The question of acquiring a NIF is one that probably concerns people planning to move to Madeira more than any other.
What is a NIF?
Your NIF is your Portuguese tax reference, known as a fiscal number. NIF stands for Número de Identificação Fiscal.
Your NIF is the equivalent of a National Insurance number in Portugal. Or, in the US – your Social Security Number. The main difference is that your Portuguese NIF has a much broader application than you may be used to.
You can’t avoid having a NIF. You’ll need one if you’re to become a resident. However, the process of acquiring it can be complex – but we’ll help you through the process.
Why do I need a NIF?
Your NIF will be an essential part of your armoury if you’re to...
- open a bank account
- buy a mobile phone
- get access to the internet
- sign up for utilities
- buy or rent a property
- invest in property or venture capital as part of your Golden Visa application
- set up a business
- Even when you’re shopping, you might be asked at the till for your Número de Contribuinte – another phrase for NIF - in case you’re planning to claim for your purchase on expenses
That’s why, before you do anything else in your quest for residency in Portugal, you need to apply for a NIF.
In order to have a NIF, you don’t have to be living in Portugal. Neither will it mean you’re automatically liable for Portuguese taxes.
How do I acquire a NIF in Portugal?
There are several different ways to get a NIF. This depends on your residency status, whether you hold an EU passport and where you apply for the NIF.
How to get a NIF if you’re an EU/EEA citizen
Two approaches – walk-in and online applications.
Walk-in NIF applications
Find your nearest Finanças that accepts walk-in applications and take with you your passport and proof of your residence (such as a bank statement) outside Portugal. There will probably be a small fee of around €7.
(Note - In Madeira, walk-in applications are famously straightforward)
Online NIF applications
Send a scanned copy of your passport and proof of address. Use Google translate to add a few words explaining who you are and why you’re applying for a NIF.
How to get a NIF as a non-EU/EEA citizen, such as British or American citizen
You’ll need to appoint a fiscal representative – ideally a lawyer – who’s a Portuguese citizen or resident. They will be responsible for handling communications between you and the Portuguese tax authorities. When it comes to a walk-in application, you’ll need your fiscal representative to accompany you.
An alternative way for you as a non-EU citizen to get a NIF is to arrange for a lawyer to carry out the entire process on your behalf. This will, of course, be more costly but could prove to be a much smoother process and will often be included as part of the complete Visa processing service.