Are you considering a move to Portugal? We spent three months there last year and loved almost everything about it. So much so that we decided to move full time and establish our home base there.
The first step in gaining residency in Portugal is to obtain a Residency Visa. It allows a 4 month stay while you look for long term accommodations, and apply for a 1 year Residency Permit. While there is some paperwork and costs involved, it is one of the easier countries to obtain residency in of several that we looked at.
The process described here is what we just went through applying for a 4 month Canadian Portuguese Residency Visa. This is for applicants in the Pensioners Category, but it could be more challenging if you are looking for work in Portugal.
You must apply in person at either the Embassy in Ottawa or one of the Consulates in Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto. We went to the Portuguese Embassy in Ottawa. You can email or call to make an appointment. They have limited hours and a small staff so it is best to set this up well ahead of time. This link will take you to the page listing all the Portuguese Embassies and Consulates.
Once you have a meeting set up you will need to begin assembling the forms and paperwork necessary for the visa application. The applications are sent to Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) in Lisbon for approval. While this may seem an involved process for a visa, keep in mind that this serves as the basis for the Residency Permit which you will apply for once you are in Portugal.
This is the link to the portal to start from and will bring you to a page headed “Visa”. Click on the tab at the top menu “Long Stay Visa”. Click on “Common Documentation” to open up a list of required documents and information.
Here is a short explanation of what we provided for each element (we left the translated titles so you may chuckle at some of them).
1. Completed Application form – This is the “Application for a Schengen Visa” which is available under the FORMS tab (top menu), go to the British Flag and click on “Visa Form”. Note: we filled in this form in the office and it might be a good idea to leave areas blank until you meet in person, as there are areas on the form that don’t need to be filled in. ALSO on the form it has “Intended date of arrival in the Schengen area” and you can’t enter Portugal before the date you specify. So leave that one blank until you discuss it with the consulate official. However once your visa is approved you can travel at any time for up to three months.
2. A valid travel document – They took a copy of our passports.
3. Two identical photographs – You can use any local shop that takes passport photos. The office only took one and it didn’t need to be dated on the back.
4. Ticket that assures the return – We didn’t have to provide this and it is not applicable.
5. Travel medical insurance – Our current insurance covers us for the first 40 travel days. We were told SEF may not ask for it, but they took a copy just in case. We were told this length of time for insurance was fine as when we get our residence permit we have to enroll in the Portuguese health care system. Note: We need to confirm how long after receiving your Residency Permit your Portuguese Health Insurance becomes valid – we think it is about 3 months.
6. Authorization to the Portuguese Criminal Records by SEF – This is a form that they printed out for us as we couldn’t print the form from the portal. It is a one page document with a paragraph authorizing SEF to do a Criminal Records Check.
7. Criminal Records Certificate from Country of origin – There are several companies in Canada that are certified by the RCMP to collect fingerprints and send them electronically direct to RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa. We used CSI Screening in Halifax and an Internet search will find one in your area. In addition to collecting your digital fingerprints they also complete the form requesting the RCMP for a full Criminal Record Check. Note: this is not the same as the “expediting services” in the US. We also asked if it could be forwarded to us by registered mail but the RCMP only use regular Canada Post service. We were told it would take 10-15 business days, however we met with them on a Friday afternoon and received our clearances in the mail from the RCMP one week later. The total cost for the two of us was $195.
8. Documents related to accommodation – You have to provide an address and a contact in Portugal. It can be a rental agency, hotel, or a mailing address if you know it. They will ask for some form of confirmation which can be a deposit, rental or lease agreement or an email confirmation.
9. Documents proving that the applicant possesses sufficient income – We have a pension and provided the latest annual statement which was fine. The stated income required is 1100€ a month per person.
10. Minors clause – Not applicable for us.
The total cost for this was $258 for both of us. Notes: They didn’t take credit cards at the Embassy in Ottawa so we used debit card. While we were in the office they also took photographs and electronic fingerprints.
All of the information will then be sent to Lisbon for review and approval by SEF. You will be notified when they have the approval from Lisbon and you have the choice of either returning to the Consulate or Embassy and having it inserted in your passport in person OR you can mail (courier) your passports to them to have the visas inserted and sent back. We used Canada Post Express Post and included a prepaid envelope for the return.
We applied on June 23rd and were told we could expect them by the end of July. We put on our form August 20th as our intended entry into Portugal which we were told would be fine. We received a call on July 27th that our Visas had been approved and they confirmed we could make plans to leave at anytime.
Our one way tickets are now purchased and we fly to Portugal on August 9th. We are very excited to begin a new chapter in our life and look forward to sharing more stories from Portugal. We plan to change the format of our blog to better show what life is like in our new home and would love to hear of your own experiences.