British in Portugal: who and where they are

The “old alliance” between Portugal and the United Kingdom is still standing. Portugal continues to be a paradise for the British community, which is increasingly attracted to its territory, not only for holidays but also to put down roots and settle.

More and more British are choosing to live in this country, but who are they? Where do they live? Find out more about the British in Portugal.

A growing community

According to figures provided by the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), 2020 saw the fifth consecutive rise in foreigners living in Portugal (12.2% more than in 2019) for a total of 662.095 foreigners with residency permits, the highest ever registered by SEF.

The British are currently the second largest expat community in Portugal, for a total of 46,238 residents, having moved up from third place since 2019.

What attracts the British community to Portugal?

It is not only the beauty of our land, or the fact that we have wonderful beaches and a great weather that brings the British flocking to Portugal. The calm lifestyle, low levels of criminality when compared to other countries, good health system and infrastructures, the quality of the education system and low cost of living compared to the UK are crucial factors when it comes to deciding. Besides, the fact that most Portuguese speak English and are welcoming to newcomers, along with the good food and the natural charm of our land, from north to south, are also very influential.

The impact of Brexit

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union had a big impact on the British community in Portugal, leading to a considerable increase.

The Portuguese government therefore decided to extend the deadline for British citizens to deal with their residence permits to 31 December 2021. All British citizens who already lived in Portugal before 1 January 2021 can keep their rights. But there are some formalities to follow:

  • Citizens who already lived in Portugal before the aforementioned date, and who possess European residence documents, should register on the SEF website, download the certificate with a QR code (this constitutes official proof of residence in Portugal and is valid until the issuing of a new biometric card) and then wait for the Foreigners and Borders Service to schedule an appointment at their local town or city hall to collect the data required to issue the new card.
  • British citizens who already lived in Portugal before 1 January of this year but do not have a European residence card should request a biometric residence permit by email from, attaching a copy of their passport, proof of address, and proof that they already lived in Portugal before the said date.
  • British citizens who already lived in Portugal before 1 January 2021 and would like to be joined by their family should follow Portuguese government guidelines.

More South than North

There are more British expats in the South than in the North of Portugal. SEF figures for 2020 show that 23,027 lived in the Faro district, followed by Lisbon, with 9,629; Leiria, with 2,711; Coimbra, with 2,248, and Madeira with 1,342. Then comes Porto, with 1,201; Castelo Branco, with 1,252, and Setúbal with 1,141. The last two districts on the list are Vila Real, with 42 and Bragança, with 23.

Investing in hospitality, restaurants, and real estate

According to the Annual Statistical Report on Immigrant Integration Indicators, published by the Migrations Observatory in 2020, the professional sectors that received most British expats in Portugal in 2018 were hospitality, restaurants and similar (25.6%), followed by real estate (19.4%) and scientific and technical consultancy, and similar (12.7%).

According to the same study, dependent employees from the UK residing in Portugal earned an average of 2,026.20 euros per month in 2018 (109% more than in 2018), with men earning more than women, 2,402.49 euros versus 1,568.84 respectively).

Portugal’s extras

From the moment they chose to live in Portugal, British expats began to enjoy many extra benefits. The first advantage is definitely the weather. With mild temperatures pretty much year-round, and plenty of hours of sun, it makes them feel like they’re in seventh heaven.

The variety of entertainment options is another very attractive factor. Portugal has beaches, surfing, mountains and climbing, castles and forts. In 2020 alone it received 26 travel awards, and these were obviously important factors, not to mention the tax benefits that a move like this can imply.

For more information:

Thinking of moving to Portugal?

What do I have to do to buy a house?

Read article

The right partner to finance your home

Learn more now