A Tale of Two Portuguese Residency Permits
Once upon a time (because all good stories start with these four words) two Portuguese residency permits found their way to the United States, here’s their tale.
The quest to glean our Portuguese residency permits began in February 2017. Actually, as I write this I can’t believe how much has happened in such a relatively short period of time. In February, I made a call to the office of the Portugal Embassy in Washington, DC to book an appointment. A stack of paperwork later, multiple emails to our friends the Portugal expat gurus at No Particular Place to Go, and zip, bang, whiz, fast forward to a successful April appointment and six weeks later we had ourselves two 4-month visas. Two days later we were on the red-eye flight to Lisbon.
Here’s the list of documents we each needed to submit in order to apply for a 4-month residency visa.
- Completed application
- FBI fingerprint clearance
- Proof of medical travel insurance
- Proof of accommodations in Portugal
- Copy of US passport
- A passport photo
- A statement of reason for wanting to apply
- Copies of bank statements for the past 3 months
From Lisbon We Hit the Rails
From Lisbon we hit the rails and traveled through Europe for three fast-paced and completely amazing months. And, by late September we had settled and unpacked our bags in Porto. We spent the next three months exploring and eating our way around the city while waiting for our immigration (SEF) appointment scheduled for mid November.
Because we had to book our appointment well in advance of arriving in Porto, we hired an attorney to book the appointment for us, and he secured our fiscal id numbers for us. Otherwise, we did everything on our own. In actuality, our 4-month visas expired at the end of October, but as long as we didn’t leave Portugal, we were golden.
Here’s the list of documents we each needed to submit in order to apply for our 1-year residency permits.
- Completed application
- Proof of registration with Portuguese tax authority (fiscal id #)
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of means of support
- Proof of not being dependent on Portuguese social security
- A rental lease
- Copies of bank statements for the past 3 months
- US Passport
- $180 per person (cash)
The Portuguese Residency Permits
The SEF office in Porto is one busy portal of immigration busyness. Whew. Our appointment was scheduled for 11:00 a.m., but it was 1:00 p.m. when we sat down with the official. Sign here, sign there, prove this, prove that, don’t smile for the camera, hand over the cash, stamp, stamp, completo. Our application packages were systematically added to the pile awaiting approval from the powers-to-be. As we stood to go, we asked how long it would take for our applications to be approved. When she replied up to three months our jaws nearly hit the floor. We weren’t ready for that answer.
If you’ve been with us for a while you may remember that while living in Porto we received a phone call. A phone call that would change the trajectory of our path. But, isn’t embracing change what life is all about? It certainly keeps it interesting. There are certain events in life that qualify as life changing. The soon-to-be birth of a child – a grandchild – is definitely one of those events and definitely a game changer.
We Weren’t Ready for that Answer
It would take up to three months for our application package to be approved. There we stood with our jaws hanging open as we prepared to leave SEF. We had maybe three minutes to wrap our heads around the big picture and come up with a game plan. Having the permits mailed to our Porto apartment was not an option because we’d be back in the US by the end of December, so we couldn’t gamble on them arriving in time. Fortunately, we thought to ask if someone could pick them up for us. Yes, that was an option, but we had to have a notarized statement giving permission to a designated person. So, we chose to be notified by mail when our permits were ready to pick up. Beyond that, we had no idea.
Think. Think. Think. Do we scrap the whole idea? Do we try to figure out how to get the permits? Who could pick them up for us? Will they end up in the dead pile in some dusty corner of the SEF office? After much thought and a lot of soul-searching, we asked for help. Through the kindness of people who barely knew us, we lined up a game plan for getting the permits to the US.
The Game Plan
- Ask our sweet friend (who helped us find our apartment) if she would be willing to be our designee.
- Write a statement giving our friend permission to pick up our permits.
- Take our sweet friend, who is fluent in Portuguese and English, with us to the notary office.
- Ask our Porto apartment neighbor to watch the mail for us.
With the game plan in place, on December 21 we said, “Nos voltaremos” to our beloved Porto and flew back to the US.
Life Back in the US
Life back in the US took hold immediately and we barely had time to notice the passing days. Sometimes when you don’t have time to think beyond today, time flies. Two weeks ago we received word that the letters of notification had arrived in the mail at our (former) Porto apartment. It had been 2 1/2 months since our SEF appointment.
When I think of what our friend did next to help us, it fills my heart with such gratitude. She met with our apartment neighbor and he handed her our letters. She then took said letters, along with our notarized statement and copies of our US passports to the SEF office and picked up our permits, photographed them and messaged me, “Got them!” Five days later we had them in our hands. If not for the kindness of friends…
Being half Portuguese, my mother’s family roots are in Portugal, I find it quite fitting that in this stage of my life I am a temporary resident of Portugal. How many of us get to say that? Or, I suppose, even want to say it? It’s an accomplishment for us to embrace a new chapter in our lives and from here forward, the possibilities are endless.
And, that my friends, is the tale of how two Portuguese Residency Permits found their way to the US.
So do the people in the SEF office speak English or only Portuguese. Do you need a translator at the office ?
Hello James ~ Yes, the people at SEF speak English. Not everyone is fluent in English, but we’ve never had a problem and we have not used a translator.
As a firm believer in karma (maybe my only religious belief ) and the adage, “What goes around, comes around,” I truly believe that small acts of kindness are enormous treasures, especially in what seems to be an increasingly indifferent and cruel world. So many things could have gone wrong with the renewal process and yet, friends came through and you’re now in the enviable position of figuring out how you can juggle the best of both worlds. Knowing you two, I have no doubt that something serendipitous will appear at just the right time and the next path will beckon!
I couldn’t agree more, Anita. It’s the seemingly small acts that are actually huge and in this case, total credit goes to the goodness of Portugal. The four of us have certainly defined our paths and will continue to do so. I look forward to reading tales of the “villa” life! 🙂
Great post Patti! It really is “paying it forward” for those of us still in the stage of mulling over such a move. Dealing with bureaucracies is one of my worst nightmares, so I’ll have to be in a good place if/when we decide to radically reinvent our life this way! BTW, great new look for the site (reminds me of NYT!)..and the focus on redefining retirement is a savvy move…lots of Boomers contemplating Life Part II! : )
Thanks, Meg, for the kind words. When/if you reach the place (mentally and physically) of wanting to know morem please let me know as I’m happy to help.
Great story. The wheels of government everywhere are slow. Very cool that you now have the documents in hand.
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Thanks, Gaelyn! The wheels of government do tend to slog slowly in all parts of the world, but from what we understand, gleaning temporary residency in Portugal and Spain is on the less complicated side.
I love reading about persistence and how it pays off in the end. Of course all the waiting and red tape are annoying as hell – but worth it ! Congrats on this achievement. Especially given your roots this is no doubt particularly meaningful aside from being practical. So great your friend went to such lengths for you in your absence. Lovely news.
Thank you, Peta. I have to admit there were a few times I was ready to throw in the towel, but Abi kept me moving forward. It was important to us to finish the process no matter what the future holds. And, it is indeed especially meaningful to have the connection with Portugal, even though I have no relations (that I know of) living in the country. I like to think I’m now a part of the bigger family picture in some small way. 😉
Congratulations Patti! Actually those cards look pretty identical to our Croatian ID cards…
Ok, my confusion. So you have a 1 yr Temp Residency card now in Portugal. But you’re setting up a base right now in Maryland?
Useful post. As you know we also had our 1 year Temp Stay in Croatia before everything went into the crapper. We’ll take a break from paperwork for a while but I’m thinking we’ll be back at it in a few years. Spain is a more likely target for us. But ultimately, Permanent Residency in Europe is the goal.
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It was always in the plans, Frank, to return to the US to re-establish a base in order to be near our family. Because of the soon-to-be born grandbaby, we returned earlier than planned and decided that since we were back to await the birth, we would go ahead and re-establish our base now. Our goal is to position ourselves to live our best life between the US and Portugal.
Will you need to spend time in Portugal to be eligible to renew for the next year, or is that even a consideration, given the new focus? Curious to see how this all plays out with the new baby coming. Good details in this post. Thanks for sharing.
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We definitely have a soon-to-born new focus. We’re curious too! 🙂 But, yes, we are definitely planning to spend time in Portugal and move forward in the process in order to position ourselves to live in the best of both worlds. That’s not too much to ask, right?! 🙂
Congratulations! Well done for persevering, it does sound like a lot of hard work but certainly very worthwhile as it now opens up new opportunities. How long do you now need to live in Portugal to get a permanent residency visa? Exciting times ahead
Thank you, Gilda. Perseverance has it’s perks! 🙂 We can continue to renew our visas for I believe up to 5 years and for now we’re just taking it one renewal at a time.
wow what a success story. I’m dreaming of having a Portuguese residence permit in th future. I love Portugal . I’ve been there and I love that country. hope to retire there. congratulations Patti!
Portugal is indeed a wonderful country, I hope you do get to retire there.