Educational Opportunities for Expat Kids in Portugal

A great number of foreign nationals immigrate to Portugal that attracts them by many factors. These include a friendly attitude to foreigners on the part of the local people, a high level of security, endless beaches, and comfortable cities. Legal residents in Portugal have access to the Portuguese healthcare system, educational opportunities, and various other social benefits. Whether you choose to live in a Portuguese city or prefer lodging in the countryside, you will find everything you need in Portugal.

Our clients who consider relocating to Portugal with their children often ask us about the educational opportunities available in the country. Below please find some basic information about the schooling issues that new residents of Portugal have to look into.

Schools Portugal

Basic requirements to those relocating to Portugal with their children

Relocating to Portugal and acquiring a legal residence permit there is not so difficult. The requirements for immigrants are rather simple in the country. These include the following ones:  

  1. Sufficient capital to sustain your family for 7 to 9 months;
  2. A job contract with a Portuguese employer (you will qualify for a working visa if you have such a contract);
  3. A place to stay in Portugal (own, rented, or corporate);

If you meet these requirements, assimilating in Portugal is going to be quite easy for you. Besides, there are some factors that can make acquiring a legal residence permit in the country even simpler. These include the following ones:

  1. Marriage to a citizen of Portugal (that has lasted for at least three years);
  2. Relatives among Portuguese citizens;
  3. An investment in the Portuguese economy;
  4. A business venture in the country.

If you are relocating to Portugal with your children, you have to spend a bit more time and effort and take some preparatory steps. In particular, you will have to submit the following documents for each child that you bring to Portugal:

  1. Birth certificate;
  2. Adoption certificate (if applicable);
  3. The child’s domestic passport;
  4. The child’s foreign passport;
  5. 2 passport-size photographs.
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Legalizing your stay in Portugal

If you are planning to stay in Portugal for an extended period of time, you have to register with the local authorities. If you come from an EU country, you have to pay a visit to the local Town Hall and request residence permits for yourself and the members of your family including your children.

If you come from a country outside the EU, you have to make an appointment with an official from the Portuguese Foreigners and Frontiers Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF) and file an application for a legal residence permit. You will be granted the permit if you meet the qualification requirements.

After that, you will have to acquire a Portuguese fiscal identification number (Número-de-Identificação Fiscal) from the Fiscal Service (Finaças). The number is required to pay taxes in Portugal.

Another document that you must apply for is the Social Security Identification Number (Número-de-Identificação de Segurança Social). All members of your family, including your children have to acquire the social security numbers.

When these issues are tackled, you can start looking for an educational institution for your children.

Education system in Portugal

Children of three to five years of age can attend kindergartens in Portugal. It would be a very good idea to let your little child attend a kindergarten when you relocate to Portugal as children are very fast at learning foreign languages. You will be surprised to see how soon your son or daughter will start understanding Portuguese and then speaking Portuguese when he or she attends a kindergarten in the country!  

State schools in Portugal do not charge any tuition. There are also private schools in the country that charge tuition fees between 250 and 550 euros per month. Please mind that some additional expenses are going to be involved too (school uniform, school lunches, and so on).  

In addition to that, there are international schools in Portugal where the languages of instruction are other than Portuguese. These schools are expensive though as the tuition can be between 6,000 and 22,000 euros per year.

If you would like your children to attend a state school, the school nearest to the place of your residence in Portugal will be legally obliged to take your child as a student. You have to submit the following documents when sending your child to school in Portugal:

  1. Child’s ID that you can obtain from the embassy of your country in Portugal;
  2. Registration form (that will be supplied to you by the school administration) and the child’s photograph;
  3. Medical certificate (the required vaccinations, eyesight test results, hearing test results, etc.).

Please mind that private and international schools may have additional requirements. For instance, they may want the child to take an entry test, show his/ her previous school records, and so on.

Education stages in Portugal

EducationCycleGradeAge
Pre-schoolKindergartenN / A3–5 years old
Primary and secondary school1 cycle 
2 cycle 
3 cycle
1-4 
5-6 
7-9
6–10 years old 
10–12 years old 
12–15 years old
High schoolAcademic curriculum
Practical curriculum 
10–12 
10–12
15–18 years old  
15–18 years old
Higher educationUniversity
Polytechnic Institute

Primary and secondary education in Portugal

Primary and secondary education is called ‘basic education’ in Portugal and it is divided into three ‘cycles’. When the child turns six, he or she starts the first cycle (Ensino Básico — 1 Ciclo) that covers grades one through four. The second cycle (Ensino Básico — 2 Ciclo) covers grades five and six. The third cycle (Ensino Básico — 3 Ciclo) covers grades seven through nine. When the third cycle is completed, the child receives the basic education certificate.   

High schools in Portugal

Children attending grades ten to twelve can choose between two routes that they can take: the academic one or the practical one. University-bound students will normally choose the academic curriculum while those planning to start working right after leaving the high school will normally choose the practical curriculum. After three years, the students acquire the practical skills that will allow them to make a living at an early stage in life.  

Higher education in Portugal

Universities and Polytechnic Institutes provide higher education opportunities in Portugal. Universities focus mainly on fundamental sciences and mathematics while Polytechnic Institutes teach practical professions such as business administration, marketing, jurisprudence, and so on. There are both state and private higher education institutions in Portugal.  

International schools in Portugal

A large number of international schools can be found in Portugal. Most of them will follow the British curriculum and have English as the language of instruction. At the same time, there are some alternative international schools that follow the US, German, and French curricula. International baccalaureate programs are also available in Portugal.

School calendar in Portugal

The school start and end dates will differ from one region of Portugal to another but not so much. As far as international schools are concerned, they usually follow the school calendar that is typical for the country where they came from.

The school day lasts for the following periods:

  • 1 cycle : 09:00 — 15:30
  • 2–3 cycle: 08:45-16:45.

The school year is divided into three trimesters in Portugal. Normally, the first trimester starts in the middle of September and lasts until the middle of December. Then comes the Christmas break and the school starts again at the beginning of January and lasts until the Easter break (end of March – beginning of April). The final trimester lasts until the end of June.

State, private, and international schools in Portugal: which one should you choose?

The choice of the school for your children will naturally depend on many factors including some social aspects and the financial opportunities that you have. You have to realize, however, that the language of instruction in state and private schools in Portugal is Portuguese so your children will have to have sufficient knowledge of the language before they can attend such a school.  

If you have small kids, we recommend that you should put them into a kindergarten in Portugal. This experience will let them master the Portuguese language before they are old enough to go to school. This means that you are going to have a much larger choice of options.

If your children do not speak Portuguese, they can attend only an international school that speaks their language and international schools are quite expensive in Portugal, as we have noted above. Besides, if you are planning to stay in Portugal for many years, your children will have access to Portuguese universities only if they speak the national language. Thus, learning Portuguese is highly important if you are to be successful living in the country.

As far as private schools are concerned, they come at a price, of course, but they have some advantages over state schools. Smaller classes, an individual approach to each student, more budget for extracurricular activities, better buildings, and so on. You have to realize, however, that many private schools are Catholic schools in Portugal so religion is taught there among other academic subjects.

Even though international schools are the most expensive education option, they do not experience any shortage of students in Portugal. They provide education of the highest quality and open many opportunities to their graduates. The language of instruction in Portuguese international schools is usually English but it can also be German or French depending on the founding country.

It is true that international schools in Portugal charge high tuition fees but their graduates are welcome at the Ivy League universities (Columbia University, Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University). These are among the top Universities of the world.

If you are planning to relocate to Portugal with your little children, of course you have to think hard about their schooling in the country. The choices are diverse and the quality of education will certainly affect the child’s future.

If you would like to learn more about educational opportunities in Portugal, please do not hesitate to contact us by email, a messenger, or our live chat. We will gladly answer all your questions!

How should I legalize my extended stay in Portugal?

If you come from an EU state, you simply have to register with the municipal authorities when you come to Portugal. If you come from a non-EU state, you have to obtain some legal grounds for residing in Portugal first and then apply for a legal residence permit to the SEF. In addition to that, you will have to acquire a fiscal number and a social security number in Portugal.

How do I send my children to school in Portugal?

First, you have to choose the school that your children are going to attend. Then you have to submit the application documents that include the child’s ID, the registration form, and the medical certificate. If you want your children to attend a private or an international school, you may have to fulfill some additional requirements.

How much does school education cost in Portugal?

State schools in Portugal do not charge tuition fees as they are financed from the national budget. Private and international schools do charge tuition fees, however. A private school will cost you between 250 and 550 euros per month and an international school will cost you between 6,000 and 22,000 euros per year. You have to take some additional expenditure into account too.

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