What’s a NIF?
A NIF (número de Identificação fiscal) is a personal tax ID number. It is sometimes also called a Contribution Number. It is NOT a Portuguese social security number. (That’s a NISS.) However, it is a unique identifier that is used to open a bank account, buy property (really, buy anything), open accounts with utilities, pay your Portuguese taxes, get a job, etc. When you go through a checkout counter, the clerk will usually ask for your NIF. If you sign for a package from Amazon Spain, you might be asked for your NIF. That means the sooner you memorize it, in Portuguese, the easier life will be. (And no, I still don’t know mine. It’s on the back of my residency card and in my phone contacts for easy access.
Having a NIF is one of the requirements of the long term visa process. If you are applying for residency, then yes, you need a NIF. The good news is that getting a NIF is free. The bad news is that it’s difficult to get if you’re not in Portugal and don’t speak Portuguese.
If you are in Portugal and want to do it yourself, you need to set an appointment at your nearest Finanςas office. Do not expect to walk in and see someone that day. It may happen; it probably won’t. More than likely you will receive a day and time to return, usually within a week (at least that’s the time frame I have had in Tavira—your results may vary).
Don’t expect anyone to speak English, either. You’re in Portugal. 😊 If the clerk or agent speaks some English, consider yourself fortunate. Most of the people I have encountered here apologetically say their English is not very good and then their English is very good. Think about how hesitant you are to speak Portuguese; they have that same hesitation in speaking English. But, when dealing with anything financial, I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding. You can take someone with you who is fluent in Portuguese if you’re not.
According to the Portuguese government website (and as of this writing), you will need to bring the following documents with you:
If you are a national of a country that is not in the EU, to be considered a resident for tax purposes, you will need to produce:
- an identity document or a passport and residence permit
- Your entry visa for Portugal or the Schengen area (airline ticket/boarding pass)
- You may need to appoint a tax representative (natural or legal person) resident in Portugal, i.e., a local Portuguese national witness. This is a person who is going to be fiscally responsible for you. Don’t expect volunteers. That’s why most newcomers have an agent for the first year while their residency permit is being processed.
To be considered a non-resident for tax purposes, you will need to produce:
- an identity document or a passport, and you must appoint a tax representative (natural or legal person) resident in Portugal, i.e., a local Portuguese national witness.
For foreign minors without a passport, the following must be produced:
- proof of birth.
Note: EU citizens are not required to have a local Portuguese witness, proof of entering in Schengen Zone, SEF Entry, and Air Ticket/Boarding Pass. You will need your passport and possibly your birth certificate (which means bring it just in case).
Again, if you do this yourself at the local Finanςas office, there is no charge to get your NIF.
If you are not a DIY person
Welcome to my world. When I applied for my D7 visa, I didn’t need a NIF, a Portuguese bank account, or a 12 month lease in place. (Don’t be hatin’.) However, I needed ALL of those things before my SEF appointment for my resident permit which was set for four months after I arrived in Portugal.
That has changed. You now need to have these things in place in order to get your D7 and other visas. This means you will most likely need to make at least one scouting trip to set up your NIF, your bank account, and find a place to live. It takes about a week to get your NIF issued. You will need to have it before you can open a bank account, or buy/rent a place to live. I recommend getting the NIF before your scouting trip.
You can also open your bank account remotely, but frankly, it’s an expensive pain in the neck. Better to do it when you’re in country. You’ll spend an hour or more getting it set up. Bring your NIF, your passport, and any stray documentation you think could be remotely helpful. I didn’t go anywhere the first few months without a file folder of documents tucked under my arm. (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.)
There are agencies that will help you get your NIF, as well as set up your bank account. (There are, of course, agencies to do everything for you, including finding and negotiating housing, a car, schools for your kids, etc., especially if you are going the Golden Visa route. But let’s keep it simple.)
You Have Options
Anchorless is set up to get your NIF for you with no fuss, no muss. Right now, they only do NIFs (with tax representation) and Portuguese birth certificates. That means you’re not going to get the proverbial earful of upsells that other agencies may offer. Anchorless charges €150 all included for your NIF.
I used NIFOnline. It is probably the largest agency and was easy to work with. NIFOnline charges around €75 to procure your number. (It fluctuates–I’ve seen it higher.) As with the other agencies, that includes acting as your tax representative for the first year. The hardest part of the process for me was trying to hold my laptop and steady to get a close up shot of my signature for documentation. (It was during COVID and everything was being done remotely.)
Bordr charges $150 for a NIF. They can also open a Portuguese bank account for a package price (NIF and bank account) of $470. You may want to go this route. Frankly, if you’re coming to Portugal for your scouting trip, as I mentioned above, open the account while you’re here. Use the extra $300 or so to do something fun. More and more banks are making it harder to open an account remotely and the Bordr site tells you that it is a “dynamic situation.”
GetSortd has some of the best rates I have found. They charge a very reasonable €89 for a NIF and, if you need your NIF in a jif (see what I did there?), they have an express service with a 72-hour turnaround time for just €129. But two of their services really caught my eye. The first is Remote Bank Account Opening (€199). Opening a bank account remotely is a pain in the patootie. Compare Sortd’s price with Bordr’s and you can see why they caught my eye. It’s almost €200 less.
The other GetSortd service that appeals to me because I am a freelancer, is their Freelancer Setup (€199). They also do company formation (if you’re going for a D2 visa) for €599. I have been here for three years, used two different accounting firms, and I’m still not convinced that I am filing my Portuguese taxes correctly. It’s so much easier (and less expensive) to have your business set up right to begin rather than go back and fix it.
Why Do I Need a Tax Representative?
The tax representative is the person or company who vouches for your financial integrity. If, for example, you don’t file and pay your income tax if you are obligated to do so, the tax representative is responsible for doing that and is also responsible for paying the tax and any fines. This is why it’s a “big deal” to ask someone to be your tax representative. I see people in the ex-pat groups asking for someone to be their representative and then wonder why no one is jumping to do that for a stranger. Please, don’t ask and put someone in an uncomfortable position. Use a professional.
Once you have your residency permit, you can be your own tax representative. You can also pay an annual fee to have a tax representative if you want to do so. Most people don’t. If you have a NIF but are NOT a resident (or citizen) of Portugal, you will need to have a tax representative in place.
The NIF Bottom Line
Getting your NIF is the first step towards Portuguese residency. It’s easy to do online and relatively inexpensive. All four of these agencies can get your NIF for you. NIFOnline is the largest and least expensive; fairly efficient but impersonal. Anchorless seems to have more personalized service. Bordr is probably somewhere in the middle. Sortd is the new player in town and their prices and service tell me they are playing for keeps.
I would apply for the NIF at least a month before a scouting trip; sometimes NIFs get delayed because Finanςas gets backed up. Once you have your NIF, I recommend opening your bank account while you are physically in Portugal.