June 9, 2024

Why so Many Americans are Moving to Portugal

  • February 20, 2023
  • 12 min read
Why so Many Americans are Moving to Portugal

Not that long ago, it was virtually unheard of for Americans to seriously entertain the idea of leaving the United States. America has the reputation of being the freest and richest country in the world, so it isn’t like people are in a rush to get out. 

To the contrary, what we are more commonly met with is masses of individuals, many of them illegally, trying to get in.

But back during the Trump Administration, things started to change. Donald Trump, it can be said, is more of a conservative politician than a progressive one, and it became stylish for Americans to rage out against his policies and character. That’s when we first really started seeing headlines of American citizens, including some famous ones, publicly expressing a desire to leave the country.

As far as we know none of those famous folk actually followed through. Furthermore even as far as their targeted destination for expatriation, by and large they only intended to go to Canada, i.e. the country directly north of the United States.

But the interesting thing is that even though Trump did not win a second term, the prospect of actually emigrating from America has been seeded in the minds of the population nonetheless. 

Add that to the fact that there’s an increasing amount of information available about actually living in other countries, and it’s as if the notion of residing abroad has now become more credible to Americans other than retirees, i.e. the demographic most traditionally known for making such moves.

And yes, Canada may be a viable, even if somewhat half-hearted choice for American expatriates, given its close proximity to their homeland, as well as the significant similarities and strong-political relationship between the two countries. But there are other lands that are proving practical destinations also. 

For example, the European system also has striking similarities to that found in the United States. 


As of the onset of the 2020s, the most-popular country in Europe as far as American expats go has been Portugal. For example, the amount of Americans living therein rose by almost 50% in 2021. 

So whereas it may not currently be the part of Europe that houses the most Americans in general (that distinction, according to Wikipedia, belongs to Germany), it is, as of this writing, the trendiest of such destinations, and if it remains so it will undoubtedly move up that list.

So the purpose of this post is to ascertain what it is about Portugal that’s so attractive to Americans expatriates to begin with? This is a country that we’ve all heard of, but again, it’s far from being the most-renowned as far as Europe is concerned.

But there are palpable reasons why more and more people leaving the United States are choosing to call Portugal home. And amongst those we have:

Natural Beauty and a Lovely Climate

The United States is home to several megalopolises, i.e. clusters of cities which together, respectively comprise over 5,000,000 residents (and in a couple of cases even 10 times that number). 

By contrast, Portugal does not have any megalopolis of its own. (Some areas of the country are part of one, known as the Atlantic Axis, which it shares with Spain.) Furthermore, a whopping 83% of domestic Americans live in urban settings. In Portugal that number is significantly lower, at about 67% percent.

The above, in context, is just a statistical way of saying that there would be more residential options, i.e. the prospect of living in the countryside, available to those residing in Portugal. 

With that in mind, Portugal is known as being a beautiful country, primarily in regards to its beaches but places inland also.

Amongst the list of scenic places found in Portugal are some of its cities, such as Lisbon and Porto, which are the two most-populous. But to put things into perspective, according to statistics compiled by Wikipedia, there are about 550,000 people living in the former and less than 240,000 in the latter (and lower than 10,500,000 residents of the country in total). 

Needless to say, that’s a far cry from the population numbers you find in major American cities.

Moreover, even if you do reside inland, Portugal is a relatively-small country with a comprehensive transportation system. Therefore, getting to the coast or islands or wherever you want to go should be a breeze. So for the typical American, Portugal can be a place to get away from it all, in a manner of speaking.

Portugal is also known for having a very-hospitable climate. In the United States, residents typically are met with four seasons which these days are more volatile than ever. 

Portugal also has its own summer and winter, but the temperature variation between the two is, on average, less than 40 degrees. In other words, summer weather is typically in the range of 75 °F, which can be considered mild (though notable) heat. In the winter it only dips down to about 40 °F, which is relatively warm for that time of year compared to many parts of the United States.

So whereas Portugal (nor any other part of Europe) isn’t technically tropical, it is largely a coastal nation, getting close to Africa (i.e. in the Mediterranean) yet also a beneficiary of the European chill. So actually its climate is even more favorable than many tropical nations, which tend to be unfavorably hot year round.

Cost of Living

By the looks of things, Portugal has been dealing with the same type of inflation that has become a global trend of late. And this is especially in its big cities, such as the aforementioned Lisbon and Porto. But one general rule of American expatriation is that if you are making such a move primarily in the name of cutting down on residential costs, you may want to avoid the most-popular urban areas anyway.

That said, all studies indicate that the overall cost of living in Portugal is significantly lower – according to some estimates up to 30% less – than it is stateside. 

As far as residential costs go, whether or not they will be less than what you pay stateside is based on the sacrifices you’re willing to make in that regard, so to speak. But the general consensus is that just about everything else is considerably cheaper. And this is one of the main reasons, besides for climate, that American retirees have grown to favor Portugal.

Superior Healthcare

While we’re on the subject of retirees, amongst the primary concerns for people in that age group is healthcare, not only in terms of quality but also affordability. As for the former, Portugal is considered to have an “excellent” healthcare system, encompassing both the public and private sector.

Unfortunately, the Portuguese are dealing with many of the same pressing health issues as Americans, such as obesity and drug abuse. But the life expectancy there, based on 2020 statistics, is about four years higher (i.e. 81 years) than it is in the United States (77 years). So the same type of temptations, if you will, may be present. 

Therefore, the fact that Portuguese live longer nonetheless would logically be attributable, at least in part, to their healthcare system.

And not only is Portugal’s healthcare considered to be better than that of the United States, but it is also exponentially less expensive. Again, such factors may not be what younger expats are particularly mindful of. But as for the older crowd or those dealing with serious health issues, this is definitely the type of stuff you would want to keep in mind when considering an expatriation destination.

Political Stability and Lower Crime Rate

Ask yourself this question – when was the last time you heard of political beef – or any type of beef really – coming out of Portugal? The dominant political parties are the Socialist Party alongside the Social Democratic Party. 

The European Union, communists, environmentalists, leftists and rightists are also present in the Portuguese Parliament, yet transitions in power are peaceful and by the looks of things encouraged

It is such political stability which has granted this country a favorable economic outlook into the foreseeable future.

Portugal is far from being a crime-free nation. But compared to the United States, especially as far as violent crimes are concerned, this nation is apparently a lot more civil. This reality would in part be due to the fact that there are a lot of police in Portugal, even reportedly more percentage-wise than in New York City. But that said, one area the Portuguese do have a serious problem with, even more so than Americans it would seem, is with opioid abuse.

Cool Visa Requirements

With a little bit of preparation, an American should not have any major problems in terms of officially moving to Portugal. For instance, as it currently stands there doesn’t appear to be any mandatory vaccinations (though some are recommended), including for COVID-19, which are currently required to enter Portugal. But you will need the likes of a valid passport and applicable (i.e. Schengen) travel insurance.

What is also essential (if you take the official expatriation route) is actually applying for a residency visa. 

In order to qualify, you will have to prove, first of all, that you’ll be able to survive with dignity in Portugal. What that means is that you have to convince the powers that be that, according to their standards, that you have a sufficient income or savings to rightfully be in the country for your intended period of stay. 

The said requirement only comes out to €760 ($800) per month minimum, which really isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. But all things considered, it is best to check with the Portuguese Embassy beforehand to see if you qualify to expatriate financially. 

And for younger expatriates, that may mean having to secure a job in Portugal prior to heading over there. And yes, whereas Portuguese may be the official language of Portugal, the people there tend to be fluent in English also.

Show Proof you have a place to live in Portugal

Along those same lines, proof of accommodation will also be required. No country is going to let you in for a prolonged stay unless they know you have a place to live in advance. What that usually means in the case of an expatriate is that you have a host in the country with ample space/means to receive you, or that you’ve already arranged to rent or purchase a place before departing from your homeland. 

But once those matters are documented, i.e. how and where you’re going to survive, then it doesn’t look like Portugal is the type of nation to give Americans any type of hassle, granted that you’re not a serious felon.

Portugal’s Digital Nomad Visa

There is also a Digital Nomad Visa, which may perhaps be used as a loophole for expatriates who have not found a place to stay before arriving. However in that case you’re going to have to prove a higher monthly income of approximately €2,800. This amount is about four times the minimum wage in Portugal. As of February 20th, 2023, €2,800 converts to almost $3,000.

Golden Visa Program

Portugal also offers what is known as its Golden Visa program. In fact many countries have initiatives such as these. These programs allows a well-to-do foreigner or one living on a really fat retirement package to be offered residency or citizenship. 

What that means in the case of Portugal is that you have somewhere in the region of $375,000, at least, to pump into the Portuguese economy – most often, as far as these applicants are concerned, into real estate. Of course most Americans – indeed, citizens of the world – don’t have anywhere near that type of money. But this is still good to know, i.e. for the aforenoted celebrities who’ve been contemplating leaving the United States.

In Conclusion

The season is ripe to at least consider leaving the US – that is for Americans who are so inclined. The world is a big place. And for American citizens especially, it isn’t a situation where you have to relegate yourself to spending your entire life in one country if you don’t want to, as we have access to more travel destinations than most other people living in the world.

So for instance, as an American, i.e. the resident of a popular First World nation, you have the opportunity to easily relocate to other countries which are in the same financial bracket. 

As far as Europe is concerned, the hottest country on that list right now is Portugal. That may sound like a weird thing to say, considering that Portugal is in close proximity to a number of generally more-popular nations. But all things considered – i.e. its natural beauty, climate, overall cost of living, political stability, relative peacefulness and lax entry/residency requirements – as of the early 2020s this is the European nation of choice for American expatriates.

About Author


GreetingsfromAbroad.com is a travel blog founded by keen traveler, writer and experienced digital nomad, Kojo Enoch. Currently Kojo lives on the beautiful, sunny island of Malta. This website is run by a solid team of expert digital nomads,  avid travelers, photographers and writers from all over the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *