Blanca and I fell in love with Portugal over the course of our travels. It was easy to fall in love, especially with Lisbon. Each of the neighborhoods in Lisbon has its own spirit, the Portuguese coffee is incredible, the cost of living in Portugal is low, and the people here are wonderful. We started coming here 6 years ago and it seemed every time that our 3-month tourist visa expired, we wanted to stay. On the last trip back to New York, I leaned over to Blanca and said:
“Let’s just make Lisbon our home and stop this leaving every 90 days.”
She agreed and we decided to begin the process for a residency visa. It’s not a fun process but once it’s done and you pass your interview you are eligible to stay in Portugal for a year. So, it is totally worth it.
I decided to put together a quick guide on how to get residency in Portugal. The Portugal Schengen Residence Visa is by far the easiest way to stay in Portugal. This is specifically for Americans who are looking to relocate to Portugal. I am not familiar with the process for those making the move from other countries but I am sure some of this process can help if you are not coming from the US.
You can use this guide to see the experience we had during the process but know that the process changes from time to time. If it does I will attempt to update this blog post. You can always follow our Complete Guide to Living in Portugal to get other ideas on how to do basic stuff in the country. It is growing daily.
Why get the Portugal D7 Residency Visa
With the D7 visa, it allows you free movement in the Eurozone.
So with that free movement, you do not have to leave Europe every 90-days. You also get to begin the process towards EU citizenship.
How to get the Portugal D7 Residency Visa
-You must be in your home country to apply
-Must have the financial means to support yourself
-Pay the related fees (I will break those down later)
-If applying for a work visa you must have a work contract
Who can apply?
– Independent living
– Startup owners or small business owners
– Investors (If you invest €500,000 you can be eligible for the Golden Visa Program)
– To establish themselves as independent professionals in their field
How Much Does the Portugal D7 Residency Visa Cost?
The total cost for the D7 Residency visa for both of us was about $256 ($128 each), plus $50 for an FBI background check and €158 each for the residency card We also paid $70 to Accurate Biometrics for an expediter service to speed up the background check and €60 to the US Embassy in Lisbon to get my fingerprints. Worth every penny. We have some logical stuff like printing, getting notaries (You can get stuff notarized online). In total each of us paid about $600 for everything.
How Long Does the FBI Background Check Take?
If you send the request to the FBI directly, it takes 4 months. If you pay the $70 to speed up the process it takes 3 days. So, it’s a no-brainer, expedite the background check so you don’t waste time.
How to Apply Online for your Portugal D7 Residency Visa
We applied online with the Portuguese Consulate in Newark which is our local consulate. This was our local one since we reside in NJ. You have to go to the embassy associated with your main mailing address. You can see the list here to identify which consulate would be best for you.
We had to wait 2 months for our appointment since the embassy was pretty booked (Portugal is quite popular now). Once you go in for your appointment they legally have 30-days to approve or reject you. We literally got it on day 30. So assume that it will be 3-months for the whole process.
What you need to bring to the Portugal D7 Residency Visa appointment:
– Completed Application for Schengen Visa
– Application Fee: $96 Money order (payable to the Consulate General of Portugal)
– Proof of Health Insurance – You must have a minimum of €30,000 coverage.
– Proof of financial means: You can bring your 401k or bank account or investment account. To be eligible, you must make foreign income or pensions amounting to €6,684 for 1 adult, €3,342 Euros for the second adult, and €2,005 per kid. This changes so it’s probably higher now. You must provide 6-months of bank statements.
– One (45mm x 35mm) Color headshots on white background – You have to have a normal face no smile. Mine looks like crap.
– FBI Criminal Record Certificate with Apostille (To receive this you have to send the FBI a notarize fingerprints. You can go to your local police precinct they will do it for you for a small fee. We went to the US Embassy. If you google around there are companies that will do it also for you. Also, note this is only valid for 90-days. So best bet is to get your appointment with the consulate first then once you have a date get the fingerprints.)
– A copy of your main passport page – The one with the photo and your numbers and stuff. I just copied all just in case.
– A Copy of marriage certificate if going with a spouse
– Your children’s birth certificate if you are going with a kid – If they are under 15 they don’t need an FBI background check. Lucky them!
– A Notarized Personal Statement – This pretty much is a letter saying why you want to move to Portugal. Keep it short and to the point. Ours said that we loved the country, wanted to learn the language (taking classes twice a week now), that I run a startup and that one day I want to buy property in Portugal
– Proof of housing while in Portugal – We booked a hotel, but this is no longer acceptable. The new requirement is that you have a 6-month lease that is registered at the AT (it’s the equivalent of the IRS). This will make things more challenging as most Portuguese people won’t do short-term leases. It’s doable but challenging.
– Proof of flight to Portugal – This one was tricky we had to make an assumption when we would get approved. So we set our flight exactly 40 days after our interview at the consulate.
Once you have all this stuff together and go for your appointment, the Embassy will forward the package to the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) back in Portugal. Then you just wait for the 30-days to hear back.
What Happens Once You Get Approved
When day 30 hits you will receive an email with instructions for you to the consulate for them to give you a sticker which will go on your passport allowing you 3-months in Portugal. This sticker will give you a certain amount of exits from Schengen area. We only got two. So in the 3-months, you cannot leave Schengen area for more than what is allowed.
Once we got the approval we flew to Portugal and began setting up our lives. One of the important things is you must call the SEF (Serviço De Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) in your city and make another appointment for the second extension. If you are in Lisbon you call +351 808 202 653. When you call, listen to the whole message, then press 2. They will have someone who will speak English. Expect to spend 60 minutes on the phone – minimum.
When we got a live English speaking person, we told them we had the 3-month visa and that we wanted to get the full 1-year residency visa. The woman on the phone then gave us an appointment. Some of our friends who went to a lawyer to do this got an appointment in 3 weeks. We did it ourselves and the appointment was 6 months later. Crazy, I know. Just know you are allowed to stay in Schengen while you wait for your appointment. So don’t freak out.
The person on the phone will ask for your email. You will get an email from the SEF with the time and date of your appointment. I would print it out and save a screenshot on your phone. In Portugal, print out and copy everything – this will make your life easier. They are paper obsessed. Even if you don’t think you need something, bring it anyways.
What to Do While You Wait for Your Appointment
You will need to get a NIF (Portuguese tax number), a bank account, and the NHR status (Non-Habitual Resident..aka not a tax resident so you don’t get double taxed). I will write the process to get both on another blog. All these are easy to do, but also quite easy to mess up.
At the Appointment
When you go to your next appointment, bring all the paperwork you have. Not the fingerprints but everything else. Also, bring Euros with you to pay the €158 fee. Then they will mail you your residence card in a few weeks. That’s it, you’re a resident.
Once you’re approved, you will have to renew after a year. The next renewal will give you 2-years. Then next one after that is for another 2-years. Once you are in Portugal as a resident of 5-years, you can begin the EU citizenship process or apply to be a Permanent resident. Just note you will probably have to speak Level 1 Portuguese to pass the citizenship exam.
To reiterate the process:
- Get an appointment with your local consulate
- Get fingerprints
- Get FBI background check
- Get flight/hotel/health insurance
- Print out all documents (Application, Bank statement, Personal Letter)
- Get documents notarized as needed
- Go to appointment
- Hand in paperwork and pay fees
- Come back 30-day later to get the sticker on passport
- Fly to Portugal
- Within 4-months set up the next appointment with SEF
- Bask in the fun that is Portugal
Frequently Asked Questions
I had a few people ask some questions about the process so I decided to add this section.
How long is the visa process from start to finish?
For me it was about 10-months because I was traveling so I needed to get fingerprints, paperwork, travel back to the USA, go to the appointment, then come to Portugal, make section appointment, wait 6 months because it was only one they had then go into my final appointment. My FBI background check (valid for 3-months) had expired so I had to get it done again, so that slowed me down some.
How long was the Portuguese visa process once I handed in my paperwork to the consulate?
From what I understand by EU law it has to be processed in 30-days. So literally on day 30, I got an email saying to come to the consulate and receive my visa extension.
Do I have to give them my passport during the process?
No. You just need to make copies of the main pages of your passport during the process. We did leave the passport in Newark with them for 1-day so they could put the stamp on it. They were busy and we didn’t want to wait for 8-hours in the waiting area. We came in next day and a shiny new stamp was on the passport.
How much money do I need to be eligible for the visa?
Outside of the initial fees you need a certain amount of savings to sustain you for your 1-year visa, for Portugal it’s €75 for entry and exit the country and 40€ per day. So about €14,600. But you can have that in credit cards, bank accounts or retirement funds.
How much health insurance coverage do I need for the Schengen visa?
You need insurance for minimum coverage of €30,000 ($50,000). We got ours by Cigna. When you come to Portugal and get your NIF there are much cheaper Portuguese health insurance options.
So that’s it. The process is pretty easy, but to get all the paperwork together and go through the “hoops” you have to have a lot of patience and remember to print everything. Dealing with the consulate in the US is great. Nice people and very helpful. I wish you good luck in your residency process. Enjoy Portugal.
P.S. – have questions? Ask us in the comments. Either Blanca or I will get back to you…but keep in mind IANAL and neither is Blanca – so just use this as a guide to help you get started.
P.P.S. – I wanted to give a shout out to Dr. Shannon Weeks, Dr. Alexis Shields and the amazing Ms. Rachael Mazza. All really helped me understand the nuances of the process. Without them, I would have been lost on hundreds of online forums, on hold with bureaucracy and of course the dreaded crap government websites.