Expat Essentials

The definitive guide to Portuguese bureaucracy, Pt. 1: Getting your NIF

(Editor’s note: This post on getting the NIF in Portugal is the first of a two-part series explaining the processes for getting essential documents.)

Bureaucracy all around the world can be a pain, but in Portugal it can become a nightmare if you don’t know your way around all the procedures. You will receive confusing information from different people and different institutions and most of the information on the Internet is just in Portuguese.

Some people will even try to charge you to explain this to you in English!

So, here’s the definitive guide to obtain the three most important identification numbers in Portugal: NIF, NISS and SNS number:

What is a NIF number?

NIF stands for Número de Identificação Fiscal (AKA contribuinte) and you are going to need it for every procedure that involves a value added tax. So, it is a VAT identification number made of nine digits, and it is the first one you should get. Either if you are going to work for a company or as a freelancer, you will need it to declare taxes in Portugal, so it’s pretty much mandatory.

Before, it was as “simple” as going to the nearest Finanças office (or the least crowded one) with all the requirements and asking for it. Nowadays, due to Covid19, there is a new online way of getting a NIF once you have all the requirements which vary depending on your residency status and the country of your citizenship.

NIF requirements:

If you’re a citizen from the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland:

  • Valid ID
  • European Union Citizen Registration Certificate* OR proof of foreign address
    If you’re a third country national:
  • Valid passport
  • Residence permit

If you are a third country national and don’t have your residence permit yet:

  • Valid passport
  • Proof of foreign address
  • Tax representative (or sponsor) who is a resident in Portugal
  • ID of that person
  • You can get it at Câmara Municipal of the town where you live.

How do I get a NIF number?

You can get an appointment to do it face-to-face calling: 217 206 707. The day of the appointment, you just have to go to the office with all the requirements and your sponsor (in case you need one). If everything is in order, you will get it on the spot.

You can also get it online asking a friend who already has a NIF (any Portuguese resident) to access the official government website here; log in with their credentials; go to contacte-nos >> Atendimento e-balcao >> Registar nova questão.

There, they will see a box like in the image where they have to fill the first three boxes with “Registo Contribuinte – Identific – Atrib/Alter NIF-Singulares”, and then the subject and body like a normal email.

Kindness goes a long way in Portugal and everywhere in the world, so be nice!

Lastly, in “Anexar Ficheiro” they should attach all the documents we mentioned in NIF requirements and click on “Registar Questao” and wait some days to receive an answer in the portal.

I hope this text has been helpful. Knowing all this would have saved me a lot of time when I moved to Portugal.

Just try to be patient during the process because it may take some time, so it’s always a good idea to do it in advance. Stay tuned for the next post about how to get the NISS and SNS number.

About the author:

Mónica Da Silva was born in Venezuela but her parents and grandparents are Portuguese. She’s a teacher and translator. Mónica lived in Bonn, Germany for 6 months and has been in Lisbon for a year and a half.

She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and a bit of German.

Read more about Lisbon and Portugal in our Dispatches archives.

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