Emigrating to Portugal: A Timeline

Follow along as we move through the process emigration from Canada to Portugal and navigate our way through the various twists and turns of integrating into Portuguese society. We hope that this will give you a sense of the steps, time required and costs.

Explanatory note: We have used our entry date into Portugal as T and provided a timeline prior and after this date. These are the actual dates in our case, obviously every situation will be different.

June 16. T – 55 days. Submitted fingerprints and request for Criminal Records check to RCMP through CSI Screening in Halifax. Total cost for both was $195.50 CAD.

June 23. T – 48 days. Received clear Criminal Records Check from RCMP. Appointment at the Portuguese Embassy in Ottawa to submit application for Residency Visa. For a full list of documents required see our post on this process. Total cost for both was $258 CAD.

July 27. T – 14 days. Received call from Portuguese Embassy that our Residency Visas had been approved. We sent our passports to them by Canada Post Xpresspost and received them back on August 8 with visas inserted.

August 10, 2017 (T). Arrival in Portugal 

August 18. T + 8 days. Received our Portuguese fiscal numbers which are required for opening a bank account, some major purchases and tax purposes. Total cost for numbers including fees and representation by an accountant was €413. With representation these can also be obtained prior to arrival in Portugal.

August 18. T + 8 days. Opened our joint Portuguese bank account. Required a fiscal number, Portuguese address and passports. Millenniumbcp in Lagos was very friendly and provided full service in English.

August 21. T + 11 days. Made appointment for meeting with Immigration and Borders Services (SEF) for application for Temporary Residence Permit. SEF requires using their Call Centre to book an appointment however we were unable to connect and made the appointment by email. Appointment is for September 14.

August 22. T + 12 days.

  • Secured Medis private health care plan through Millenniumbcp. Cost is €115 per month for two.
  • Took out plan for internet, television and cellular with NOS for €60 per month. 6 GB of data and free calling within EU included. Also free weeknights and weekends calling to Canada.
  • Visit to Freguesia de São Gonçalo de Lagos (a municipal office) to confirm address without a contract or lease. It is possible to do this using a form witnessed by two local citizens which should be accepted by SEF for Temporary Residence Permit.

September 1. T + 22 days. Obtained “Atestados” document from the freguesia. This will be used to verify our address in Portugal for SEF and other purposes. Two very helpful Lagos citizens signed on our behalf. You are required to have two citizens that live in the Municipality sign on your behalf. Administrative cost was €3.50. Note that this is valid for 6 months.

September 3. T + 24 days. Moved into our own accommodation. We are renting a large portion of a private villa in Atalaia, on the outskirts of Lagos.

September 5. T + 26 days. Purchased our “new” car, a 2007 Renault Clio. Cars are very expensive in Portugal and finding a good used one can be challenging. Insurance on the other hand is cheap compared to Canada.  Our comprehensive policy cost €200.


September 14. T + 35 days. Had our SEF appointment to obtain our Temporary Residence in Portimao. Unfortunately the servers were down and they could not carry out the Portuguese Criminal Records check so we had to reschedule. New date set for October 17. Were advised to get our checks done through the local court house (Tribunal) in Lagos, just in case there were problems the next time.

September 29. T + 50 days. Received our criminal records clearance through the local Tribunal Judicial da Comarca (court house) de Lagos. Administrative cost was €5 each.

October 17. T + 68 days. Received our one year Temporary Residents Permit. Cost was €160 each. Documents required: Fiscal number (see August 18 entry), rental contract or Atestados document (see September 1 entry), current Portuguese criminal record checks (done each time you visit SEF), proof of financial means (we used our annual pension statement and three months of bank statements), health insurance (our Portuguese Medis plan was sufficient) and of course your passport and Residency Visa.

The date you receive your Residence Permits is also important in regards to obtaining a Portuguese Drivers License. For immigrants from most non EU countries you have 90 days to trade in your current license for a Portuguese one without having to undergo a full driving test. You can be fined for driving without a Portuguese license after being a resident for more than 90 days. See November 10 entry for the requirements.

October 23. T + 74 days. Enrolled in Via Verde. This is the Portuguese highway toll payment system. For €23 you receive a transponder which automatically debits your bank account online on the (expensive) toll highways. You can also use it for parking and other travel related payments.

November 3. T + 85 days. Our Residence Cards arrived in the mail today. Now we can register for the National Health Insurance program as well as apply for Non Habitual Residents (NHR) status.

November 10. T + 92 days. Joined afpop, which is an expat support organization based in Portimão. In addition to many financial discounts, they offer advice and services to expats on many topics of day to day life in Portugal (focus on the Algarve). The cost for joint membership (couple) is €100,00 with a annual renewal fee. One of our questions was regarding exchanging our Canadian Drivers Licences for Portuguese ones which has to be done within 90 days of receiving your resident’s status.

This is managed by the Instituto da Mobildade e dos Transportes (IMT – Institute for Mobility and Transport. The last time we checked this site is only available in Portuguese, but an English site is under construction. For non EU citizens you will need to following documentation to exchange your license and it must be done in person at an IMT office. The only one in the Algarve is in Faro.

  • original drivers license
  • Medical certificate (can be obtained through a private clinic such as Luzdoc)
  • Residencia (Residence Permit)
  • passport
  • Portuguese fiscal number
  • Declaration from your home driving authority stating that your license is authentic, valid and the class(es) of vehicles you are licensed to drive. We were also advised that your Consulate can provide this declaration. Update. We spoke with the Canadian Embassy in Lisbon and they advised that they do not provide this declaration as Canadian Provinces are the issuing authority for Driver’s Licences.
  • €30,00 fee.

November 17. T + 99 days. Received our NHR certificates. Once again we worked with  Pedro Simões who runs ACOQ Consulting. It does cost more to have representation but for us the peace of mind that things will be done properly and expeditiously was well worth it.


Our apartment building in Portimão. We’re on the 1st floor on the left.

December 1. T + 112 days. Moved to a condo in Portimão. Will have to change address with SEF and Financial Office. Also several others such as bank, Via Verde, Medis, car insurance and registration.

January 9, 2018. 6 months after arrival. Today we got our National Health Number or Documento de Identifição do Utente at the Centro Saúde Portimão.  This is something we could have done much sooner as you only require your Residence Permit and Fiscal Number. Note: This has to be done in the city where you reside. It is relatively easy, just go to your local Centro de Saúde and ask to register for your “Cartao do Utente” or “User’s Card”. It is actually only a document with your number on it. They may ask you for your Social Security Number as well, but we do not have one as we are retired. They didn’t give us any problems or even ask for it. We told them at first that we were retired (in Portuguese). This number gives you access to public health facilities, reduced prices on prescriptions and in our case it is necessary to get a medical exam to exchange Driver’s Licences.

January 12, 2018. Almost 3 months after receiving our Residencias. Having completed our medicals at Luzdoc which are available online we made the drive to the Faro office of IMT to exchange our Nova Scotia Drivers Licenses for Portuguese ones. Note: See November 10 entry for full list of requirements. We received temporary licences which are good until March 13, 2018.

January 23, 2018. Almost two months after moving. Finally got around to changing our address on the car registration (Certificado de Matrícula). Went to the Portimão office of Institutio dos Registos e do Notariado (irn Portugal). The office was a little tricky to locate but we eventually tracked it down through the helpful folks at the Portimão Balcão Único. The Balcão Único is a great “one-stop shop” operated by the Municipal Câmara. After a fairly long wait (1+ plus hour) the process was simple, they helped me fill in the correct form and gave us a stamped document to use until the new registration  arrives in the mail. Oh yes – another fee. This one was €30.

March 13, 2018. We have been watching for our new licences but they didn’t arrive. So off to Faro again to renew our temporary ones. After a short wait of about 20 minutes they simply extended our temporary licences until September 13, 2018. And we wait.

March 16, 2018. Update to January 23 entry re vehicle registration. The temporary registration expired after 30 days. Returned to irn office in Portimão and they extended for another 30 days. And we wait.

April 16, 2018. Returned to the irn office and found the cause of the delay. They had transcribed a small error in our address so the new registration documents were sitting in the office. Not certain how long they had been there, but another little mystery solved.

April 19, 2018. Our Portuguese Drivers Licences arrived today! So that is the last of our paperwork until we renew our Residencias in October. It feels great to have it all completed.

May 8, 2018. Although not part of the resident process, we paid our annual Road Tax today. This is a mandatory tax for all car owners and is due each May. This can be paid at your local Finanças (Financial Office) or through their online portal. You will have needed to set up a password when you first obtained your NIF. If you used an accountant as we did, check with them as they will have the information. Our cost for the year since September 2017 was €37. You must print out a receipt from the portal and keep a copy in your vehicle as proof of payment.

August 28, 2018. Our Residencias expire in October so we made an online appointment through the greatly improved SEF Website. It is recommended that you do this at least 3 months in advance, however the next appointments availabe were in November. Note. If you have an official appontment booked with SEF this will automatically extend your Residencia until the appointment date. We confirmed this at their office.

November 27, 2018. Went for our appointment to renew Residencia and were asked for proof of address and means of finsncial support. They took photocopies and that was it. Except of course for an addition €160 each. Within two weeks we received our new Residencias in the mail and are good for two years!