According to the annual Immigration, Borders and Asylum report published earlier this year by the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), the number of British citizens that obtained residence in Portugal between 2019 and 2020 jumped up by 34.6%. The driving factor for this increase of course being Brexit.
The number of Britons applying for residence in Portugal has been steadily on the increase ever since the outcome of the referendum held on the 23rd June 2016 was announced. The year-long transition period in 2020 meant it was the final year that Britons could obtain residence by registering at their local town hall, without needing to apply for a residence visa first.
Whilst Brexit is likely the predominant factor for the increased number of Britons residing in Portugal over the past few years, the number of foreign citizens from across the globe choosing to reside in Portugal has also increased overall over the past five years, suggesting there are other important factors also at play.
Non-Habitual Resident Tax Scheme (NHR)
The NHR tax scheme has been a big draw for foreign citizens from across the world. Under the NHR regime, Portuguese sourced income from certain high-added-value activities can benefit from a reduced personal income tax (PIT) rate of 20%. Foreign sourced pensions are taxed at a reduced rate of 10% and foreign sourced income may be exempt from taxation in Portugal, if it meets certain requirements and is taxed in the source country.
Those who become tax resident in Portugal, who haven’t been tax resident in Portugal in the previous five years, are able to apply for NHR status. Once approved, NHR status can be held for 10 years, granting a significant period of time in which those under the scheme can enjoy its benefits.
It is important to work with a good accountant who understands the NHR regime, especially for those who have not solely living off a pension, to ensure that you can benefit from NHR status where applicable.
Freedom of movement
With Portuguese residency, you are able to travel across the 26 European countries in the Schengen zone freely, without the need for a visa. This freedom of movement is a huge pull for non-EU citizens.
Portugal consistently ranks as one of the top countries for expats to move to. The lifestyle in Portugal, relatively low cost of living and its pleasant year-round climate are other important factors influencing the increase in the number of foreign citizens choosing to reside here.
Portugal has stood out in terms of its performance in measures of rights, freedoms and guarantees and for being considered an inclusive country. It’s ranked consistently as a safe and friendly country to live in.
For nature lovers, Portugal is a wonderful place to be, with a variety of different landscapes including natural parks and nature reserves, mountains, rivers, vineyards as well as a wonderful 800km of coastline.
Moving to Portugal Post Brexit
It is still possible, and relatively easy, to move to Portugal after Brexit. The main change in the process is that you need to apply for a residence visa in your home country beforehand, and then book an appointment with SEF once you arrive in Portugal, to obtain your residence permit.
There are a few different visas you can apply for and the best one for you depends on your situation. The most popular visas are the D7, D2 and Golden Visa. The Golden Visa comes with a number of benefits including its low physical presence requirements and that the holder is granted residence without needing to become a tax resident in Portugal.
The changes coming in 2022 to the Golden Visa scheme will affect many of those who want to obtain residence by investing in real estate in Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. There is still time to obtain the Golden Visa by property investment in these areas, but you’ll need to act fast to get all the paperwork submitted before the end of 2021.