Your visa status will depend somewhat on your work situation. Since no PT company is sponsoring a work visa for us, we have to obtain our own. PT offers a "D7" visa which is intended for those with passive income, such as pensioners or folks living on investments. The D7 is also designated as a "digital nomad" visa. It allows you to have a residence permit for 1 year, with a renewal of 2 years thereafter.
Frankly, we would probably have been greatly deterred without having this support. It cost us about $4500 up front, and includes consultation time, checklists for documentation, assistance with family reunification, and attend in-person meetings with the Portuguese tax authorities. If you don't do this, you can still do everything yourself – it may just be more challenging.
If you have millions of dollars, you can just buy a "Golden Visa." A D7 visa relies on you having your own income, so you will have to prove that income to the Portuguese government. For us, this is my salary, our savings, and the proceeds from having sold our house. You have to prove all of that through documented paperwork, bank statements, etc.
And everything needs to be notarized. Most things can be notarized through a US public notary, but some things like vital records (e.g. marriage licenses, birth certificates) need to be "apostilled", which is a sort of international notarization under the Hague Convention. What's that? Beats the hell out of me. But if you google for apostille notaries in your area, you'll find them.
1. You need a taxpayer ID (NIF) in Portugal. Anyone can apply for this, and you'll need to provide notarized copies of your passport. The trick is that the system requires a code to be snail mailed to an address in Portugal. Then that code is used to create an account on the website, through which you will obtain your NIF. This is where having someone in country is useful. You need a NIF for everything from opening a bank account to a cell phone. It's basically a US SSN.
2. You need a bank account in Portugal. We use Millennium BCP and we were introduced to an account manager who spoke English. She helped us gather up requirements, which included proof of address/assets, passports, NIF, etc. Opening the account remotely was easy, but figuring out how to setup online banking and use ATMs was more challenging.
We had to go in-person to a branch in our Lisbon neighborhood, and even after that, because there was a problem with Vodafone's mobile network, I couldn't get access codes for several days during our trip. It was very frustrating! More later on why you need a Portuguese mobile phone number for everything.
(A note on Portuguese banking) The ATM network is pretty interesting, and allows you to do things like pay bills and refill transit cards. It's called "Multibanco" and no matter which bank you use, they're connected to the MB network. There are ATMs everywhere, but cards are chip/RFID and widely accepted too. Supposedly this is less common once you leave touristy areas and major cities. But Multibanco makes cash easy to come by.
3. Securing housing. Your application requires proof of housing, and must come in the form of a contract. Rents in Portugal require legal agreements. And in most cases, you will have to pay for 3 - 6 months of rent/deposit up front on a minimum 1 year lease. I can't stress this enough - *you will need to secure housing up front before you even know if you'll be permitted into Portugal*. Expect this process to take several weeks even after you've informally agreed upon an arrangement.
There are plenty of sites and agencies that will help you find apartments. We wound up surfing apartments via Remax and idealista and then working with an agent connected through our attorney to arrange viewings during a trip to Lisbon. The market in Lisbon specifically is pretty insane, but you can read more about that yourself through online research.
(Optional) 4. If you have children, you need to figure out school. We basically selected our neighborhood and apartment based on our child's school, so this was technically step 1 for us. I have a single 5 year old at the moment who speaks only English, and I can't speak to others' needs. You'll have to do your own research here and figure out whether public, private, or international is best for your situation. I could do a whole thread on just this topic.
We're still waiting to hear back on our visa, so I can provide more updates once that process is moving again. But here are some other things to consider.
If you're planning to move to Lisbon, the public transit is pretty solid. You won't need cars and, honestly, I have no idea how anyone drives around Lisbon. But if you want to bring your car, you can ship it with no modifications necessary in most cases. Costs range between $6000 and $8000 for a single car, based on the quotes we received (and decided not to pursue).
Public and private PT schools teach in Português. We selected a private school not because public schools are bad, but because we knew there would be a higher chance of English-speaking faculty who might be able to reassure our daughter if she's having a bad day. After touring the school and meeting the faculty, we're confident our daughter will learn Português quickly. Once she's fluent, we will reevaluate whether she can attend public school.
Bringing a dog? We have a Boston terrier, and one of the most surprising things we discovered is that they're tricky to bring over due to their flat (and adorable) faces. We identified a specialty shipping company that will transport him for $3000. There's no quarantine period, as PT and the US recognize the same veterinary standards. You can bring your dog - and the Portuguese seem to love dogs - but it may cost you depending on the breed.
On neighborhood selections, we chose Campo de Ourique because of its schools, its amenities, its family-friendly atmosphere, and its flatness. Seriously, Lisbon is super hilly, but once you get up to Campo de Ourique it's nice and flat! It's not touristy, which means that the evenings are quiet and the streets are rarely packed.
Another nice thing about Campo de Ourique is that it sits at the end/beginning of the 28E line - one of the famous electric trolleys that takes you through the historic districts of the city, so it's very convenient if you want to hit busy/popular areas of the city. You can ride it back to Campo, or take the bus back. Campo's closest Metro station is #Rato, and gets you anywhere you want to be - including regional train service.
5G cellular is everywhere in Lisbon, and it's the proper kind with fast data. Outside of Lisbon it drops off quickly. There are several providers to choose from, all with reasonable rates. We went with NOS, but you also have Meo and Vodafone. You need a PT mobile phone number if you want to do anything, since web forms for utilities and other services often won't take a non-PT country code. In my experience, it wasn't possible to do this remotely since they would only mail SIMs to a PT address.
While I was in Lisbon, I just went to a NOS store in the Amoreiras mall and was able to get PT SIMs (you will need a NIF to do this). My phone's activation failed, and I ultimately wound up having to go back to the store the next day and get a new SIM. Two lines cost us about 70 euro a month with unlimited talk/text/5G data. During the transition it's helpful to have a phone with dual SIMs so you can juggle a US and EU SIM and not pay out the ass for roaming fees.
People speak English everywhere, but it's no excuse to expect English, and a little bit of Português goes a long way. Folks responded well to small pleasantries like please (por favor), thank you (obrigado/a), and excuse me (desculpa), and are normally happy to switch to English if they realize you don't speak PT. We’ve been using practiceportuguese.com and their iOS app to study, and plan to do some language exchanges once we get there. I’m reading all of the PT history I can!
Finally, I’d like to acknowledge that Lisbon specifically, but Portugal in general, is in the midst of a housing crisis partly due to people like me. Foreigners with high income are paying outrages prices for housing in the heart of Lisbon, and in doing so driving up prices and sometimes displacing native Lisboans. It’s not the only problem in Lisbon’s housing market, but it’s something you should be aware of when considering a move.
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