The Postman Rang Twice: The Portuguese Side of a Resident Visa

It’s a strange adjustment to go from three years of nomadic living without a fixed physical address, no utility bills and long and short version answers to the question “Where do you live?” to being tethered once again with a lease agreement, an address and a postal box which receives our utility bills and occasional bank correspondence.  We managed to live virtually paperless for three years since we had to carry everything we owned and now we have folders neatly organizing the papers that tie us to an address once again.

We wrote here Setting Up House in Portugal about the small frustrations of settling into our apartment and the strange acronyms NIF, our fiscal numbers which establish our financial existence in Portugal, and NIB, which shows that we have a bank account. Carrying these acronyms on their separate pieces of paper allowed us to get connected at one of the local businesses, MEO, for phone, cable TV and internet.  And we were really on a roll when we rented a car to take us to new and fascinating places.

Next up on the tasks of settling in came our mission of changing the utilities from the landlord’s name to ours.  Fortunately, we weren’t pressed for time as finding the appropriate buildings was somewhat equivalent to the mythical snipe hunt.  It was difficult to program into the GPS directions we had for the city water company, Camara Municipal, which were, “It’s a big white building on the second roundabout on the way to Pingo Doce (a grocery store), across the road from the burned out building …”  When we finally found the building which, despite its size blended into the background due to its totally bland exterior and that we’d passed by almost every day, we almost high-fived each other.  Upon setting up our water account we asked the English-speaking clerk where we could find the electric company, EDP, and she pointed us in the correct direction.  Another place we wouldn’t have found on the GPS as there was a small space back in the corner of the Miele appliance store where two lecterns with accompanying paper shufflers stood: one for receiving payments due and the second for new accounts. Success again and we were on our last and final leg, Rolegas. The next day, energized by how relatively easy our changing our accounts had been so far we set off in search of the gas company following nebulous directions which read simply, “About six kilometers out of Lagos.”  Having googled the address we had a hazy idea of which way we needed to drive and a picture of what the building looked like.  We sailed by the building three times before we finally saw it using the roundabouts to change direction, missed the entry lane, retraced our route, finally arrived and carried out our business.

Since we’ve lived here we’ve learned to bring all of our folders because we never know what paper might need to be produced.  Each utility company needed our NIB and NIF numbers, our lease agreement and phone number, pictures of the corresponding meter (which we had stored on a tablet), passport information and a previous bill from the owner.  And, except for Rolegas where we ended up with a translator over the phone, everyone we dealt with spoke English and was polite, friendly and bent over backwards to make sure we got signed up with a smile.  Finally, all was done – until and when we decide to find a more suitable apartment and have to redo the whole process!4 month residency visa

4 month residency visaWe’d arrived in Portugal in November with our freshly stamped “long term” visas, good for a period of four months and due to expire in February of 2016.  We wrote about the documents that we’d gathered in the US to procure the initial visas that would set us on our path toward a Portuguese residency in this post, The Great Document Roundup: Starting the Portugal Residency Process. Now we needed to start gathering the documents we’d need to extend the initial temporary Residence Permit on the Portuguese side.  We checked the internet for a list what US citizens needed for this second step but once again we found the information to be inconsistent with what our attorney, Duarte was telling us.  Since it’s simply easier to go with the flow we put our trusting selves into Duarte’s hands.

First off was making the actual appointment with the Servico de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) aka the Foreigners and Borders Service or immigration, a police service responsible for border control and the issuance of residence permits to foreign nationals legally residing in Portugal.  Since we live in Lagos our appointment with the SEF was in nearby Portimão and we scheduled our appointment about 30 days before our visa expired in case there were any glitches that needed to be resolved.outside of the SEF

We gathered the following documents to bring with us:

  • Passports with our current resident visa
  • Three-months of our most recent bank statements for an account that is in both our names
  • Rental lease agreement
  • The document with our NIF (fiscal) number
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Statement from the Centro Regional de Seguranca Social de Algarve This is Portugal’s version of Social Security, Social Services and Unemployment Insurance in the Algarve Region. Finding this office was another snipe hunt story where it was near the bus stop and behind the Maritime police station, etc.  Basically this document shows that we are not relying on income from the Portuguese government nor are we employed.  We presented our NIF number, our passports for identification and the employee gave us each a signed statement that said a record search showed we weren’t in their data bank.

We also brought a copy of our marriage certificate and 2 passport sized photos which were not needed.

SEF - Official # 1On the day of our appointment we took the train from Lagos to Portimão and Duarte came down from Lisbon to Portimão by train to make sure all went smoothly. We arrived within 10 minutes of each other and then shared a taxi to the SEF.  Our wait was no more than 5 minutes and soon we were chatting amiably with the SEF officer who spoke English. He filled out forms, made sure we had the required documents and then we stood in front of a kiosk which collected our biometric data: taking our photos (no glasses and no smiling so we look rather dour), scanning and recording our left and right index fingerprints and finishing with a retina scan.  We signed forms, one part of which authorized current background checks and then sat and chatted with a second officer who collected €157,80 from each of us, a total of about $350 USD for the both of us.  Note: The SEF only accepts cash or a Portuguese bank card.  After receiving a receipt, we were told that we should receive our Titulo de Residencia cards by registered mail within two weeks.

And so, ten days after our appointment the postman rang our outside bell a couple of times and we signed for our new cards which declare us to be bona fide residents of Portugal. WHOO HOO!  We have the country’s permission to live here for a year at which time we’ll go through the process once again and renew our cards for a two-year period.  In Portugal (as in the US) when things work, they work well!residence card

By Anita and Richard

 

 

63 comments

  • We are selling up & settling up our lives here in the US. We have so many questions. I will have 2 dogs in tow & need to find a inexpensive place to live. The rental websites appear to have a lot of high priced weekly rentals. Any ideas on finding monthly rates for small houses. We will not have a car so walking everywhere is the mode of travel. Lagos sounds like a good place to start our adventures. We are seniors looking to have some adventures & meet other expats with similar attitudes. The big question is what to bring ? Hairdryers, toaster, slow cooker, flat screen TV’s are these things usable and practical to pack & bring over ? We do not know anyone in Portugal to ask all these questions. We are not wealthy just middle class retirees looking to enjoy the next 20 years discovering Europe. Portugal’s Algarve area appears to be a good place for a home base.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Susan. You’re just starting a great adventure and we hope that you, like us, will find becoming an expat one of the best decisions you’ve ever made!
      Since we traveled full time for 3 years (and sold all our stuff prior to that) before we decided to set up a base city we tried not to pack along anything that we could do without. We brought clothing suitable for a mild winter (coats, jeans, sweaters) spring and summer, some small US electronics like laptops, kindles, ipods and an unlocked phone. Everything else you need (including reasonably priced clothing) can be bought here such as kitchen appliances and TV’s. You also want to keep in mind that European voltage is 220 compared to the US voltage of 110 and the plugs are different so it’s better to buy those items here – adapters are great for the small electronics but you can run into problems for things that require more wattage. Plus, the costs for shipping could be prohibitive!
      We’ve rented a furnished apartment which has greatly simplified what we needed to buy although of course we’ve added a few things to make life more comfortable. If you are interested in the Algarve there are many furnished apartments available. My suggestion would be to rent short term for 1-3 months, then look at what’s available to rent long term once you’re here. You can take a look at some of the cities/villages and decide what area you like too. There are multiple rental agencies and, unlike the US with it’s MLS list, each one may have only one or two properties. One more suggestion would be to come during the low season, September through May when prices are lower and availability is greater as well as seeing if you like both the cooler climate and much quieter cities.
      Hope this has answered your questions!
      Best Regards, Anita

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  • Awesome news, congratulations! Abi and I loved our visit to Porto and hope to return to explore more of Portugal so maybe one day, like the mailman, we’ll ring your doorbell a couple of times! Now you can relax and enjoy! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Congratulations on the move, I like that you’re documenting your journey and agree with Betsy, it’s very useful to those wanting to another country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Nat and Tim! We’re hoping that our posts on moving to Portugal help other North Americans who want to do the same as the process is confusing at best and rather overwhelming at its worst. While we’re not experts by any measure it helped to break the application requirements into steps and tackle them one by one. And staying patient as well as keeping in mind our ultimate goal made each accomplishment well worth it!

      Liked by 1 person

  • So happy for you. Wishing you both many happy and painless experiences as you settle in! -Ginette

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re really enjoying having a place to call home again, and while the settling-in is not all painless it helps to keep a smile on our faces. I think we have to give credit to the years of full-time traveling as it’s really taught us how to keep patient. We’ve learned about bureaucracy in other countries, the concept of “tomorrow” and that things don’t always go as smoothly as we’d like. Kind of similar to the US, right? 🙂

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  • As a recovering lawyer, it warmed me heart (a little) that you had the help of an attorney to at least guide you through the process and to be at your side during your interview. I used to represent Social Security disability claimants and I always thought that sometimes my biggest contribution to my clients was simply knowing how things worked, much of which isn’t written down—and of course, the acronyms. (The US federal government spawns acronyms the way trailers spawn tornadoes). Your statement that “finding the appropriate buildings was somewhat equivalent to the mythical snipe hunt” was very evocative. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We know that there are US citizens who go through the resident visa process on their own but even the travel writer,Tim Leffert wrote that a lawyer was necessary to navigate through Portugal’s visa system. We could sing odes to Duarte as he has helped make a complicated process go smoothly and has brought so many things that we’d have missed on our own to our attention. We’ve talked about drawing up wills, healthcare directives, what to do with our bodies in the event we die and clarifying our tax status so that we’re exempt from paying taxes in Portugal. I know there are lots of lawyer jokes (we love saving them for my brother-in-law) but your profession is essential. It’s just when those lawyers decide to become politicians … 😀 !!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Whoo hoo! Congratulations. You have learned well to always carry a folder with all of your important papers. It never fails when we go to renew our insurance or other things that we need to have papers that we left at home. Good thinking. I am so happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yesterday we bought a printer {really, does NO ONE own one in Central America? 🙂 It’s the one thing we consistently missed when we were traveling!} so that now we can churn out duplicates and triplicates when necessary. Our stuff is accumulating rapidly… Anyway, when you get your “itchy travel toes” again you’ll have to think about heading our way across our big puddle!

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  • Congratulations on your residency! Sounds like you did a great job of crossing the Ts and writing on the dotted lines. It should get easier hereon in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Irene. It actually appears pretty straightforward (in hindsight) to us when we look over the list of necessary paperwork to get a resident visa and, you’re right, it’ll just get easier. There will be less t’s and i’s all the way around! And, just like any time one sets a goal, it’s all a matter of step-by-step …

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  • I congratulate you for your perseverance. All that red tape and bureaucracy would drive me insane. I know you said you’d go through the same process in a year, but hopefully it won’t be as gruelling.

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    • Hopefully, in a year, we’ll be old hands at this. The next renewal will result in a 2 year visa which we can then renew for a further 2 years. After that the lengths increase to 5 and 10-year visas or, after residing here 6 years we can apply for a dual citizenship IF we can pass the language proficiency requirement. But, when we think about it, both the US and Canada are also bureaucracies requiring plies of paper to fill out in a certain order with multiple signatures. Can’t escape it!

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  • Congrats on successfully completing all the snipe hunts, and achieving a year of residency. Those photos are too American Gothic, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Quite the lengthy process – I’d try to hire a body double to be me and do it. I would like to consider a long term visa sometime and residency if Trump becomes President!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Wow, it is a very involved process and sounds like you must be dying to do this to suffer through all of those ruffles in the feathers. And then I think about how dreamy it would be to stay in a foreign country, really immerse in a differt culture, and, in fact, enrich your life doubly! My admiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Applying for our residency has been a step-by-step process requiring organization – at which we both excel – and patience, which few people would use to describe us. 🙂 But, like you say, the rewards far outweigh the work involved and we are looking forward to lives enriched (perfect description, Carol) by living in a different and beautiful country.

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  • Gosh! I have to say, compared to Greece, the Portuguese public sector sound positively nice (smiling staff you say?!)
    Yes – you’ve learnt the Southern Europe mentality by now – well done: just go with it, take every. single. bit. of. paper you have and photo copy them in triplet in case, too.
    And yes, the directions are great! None of this technological GPS stuff – let’s rely on good old-fashioned: ‘left at the brown building, right at the burnt out hut, then you’re there.’

    A lesson in proper survival – well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We really rely on our GPS so it just cracks us up and occasionally frustrates us when the addresses are so vague. Now that we have 3 months under our belts though, we can navigate pretty well on vague directions and usually know what landmark they refer to. As for smiling public servants, YES! We can say that everyone we’ve had to deal with has been friendly, helpful and smiling. We were impressed with the warmth of the people who live here when we were in the Algarve this summer and we’re happy to see that our first impressions are still valid!

      Liked by 1 person

  • From what I’ve read and heard from others, setting up residence in another country is never straightforward, whatever the country. It sounds as if you had a few hoops even figuring out the steps for Portugal. Congratulations on getting through it. Now it’s time to enjoy the rest of the year!

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    • We’d heard that Portugal is a country that loves bureaucracy and hoops to jump through and now we have the experiences to prove it! And really, when we think about it, the US loves its paper and rule books too so we’ve been well prepared in proceeding step-by-step already. Fortunately, this is a country that makes working for a residency well worth it!

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  • Congratulations you got the one year residence. It sounds like a lot of paper work and red tape to get through but your patience has paid off. I look forward to hear how you will get on with your new life in Portugal😀

    Liked by 1 person

  • My, my, my. That took patience. I bet you are celebrating the accomplishment and feeling much more ‘at home’!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We can’t wait to whip out our residency cards the next time someone wants to see our ID even if the pictures look like we’re waiting for bad news! Fortunately during the waiting period we’ve been able to pass the time with traveling on short and longer trips around the area and into neighboring Spain so it’s surprising how fast the time has gone by.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Awww, the life! Congrats you two!! Enjoy your stay! So nice to hear from you!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Thanks for sharing all of this. Although we don’t have immediate plans to join you in Portugal, you never know in these turbulent times. I love your blog and look forward to hearing more about your adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your lovely comment. And like you say, you never can tell what lies ahead or what fork in the road you’ll choose. If you’d told us 5 years ago that we would walk out on the American dream, sell everything, travel full-time for 3 years and end up in Portugal our mouths would have GAPED open! Making life an adventure once again has been amazing!

      Liked by 2 people

  • Congratulations on your new residency. How nice to have that chore run so smoothly. Will you have traveling restrictions during your first year?

    Liked by 1 person

  • Congratulations, Anita and Richard! As Tom and I have embarked on much the same path, it is reassuring to know how well such things can go in Portugal. We’ll be in Porto soon, hopefully with equally good outcomes to report. We look forward to seeing you soon in Portugal!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oh so similar to Greece that I could relate to every detail. Except Greece requires a physical examination as well for that residency permit. I carry a bright floral shoulder bag (thank you Este Lauder makeup promotion) which could be carrying fun ‘tourist’ stuff but when one digs deep into it, finds those same file folders and documents and recently paid bills and notes of names and who to call for what with me whenever we go to do business in town. Your posts have me thinking it might be time to write with a bit more detail about buying a home in Greece – it might help others be prepared for the big move. Another great post and one we can so understand!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have friends who are thinking of pursuing a residency in Spain so it would be interesting to see what the requirements are in each country (Portugal vs. Spain vs. Greece) and their similarities or differences. As for writing about the ins and outs of buying your stone home in Greece – go for it, Jackie! One of the things we love about living in other countries are the twists and turns one takes trying to get something accomplished and I’m sure you have some great stories about how things are done in Greece.

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  • Woo hoo. Congrats you two. Love the ‘mug shots’.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Dick and Anita, you are the epitome (and definition) of patience, determination, flexibility and good humor! You are truly pioneers in the intricacies of foreign travel and I admire your tenacity. Such fun hearing about all these interesting aspects of life abroad. Keep ’em comin’!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Your story is amazing in noting your tenacity, patience and determination. Howis your Portugese language developing. I hear that fluancy is challenging, but not for you two. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And don’t forget our downright stubborness, Maida! We’ve been much too lax in our pursuit of acquiring the Portuguese language beyond a few words. To put it plainly, so far we haven’t gotten very far! However, learning some basic Portuguese remains an important goal of ours – now we just have to make the time to do it!

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  • Congratulations! Your cards look just like our mug shots :-). I refuse to change mine as it is for 5 years. I don’t want to go through that nonsense unless l have to :-). Yours sounds like it was relatively painless. Yeah!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mug shots might be an improvement K. Maybe we’ll get a do over next year when we renew but we’re consoling ourselves that any officials who look at them have probably seen worse! And when we graduate to the 5-year plan like you we won’t worry about the photos either. In hindsight the residency process does look fairly straightforward – it’s just the wading through that’s confusing! Is obtaining a residency from Spain similar?

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      • Kind of similar..as was Malta. I think it’s all from the same handbook..haha! Let’s put it this way, we have been trying to register his car from Rome for the past 6 months 😩. Insane.. Everything is one-two months appointment time. Our next one is in March, at the DMV like office, just to tell us if we have all the right papers..nobody knows anything..we should be done in another year at this rate..haha! It’s insane! I just shrug..at least we now have the window sticker 👏

        Liked by 1 person

  • TabogaIslandHouse

    Good day Anita and Richard – First, allow me to thank you so very much for your well written and informative piece. To have all of this information in one place is great! The one fact, which we have unsuccessfully searched for endlessly is, what is the minimum income per year for a married couple? We have our permanent financial sources but wish to confirm the amount needed. Again, really appreciate everything and will continue to subscribe (and enjoy!) your blog. Ciao! Jeannette

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jeannette and thanks for your kind words. We’re so hoping that this information is useful to you and other future expats who are thinking about moving to Portugal. We too searched around for how to apply as well as what documents were needed for a Portuguese residence. We found some good information but also a lot of misinformation and gaps that seemed to make the process much more complicated than it had to be which is why we put together our posts. We also were unable to find a solid number as to what the minimum income for a married couple should be. A number that we’ve heard is that the minimum monthly wage in Portugal is €500 per person which would be double that for a couple. The average social security check in the US is well over that figure which is what we used to demonstrate our income. Keep in mind that we’re a long ways from experts on the matter but this is what our experiences have been.

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  • Congratulations on getting your first year of residency approved. Your patience and determination are being rewarded. Enjoy! Tim & Anne

    Liked by 1 person

  • Congratulations, you guys! Breathe and pour a glass of the good stuff! This post will be very helpful for those looking to do the same thing!

    Liked by 1 person

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