All eyes are turning to Portugal
Portugal is fast becoming one of the most looked at countries as a retirement option. People who have made the move usually cite three reasons for their choice; the weather, the low cost of living and the Portuguese people.
Most of Portugal enjoys a mild climate with hot dry summers and abundant rain in the fall and winter. Palm trees, bougainvillea, olive trees and grape vines grow everywhere. The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, has long been popular with Northern Europeans because of its hot sunny weather and beaches.
Eating out in Portugal is incredibly cheap compared to the US and most other European countries. Outside of Lisbon, which has become more expensive in recent years, you can get a hearty meal with wine for under 10 Euros, or less than $11.50. Also, tips are not usually expected.
On top of these advantages, the Portuguese people are very open toward visitors. On my first trip to Portugal in 2011, I was so impressed by the welcoming attitude of the people I met everywhere that I decided to look into the possibility of retiring here.
Dual passport advantages
Use your ancestors. I had a big advantage over many Americans who have the same dream. My maternal grandparents were born in Ireland. Through that connection I was able to obtain an Irish passport. Ireland and Portugal are both part of the European Union (EU). In Portugal, people who hold EU passports do not have to obtain a visa to apply for residency.
Research, research, research
I spent several years dreaming about retiring and moving to Portugal. But living in a country is very different to being there on a vacation. Before I retired in mid-2018, I decided to spend an extended period in Portugal to see if my goal was realistic. I researched every website I could find. I looked at the cost of living, housing etc. However, what proved most useful was working as a volunteer. I found volunteer work opportunities through Workaway.com.
Contacts are invaluable
I had a wonderful time working with horses as a Workawayer. It gave me the chance to make contacts with expats who had been living in Portugal for several years. I got to know part of the Alentejo area south of Lisbon and an area near Tomar in Central Portugal. One of my hosts helped me get a NIF or Numero de Identificação Fiscal. This is similar to a Social Security Number in the US. She also helped me open a bank account. This was easier for me because of my Irish passport.
The NIF is needed in Portugal for all kinds of things like getting phone service and opening a bank account. My Workaway hosts also helped me find Realtors who aided me in my search for a home. I eventually worked through Chavetejo in Tomar to buy my house in Central Portugal
US PASSPORT HOLDERS NEED VISAS: US citizens can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. As non-EU citizens, however, US passport holders who want to move to Portugal must obtain additional documents. For longer stays they must obtain a visa. The application process involves multiple steps. A number of documents are required.
PATIENCE IS A MUST: Once in Portugal, Americans will need to visit an office of the Serviçio de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) for additional visa services. Americans I have met since I moved here say it can be difficult to make an appointment with the SEF. They say they have to phone repeatedly to get through to an SEF office. Often they are told they must wait months to get an appointment.