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.
Getting your NIF, step by step
Luckily, getting a NIF is a quick and mostly painless process, even as a non-resident. It’s also free, and will not in itself make you a tax resident in the country.
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 probably your best bet. But if you’re staying elsewhere, just search for your closest one on Google Maps.
Also take note of when it opens. The one 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.
Note: If your address is outside the EU/EEA, you will need someone to act as your tax representive—basically a person the tax authorities can contact if they need to reach you. You could hire a lawyer, or just ask a friend or acquaintance.
Alternatively (if you’re an EU citizen living elsewhere), 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 upport 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 an European address, and print a statement from them.
That trick seem to only work for EU/EEA citizens, as a non-EU citizen you might be asked for something official issued by an EU Government to prove your EU address. In that case you will have to get a tax representative as explained above.
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 address proof. 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 just 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 bring the original with you.
Step five: There is no step five. You’re done!
Note: These steps are valid for EU/EEA citizens. Citizens from third countries need a tax representative as well. A tax representative is someone the Portuguese tax authority can communicate with on your behalf. It’s often a lawyer, but can be any resident willing to take on the responsibility (such as a friend). See the discussion in the Nomad Gate Community.