the university of Porto building on a sunny day

How to Apply to a Portuguese University as an International Student


Portugal is a wonderful country to study in – the costs are low and the quality of life is high. Portugal is also known for its abundance of student traditions (like Quema das Fitas and Praxe), vibrant student life and prestigious universities. Every year, Portuguese universities welcome thousands of international students from countries like Brazil, Angola, China and many more, not to mention the huge amount of European Erasmus students that choose Portugal as their study abroad destination each semester. Here is a brief guide on applying to a Portuguese university as an international student.


1. Decide Which University and Course You Wish to Apply to

The first step in making your dream of studying in Portugal a reality is finding the right university and a degree. There are several excellent universities in Portugal that offer a variety of courses across the arts and sciences. The majority of these courses are taught it Portuguese but there are also an increasing number of courses that are being taught in English. Check out the top universities for international students here. Don’t forget to have a look at the entry requirements for each course to make sure you meet the criteria. 


two students walking on a university campus


2. Start Gathering the Supporting Documents

Once you’ve decided on which universities you’d like to apply to, now comes the fun part – gathering your documents! Bear in mind that this step might take you some time. The specific requirements vary from course to course but you will usually need to show the following documents.

  • Your official undergraduate transcripts with a certified translation (by a Portuguese embassy, notary or a sworn translator). If your degree is not part of the Bologna Process then you might need to get your transcripts verified by an official Portuguese authority to confirm its equivalence. Likewise, your certificate might need to hold a Hague Apostille from the issuing country, so definitely make sure you check out the specific requirements for your case well in advance. Read more about this here.
  • A CV detailing all of your previous academic and professional experience as well as any publications or awards you might have. See an example of a CV here.
  • A valid identification document (a passport or an identity card)

Depending on your course, you may also need to show other documents such as a portfolio, motivation letter, proof of language skills etc. The deadlines for applying to universities in Portugal are usually around April/May, however, the earlier you apply, the better your chances are. 


a stack of files and papers


3. Apply for a visa

After you’ve applied to your course and have been accepted, you’ll have to apply for a study visa (unless you’re a citizen of an EU member state). Typically, students opt for the Schengen National Long-Stay Visa (type D) or a temporary visa (if the study programme is less than one year). You can apply for this visa at a Portuguese embassy or consulate in your home country. Try to do this as soon as possible since visa processing times can take up to 2-3 months. Here’s a list of some of the documents you might need for applying.

  • A letter of acceptance from the university
  • The completed application form
  • A recent photograph
  • A valid passport (the passport must be valid for the duration of your stay in Portugal)
  • Proof of payment of the application fee
  • Proof of health insurance coverage
  • Criminal record certificate
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Proof of financial resources
4. Register at SEF

You will need to apply for your residence permit at SEF within 3 months of arrival if you’re on the long-stay visa. The permit will be valid for a year and can be renewed for up to five years, after which you’ll be able to apply for a permanent residence permit should you wish to live and work in Portugal. It might take a few months for SEF to process your application so try to apply for the permit as soon as possible once you arrive. If you’re on a temporary visa, then you’ll only need to go to SEF before your visa expires, if you wish to have it renewed.

Tip: make sure to arrive at SEF early in the morning otherwise you might risk waiting for hours on end, or not getting attended that day at all.


5. Start your adventure

Now, you’re all settled in! It’s time to go out and enjoy your stay in Portugal. To find out more about how it is to live in Portugal as an International Student, take a quick read through our other blogs on this topic. We are a team of international students helping other international students with tips and advice that we wish we had!


A group of Portuguese students with red hats and canes


We hope this information was helpful. If you need any further assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. You can also find more information on the application process here.