There are a lot of reasons to get excited about when you're moving to Portugal, and a fair bit of admin to get through too. We've created this emigration checklist to help you manage the process of moving abroad, both before you leave the UK and once you've landed.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Once upon a time, most people lived and died within miles of where they were born. Fortunately, in the modern world, it’s easier than ever to ‘up sticks’ and purchase property in a different country. Buying property in Portugal is no different. However, while it’s easier than ever, there’s still plenty that needs doing before you hit the road.
First things first, study your bank and card statements to determine what bills you’ll need to continue and what payments you can say ‘Tchau’ (goodbye) to forever.
If you’re moving permanently and disposing of your UK property then you’ll undoubtedly have to cancel:
- Landline, broadband & TV
- TV License
- Council Tax
Keeping your property and renting it out? Assuming you’re working with a professional letting agent, ask their advice about the council tax and utilities. I guarantee they will have dealt with this situation a thousand times before. In addition to cancelling any bills you’ll no longer need, you’ll need to let HMRC know you’re leaving and moving to Portugal. Fortunately, you may only need to complete one form (the P85), submitted online or via the post.
If you’re retired or are close to retiring, you’ll also need to contact the International Pension Centre and post the relevant form to them. Sadly there isn’t yet an online option for this particular part of the process.
If you, or anyone who’s leaving permanently with you, receive state benefits then you’ll also need to get in touch with the DWP so they can make changes to those benefits.
Planning to take your pets with you? Fortunately moving to Portugal from the UK with your pet is a relatively painless experience if you get the preparation right. First off, you’ll need to ensure that every one of your furry children has a pet passport. Your local vet should be able to assist and advise you best on how to make sure they’re ready for the journey ahead. Note: If you haven’t already got one of these you need to start the process at least a month before you travel, any later and time constraints could mean you end up not being able to take your pet with you. You’ll also need to ensure your pet has a valid microchip implanted. It must get embedded after (or at the same time as) any rabies shots your pets need and it must be an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15 digit chip. Again, your local vet should be fully aware of the requirements and able to ensure everything goes off without a hitch!
If your pet is anything other than a dog, cat, or ferret, then the rules do differ slightly depending on what type of animal it is. You can find further information on more unusual or exotic pets here.
Finally, be sure to set aside time to pack. You’d be amazed how many treat packing as an afterthought and end up rushing through it at the last minute. Take the time to decide what to take, and what to throw out. Transporting your things to Portugal won’t be cheap, so why waste money taking unnecessary items? If you’re smart about it, you may even be able to make this clean-out to your advantage and raise valuable funds for the move. Places like eBay, Facebook ‘buy and sell’ groups, Gumtree, and even car boot sales are all ideal for offloading unwanted items.
So You’ve Arrived in Portugal
Thanks to the mantra of ‘Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!’ you will have arrived in Portugal without issue.
Fortunately with this guide walking you through the process of moving to Portugal, what to do upon arrival will be as issue free as getting there.
Getting Your Tax Number
They say there are only two certainties in life - death and taxes, and this is as true in Portugal as it is anywhere else.
Getting your tax number (your ‘Número de Identificação Fiscal’) should be the first thing you do upon arrival. Some of the things you won’t be able to do without one include:
- Open a bank account
- Close on any property
- Pay taxes
- Set up your utilities
- Obtain any credit
- Earn income or set up a business
Pretty much all the important stuff isn’t getting done without a tax number. Fortunately, it’s straightforward to get one as a UK citizen. Just pop into the local tax office with your passport, and they’ll provide you with one.
Note: If you’re opening joint accounts or putting more than one name on the deeds of any property you are buying in Portugal then ALL concerned parties will need a tax number of their own.
Assuming you’re moving to Portugal for more than three months, you’re going to need a residency permit (‘Autorização de Residência’ in Portuguese). This permit applies to everyone regardless of their reasons for being in the country.
Luckily, at the moment, it’s a straightforward process that can be done online or by visiting your local town hall.
It’s worth remembering that a residency permit’s only valid for five years. After that, you’ll need to apply for permanent residence through the immigration service.
Opening a Bank Account
Like all major European countries, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to banking in Portugal. You’re going to find familiar names and unfamiliar local banks alongside side each other.
With English expats so common in Portugal it’s likely that every bank will have English speaking customer service staff who’ll be able to assist you with opening an account.
As always when opening a bank account, there’ll be forms to be completed and documentation you’ll need to provide. It varies from bank to bank, but you’ll need to provide your:
- Passport (or ID card)
- Tax number
- Proof of address
Some banks will also want to see a residency card, but many will allow non-residents to open an account and some even allow the submission of an application from overseas.
Organising Your Utilities
One of the first tasks you’ll have to take care of upon arrival in Portugal is to organise your utilities. Existing without electric, gas and water in the modern world, would be challenging in the extreme.
The quality of the supply will vary by location, but unless you’re rural, it shouldn’t be too challenging getting the supplies you need.
Gas & Electric
Like most of Europe Portugal has an open market approach to gas and electric, so you’re free to choose the supplier that’s best for you. When transferring the gas and electric to your name, you’ll need to provide meter readings as well your tax number and proof of residency.
Bills are paid via monthly direct debit, or via a paper bill, and based on estimates for 11 months of the year. In month 12 your bill is produced based upon an actual reading and payments adjusted as needed. Some companies will allow you to submit your meter readings for more accurate bills, so if that’s important to you, it could be worth shopping around for an energy supplier offering that facility.
Water is where you’ll notice the main difference when connecting your utilities in Portugal due it being a nationalised industry. As such, you’ll need to make your application to take over the supply at your municipal council office or directly to the local water board. Water usage is metered, and most people just set up a monthly debit and pay in full.
Broadband, Telephone & TV
They used to say that ‘home is where the heart is’. Now, it’s more like ‘home is where the wi-fi connects’.
Whether or not you agree with that entirely, there’s no denying that getting access to broadband, telephone and TV (especially broadband) will be high on your to-do list after moving to Portugal. Like the UK, numerous companies offer packages that bundle the services together, and it’s merely a case of shopping around to see what’s the best available deal at that time. The network itself is maintained independently of these companies - in this case by Portugal Telecom (PT) - and it’s them you’ll need to contact in the event of needing a new line installed. Like the other utilities, payments are via direct debit or a paper bill.
Healthcare (Inc. Private Health Insurance)
To get access to the universal health care system in Portugal, you’ll first need to have your residency permit.
Once you have your permit, you’ll need to visit a local social security office and obtain your ‘Número de Identificação de Segurança Socia’ (it’s like your National Insurance number). From there, it’s a simple case of popping along to your local GP where they’ll issue you with your medical card that grants access to the system.
Like most developed nations you also have the option to purchase health insurance if you wish, and policies range from several hundred to a few thousand Euros per year.
One last thing, if you’ve already retired or are planning to retire to Portugal, you’ll need to get in touch with the Overseas Healthcare Team and let them know you’re leaving the country. They’ll arrange for the transfer of any eligible DWP benefits relating to your healthcare.
Paying Municipal Taxes
One thing you probably won’t miss after moving to Portugal is council tax. Unfortunately, Portugal has its equivalent to council tax (called the 'Imposto de Municipal sobre Imoveis', or IMI) to support the services provided by your local authority. The property owner pays IMI, so unless you’ve already bought or are planning on buying property in Portugal, it’s not a tax you’ll need to concern yourself over. When paying your IMI, it differs from most other bills you’ll pay in that you can’t spread the cost by direct debit, though you can pay through internet banking. Alternatively, you can pay in person at your local tax office. The payment schedule is pre-determined and the penalties for missing payments are quite severe.
When you pay is determined by the amount of the bill:
- Up to €250 - one single payment in April
- Between €250-€500 - payments in April and November
- Over €500 - payments, in April, July, and November
If you fail to pay, or miss payments, you’ll be charged interest, and in some instances, local authorities have the power to seize your home. Best pop those dates in the calendar straight away to avoid any mishaps.
Moving house can be a stressful process, add to that the element of the unknown that comes with moving overseas and it could seem overwhelming. Use this checklist to plan ahead, tie up your loose ends at home before you leave and hit the ground running once you're there. Start as you mean to go on and have a great time while you're moving to Portugal!