Acquiring permission to remain in Portugal for an extended period, in the form of a Portugal visa and subsequent residence permit, is a rather straightforward process, but requires significantly more bureaucratic hoops depending on whether you are a citizen of the European Union or not.
The visa application process for non-EU citizens is cumbersome and can take considerable time. Most applicants will opt for a Type 1 Resident Visa, which can only be acquired in one’s home country. The application must be submitted within three months of the date you are moving to Portugal. Once in-country, you have six months to apply for a Resident Permit.
The process begins with an application for a Schengen Visa online or in person at a Portuguese consulate. You will need passport-sized photos taken within the previous six months and, once the application has been made, you will be required to make an appointment at a consulate where they will want to see all the documentation mentioned below and will take your fingerprints. To be safe, have several copies of everything mentioned below. You will need them at various points in the process, including when you land in Portugal.
Once you have the visa affixed to your passport, you’re good to. It is valid for six months and allows you to re-enter Portugal twice during that period. When you get to Portugal, you will want to visit an office of the local Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) office to complete the process for a Titulo de Residencia (Resident Permit). Once you have that Resident Permit, you can get a NIF, or personal Número de Identificação Fiscal from the local tax office, which is required in order to open a bank account, buy a car, and conduct a host of other financial transactions.
Citizens of the EU (as well as national of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) who wish to remain in Portugal for more than three months must apply for a residence permit at the local town hall or an office of the SEF within 30 days of arriving in the country. The certificate is valid for five years. Documentation required includes an application form, a valid passport and two passport-sized color photographs, as well as proof of income and accommodation. The applications are available online at the SEF website.
Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme is intended to encourage investment and development in the country and allows well-off immigrants to fast-track the residency process by buying property worth half a million euros or more, investing 1 million euros in the country or by starting a local business that creates at least 10 jobs.
The scheme was launched in 2012. Applicants need only stay in the country 7 days during the first year and 14 days in subsequent two-year periods, and family members are allowed to tag along. The initial permit is valid for five years, after which applicants can apply for permanent residence. After six years they can apply for full Portuguese citizenship.
The application process is described in detail on the SEF website.