenship, provided they still meet the requirements.
What Are The Visa Requirements for a Retirement Visa?
To ensure that your application is processed quickly, you need to obtain the following documents before you apply. We advise that you employ a specialist to help you acquire these documents.
Either way, these are the documents you’ll need:
A valid passport with a validity of at least 6 months.
2 Recent passport photos.
Obtain a Portugal national visa application from your nearest embassy or consulate.
Proof of income. You will need to prove that you can sustain yourself financially during your stay in Portugal. Means of proof include a bank account, savings, pension, financial investments, or other legitimate sources of income.
Proof of accommodation. You do not need to own or buy a property in Portugal. A rental agreement should suffice.
Health insurance. You must have comprehensive EU-wide health insurance. Take note that the medical cover must be paid for in advance (12 months).
A clean criminal record. You will need to complete a criminal background check.
Any additional documents required by the embassy or the SEF.
Ensure that all documents obtained are legalized and are either in English or Portuguese. If they are not, you should have them translated by a certified translator.
How to apply for your Retirement Visa - A Quick Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1 - Gather All Necessary Documents
Before you start, ensure that you have all the necessary documents. Be sure to make copies of all your documents, as you will need to submit them again when applying for your residence permit in Portugal (at SEF).
Step 2 - Contact The Embassy
Contact your nearest Embassy or Consulate to find out where you can obtain and submit the visa application form. Also, you need to make an appointment to submit your application.
Step 3 - Pay Your Application Fee
Pay your application fee at the Embassy or Consulate. The amount payable equals around €90.
Step 4 - Submit Your Documents
On the date of your appointment, submit all the required documents you have obtained. Once you have submitted your documents, wait for your application to be processed. The process might take longer if the documents are incorrect or not submitted.
Step 5 - Receive Your Retirement Visa
Successful applicants will receive a retirement visa. Your visa will be attached to your passport by Embassy/Consulate staff and can be used to travel to Portugal. Your Residency visa will only be valid for 4 months. You are expected to travel to Portugal within that time frame.
Step 6 - Schedule An Appointment With SEF
After you have arrived in Portugal, you will need to apply for your residency permit. Schedule an appointment with the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF). You are required to submit your supporting documents once more (check that you have up-to-date police clearance as it might have expired during the application process).
If this sounds too complicated you can consult our Guide To Permanent Residency In Portugal for other ways of obtaining permanent residency in Portugal.
How Does The Portugal Health Care System Work?
Retirees can expect a high healthcare standard in Portugal, making it a more attractive retirement destination.
The National Health Service in Portugal provides free health services to Portuguese citizens. Unfortunately, non-EU/US citizens do not share the same privileges. Non-EU/US citizens are required to live in Portugal for 5 years and obtain permanent residency before they are eligible for free health care services.
As mentioned earlier, you need to provide proof of health insurance before you can relocate to Portugal. Once you arrive in Portugal and have settled in, you can change to Portuguese private health insurance. The cost related to private health insurance in Portugal is relatively cheaper in comparison with health insurance in the US.
A Permanent Resident can take advantage of the health services in Portugal and they'll find them to be of high quality. The hospitals are modern and well equipped, and the health system covers basic health needs, accidents, and illnesses. Even more, many doctors in the public and private health sector speak and understand English.
Regarding costs, private insurance can be as low as €4 per month. Take note that these rates only apply to people who are younger than 55 years. These companies do not cater to people above the age of 55 years. Three companies sell insurance plans to retirees up to the age of 75. These are Fidelidade/Multicare, Tranquilidade and Millennium Bank/Médis.
How Does Portugal Retirement And Pension Work?
As of 2020, the retirement age in Portugal for men and women is 66 years and 5 months.
Non-EU/US citizens who wish to transfer their state pension to a Portuguese bank should check the terms and conditions of their country regarding pension transfers abroad. To make things easier for people migrating abroad, Portugal has tax and social security agreements with several non-EU nations (including the US).
Note that all residents of Portugal are taxed on their worldwide income, meaning your pension transferred from abroad could be liable to Portuguese tax. Although this might be the case, retirees can apply for NHR (Non-Habitual Resident, a program that offers expats reduced tax) to completely or significantly avoid taxation.
What Does The Portugal Retirement Tax Entail
In 2009, the Portuguese government implemented new tax laws, making Portugal a more attractive destination for foreign retirees. Non-EU/US citizens can now apply for the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) tax regime. The NHR regime allows substantial tax savings for those who qualify.
Benefits of NHR include:
Special personal income tax treatment over 10 years
Tax exemption from most foreign income sources
No wealth tax
Income generated in Portugal is taxed by a flat rate of 20%, unlike the 48% of normal Portuguese income tax
No wealth tax or inheritance tax for the direct family members
Only a 10% tax rate on foreign pension income
The NHR status is available to anybody who has not been a tax resident for the past 5 years. If you stay in Portugal for more than 183 days in a tax year, you are considered a tax resident. Once your application for NHR is successful, your NHR status is valid for 10 years.
NHR status is available for 10 years. However, anyone who has been a tax resident of Portugal within the last five years is ineligible for NHR status.
What Are The Inheritance Implications In Portugal?
Under the Portuguese Civic Code, the Portuguese inheritance law states that any inheritance process should be governed by the home country of the deceased. Implying that, unless otherwise stated in a will, the deceased estate will be managed and taxed under the inheritance law of their home country.
Take note that Portugal uses a forced heir system, meaning that if your estate falls under the Portuguese inheritance law, it will be divided amongst certain relatives, such as spouses and children. This is done regardless of what is stated in your will.
The Portuguese inheritance tax only applies to assets within Portugal and not assets held abroad. Legitimate heirs are exempted from paying inheritance tax in Portugal. Although, this does not apply to what is stated in the inheritance law of the deceased home country.
Portugal has no inheritance property tax. However, there is a stamp duty at a flat rate of 10%. Legitimate heirs are exempted from this payment. Additionally, there are some administration fees payable for the inheritance process.
We recommend that if you are planning to retire in Portugal, you have separate wills in both Portugal and your country of origin. Employ trustworthy professionals to help you put detailed and legally reviewed wills in place before relocating.
What Is Life In Portugal Like?
Life in Portugal is not as fast-paced as in other countries in the world. Residents enjoy a slow-paced lifestyle rather than rushing it, making it the perfect destination for retirees who wish to relax and enjoy everything Portugal has to offer.
Most people in Portugal are outgoing, friendly, and hospitable. It is in their nature to be helpful and kind so there is no need to fret when a stranger approaches you mid-way through your grocery shopping.
City transportation is reliable and cheap. Between busses and the metro system, hardly any part of major cities are unreachable. However, if you plan to live outside major cities, you might need a car.
Portugal offers a variety of entertainment. From movies and clubbing to golfing and hiking, Portugal has activities for all sorts of retirees to enjoy. Also, the crime rate is relatively low, making it one of the safest countries to live in.
This is just an outline of what life is like in Portugal and does not begin to cover all the extraordinary things you can do and experience.