When you are starting a new life in Portugal, you will need to spend some time navigating the legal aspects of this. The best way to do this is to retain the services of a bilingual, independent solicitor.

We recommend utilising an independent solicitor when purchasing your Portuguese property, and it’s a good idea to keep working with one as you begin your new life in Portugal. Your solicitor will be able to assist you with residency and any taxes you do not understand.

Residency in Portugal

If you are an EU citizen, you are free to live and work in any EU country, but if you intend to stay in Portugal more than six months, you must register this with the local town hall (camara) within one month of your 90th day in Portugal.

If you intend to stay in Portugal more than six months, you must register this with the local town hall (camara) within one month of your 90th day in Portugal.

The document that you need to obtain is often referred to as “residencia,” but the correct name for this is the “Certificado de registo de cidadao da uniao Europeia”. This is usually issued for an initial five years and if you are still resident after this time, you can apply for permanent residency.

According to the official instructions, you must visit the camara with just your passport and be prepared to sign and declare that you either have work in Portugal or are self-employed or that you have sufficient funds to support you and your family, along with valid medical insurance.

This documentation is invariably sufficient, but in some cases, new residents have been asked for other documents as wide-ranging as bank statements, translated employment contracts and social security declarations, so It’s best to take a huge folder of all-imaginable paperwork!

Although many document agencies offer to assist with the residency process, it is usually best to try to obtain the documents yourself, at least initially. If nothing else, it is valuable practice for living in a country fond of bureaucracy! The majority of people have residency documents issued with minimal hassle, especially if they fit the typical profile of retiring expats. The time for document agencies may come if you happen across one of the more “complicated” town halls.


When becoming resident in Portugal, you may be required to provide more documentation than you expect.

Golden Resident Programme

It is also important to note the fairly recent “Golden Resident Permit” programme. This allows individuals with significant funds to invest, and those who plan to create employment, to effectively “fast-track” their residency. This scheme may prove useful to non-EU nationals who plan to buy high-end property in Portugal (with a value over €500,000).

The Police in Portugal

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a certain understanding of the police and legal system in Portugal. The country is known to be relatively safe, with a low crime rate.

One of the most common crimes the police are particularly vigilant about is speeding and ensuring all cars and drivers meet the correct standards. This can mean that law-abiding expats in Portugal do have more dealings with the police than they would have had in the UK!

Portugal is known to be relatively safe, with a low crime rate.

Quite often, the Portuguese police will set up camp on a roundabout, and pull over a large number of cars. Cynics would say that this is all about revenue generation, so it’s important to ensure you have the correct documentation on you, and that your vehicles are legal. Fines can be significant and are rigorously enforced. One specific area to be wary of is continuing to drive a UK registered car that should have been matriculated.

Expats interacting with police in Portugal would be wise to remember that the attitude towards authority in the country is culturally very different to that in the UK. Authority figures, including police officers, expect respect, and can make life very awkward for those failing to provide it. It’s sensible to at least attempt to communicate in Portuguese as some officers may refuse to speak English, even if they are capable of doing so.

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