This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor of Guides.Global (email@example.com).
It was updated on 12 May 2017. The law and practice in Portugal change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.
Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.
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Portugal is a country on the Iberian pensinsula - Spain's neighbour. It is popular with expats for many reasons, and has become even more popular due to the residency by investment - 'Golden Visa' - programme, and positive changes to the country's economy. You'll mainly find English, French, German and Dutch immigrants buying property in Portugal, although there's been some pickup from Russia and China (again, due to the Golden Visa).
The Algarve (beaches & resorts), the Azores (fishing villages and green pastures), Lisbon (the economic centre) and Porto (rich in culture & history) are all particularly popular destinations for foreigners.
The weather in Portugal is one of the main draws for expats. Sunshine reigns - 2016 saw 315 days of the stuff. That's opened a great deal of doors for Portugal: including interest from the film industry, who are coming to realise its similarities to Southern California, and the golden light that helped spawn Hollywood.
Golf courses, beach resorts and sun-drenched villas have always been expat favourites, and Portugal has them in spades. Whilst the food has not always been superb in some locations, expat reports say this is changing for the better - and the same can be said for the wine, which used to be produced with a very "quantity over quality" attitude, but has benefitted from high investment in recent years. (We leave fortified wine - port - out of this sweeping generalisation, of course).
For expats who wish to settle or retire in Portugal, there's a lot to be said for it. Healthcare is good, with state-of-the-art equipment in the top hospitals. It's pretty well connected both within the country (decent highways) and without (lots of flights to lots of cities). International schools are well-regarded and relatively inexpensive.
The Country: Portugal ( Portugal)
Adjective: Portuguese ( Português/ língua portuguesa )
The Nationality: Portuguese ( Português)
The People: Spaniards (Português)
Languages: Almost entirely Portuguese, with some minority languages (the most prominent of which is Mirandese. In addition, 27% of people speak English well enough to have a conversation; 15% speak French; 10% speak Spanish (this according to the 2012 'Europeans and their Languages' report from the European Commission.
Time Zone: UTC+0
Currency Code: EUR
ISO International Country Code: PRT
Internet Domain: .pt
Telephone Dialling Code: +351
Capital City: Lisbon: population 2.884 million
Terrain: Mountainous in the north, plains in the south. Plenty of sandy beaches on the coastline.
Climate: Portugal has a temperate Mediterranean climate. Warm and dry in the summer and fairly wet in the winter.
Median age: 41.8
Life expectancy at Birth: 81.1 years
Urban population: 62.91% of total population
Expat population: 4.2% of total population (2009)
Religion: 81% Roman Catholic, 3.3% other Christian, 0.6% other (includes Jewish, Muslim, other), 6.8% no religion, 8.3% unspecified
Ethnicity: Mainly Mediterranean, with around 100,000 people of black African descent. A small population of Eastern Europeans.
UN Human Development Index: 43 of 188 countries. This index attempts to measure a country's achievements in education, healthcare, wealth generation and a number of other areas. In effect, it looks at the extent to which the people in a country enjoy a long and healthy life, a good education and a decent standard of living. It is a very useful indicator of what a country will be like as a place to live.
UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 43 of 144 countries. This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country. With perfect equality this index and the HDI would show the same result.
Population Below Poverty Line: 17.3%.
The Portuguese healthcare system is of a generally good quality, although it has its problems. A shortage of doctors in some areas has led to long waiting lists for public healthcare.
World Health Organization ranking of health systems (last release in 2000): 12 of 191 countries
Portugal is a democratic country. All citizens aged over 18 may vote.
The Republic of Portugal has four sovereignty bodies: The Government of Portugal, the President of the Republic, the Assembly of the Republic and the courts.
The head of state is the President, who is directly elected. The head of the Government is the Prime Minister, who leads Ministers and Secretaries of State.
Parliament makes most of the laws, although the Government does have some legislative powers.
There are four main classes of courts: Constitutional, Judicial, Administrative & Tax and Auditors.
Portugal is ranked 5 out of 162 countries included in the 2016 edition of the Vision of Humanity "Peace Index" - a very good rank! This is just ahead of the Czech Republic and just behind New Zealand. Iceland comes first. Syria comes last.
The methodology used to make this index may be open to some debate but it is a good snapshot of criminality, conflict, political attitudes and military expenditure.
This is another interesting snapshot, from the same people.
The legal system in Portugal is a civil law system, based on the French law which is, in turn, based on principles of Roman law.
Portugal is ranked 23 out of 102 countries included in the 2015 edition of the World Justice Project's "Rule of Law Index". This is above Spain, Greece and Italy but some way below France and the United Kingdom. Portugal scored particularly well in the 'Fundamental Rights' and 'Constraints on Government Powers' categories.
Portugal also scores fairly well on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Portugal is ranked 31 out of 168 countries included in the 2015 edition of the index. They scored similarly to Cyprus and Puerto Rico. Denmark is top. Somalia and North Korea are bottom.
Inflation: 2013: 0.27%; 2014: -0.28%
Public debt: 126.68% of GDP
Unemployment: General: 13%; Youth 26.3%
(By John Howell, Editor & Founder of Guides.Global, who did business in Portugal for many years).
Every country has its own business culture and, probably, the biggest mistake people make when thinking about the business culture in Portugal is to assume it must be similar to the business culture in Spain. It is not.
The cultural shock involved in dealing with Portugal is a lot less challenging than it is when you first deal with Spain.
Generally, the Portuguese approach business issues in an efficient and modern manner but you will still find that there are a number of things you will need to take into account when planning your business affairs in Portugal.
Probably the two most obvious are:
The fact that things often move at a much more gentle pace in Portugal than you might expect if you are an American, Northern European or someone from the tiger economies of the Far East.
Many of the people you are likely to be dealing with as a potential foreign business partner will be highly educated in the Western tradition but the percentage of graduates in Portugal is much smaller than in some other European countries and so as your business dealings progress further down the organisational hierarchy you may well find that the people you are dealing with show little knowledge of international business practice or of your country.
As already mentioned, Portugal also scores well on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Portugal is ranked 31 out of 168 countries included in the 2015 edition of the index. They scored similarly to Cyprus and Puerto Rico. Denmark is top. Somalia and North Korea are bottom.
Our guides contain a mass of information about living, working, doing business, retiring & investing in Portugal. Check them out here.
When preparing this factsheet we made extensive use of:
In addition we would like to thank our colleagues, contributors and readers for their invaluable input.
CIA World Factbook: Portugal
I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.Francine Carrel 12 May 2017
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