How to Study in Portugal: Complete Guide

13 de March, 2024

How to Study in Portugal: Complete Guide

If studying in Portugal is in your plans, it is not difficult to get a place at a good university in the country!
Reading: 9 min

Studying in Portugal can be an exciting opportunity for many students looking to expand their academic horizons. It’s not just an opportunity reserved for the young; pursuing a master’s degree, returning to studies, can be a wonderful experience at any age.

The country boasts excellent universities and a relatively straightforward application process, along with affordable tuition fees. However, many doubts arise when considering this possibility. From costs to bureaucratic procedures. In this article, we will explore the process of studying in Portugal, from scholarship options to practical steps for applying, obtaining a study visa, and settling in the country.

How to Study in Portugal: Step by Step

Discover how to start your academic journey in Portugal with our practical guide:

1.Choose the university and course
Explore the various Portuguese universities, from the most renowned to the most innovative. Look through the available courses that you consider most suitable for your academic background and professional experience and that meet your needs. The list of universities and courses can be checked on the website of the Directorate-General for Higher Education.

2.Assess the costs
Check the tuition fees of the chosen educational institution and the cost of living in the city where you intend to study. Prices vary between courses and universities, and major cities tend to be more expensive. Be aware that courses usually have different prices for Portuguese citizens and international students.

3.Application deadlines
Application processes generally begin in January, nine months before the start of the academic year, and occur in several phases. Mark the deadlines on your calendar and don’t leave it to the last minute.

4.Apply for the student visa
After being accepted at the university, it’s time to apply for the student visa if you don’t have Portuguese citizenship. Prepare your documents in advance and, if necessary, seek help from a specialized consultancy to assist you with the application. Atlantic Bridge has extensive experience in this area, fill out our form here and request your quote.

5.Prepare for the move
With acceptance letter and visa in hand, it’s time to prepare for the move. Find accommodation, start the residence permit procedures, and arrange essential documents such as NIF and registration with the Public Health Center.

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How does the education system work in Portugal?

The higher education system in Portugal is structured into three cycles: bachelor’s (undergraduate), master’s, and doctoral. Additionally, there is the concept of an integrated master’s, where the final years of the bachelor’s degree are converted into a master’s.

The academic year usually begins in September and ends in June. The grading system varies depending on the educational institution and the type of assessment. Generally, grades are assigned on a scale from 0 to 20, with 10 being the minimum passing grade.

There are both public and private higher education institutions. In public institutions, tuition fees are generally lower compared to private ones.

How to get into college in Portugal (bachelor’s and integrated master’s)

To enter a college in Portugal for a bachelor’s degree, the process varies depending on whether you have European citizenship or not. It’s important to note that in Portugal, there is the option to pursue a program known as an integrated master’s, where the final years of the bachelor’s degree align with the requirements of a master’s. This is an excellent opportunity to obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously upon completing college.

For those with European/Portuguese citizenship:

  • Take the National Admission Contest, an annual exam used to rank university applicants.
  • Your foreign high school grades are also considered. You’ll need to get an equivalence of grades from a high school in Portugal.
  • Then, apply to the desired university and compete normally with Portuguese students.

If you have another European citizenship other than Portuguese (such as Italian, Spanish, etc.), you can apply normally without having to take the National Admission Contest and will pay the same fees as a national student.

For those without European citizenship:

  • Complete the Year Zero, a preparatory program offered by some universities, such as the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
  • Some universities have specific exams. Check if the institution you want to apply to has this system.
  • By legally residing in Portugal for 2 years, you can obtain the Equality Status before registering for the National Contest and competing with Portuguese students.

It’s important to check the university’s website to verify the admission requirements, as these may vary from institution to institution.

How to get into college in Portugal (postgraduate)

  1. Course and institution selection
  2. Check the specific admission requirements for the desired course. This may include a previous degree in the relevant area, professional experience, a motivation letter, resume, among others.
  3. Submit your application online through the institution’s portal or the Portuguese government’s application system. Make sure to meet all deadlines and requirements.
  4. After submitting the application, you will be evaluated based on your documents and academic/professional merits. You may also be called for an interview, usually conducted via video call.
  5. If approved, you will receive an acceptance letter from the institution. At this point, you can proceed with enrollment and other administrative procedures.
  6. Apply for your visa and residence permit to study in Portugal.
    Complete the registration at the institution, pay the enrollment fees, and other expenses.

How much does it cost to study in Portugal?

Between 1,500 and 12,500 euros per academic year.

The cost of studying in Portugal will especially depend on the chosen educational institution. The University of Porto, for example, is usually cheaper than most Portuguese institutions.

This is because the educational institution offers discounts for CPLP – Community of Portuguese Language Countries students, which makes tuition fees up to 45% cheaper compared to the value for international students.

To give you an idea of the costs, below are some of the most sought-after courses to study in Portugal. The values indicated are applied to Brazilian students, already with the respective discounts.

Fees 2024:

Course LevelInstitutionCourseTuition Fee (annual)
Bachelor’sUniversity of LisbonBachelor’s in Architecture€7,000
Bachelor’sUniversity of PortoBachelor’s in Law€1,925
Bachelor’sCatholic University (private)Bachelor’s in Marketing€3,573
Master’sUniversity of PortoMaster’s in Communication Sciences€2,200
Master’sUniversity of Beira InteriorMaster’s in Biochemistry€1,500
Master’sLusophone University (private)Master’s in Civil Engineering€3,470
Ph.D.University of LisbonPh.D. in Fine Arts€3,000 (1st year) / €1,750 (subsequent years)
Ph.D.University of PortoPh.D. in Physical Education€2,750
Ph.D.Nova University of LisbonPh.D. in Education€2,500

Read also: Portugal vs United States vs Spain: Comparison of Cost of Living

Do you need a visa to study in Portugal?

Yes. If you do not have European citizenship and intend to stay in the country for more than 90 days, a student visa is essential. The application should be made as soon as you receive acceptance from the Portuguese institution, so gather the necessary documents as early as possible. If you need help obtaining your study visa in Portugal, Atlantic Bridge can assist you. Speak with our consultants.

What visa do you need to study in Portugal?

It depends on the duration of your course and your origin.

Temporary Stay Visa

For courses lasting more than three months and less than a year. Suitable for: Study programs; Exchange programs in Portugal; Unpaid professional internships; Volunteering; Courses at an educational institution or vocational training.

Long Stay Visa

For courses lasting more than a year. It can be Visa D4 or D5, in the case of students already in Europe. This includes: Research programs; Secondary school student exchange; Internships; Volunteering.

How much does a student visa for Portugal cost?

The visa prices are updated monthly on the VFS websites for each region (due to exchange rate variations). The residence visa fee is €90, but additional fees such as VFS service fees and administrative fees, such as postage fees, are added.

How long does it take to get a study visa for Portugal?

The average processing time for a Temporary Stay Visa to study in Portugal is usually 60 days, and for long-term visas, 90 days.

How to study for free in Portugal?

It is possible to study for free in Portugal through scholarships from Brazil, Portugal, or Europe. It is important to always be aware of updates on scholarships, as new opportunities constantly arise. Some notable scholarships include:

  • Exchange scholarships offered by Brazil, such as the Santander Universidades scholarship, which covers travel and housing expenses for 6 months. The application requires a partnership between the Brazilian university and the bank.
  • Scholarships provided by Portuguese institutions, such as at the University of Coimbra, where international students with a score above 160 on the Portuguese scale can apply.
    If you are enrolled in Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Integrated Master’s programs at the University of Porto (U.Porto), you can apply for scholarships awarded by the University’s Social Action Services (SASUP).
  • There are specific scholarships for areas of study, such as the Jorge Álvares Foundation Scholarships (for studies on Portugal, Mainland China, and the Macau Special Administrative Region), Fulbright Portugal Scholarships (for students from the United States of America), and the Schwarzman Scholars Program Scholarships (fully funded master’s at Tsinghua University in Beijing).
  • European scholarships, such as those offered by the Erasmus program, which provide mobility periods for foreign students, including those already studying in Portugal. For more information, consult the website of the desired institution.
studying in Portugal queima das fitas
The Queima das Fitas procession is part of the classic end-of-year festivities at Portuguese universities.

Can you transfer college to Portugal?

Yes, it is possible to transfer your college to Portugal. Portuguese universities reserve places for transfers, but if you prefer, you can try a regular application.

Your academic record, grades, course syllabi, and the reputation of your home university will be evaluated to determine which courses can be credited. Generally, you are required to complete at least half of the course in Portugal. Therefore, if you are already advanced in your studies in your home country, it may be more prudent to finish there to avoid possible delays.

What are the best universities in Portugal?

The best universities in Portugal in 2024, according to the QS World University Rankings, are:

  • University of Porto – 253rd position;
  • University of Lisbon – 266th position;
  • University of Aveiro – 344th position;
  • University of Coimbra – 351st position;
  • Nova University of Lisbon – 400th position;
  • University of Minho, in Braga and Guimarães – 611-620th position;
  • ISCTE-IUL – 751-760th position;
  • Portuguese Catholic University – 901-950th position.

Documents required to study in Portugal

Documents for school enrollment

You must submit to the educational institution the proof of qualifications translated (when written in a foreign language). They must be authenticated by the Portuguese embassy or consulate, or by the embassy and consulate of the foreign country in Portugal, or with the apostille for countries that have adhered to the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961.

Documents for Visa Application

In general, the Visa applicant must provide the following documents:

  • Acceptance letter issued by the Portuguese educational institution and proof of enrollment in the desired course;
  • Signed declaration by the student indicating the course they intend to attend, the name of the educational institution, the start and end dates, and the accommodation location in Portugal;
  • Proof of means of subsistence in Portugal;
  • Proof of accommodation in Portugal;
  • Valid international travel health insurance for the period of stay in Portugal. For Brazilians, private health insurance can be replaced by PB4;
  • Certificate of criminal record from the country of origin and also from the country where they have resided in the last 12 months;
  • Two recent color passport photos 3×4;
  • Passport valid for more than 6 months;
  • Authorization for consultation of criminal record by the SEF;
  • Declaration of awareness of the fact that you should not travel to Portugal without the appropriate visa;
  • Simple copy of the identity document;
  • Copy of the proof of payment of the Visa issuance fee.

Does any course offer the possibility of obtaining a student visa to reside in Portugal?

No, not all courses allow you to obtain the visa. The following are accepted:

  • University courses (Bachelor’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D.).
  • Secondary level courses, provided they are recognized as education programs equivalent to levels 2 and 3 of the International Standard Classification of Education ISCED (which includes students from the 7th grade) and technical courses lasting more than one year.

Studying in Portugal and bringing your family

The study visa allows family reunification.

  • Children or stepchildren under 18 years old or incapacitated.
  • Over 18, unmarried children or stepchildren studying in Portugal.
  • Spouses or partners (stable union proven for more than 2 years).
  • Parents or in-laws, provided they are economically dependent.
  • Parents or in-laws over 65 years old (without the need for economic dependence).

Is it possible to work as a student in Portugal?

Yes, it is possible to work as a student in Portugal, as long as the work does not interfere with the study schedule and is communicated in advance to the SEF.

Interested? Atlantic Bridge takes care of everything for you: your student visa, accommodation search, visa for family members who will come with you, insurance, documents, in short, we take care of your entire journey! Talk to our consultants and request a personalized quote!



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