Living your retirement in Portugal: how to obtain a residence permit

Have you ever wondered why many retirees consider Portugal as one of the best places to live? Does the answer seem obvious to you? Good weather, nice food, safety, quality of life. Get familiar with the procedure to obtain a residence permit for you and your family.



It is true that these factors are relevant, but after the initial charm, many retirees bump into evident bureaucracy in the process of obtaining their residence visa.

This may happen because of a lack of knowledge of Portugal’s immigration laws, because of uncertainties whether one’s profile meets the necessary requirements, or still, because one knows little about the country itself.

It goes without saying that the application for a residence permit for retirees requires both knowledge and preparation. It is essential to make sure that you meet the requirements that are put forward by local legislation.

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The residence visa for retirees is provided for in the Portuguese Aliens Act, which allows its holder to enter Portuguese territory and apply for a residence permit. This visa is valid for 4 months.

The residence visa for retirees must always be requested at the Portuguese Consulate in your country of origin or residence, given that, with the correct visa, you will be able to apply for a residence permit.

The average term to obtain a residence visa for retirees varies from 30 to 60 days.



During the visa procedure at the Consulate, you may be called for an interview to detail both your goals and means of subsistence in Portugal.

Normally, it is expected that you prove your means of subsistence for a period not inferior to 12 months. There has been some discussion on this topic, specifically on whether the money you will use should be in a Portuguese bank account or not.

There is no legal obligation to have these means in Portugal, but obviously, when you make your income or means of subsistence available in Portugal, your guarantee that you will have enough means of living for your family becomes more convincing.

Thus, in addition to demonstrating your interest in the country and your goals, it is appropriate to provide reliable evidence that you have means of subsistence.

Portuguese legislation considers subsistence sources to be stable and regular as long as they are sufficient for the essential needs of the retiree and, if this is the case, of his/her husband/wife and minor children. These essential needs refer to food, shelter, health care and hygiene.

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In addition to the need to prove your means of subsistence, you must also present:

  • an application form
  • a valid passport
  • two identical, recent pictures
  • a valid travel insurance
  • a requirement for a Portuguese criminal record query
  • a criminal record certificate from the country of origin or the country in which you have been a resident for over one year
  • accommodation conditions, referring to the place in Portugal where you will reside
  • proof of your amount of retirement income
  • a declaration of income tax
  • proof that you have an income that guarantees your subsistence in Portugal



After the phase of documents analysis at the Consulate and having been granted your visa, the Consulate will issue the visa in your passport, allowing for your regular entry into Portugal.

If you already find yourself in Portuguese territory, you should arrange an appointment with the Foreigners and Borders Service – SEF to start your application for a residence permit.



The application for your residence permit can only be made in Portuguese territory. At this stage, you must prove that you meet the following requirements:

  • valid residence visa (issued by the Consulate)
  • your presence in Portuguese territory
  • sufficient means of subsistence
  • registration at the Portuguese Social Security, whenever applicable
  • the inexistence of any fact which, should it come to the knowledge of the competent authorities, could prevent the permit from being granted
  • the inexistence of condemnation for a crime which in Portugal is punishable by deprivation of freedom for more than one year
  • the inexistence of a period of interdiction of entry in Portuguese territory, following a removal measure from the country
  • the inexistence of any indication in the Schengen system
  • the inexistence of any indication in the integrated information system of SEF

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On the same day that you schedule to file the application for your residence permit, you may also request an appointment for your family members – spouse or minor children.

Please take into account that your family can enter Portuguese territory on a tourist visa, if they are natives of one of the countries exempted from entry visa in Portugal.

The application for a residence permit for family members is provided for in legislation by means of family reunification.



Portuguese law provides that a retiree with a valid residence permit is entitled to family reunification with the family members that depend on him/her or that live with him/her.

In order to apply for the right to family reunification, you must meet the following conditions:

  • accommodation (housing)
  • means of subsistence
  • documents attesting the existence of family bonds
  • authenticated copies of travel documents of family members

If your family members are unaccompanied, you can apply for family reunification at SEF, even before your relatives enter Portuguese territory.

[Note of 19/5/2017: the exchange of a foreign driver’s license for a Portuguese one, without the need for any proof of driving test, must be requested within 90 days after obtaining the residence permit in National Territory. Decree Law nº 40/2016 of July 29th]

(Vanessa C. Bueno)

[*Images: Pixabay]