The census is the largest national statistical operation undertaken by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and as part of this, letters have begun to be distributed across the country.

Residents will need to fill the census out online using the code and password given in their letter. To find out more about how this works, I spoke to the CEO of afpop, the largest Association for foreign residents in Portugal, Michael Reeve, who kindly gave me some more insight into the 2021 Census.

What is a Census?

“Censuses” corresponds to the abbreviated designation of the statistical operations of the General Population Census and the General Housing Census and constitute the great reference of statistical information for the sociodemographic characterisation of the population and housing stock in Portugal.

The phase of distribution of letters to respond to the Census will last two weeks, and its completion is scheduled for 18 April. From the 19 April, you can complete the response phase to the Censuses online via and this will be available until the 3 May.

“The census form is actually a bilingual form so it is available in English, for example if it says data de Nascimento on the form it will be followed in italics with date of birth in English”. The census is done every ten years and it is for anyone who is a resident but it is not for people who own property here but do not live here as a resident. It is obligatory that you complete the census as it is crucial for the collection of data for the country.

The census is a questionnaire whereby they ask who is living at your house, how many people live in your house, the ages of the people residing at your house and similar questions. “It is done to gather a snapshot of who is living at an address at any particular time but it also helps them to see what ages of people are living in various areas and whether there are groups of people grouped together of similar age groups as it helps them to decide what services they are going to be able to provide, for example new hospitals. Filling out the census helps the authorities to build their planning for the region.

What does it serve to do?

The Census allows the INE to know the characteristics of the country better, such as its population and its housing stock. The information collected allows them to know who we are, where and how we live. Census data on the population and housing stock are fundamental for the public and private sector, as well as for citizens in general.

How is the Census carried out?

The census letter is being physically handed in person by the INE who will wear a yellow jacket with their logo and it will say INE on it and they will have INE identification. They will hand the letter over to you which will include a code and password. However, if you are not in, then they will leave a note in your post box that will say the next time they are going to come to deliver the letter so that you can be at home when they are coming. The code and the password given is the one that you need to fill out the census online.

Michael Reeve warned that “one thing to be aware of is fraud and scams. Some people use this opportunity to try and get inside people’s homes or ask for money. It is important to note that this is not the case with INE and they will not ask to come inside your house and they will not ask you to pay them anything. If you are in any doubt, please take the form and ring the INE helpline.” Additionally, if there is any more information that you need, please check out afpop website at

How to respond to the census if you do not have internet?

“For people who cannot access the internet they can go to their Junta de Freguesia after 19 April with the code given to them by the INE, who will help them. However, if you are unable to go to the Junta de Freguesia, you can call the helpline number which is on the letter and someone from INE will sit with you at a pre-arranged time and help you to fill in the form.”