How to Study in Portugal for International Student (4 Steps)

Portugal is home to universities that excel not only in Europe – but on the entire world stage as well. This distinction has helped make the country a preferred destination amongst many international students, whose numbers continue to increase every year.

Since it follows the Bologna process, Portuguese universities are sure to offer degrees that are comparable to that of other European countries. Granted its research-driven curriculums and modest tuition costs, Portugal holds much promise for students in search of greener international pastures. In this article, we will be looking at how international students can study in Portugal.

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Study in Portugal for International Students

To be able to study in Portugal, international students should follow these steps:

  • Know how much it cost to study in Portugal and start preparing to meet the cost! This is a very vital step in this process and is often the most overlooked. It is important that you plan ahead to be able to study abroad. Some ways that you can make this possible are attending affordable universities in Portugal, working while you study, paying out of your own pocket, and getting scholarships (What we recommend).
  • Then, you will need to meet the requirements of universities in Portugal. We will outline the requirements needed to be met.
  • Next, you will need to apply for admission.
  • After that, you will need to apply for a student visa


1. Financing your Education in Portugal

Public universities cost around $1,694 annually for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Private universities, on the other hand, have tuition fees that cost about $4,517 a year.

As one of the more affordable countries in Portugal, the monthly cost of living ranges from $452 to $565 (EUR 400 to 500).

There are many scholarships available in Portugal for international students, so we highly recommend that you research these and apply accordingly.


2. Meet the Admission Requirements at Universities in Portugal

Here are the basic requirements for international students who wish to study in Portugal.

General Language Requirements (Undergraduate)

Most universities teach baccalaureate programs in Portuguese. As such, you need to demonstrate a B1/B2 proficiency level to be admitted to such institutions.

A B1 proficiency means that you can understand the main points on matters encountered in school, work, etc. This means you can deal with situations that are likely to arise in Portugal. As such, you should be able to produce simple connected text – as well as describe experiences, state reasons, etc.

A B2 proficiency, on the other hand, means that you understand the main ideas of complex text. As such, you should be able to interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity. This level means that you could engage in technical discussions involving your field of specialization.

At the University of Porto, applicants need to have a B2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages. This means you should be able to provide clear, detailed text on a wide variety of subjects.

At the University of Algarve, a Portuguese proficiency test is not formally required. However, the administration recommends the students take any of the following classes:

  • Portuguese as Foreign Language, which corresponds to 3 ECTS per semester.
  • Portuguese Erasmus Intensive Language Course, a 5 ECTS course that runs from July/August to January.

Most universities usually waive the above-mentioned requirements for applicants who come from the following Portuguese-speaking countries:

  • Brazil
  • Angola
  • Mozambique
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Cape Verde
  • Sao Tome and Principe

As to whether you need a CEFR certification or Portuguese language courses, check with your university regarding its language requirements.

General Language Requirements (Graduate)

Many universities teach post-graduate classes in Portuguese, and to be admitted you need to possess the same proficiency as undergraduate students: B2 level.

You may also opt for English-taught degrees, which are offered by many schools such as the University of Lisbon. Here, post-graduate applicants need to meet an IELTS band of 6.5 or a TOEFL iBT score of 70.

At the University of Algarve, a lower IELTS band of 6 is admissible. However, it requires a higher TOEFL iBT score of 80. It also accepts the following proficiency exams.

  • TOEFL PBT = 550
  • TOEFL CBT = 213
  • Cambridge Advanced English = C
  • CEFR = C1

For more details about your school’s language requirements, make sure to visit your university’s admission website.

Application Requirements (Undergraduate)

To be able to study in Portugal as an international student, you need to meet the application requirements as well. Undergraduate students are required to course their applications through Candidatura Online. Here, you can list up to six universities/programs of your choice.

The deadlines for application via Candidatura Online are as follows:

  • 1st phase – August
  • 2nd phase – Mid-September to October
  • 3rd phase – Mid-October

Like locals, an international applicant needs to submit proof of identification (passport) and a diploma/certificate of secondary education. In some universities, an entrance exam may be required.

At the University of Porto, some degrees may have other prerequisites, such as good communication skills, visual and/or motor capabilities, and sports aptitude. To learn more about these additional admission requirements, make sure to refer to your university bulletin.

Application Requirements (Graduate)

Master’s applicants need to have a baccalaureate degree, while Ph.D. applicants need to possess a Master’s degree. Apart from such certifications, graduate students also need to submit the following:

  • Accomplished application form
  • Curriculum vitae/resume
  • Transcript of records (bachelor’s, master’s, or both with final average grade)
  • Letter of motivation
  • Work portfolio

In some graduate schools such as the University of Lisbon’s School of Economics and Management, international applicants also need to submit a letter of intent. This should include why they applied at the University, their particular interests, as well as their expectations from the program.

While the Universidade Europeia has the same above requirements for Master’s degree applicants, it requires Ph.D. hopefuls to submit 2 letters of recommendation as well. The school also requires a copy of International Health Insurance from its applicants.

Given the differences in requirements for universities and their respective programs, it’s best to check with your admission officer regarding the complete list of application documents.

3. Apply to Universities in Portugal

Want to learn the dates or deadlines for application? Here are some tips for prospective international students who want to study in Portugal:


Portuguese universities have two semesters: fall and spring. Most schools have three application cycles, which are April to May, June to July, and August to September.

Application fees cost about $112 (EUR 100).

At the University of Porto, the first deadline is earlier (December to January). It follows a similar second (April) and third (June to July) cycles.

However, at the University of Algarve, there are only 2 application schedules. The first ends in April (for the first semester) and the next one in October (for the second semester).

As always, it’s best to check with your university regarding its cycles or deadlines for international applicants.


Likewise, graduate schools have three cycles for application. At the University of Lisbon, the first intake runs from November to February, while the second intake takes place from March to April. While there is a third cycle (May to June), it is not recommended for international students given the time it takes to issue study visas.

Universidade Europeia, on the other hand, has later deadlines for foreign applicants – mid-May for the first semester and mid-October for the second semester.

Upon submission of your documents, you need to pay the application fee that costs around $56 (EUR 50).

As universities have varying application intakes for post-graduate students, make sure to visit your program’s admission portal.

4. Apply for a Student Visa

If you are going to study for more than a year in Portugal, then you need to apply for a residence permit for higher education students. According to the Immigration and Borders Service, the necessary documents are as follows:

  • Passport
  • 2 pcs. Recent ID photos
  • Evidence of registration in a university/higher education institution
  • Evidence of tuition payment
  • Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence
  • Health insurance
  • Record of criminal record/s (if any) from the home country
  • Permission to check criminal records

Upon completing these documents, you can submit them to a directorate in your area.


In Portugal – you can choose from as many as 5,000 study programs (undergraduate or graduate). With this wealth of options, you can pursue your desired career – however difficult or unique it may be! With Portugal’s world-class institutions and surprisingly affordable tuition fees, this country proves to be a smart choice amongst discerning foreign students.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Europe Scholarships Page.