Making a Move — My Steps to Portugal

Brian Huy Mac
7 min readDec 14, 2023

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Finally the fully comprehensive guide, you too can move to Portugal, just buy my course ;) Been awhile to get this together but have some time with the slow down for the holidays and winter weather. Please note if you are already an EU citizen disregard this whole post (you bastard) and just show up lol

2020 — Ericeira you pulled me in

To give a bit of history it’s something that’s been a long time in the making. Back in 2020 during COVID I ended my sabbatical early (Bali) and was back in Canada looking after my parents. During that period had a lot of time to reflect on the last few years and think about where I saw myself next. I took a more junior job but luckily it was fully remote so when the chance to go ride out COVID in Portugal came about in October I was on the first plane there. I had only been to Ericeira once years ago for a quick 5 day surf camp. All I knew really was there was surf and Portugal felt like a safer place to be (Europe vs South East Asia — Bali). Not to say there weren’t any restrictions but at least it was sunny + I could surf. I fell into a great group of people and after a few weeks I decided that this might be the place. I extended my visa beyond the 180 days in schengen us Canadians get, with the plans to apply for visa to move. But at last Canada had other plans. You see you have to apply from YOUR country and Canada at the time had airport quarantine for 2 weeks for like 5K, and the visa process takes time so the thought of waiting during winter wasn’t appealing.

Fast forward to continuing to kick the can down the road with remote work life, I finally ended up back in Norway in 2022 working on a new startup. I desperately wanted to set down some roots/base to have more energy and focus on building the life I want vs running around. After a year back in Norway, I really struggled not having a ocean/surf lifestyle, as well as finding a community. Every time I took mini trips back to Ericeira I just felt like myself. Connecting community (Friends who stayed / making it home), having the ocean/surf, and small village (chicken spot) life. (https://brianhuymac.medium.com/this-quarters-happiness-kpis-5970ee02f8ec)

So after a new year’s moment — with a reminder that it’s a HELL YES or NO! No time to waste with Maybes. Made the decision to go back to Ericeira, Portugal.

No stranger to relocating in other countries I began the process:

  • Visa / Residency
  • Finding a place to live
  • Arranging Work

Visa / Residency

So there’s a lot of great guides there about Portugal Visa’s and the application process — https://www.atlys.com/info/portugal I’ll just outline my situation. For me I was applying for the D7 visa which is for Digital Nomads or Passive Income aka the retirement visa. It’s a two stage process.

Stage 1: You apply for the visa from your HOME country at the Portuguese Embassy. Luckily for me I already had a work permit for Norway, so I could apply from the Embassy in Oslo. Once your application is approved you are then given a 4 month visa to travel to Portugal for Stage 2. Approval can take 1–4 months depending how busy your embassy is / your application is complete.

Stage 2: Once approved you have to head to Portugal for an appointment with SEF immigration (appointments can be like 1–2 months from approval date — they scheduled mine for me). There you do some biometrics, photo, and you are issued your temporary resident permit — it’s good for 1 year, which you can renew for 2 years x twice, total 5 years before you can apply for permanent residency. Takes like a month for the card to arrive.

Now there’s a long list of things you need to gather for your application (https://www.atlys.com/country/portugal/national-type-d-7-visa), the more complete = the less delay in processing (takes few months). One of the biggest things is needing a NIF + Portuguse bank account. I recommend https://bordr.com/ they are a US couple from NYC that had challenges doing everything to move, so started a business to help others. I already had my NIF and bank account from my previous stay in 2020, however you need a local tax representative for your NIF. In my case I transferred my NIF representation from the first lawyers I used to my new lawyers (ones used for my house purchase — More on this later).

https://legalsquare.eu/

Finding a place to live

Another challenge of the application is having an address in Portugal. Now I was kind of in a unique situation that 1) I already had friends living here to help me look / advice 2) Once I made the decision to move I also started looking potentially at the housing market to buy. The right opportunity came up of a dream surf home new project being built by https://surfliving.pt/ribeira-d-ilhas-villas /and was designed by these architects I had been following for years https://www.mimahousing.com/ 3) But since it was a new home being built I looked at renting an apartment until then, just happened good luck when doing papers on a visit I met Andre my new roommate who was also staying at my friends place and looking for an apartment. So for my application I was able to show my name on a rental contract and because I was already living in Norway (permit) / had NIF I could rent an apartment + stay in Portugal while my visa was being processed.

I’d suggest for most people to come to Portugal first on a tourist visa for 2–4 weeks and hunt for an apartment with a start date few months from when you apply. Make sure you have your NIF + bank account ready to go. There’s lots of Expat facebook groups per different towns/cities with apartments/rooms available for rent as well as most people use https://www.idealista.pt/ (especially for real estate).

Making goals come to life ❤

Arranging Work

Now everyone will be unique in this sense but I think essentially there are a few options:

  1. Freelancing where you become a contractor to the company you work for (Self Employed essentially), where you invoice them.
  2. Your company can hire you like a local Portuguese Employee via services like https://remote.com/ or https://www.deel.com
  3. You have a company in your home country where you invoice/bill etc. and pay yourself dividends to Portugal.

It’s pretty tough to find a Portuguese company to hire you without a visa/permit and sponsor that process, not impossible just tough from what I’ve seen.

There was a great tax scheme to attract people to Portugal called NHR (10 years benefits) but ends at the end of this year to apply, and after that not sure what the plan is?

Conclusion

The last 9 months since I’ve moved here have been amazing. I love this country, met amazing people, and really feel part of a growing community. It’s also a popular destination within Europe so I’ve had my fair share of visitors. Also, my family was here for 2 weeks exploring and they can see how much I am suffering ;)

The process is pretty straightforward, I did the application myself but there are services that manage it (ie. if you are moving with a family might be worth the help). It was a bit frustrating because I made mistakes on some stuff (remember to leave your min EURO funds in the account until after visa approved), and had to replace my passport (make sure no pages are ripped), that delayed the process. However, if you accept that things simply take time you will be on your way. Now this has been just my experience there’s lots of other blog articles but I encourage everyone to at least once live abroad as it really broadens your perspective and grows your resiliency starting in another country.

It’s not impossible just takes a bit of work.

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