Newcomers to Portugal soon learn that they need one particular number for a whole range of everyday transactions in the country: The NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal), also known as Número de Contribuinte.
A few examples of transactions where you’ll be asked for a NIF include…
- Getting a phone subscription
- Opening a bank account
- Buying property, and often also renting property long term
- Making an investment into Portugal to apply for the Golden Visa
- Signing up for utilities
…just to name a few.
There are different ways to get your NIF number depending on if you are an EU/EEA citizen or not, whether you’re applying remotely or in person, and other circumstances (like the COVID-19 pandemic).
Options for EU/EEA residents
The default way of getting a NIF number is to go to your closest Finanças (Portuguese tax office) and apply for it in person. This path is completely free for EU/EEA residents.
For a nominal fee, you can also use the online service route, in which case you can skip the queuing at Finanças and complete the process from anywhere. See the non-EU resident section for more details.
It won’t in itself make you a tax resident in Portugal, as long as you use a non-Portuguese address.
Getting your NIF in person
Step one: Locate your closest Finanças
These are the government offices where you go to deal with anything tax-related, and that includes getting your NIF.
If you’re staying in central Lisbon, this one is the closest, but I wouldn’t recommend it—it’s probably the worst one in the city. For faster and relatively better service it’s worth going to this one or this one instead. If you’re staying elsewhere, just search for your closest one on Google Maps.
Also, take note of when it opens. The ones I linked to above opens at 9 am Monday to Friday.
Step two: Get address proof from your “home country”
This isn’t hard. Just bring a bank statement (less than three months old) that lists your non-Portuguese address.
If you are not registering for a NIF as a non-resident, but rather a Portuguese resident, just bring similar proof of your Portuguese address.
If you’re an EU citizen living outside the EU/EEA, you could simply get address proof from somewhere in the EU. One option is to change the address on file with your current bank (not all banks support foreign addresses, though) and print your next statement. Or just open an account with one of the many European online banks / fintechs that will allow you to open an account remotely with a European address, and print a statement from them.
Note: This trick only works for EU/EEA citizens. Non-EU/EEA citizens need a government-issued proof of address (despite being EU residents).
Step three: Bring your address proof and ID to Finanças
Finanças has a less than stellar reputation in Portugal—kind of like the DMV in the US—and if you don’t time your visit right, you might stand in line for hours.
So do yourself a favor, get up early enough to be there 10-15 minutes before they open. If you do this, you will probably only have to wait 10-20 minutes once they open their doors.
Remember to bring your passport together with your proof of address. If you’re an EU citizen with a national ID card that should also be accepted.
Note: The button you press to get your number in the line might not say NIF. If not, it will most likely say Número de Contribuinte or something along those lines.
Step four: Get your NIF on the spot
Once it’s your turn, just head up to the counter, let them know that you want to register for a NIF, and give the friendly employee whatever information they ask for. You shouldn’t need to justify why you want the NIF, but if they do ask, opening a bank account would be a perfectly good reason.
Most of the staff will speak at least basic English, so you’ll be fine even without a translator.
Once you’re done, you will receive a single A4 sheet of paper with the information you provided and your shiny new NIF. You should keep this paper. If you’re opening a bank account it’s a good idea to bring the original with you.
Step five: There is no step five. You’re done!
Getting your NIF via email
Due to COVID-19, some people have successfully received their NIF numbers by sending an email to one of the Finanças offices, such as [email protected] (Lisbon 2), [email protected] (Lisbon 9), [email protected] (Loures 3), or [email protected] (Portimão). You can pick any office, really. If you meet any resistance from the employees at one office, just try another.
2022 update: This seems to no longer be a viable method as Finanças offices have re-opened. I’ll leave it in the article in case we get new lockdowns, but for the time being if you want to get a NIF remotely you’ll have to see the tax representative route below.
You can find contact details of each Finanças office in the respective districts here:
- Castelo Branco
- Viana do Castelo
- Vila Real
You should send a copy of your identity document and a proof of address together with accompanying text in Portuguese (Google translate should work fine). You can expect your NIF number 3-5 days later.
Options for non-EU/EEA residents
Getting your NIF in person
This process is the same as for EU/EEA residents, except for two important differences:
- You’ll need to be accompanied by your tax-representative (see below).
- There’s a small charge to obtain your NIF (just north of €10).
Getting your NIF via your lawyer or tax representative
Non-EU/EEA residents used to need a tax representative in order to apply for and maintain a NIF. But from July 2022 this is no longer needed, but it can still make the process of obtaining the NIF easier. If you’re trying to obtain a NIF remotely, or if you just want to skip the long lines at SEF, it might still be worthwhile to get it done for you.
Note: As of this writing it’s unclear if you still need a tax representative to register for your NIF or not. It could be that you still need one to register, but then you can change to electronic notifications once your get access to Portal das Finanças after a couple weeks. If you have any first-hand experiences regarding this after July 1, 2022, please share them below and I’ll update the article!
A tax representative is someone the Portuguese tax authority can communicate with on your behalf. It’s often a lawyer, but it can be any permanent resident willing to take on the responsibility (such as a friend).
Getting a NIF with a lawyer’s help and using them as your tax representative usually cost between €300-700 per year, but there is a much cheaper option available (see below).
Using an online service
There is an online service called e-residence.com, who can help you get a NIF online and remotely, as well various other services such as getting NHR, opening a Portuguese Bank account, and tax consultations.
Their NIF services vary in price depending on how soon you’d like to receive it. Their standard option is within 10 days for €99. If you need it quickly, they can get it done in three days for a €299 or in five days for €149.
Renewals (continued tax representation) are charged at €99, no matter which package you opted for initially. Once you get access to Portal das Finanças you can of course change to electronic notifications directly from the tax authority, meaning you don’t need to pay for any renewals unless you want to keep them as your representative long-term.
You can even sign up with the code nomadgate to get a €10 discount on all services, making it even more affordable.
You will have to upload a copy of your passport and proof of address to their interface. You will then be sent a power of attorney document that you will need to sign before the process can start.
E-residence claims that 91% of NIFs are provided within 1-3 business days of submitting your documents.
A similar service, which is the oldest such service that we know of, is NIF Online. They used to be the cheapest option around (at €73 per NIF), but as of October 1, 2022 they have increased their prices.
Their new fee is €99 if you want your NIF within 20 days and €159 if you want it within 10 days, which includes both registration and the required tax representation for one year. Like the previous service, NIF Online is also giving our readers a discount. Take 10% off when signing up with the code nomadgate.
Recent reports from our community suggests that NIF Online in most cases deliver your NIF in about 20 days (sometimes a bit longer), although this was from before their new tiered plans were launched.
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