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 current COVID-19 pandemic).
Options for EU/EEA residents
Before COVID-19, the default way of getting a NIF number was to go to your closest Finanças and apply for it in person. At the moment, many people have been successful in getting their NIF via email. In both cases getting the NIF number is free, and will not in itself make you a tax resident in the country (as long as you use a non-Portuguese address).
Getting your NIF in person
Note: This was the default way prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of this writing, the Finanças offices are closed for walk-ins, so you’ll need to use one of the other methods instead.
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 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.
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 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 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@example.com (Lisbon 2), firstname.lastname@example.org (Lisbon 9), email@example.com (Loures 3), or firstname.lastname@example.org (Portimão). You can pick any office, really. If you meet any resistance from the employees at one office, just try another.
You can find contact details of each Finanças office in the respctive 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).
Offices may be closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, so make sure to check in advance.
Getting your NIF via your lawyer or tax representative
Non-EU/EEA residents need a tax representative in order to apply for and maintain a NIF. This also includes EU citizens living outside the EU. 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 €200-700 per year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, if you have a Portuguese friend acting as your tax representative, they can apply for the NIF on your behalf using the e-balcão (e-counter) on Portal das Finanças.
Using an online service (NIF Online)
Their annual fee is €59, which includes the required tax representation. An order of magnitude cheaper than using a lawyer!
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 print out in two copies. The first one you’ll need to sign, scan, and upload to their website. The second one you’ll sign during a video conference with their lawyer, where they also verify your passport.
It might not be the best option if you are in a hurry (or impatient). While it should usually be quite quick, currently it can take up to 4-5 weeks to obtain your NIF this way.
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