Why Portugal is the Easiest Country in Europe to Move to for Americans

Modern Cities of Portugal

Why Portugal is the Easiest Country in Europe to Move to for Americans – When entertaining the idea of moving to another country, Americans often consider numerous factors such as safety, affordability, ease of transition, personal finance, and, of course, work opportunities. 

Portugal is one of the most attractive countries that fits this description, offering a low crime rate, a friendly local population, affordable & quality healthcare and education, delicious cuisine, the potential to enjoy tax exemptions, and lots more. Portugal is also ranked the 3rd safest country in the world, and the 6th in the global ranking of the most peaceful countries. It’s no wonder Expat Insider ranked the country as the 5th best destination for expats in their 2021 study. 

In this guide, we will share with you the amazing reasons Portugal is the easiest European country to move to for every American.

Beautiful Architecture of Portugal

Plenty of Visa Opportunities and an Easily Attainable Permanent Residency 

Expats can choose from numerous visa routes leading to permanent residency. The most popular selection has been the D7 passive income visa, though many people are already applying for the Digital Nomad visa that started in October 2022. 

To qualify for the D7 visa, you only need to earn a minimum of €800 per month from incomes earned abroad, such as rental interest, dividends, pensions, or intellectual property. Once you have the visa and have moved to Portugal, you can maintain temporary residency for a maximum of 5 years. To maintain residency, you must reside in the country continuously for a minimum of 183 days per year. At the end of the 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency or citizenship. Portugal also allows dual nationality, meaning that you won’t need to give up your US passport!

You may also try other visa routes, including: 

  • The Portugal HQA (Highly Qualified Activity) Visa is also another investment route and requires setting up a business in Portugal and making an investment in high-value research and development activities at any Portuguese university. The minimum investment requirement is €175,000, and of course, there is a chance to build a thriving business in Portugal. Maintaining residency is also easy – all you need to do is reside in the country for only 7-14 days a year.
  • The Portugal remote work visa is also another excellent route. This visa requires a minimum monthly income of €2,820. It is also commonly known as the Digital Nomad visa.
  • The Portugal D2 visa (Entrepreneurs Visa) is equally a great option. However, there is no minimum amount of capital required. You only require a strong business plan and must justify the relevance of your business and the potential benefit to the local economy. 
  • Finally, you can always try the short-stay student visa or the traditional work visa (D1 visa), which must be sponsored by your employer with a presence in Portugal.
Public Transport in Portugal

Portugal Has One of The Fastest Paths to Citizenship Anywhere

You will have the option of obtaining citizenship or permanent residence at the end of your five-year stay if applicable visa options are used, namely the D1, D2, D7, and HQA visas. 

Portugal allows for dual citizenship, meaning you can continue to keep your US passport. One of the core benefits of the Portuguese passport or citizenship is that you will now have full freedom of movement throughout the EU countries to travel, live freely, work without restriction, study at EU-level tuition rates, and retire anywhere you like in Europe. The Portuguese passport is also presently the 13th strongest passport in the world, with visa-free travel to over 187 countries, compared to the US at the 17th position. So this means that holding a Portuguese passport and citizenship opens the doors to more exciting adventures in Europe and across the globe. 

Serene Harbors of Portugal

Cultural Integration is Relatively Easy 

Most people visit a country for its attractive destinations and experiences, and Portugal never disappoints. It’s one country where everyone—retirees, families, or young professionals—can find a place or activity that they love. From swimming in the Atlantic Ocean to hiking the mountainous regions, visiting castles, monasteries, and fortresses, to surfing, fishing, and diving, there’s an activity for everyone. City life in Portugal brings to you an explosion of a variety of lifestyles offering co-working spaces, cultural activities, businesses, bars, restaurants, and clubs. For a quieter life, aim for bucolic Central Portugal, where you’ll find a much more slow-paced and relaxed way of life. Portugal has a vibrant nightlife and is known for its wine culture, especially in Portugal’s northern Douro region–responsible for most of the country’s wine exports. 

That said, you may have concerns about picking up the language or getting used to the culture. Of course, we recommend learning the Portuguese language, before and during your stay there, but with a few words of Portuguese and English, you can generally get by in its biggest cities as most people there now speak English. You may still have to brush up on your Portuguese as it comes in handy when dealing with government offices and spending time in rural areas. 

Coastal Villages of Portugal

Mild Climate with Up to 300 Sunny Days Per Year

Portugal is known for its astonishingly pleasant weather, with as many as 300 sunny days a year. Still, this does not in any way mean that the climate here is homogenous. In truth, it varies greatly, sometimes in just a tiny area. For instance, the Costa de Prata (Silver Coast) averages about 30oC (86oF) in the summer, while the Algarve is likely about 40oC (104oF) at the same time. 

Generally, the south is more sunny and arid and averages 18oC (64oF), the northeast is characterized by warm and long summers, and the northwest is rainy. The warmest month in Portugal is August and the winters are mild, with temperatures ranging from +4 oC (39.2 oF) to +10 oC (50 oF). July, August, and September are the sunniest months around the country, while December, and January have the coldest temperatures, especially in central and northern regions.

Thriving Cities of Portugal

Thriving Digital Nomad Hubs and Expat Communities

In Portugal, you will find the biggest expat communities in its largest cities such as Porto and Lisbon, and some smaller cities such as Lagos and Tavira. These areas offer the advantages of living in a big city, such as public transport accessibility, developed infrastructure, nightlife, and a much faster pace. That said, you should equally bear in mind that even Lisbon, the largest city at around 2.8 million, is Europe’s 15th largest metropolis and compares to American metro areas like Baltimore or St. Louis. Hence, if you are looking for city life with a significant crowd, Lisbon is a fantastic choice. Within striking distance of the capital, towns such as Costa da Caparica, Ericeira, and Sintra also have fast-growing expat communities. 

You may also like the island group of Madeira, which is a less than 2-hour flight from mainland Portugal and was regarded as one of 2022’s hottest digital nomad destinations by WIRED, especially since it launched its Digital Nomad Village project in 2021. Overall, expat hotspots boast co-working spaces, tech conferences, meet-ups, and fast internet speed—everything you need, especially if you work remotely and would love to meet other expats like yourself. 

Dynamic Cities of Portugal

Favorable Tax Regime and Benefits For Expats

The tax regime in Portugal is one of the core reasons why it is the easiest country in Europe for Americans to move to. A good example is the Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) Tax Program, which you can obtain with your temporary and permanent residence permits in the country. When you apply for Portugal’s NHR scheme, it gives you preferential tax treatment for up to 10 years as long as you haven’t been taxed as a Portuguese tax resident during the preceding five years. The scheme offers tons of benefits, such as exempting you from paying Portuguese taxes on income earned in another country for up to 10 years. This non-Portuguese sourced income does not end with salary, but can be foreign dividends, capital gains on property, or real estate income. In some eligible professions, you may also enjoy a flat rate of 20% tax on your local Portuguese-sourced income. These professionals include executives, programmers, engineers, entertainers, and artists. If you are a pensioner and have applied for NHR status, and can prove you receive a pension from another country, you may pay only 10% instead of the prevailing Portuguese income tax rates of up to 48%. 

That said, as an American citizen, you would still be obligated to file taxes with the IRS no matter where you reside. With the US-Portugal Tax Treaty, you can avoid double taxation on certain types of income for up to 10 years. What’s more, you may also be eligible for benefits from the IRS designed for those who live overseas, such as the foreign-earned income exclusion (FEIE) and foreign tax credits. Do bear in mind that your tax situation is entirely different from the next person’s. Hence, we recommend working with an accountant or immigration lawyer that understands both American and Portuguese tax rules. 

Beautiful Cityscapes of Portugal

Portugal Offers You More Value For Your Money

Portugal may not be the cheapest country in the world, but, on average, it is about 30% more affordable than neighboring Spain and 36% lower than the US. So you’ll find that whether you are buying coffee, enjoying fresh local produce from the farmer’s market, or taking a train trip, your budget will be noticeably lower, going as low as €2,020 monthly (without rent) for a family of four to live comfortably. Rent is also on average 52% lower than in the US. You will find rental apartments ranging from as low as €400 in the villages to €1,500 in city centers. 

Overall, the more you go outside the large cities, the more money you save. The most expensive districts are Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Beja, and Setubal. In contrast, the cheapest districts are Santarem, Castelo Branco, Portalegre, Guarda, and Vila Real. That said, it’s a good rule of thumb to rent before you consider buying property so you can experience the region first-hand to see if it’s the right choice for you. Allowing yourself at least one year of rental experience before purchasing a property is an excellent way to ensure you make the best decision. Remember that you will have to choose between furnished and unfurnished rentals. Furnished apartamentos mobilados, or rental homes, come with essential furniture like kitchen appliances, dressers, couches, and beds. Unfurnished apartments may also have a functional kitchen, with an oven, stove, and cupboards, alongside a functional bathroom, but you’ll need to buy all your furniture. 

Beautiful Weather of Portugal

Make Your Transition to Portugal Easy 

From the visa process to high-quality healthcare and ease of settling in, Portugal is one of the easiest countries in Europe to move to and checks a lot of boxes for American expats. That said, taking the step to move to any country demands a careful assessment of your needs and desires. You will need to consider a lot of moving parts, such as selecting the right rental apartment or property investments, choosing the best visa option for your unique situation, especially if you are considering permanent residency or citizenship, and, of course, exploring all work opportunities with an eye toward the future. 

Expat Empire offers Consulting Services such as our 1-on-1 coaching to provide holistic guidance on everything from finding the right immigration lawyers and tax accountants to building a comprehensive roadmap for your actual move. Our Countries Tool helps you leverage the advantage of data to compare different destinations to ensure you are making the best choice from the start. Likewise, our Timeline Planning service will help you easily understand everything that needs to be done before, during, and after your move.

As the founder of Expat Empire, David McNeill is focused on inspiring people to move abroad and showing them how to do it. David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. He left the United States in 2014 and has since lived in Tokyo, Berlin, and Porto.