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Portugal is an attractive and accessible destination for international students who want to study abroad in Europe. The higher education system in Portugal is split between public and private institutions, universities, and polytechnics and a general focus on theory and research. The westernmost country from mainland Europe has a total of 47 universities, 74 polytechnics, and 6 police or military academies. While university degrees are more appreciated by national and international students, polytechnics focus on the practical side of teaching.

Students who seek an academic degree can enroll at a university while students that aim for a technical specialization have the chance to earn a degree from polytechnic universities. In order to be able to complete a degree in Portugal, you will need to speak both English and Portuguese. However, the experience of a study course in the most western country of mainland Europe will be rewarding.

Before you apply to a polytechnic or university degree course in Portugal you should check if you need a student visa and learn about the steps you should take to get it. If you've decided to study abroad in Portugal and come from an EU or EEA country, good news! You won’t need a Portuguese student visa. The same thing applies for students from Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

For all the other international students, just follow the next steps and prepare to apply for your student visa.

1. Apply to a Portuguese university and get your acceptance letter

If you’re still not sure where you want to study in Portugal, you will have to decide before you can start your student visa application process. After being accepted at a Portuguese university, you’ll get an acceptance letter required for the visa application.

2. Find out what type of visa you need to study in Portugal

For study purposes, you can apply for one of the following visas for Portugal:

  • short-term student visa – for students who apply for a short study or language course that lasts between 3 months and one year.

  • residence visa plus a residence permit – for students who apply for an academic study degree that's longer than one year.

3. When and where to apply for the student visa?

Apply for the student visa at the nearest Portuguese embassy or consulate in your home country. They can also provide more information about:

  • whether you need a visa or not

  • the type of visa you need

  • the visa documents you need

  • the length of the visa application process

 4. Language requirements for studying in Portugal

In order to obtain a study visa for Portugal, there are no specific language requirements. Since this is one of the mandatory conditions for admission at a Portuguese university, consulates don’t require that applicants should present any proof of language proficiency.

However, visa officers will be more impressed and will appreciate if you speak Portuguese at least on a conversational level.

For English-taught programmes at Portuguese universities, you'll need to pass one of the following English language tests, Usually, the following English tests are accepted for admissions:

  • IELTS Academic


  • C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency

  • PTE Academic

You should check with the higher education institution to see which English test is proffered and what is the minimum required score. At other universities and polytechnics where lectures are held in Portuguese, you might also need to prove your Portuguese language skills.

6. Documents required for the visa application

  • Completed application form

  • One colored passport photograph

  • A valid passport that expires at least three months after your return home, with at least one blank visa page

  • Proof that you paid the application fee which may cost up to 170 EUR

  • Letter of acceptance from the university/polytechnics you applied to

  • Proof of financial resources to support yourself during your stay in Portugal

  • Proof of health insurance coverage

  • A valid travel ticket or confirmed reservation to Portugal

  • Confirmed accommodation arrangements

  • Criminal records

7. Working in Portugal as an international student

EU/EEA students are allowed to work in Portugal without any restrictions or time limit. Students from outside the EU/EEA can take up part-time employment (up to 20 hours/week) or in full-time employment during vacations.

8. Conditions to apply for a residence card in Portugal

All students should apply for a residence card (Autorização de Residência) within four months of their arrival in Portugal at a local city council hall.

Documents required for a residence permit:

  • Application form

  • Valid passport plus one photocopy

  • Two identical and recent passport photos

  • Proof of income/financial independence

  • Proof of accommodation

Required university application documents

  • A completed application form

  • Proof that you passed the entrance examination (mostly when applying to Bachelor's degrees)

  • A recognized certificate stating completion of high school/Bachelor’s degree

  • Transcripts of academic records

  • Motivation letter

  • Proof of payment of application fee (50 EUR)

  • Portfolio (required for some degrees only)

Keep in mind that documents related to your former studies must be presented in original form and as English translations.

University application deadlines in Portugal

There are typically three applications sessions for students planning to study abroad in Portugal and university courses start either in autumn or spring. While you should always check with the university you are applying to, some general deadlines are: 

  • First application deadline: April-May

  • Second application deadline: June-July

  • Third application deadline: August-September

Remember that these deadlines vary between institutions and different degree courses at the same university may have different deadlines. You will receive an official answer from the university one or two months after the application deadline.

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