Being an Expat in Lisbon, Portugal (Part One)

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Thinking about moving abroad but feeling daunted by the amount of countries available to you? There are ways to chip away at that list to find out which is the best fit for your business goals and lifestyle—remember, both are equally important!

In your quest to find your new home abroad, you should first start with a list of questions to gauge what aspects are important. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Are you going to be self-employed or do you want to work for someone else?
  2. Will your job be digital so you can work from anywhere?
  3. What is your dream lifestyle, a.k.a do you want to live in or near a major city? By the beach? In the mountains?
  4. What type of weather suits you best?
  5. Do you want to have easy access to be back home with a major airport nearby?
  6. Are you interested in learning a new language or do you already speak multiple languages?
  7. Are you moving abroad to further your career goals?
  8. Or are you moving abroad for the experience and the travel/cultural opportunities?

What should you consider?

This is a strong list but you should keep going—as you start to answer one, more questions will inevitably come up. The purpose of this exercise is so you can understand what exactly it is that you are looking for. Let’s say you absolutely do not like rainy or cold weather, then moving to Amsterdam or London probably isn’t your best bet.

If you know that you will need to fly back home often, it might be a good idea to be in a city with a major airport so you don’t have to make as many flight connections. If you spent your entire school life learning French and you want to finally speak it fluently, then looking into a French-speaking country is a better bet than going elsewhere. This process of elimination will eventually lead you to a few good options that you’ll have to further weigh.

Each country around the world has a different set of requirements to enter their country. Once you’ve narrowed your dream list down, this is where it can get tricky! If you are looking to work for someone else, your best bet would be to contact potential employers and see what their process is for bringing in foreigners as they might have to sponsor you (depending on the country, this can be a simple or difficult process).

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If you are moving to climb a career ladder, only focus on opportunities that line up with your goals. Or if you are just looking for a change and to travel, you might inquire with language or teaching schools to get your foot in the door.

However, if you are an entrepreneur and looking to start your own business, most countries don’t make it as easy for you. Some countries will require you to present an extensive business and financial plan to prove why your new or current business makes sense to have in that particular country. They will want to know how you will finance your own stay and will also require that you meet their criteria—like hiring a certain number of native workers—in a time frame.

You need to make sure that their goals are achievable for your business and don’t rush your plans, which can be the ultimate mistake! But other countries are now relaxing their requirements to encourage foreigners to move their home bases to theirs. That is the case with Portugal and why so many global entrepreneurs are moving all over the country, but in particular to the capital city of Lisbon.

Portugal – The Past is History, The Future is Victory

Once a major world power, Portugal has gone through many political face lifts over the last few hundred years and got caught up in the global recession that hit almost a decade ago. Unemployment hovers around 11% and youth unemployment is around 26%, which is still incredibly high—despite the fact that youth unemployment was at 40 percent only 3 years ago. While the country is still combating how to solve the economic problems of their citizens, they are implementing an important new strategy to boost the economy: expats.

Expats in Lisbon

Portugal has one of the most straightforward visa programs in the European Union. There are two popular ways to obtain a visa that are of particular interest to entrepreneurs who are eager to set up shop. It’s called the Golden Visa program and you can either invest in a residential or commercial property (up to €500,000 depending on the area of Portugal) or you can move (and keep) a minimum of €1,000,000 in a Portuguese bank.

This program automatically gives you the right to live and work in Portugal, thereby also giving you the ability to live anywhere else in the EU due to the EU’s immigration laws. After six years you are eligible to become a Portuguese citizen, which in addition to already giving you the right to live anywhere in the EU, would also give you the right to work.

There are also tax exemptions on foreign income for up to 10 years, another coveted bonus for American expats (since the US always taxes you, no matter your country of residence—which most other countries do not!). So not only can you set up shop in the beautiful country of Portugal, but you can also live freely in many countries in Europe and work in those places after only a few short years. It’s a long game but a strategic one for people who really want to have global businesses and lives.

But those aren’t the only reasons to move to Portugal. Guaranteed you’ve had a few friends who have traveled there in the last few years—all of whom say they loved it, right? Portugal is an expat’s dream. It is steeped in history—its original founding date is 868 (!!); it’s a fairly populous country for its size with over 10 million people (consider the entire country of Australia is only 23 million).

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There is easy access to the rest of the world with new airline partnerships being announced all the time (TAP airlines now has a daily flight to New York’s JFK); the cost of living is very inexpensive, consider rent in New York City is 78 percent higher and meals are 50 percent more expensive than in Lisbon; and the weather—oh, the weather—is perfect.

You can go to one of Portugal’s beaches—considered to be the best in continental Europe—from April through October (say what!). There’s also the added bonus that almost everyone you’ll encounter speaks English, which is very helpful—but don’t let that stop you from learning their language!

The last—and biggest—benefit to moving to a country like Portugal and to a city like Lisbon is that you will find like-minded people, especially if you are an entrepreneur. Many European countries differ from the American mindset in that it is not the norm to pursue your own small business or carve out your own career path. But because the Portuguese are playing catch up to many of their European counterparts, they are making their dreams happen in any way that they can.

Lisbon is filled with many “lifestyle concepts” in which a couple of different businesses share a store, that way they also share costs. The Portuguese are getting it done! Plus, you’ll encounter other expats who moved there for the same reasons as you: to get your foot in the door for much less money.

Portugal is like the Wild Wild West right now. A gathering of people will center around a conversation of how everyone at the table can get involved in a new project or open up a new business together. You won’t find that mindset in many other parts of the world and it’s refreshing to be around others who share your mentality.

So if you are looking to move abroad, especially to Europe, and you want to live more inexpensively, enjoy great weather, explore beautiful nature, and befriend other go-getters, consider Portugal!

What do you think?

Written by Stevie Benanty

Stevie Benanty is the epitome of the entrepreneurial, power woman. Born and raised in NYC, Stevie’s multidimensional portfolio includes experience in the Fashion, Entertainment, Nightlife, Technology, Non-Profit, Artist Management, Digital Marketing, and Lifestyle sectors. Her experience is the catalyst for founding ‘a conversation,' an innovative online venue for creatives and professionals to share personal stories and lifestyle habits.

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