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Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in Portugal

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: September 2015

Relocating with Families
Moving to a new country with your family can be an exciting adventure for all. Portugal has a lot to offer immigrating families. It is safe, has a good level of education and people who are approachable and have a healthy, relaxed lifestyle. There are plenty of child-friendly venues and activities. Bear in mind, though, that it will take time to work through bureaucratic procedures, find appropriate accommodation and schooling/childcare and prepare your children. Hence it is crucial to start planning the move well in advance!

First of all, you should look into the entry requirements for moving to Portugal with family members. Generally, you will be able to apply for a Family Reunion visa once you have been resident in Portugal for more than a year. For detailed information on visa requirements, see the Immigration and Borders Service website. For more information on family entry requirements, see Family Members and Marriage and the other articles in our Immigration section.

Portugal is a safe country, though as with anywhere, some areas are more suitable for families than others. Hence it is essential to take the time to find an area that has adequate facilities for children, access to good medical care and schooling, and is otherwise family-friendly. To help find such a place, have a look at the respective municipality website and consult online blogs and forums for first-hand information. See for example the Expat Briefing Forum.

Another important step is to look into schooling and childcare options. The quality of international schools and similar institutions in Portugal is good. Most expats in Portugal prefer to send their children to private or international schools and nurseries. Yet even in these institutions quality and cost vary greatly. Hence it is best to do a thorough online research and check online forums for school and nursery reviews! Bear in mind that popular institutions have long waiting lists, and you may need to contact them before you move. For further information on schooling options in Portugal, see our Education section. To read more on childcare, see Family Life and Childcare.

Last but not least, children can find moving to another country stressful, so make sure you take the time to prepare them. If approached the right way, they will be able to see the move as an exciting new start. Before you leave your home country, tell your children about Portugal and talk with them about any anxieties they may have. Make sure they are able to stay in touch with their friends in your home country. These days, with Skype, email and social media, this is quite easy.

You can also teach your children what you know about the local culture, and, if possible, take them for a visit to their new homeland. Additionally, if they do not yet speak Portuguese, it is a good idea to enrol them at a language school. For further guidance on preparing children for relocation, see Kids’ Relocation Issues, Crown Relocations and, for a rather more personal guide, Hands in Portugal.

Relocating Pets

As Portugal is a member state of the European Union (EU), it is subject to the procedures for moving pets within and into that area. Expats relocating to Portugal may bring up to five pets into the country. If you are not moving to Portugal over land, you can transport your pets either as guest baggage on a plane or as unaccompanied cargo.

Pets moving to Portugal from within the EU are subject to the Pet Travel Scheme, which controls the movement of cats, dogs and ferrets (domestic carnivores) into and within the EU. However, special rules apply in Portugal: it is illegal to import ferrets into Portugal or keep them as pets. (This law is controversial as it contradicts EU rulings on the matter). 

In Portugal, all cats and dogs must be microchipped (a tattoo is valid if it was completed before 3rd July 2011) and vaccinated against rabies and dogs must be vaccinated against EM tapeworm. There must be a 21-day waiting period after the primary rabies vaccination.

Owners in EU countries and certain other European territories need to obtain a pet passport for each pet. The passport is issued by a qualified vet and records the microchip number and details of vaccination dates and certain other medical treatments. Pets coming from other non-EU countries must have a health certificate issued by a qualified vet instead of a pet passport. Those not from countries listed here must additionally undergo a blood test then wait 3 months before they can be brought into an EU country.

Herbivorous pets (rodents and rabbits) do not need identification to cross EU borders, but they must be declared. If you are immigrating from outside the EU, you also need to produce a vet’s health certificate in either Portuguese or English. For detailed information on regulations have a look at the website of the Food and Veterinary Directorate-General (DGAV).

If you are moving your pet into Portugal from outside the European Economic Area, you must have it vaccinated against rabies and other specified infections before you travel. To prove that you have done so, you need to have a rabies vaccination certificate that was issued no earlier than 30 days and no later than twelve months before the date of your arrival in the country. Pets from countries with a high incidence of rabies may additionally need to be subjected to blood titre tests.

It is a good idea to hire a specialist pet relocation company to help you move your pet to Portugal. Not only do these providers have suitable travel containers for pets, they also assist with the complicated paperwork. Among the most prominent companies offering pet relocations to Portugal are:




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