Home Moving to Portugal Visas & Immigration Portugal immigration policy for EU/EFTA citizens and family members
Last update on July 13, 2020

Portuguese immigration policy puts no visa restrictions on EU/EFTA citizens and their family members, although Portugal immigration rules require that they officially register after three months.

If you are moving to Portugal from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, or traveling there for a limited period of time, you have the right to live in Portugal without restrictions – although there are some guidelines you have to follow according to Portuguese immigration policy. There are no barriers to European citizens claiming residency in Portugal due to EU freedom of movement and citizenship laws, which also extend to certain family members, even if they are not from the EU themselves.

This guide explains Portuguese immigration policy for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Portugal. It describes the different Portuguese immigration rules depending on whether you will stay for more or less than 90 days, whether to work, study or retire in Portugal. It also explains the conditions for EU citizens to acquire permanent Portuguese residency or citizenship.

Portuguese immigration policy for EU citizens

Portugal is an EU member state. That means that citizens of all 28 EU member states plus those of EFTA nations (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein) can travel to Portugal and enter without a visa with the intention to live or work. EU/EFTA citizens entering Portugal are not subject to any restrictions as long as they don’t have any outstanding criminal convictions.

Portugal is also a Schengen area country and allows passport-free movement across its borders to other Schengen nations. If you’re from a Schengen country, you only need to present a valid identification document to enter Portugal.

Schengen member states are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

EU countries that aren’t Schengen member states – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the UK – can also enter without a visa. However, they need a passport that is valid for at least six months.

The situation for UK citizens may change following the UK’s exit from the EU in the coming years; until then, however, UK citizens can enter and remain in Portugal without a visa.

EU/EFTA citizens living in Portugal for less than 90 days don’t need to register with any Portuguese authority.

Relatives and partners of EU citizens in Portugal

Non-EU family members of EU/EFTA citizens in Portugal – including spouses, legally registered partners, dependent children or dependent parents/grandparents – can also move to Portugal under the same rights to live, work, receive education and access social security benefits as their European relative in Portugal.

Family members from non-EU/EFTA countries must apply for a residence card for third-country nationals from the SEF if staying for longer than three months, and a permanent residence card after five years.

Portuguese immigration policy for longer than 90 days

If you are an EU/EFTA citizen in Portugal for more than 90 days, you need a registration certificate from your local city council to formalize your residence. Each member of your family will need to be registered. You will also typically need to sign up for social security in Portugal.

The registration certificate is valid for five years. Once you have been in Portugal for 90 days, you have 30 days to apply for your registration certificate. The cost is around €15.

Portugal immigration rules

To apply for the registration certificate, you will need:

  • a valid passport/travel ID
  • written confirmation of employment or self-employment, or that you have sufficient funds for you and your family to stay in Portugal
  • proof of health insurance in Portugal (if the same applies to Portuguese citizens in your country of origin).

Permanent Portuguese residence for EU citizens

After five years of uninterrupted legal residence in Portugal, EU/EFTA citizens can apply for a certificate of permanent residence to formalize long-term residency in Portugal. The permanent residence certificate doesn’t affect your EU rights in Portugal and is more of a formality.

You can apply for permanent residence as an EU/EFTA citizen in Portugal at your local branch of the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF). A list of local branches is available here. This needs to be done by appointment at any time before your Portuguese registration certificate expires. Information on scheduling an appointment with the SEF is available here, or you can make an appointment online.

While Portuguese permanent residency permits enable unlimited residence for EU/EFTA citizens, they are only valid for limited periods of time but can be continually renewed. You must check the expiry date on your permit; make sure you apply for a renewed permit at the SEF with due time.

To apply for Portuguese permanent residence as an EU/EFTA national, you will need documents such as:

  • a valid registration certificate as proof of uninterrupted legal residence for five years
  • valid passport/travel ID
  • two passport photographs
  • proof of address.

An electronic copy of the application form for permanent residence (in Portuguese) can be found here.

Portuguese immigration rules for working EU citizens

EU regulations on free movement of workers entitles EU/EFTA citizens in Portugal to:

  • look for a job in Portugal
  • work in Portugal without needing a work permit or visa
  • reside in Portugal for work purposes
  • stay in Portugal after employment has finished
  • enjoy equal treatment with Portuguese nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social security and tax benefits, such as unemployment benefits.

As EU/EFTA citizens working in Portugal have the same rights as Portuguese nationals, jobseekers cannot be expelled if they prove they are looking for employment and have a chance of finding a job.

For information on working in Portugal as a non-EU/EFTA citizen, you can also read our guide to Portuguese work visas and permits.

Portuguese immigration rules for EU students

Citizens from EU/EFTA countries can freely move to Portugal to study or to look for a place of study. EU/EFTA citizens studying in Portugal longer than three months, however, will also need to apply for a registration certificate.

You will need to show proof of study placement at an officially recognized school, college or university. You also must demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and your family or show how you intend to provide support during your studies.

Students from EU/EFTA countries are allowed to work in Portugal during their studies without a work permit. Following the completion of studies, European students have the same rights to live and work in Portugal as locals.

Read more in our guide to studying in Portugal.

Portuguese immigration rules for EU retirees

European citizens can retire in Portugal provided they prove they have sufficient funds. You can also claim a state pension in Portugal as an EU/EFTA national if you are 66 or above and have made at least 15 years of contributions towards your state pension in any EU/EFTA country. You can also read our guides to retiring in Portugal and claiming a Portuguese pension.

EU rights under Portuguese immigration law

EU/EFTA citizens in Portugal are entitled to the following rights under Portuguese immigration law:

  • Family expenses related to children and young people
  • Maternity, paternity and adoption benefits
  • Healthcare
  • Long-term care
  • Sickness benefits
  • Disability pension
  • Social Integration income
  • Unemployment benefit

For more information on when you are eligible, what you are entitled to and how to go about making a claim as an EU/EFTA citizen in Portugal, see here.

Getting Portuguese citizenship 

EU/EFTA citizens who want to become fully naturalized Portuguese citizens can apply after six years of residence as long as they have sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language and haven’t been sentenced to jail for a period of three years or more.

Becoming a Portuguese citizen means you get a passport, can vote or stand in elections, and cannot be deported. However, if you don’t want to give up your original nationality, check if your home country permits dual citizenship.

See our guide to getting citizenship in Portugal for more information.

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