TransferGo logo
Send money
portuguese in united kingdom

Portuguese migrants in the UK

One of the regular features of the TransferGo Blog is a look at the migrant populations that make up the UK.  In this article we look at the Portuguese


As talk about immigration has dominated the headlines over the past few years, many references have been made to the fact that the relationship between the UK and Portugal is the world’s oldest alliance.  This is in reference to the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance that was signed in 1373 and is still in effect.

The Alliance was tested in the late 1500s as England found itself in conflict with Spain which was in union with Portugal. The English navy fought both Spanish and Portuguese ships, even though the British fleet was fighting in part to restore Portugal’s independence.

As was the case with many medieval treaties, the first Anglo-Portuguese treaty was “formalised” by a marriage between the two countries’ royal families.  Another marriage between royal families occurred in 1662 when Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of Portugal’s King John IV.  This union became known as the Marriage Treaty.  Britain received Tangiers and Bombay as well as free trade with Portuguese colonies in Brazil and Asia as Catherine’s dowry.  Charles II provided Portugal with troop to fight in Portugal’s war of independence from Spain.  Catherine’s influence on British culture is still very apparent as she is credited with popularising tea in England.

Other treaties between the two countries were signed in the 1700s and the original alliance played a key role with Napoleon attacked Lisbon in 1807.

Portugal was a key ally of the UK in World War I. Although the country was officially neutral during World War II, Portugal’s friendly relations with the British were very apparent.

Portuguese Immigration to the UK

Some of the earliest recorded instances of immigration by Portuguese to England occurred in the late 1400s as a number of converts from Judaism to Roman Catholicism migrated to London. The so-called New Christians had converted simply to avoid persecution.  Since the religious status of England was unsettles at the time the Portuguese Jews remained fairly secretive.  One of the Portuguese Jews was Rodrigo Lopez who was Queen Elizabeth’s physician.

Most of the Portuguese Jews were expelled in 1609, although a few remained. During the Inquisition a number of Portuguese Jews migrated to England.  Jews were freely admitted to England again in 1656 and were allowed to openly practice their religion.

It should be noted that the traditional English dish of fish and chips was introduced to England by Portuguese and Spanish Jews.

In the 1950s and 1960s a number of Portuguese emigrated as guest workers. Most of these workers settled in Germany and France, but a significant number chose to settle in the UK.  The number of migrants to the UK continued to grow through the 1970s due to Portugal’s status as one of Europe’s poorest countries and young men sought to avoid conscription during the Portuguese Colonial War.

Another wave of emigration came in the late 1990s and continued into the 2000s due to Portugal’s high unemployment numbers.

The Office of National Statics estimates the number of Portuguese living in the UK to be more than 107,000 people; although several political, media, and academic sources have issued estimates that the number is significantly higher.

Overall Portuguese immigrants are in the top five foreigner worker communities in the UK.  A surprisingly large percentage of the qualified workers are nurses, whose numbers have increase more than forty-fold over the last decade.  The unemployment rates for Portuguese workers in the UK are fairly low.

The largest concentration of Portuguese immigrants is in London and south west and east England.

Famous Portuguese in the UK

James Calado – The famous racecar driver is of Portuguese descent.

Grace Aguilar – The famous novelist and writer was the daughter of Jewish Portuguese immigrants.

Antonio Fernandez Carvajal – Carvajal was born in Portugal and became a highly successful merchant. He was the first naturalized Jew in England.

Rodrigo Lópes – A Portuguese Jew, Lopes became physician to Queen Elizabeth I.

José Mourinho – Is the world famous football manager of Premier League club Manchester United

Peter Sellers – The world famous actor was of Portuguese descent.



We’re making the world a bit smaller.

Send money to these countries:

Join the 2 million people who make better transfers

Sign up