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Residence Visas in Portugal
Documents required for a D7 residence permit in Portugal
Please Note: I am not an attorney or an immigration expert. The information provided here is based on research and my own experience obtaining a residency Visa in Portugal. Do not rely solely on this information and be sure to conduct your own research and consult with your own immigration professionals prior to applying for a Visa in Portugal, as regulations and requirements can and do change.
This is a high-level overview of the documents required to apply for the popular D7 residence Visa in Portugal. There is a lot of misinformation online and even the Consulates do not always have updated information on their websites. This article is based on my personal experiences obtaining a D7 residence Visa in Portugal. I have provided resources at the end of this article that Paul and I used. Review those resources if you require more in-depth research and information about the D7 and other types of Visas in Portugal.
To qualify for a D7 residence Visa in Portugal, you must meet the minimum financial requirement which is equal to the current annual minimum wage in Portugal. You must also prove that you can sustain yourself financially with at least the minimum financial requirements while living in Portugal. In 2022, the minimum requirement is:
First (lead) applicant €8,460 per year (or approximately $9,162 USD per year)
Dependent adults (each) €4,230 per year (or 50% of the Portuguese minimum wage)
Dependent children – €2,358 per year per child (or 30% of the Portuguese minimum wage)
For a retired couple, the minimum financial requirement is €12,690 per year (or approximately $14,343 USD per year). For our Visa applications, we provided Social Security Pension letters that indicated our guaranteed monthly pension income.
Applying for residence Visas in Portugal takes time and preparation and a huge amount of patience! As noted in my article about the types of Visas in Portugal, you begin the application process for residency in the U.S. or your home country and once approved, you complete the process when you arrive in Portugal to finalize your residence permit. The process is not always cut-and-dry, with some Visa application offices requiring more documents than others. Visa application websites are not always updated with current information and requirements. That’s why the List of Resources I provide at the end of this article should be thoroughly reviewed. There are also Portuguese immigration attorneys, accountants and relocation services that can help you navigate much of the process for a fee, although you will still have to do most of the leg work yourself and the stress will be on you no matter what. If you need recommendations for professional services, leave a comment below.
It’s important to note that some Portuguese Consulates in the United States have partnered with a third-party service called VFS Global to manage the processing of Visa applications. Also understand that the Consulates and VFS Global are merely the clearing houses for applications – they don’t make the decision on your Visa application – Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) is the decision-maker.
Applying for a Residence Visa
Depending on where you reside in the United States will determine which Consulate/VFS office you will apply to, and it may not always be close to where you live. You cannot choose the Consulate/VFS Global office you want to apply to. For example, we resided in Arizona. The VFS office we were required to apply to is in San Francisco. If you live in Hawaii, you’ll have to apply in San Francisco as well. If you live in Alabama, you will apply to the VFS office in Washington, DC. If you live in Michigan, you will apply to the VFS office in New York. And if you live in Maine, you will apply to the Portuguese Consulate in Boston.
Side note: When making an online appointment, be aware that the appointment calendar may show day, month, year and not month, day, year. So, if you were looking for an appointment on June 1, 2022, the calendar will read, 01/06/2022.
Some Consulates/VFS offices require that you mail in your documents, and some allow online applications, while others require an in-person appointment. You cannot drop off your application at your local state Consulate (if you have one) for forwarding to the appropriate Visa application office. For our applications to VFS San Francisco, we were required to make an appointment (each person) online and then appear in person with our documents on the appointment day and time. Although we were fortunate to get appointments on the same day and within 30 minutes of one another, that is not always the case. Available appointments can fill up quickly and the appointment calendars with VFS only go out a few weeks at a time. So, for example, if it’s January and you want to make an appointment with VFS in May, you’ll probably have to wait until mid-late April to schedule an appointment.
Application for a National Visa – this can be completed in Portuguese or English and can be found on the respective Consulate/VFS Global website or see the List of Resources section below for a link. If you hire a relocation service or Portuguese immigration attorney, they should be able to provide you with an application and help you fill it out.
Passport – your passport must be valid and should remain valid for at least 6 months to be on the safe side. So, if your passport is approaching expiration/renewal, it’s a good idea to get that renewal taken care of before applying for your Visa.
Passport pages – provide a color copy of passport pages 2 and 3 (the ones with your signature and photo) and have notarized.
Passport-sized photos – provide two color passport-sized photos on a plain white background (remember, no eyeglasses, side-views, head wear or smiles). It’s preferable that photos be cut down to European size (3.5 cm x 4.5 cm).
Motivation Letter – sometimes also called a Personal Statement. This is a brief statement of why you wish to apply for a residence Visa in Portugal. Include a brief description of who you are (your profession/former profession if retired), and your education, why you wish to live in Portugal, how you will support yourself in Portugal, what type of accommodation you have in Portugal, any specific ties to Portugal, and a description of the Portuguese bank account you have including the amount in the account, as well as any other financial means of support such as a social security pension letter, 401K, IRA, etc.
Proof of Income/Financial Means – this can be any combination of items including bank statements, investments, social security pension letter, etc.
Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF) – this is a Portuguese tax number. It is not like a U.S. social security number but more like a tax ID number. You can apply for the NIF using the services of a Portuguese accountant or an online service, or if you’re planning a trip to check out Portugal prior to applying for residence you can apply for a NIF while you’re visiting Portugal.
Proof of a Portuguese bank account – there are specific amounts required for a funded bank account. You should have at the very least the minimum financial requirement funded in the bank account prior to your Visa application (bank accounts can be joint accounts). You can apply for a Portuguese bank account (some accept online applications), or through an online NIF/Bank Account acquisition service, or if you’re planning a trip to check out Portugal prior to applying for residence you can apply at a bank in Portugal. If you do this, be sure to inquire as to the documents you will need to provide to them (usually documents like tax returns, W-9’s and salary receipts if employed, passport, social security number, NIF (be sure to get this before you apply for a bank account), proof of U.S. address (a utility bill with your name/address works), marriage certificate if applying for a joint account, education diplomas). Once you have your residence Visa in Portugal, you can change your U.S. address to your Portuguese address.
FBI Criminal Background Check and Fingerprints.
Signed Release allowing a Portuguese Criminal Background check. Even if you’ve never been to Portugal, they still want to check.
Proof of Private Health Insurance (read my article here about the difference between travel/health insurance and private health insurance).
Proof of Accommodations – while it used to be that you could secure 3 months of temporary accommodations (we had originally intended to do this to see which area of Portugal we liked the best), Portugal recently began enforcing (and just prior to our own Visa document gathering), the requirement of a valid (meaning registered with the Portuguese Financial office) and proof of a one-year accommodation lease (some Visa application offices may still only require 6 months, but that can change), or a deed showing the purchase of a property in Portugal, or a letter from someone you know in Portugal that you will be staying with. The letter must be an invitation from your host. The host must sign it along with a copy of their Portuguese ID. The letter must be notarized in Portugal.
Marriage and Birth Certificates – sometimes asked for – it’s always a good idea to bring these in case you’re asked for them. Some Consulates/VFS Global offices may ask to have them apostilled.
Personal References from someone in Portugal – sometimes asked for – it’s always a good idea to bring in case you’re asked for it. The personal reference can be a Portuguese attorney, a landlord, a Portuguese accountant, someone you know in Portugal with permanent residency, or a real estate agent. Our Portuguese accountant provided personal references for our applications. He included his name, phone number and a copy of his Portuguese citizen card.
Proof of a pre-paid travel ticket to Portugal (it’s a good idea to get one that you can cancel if needed).
D7 Residence Visa documents require that each member of your family provide a set of documents except children who are under the age of 5 years. VFS Global provides a checklist that you can follow, but you cannot rely on its accuracy. Using the List of Resources at the end of this article will assist you in gathering the correct documents needed. When you compile your documents do not staple, paste, tape or paper clip anything and try to keep your documents in the checklist order.
Once you have been approved, you receive a Visa stamp on your passport which is good for 4 months. Within this timeframe you must arrive in Portugal within 90 days from the date on your Visa and have an interview with Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) - the second step in this process - where you will receive a 2-year Temporary Residence Permit, renewable for 3 years. After 5 years, you can become a permanent resident if you choose.
There are fees for submitting your application. These fees can change and can be found on the Consulate/VFS Global websites; or you can call to inquire about the fees and acceptable forms of payment.
Timing is Everything
Possibly the most stressful part of this entire process is the timing. This was the most difficult point for me and Paul. Consulates and VFS Global both have timing restrictions on how old your documents can be, and how much time you have available to apply, and then move to Portugal to complete your application with SEF.
If you are submitting your application to a Consulate, you may apply no earlier than 6 months and no later than 15 days before your intended date of arrival in Portugal.
If you are submitting your application to a VFS Global office, you can submit your application no earlier than 3 months of your intended date of arrival in Portugal.
This means that most of your documents cannot be dated any later than within the last 90 days of your Visa application and cannot be any older than 6 months for your SEF appointment in Portugal. Financial statements cannot be any older than 3 months and the FBI reports cannot be any older than 6 months.
The stressful part is that even though Consulates and VFS Global tell you that it can take 4 to 12 weeks to process your application, the fact is, it can be sooner than that, or much longer than that. And if there’s a question on a document, or if there’s something missing on your application, the process can be further delayed.
SEF in Portugal (Note: sometime in 2022 this agency will become Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum – APMA)
When we applied to VFS Global in San Francisco, we elected to give them our passports. We weren’t expecting to travel out of the country before our move to Portugal, and it would make the Visa process quicker. We paid for FedEx overnight shipping, so when the applications were approved, we would receive our passports with the Visa stamp.
Our Visas were also stamped with a URL that when entered in a browser, showed us the date, time and location of our SEF appointments. We have been told that not all Visas come with this URL, but ours did. Otherwise, we would have had to contact SEF to make an appointment.
In recent years, SEF has streamlined the application process by scanning the documents you provide during your Consulate/VFS Global appointment, so you don’t have to carry everything along with you. However, my advice is to always have those documents handy – we brought hard copies of everything, and we also scanned all our documents and uploaded them to a thumb drive and in the cloud just in case we lost something. Perhaps that was being a bit paranoid, but we had come this far, and I didn’t want to screw anything up.
Ultimately, we didn’t need very much for our SEF appointments, but we brought more than they required – just in case! They required our passports, lease agreement and Portuguese bank statement as well as NIF and an application. Then they took our photos, we paid the application fee, and within a couple of weeks, we had our Temporary Residence cards! As stated above, these are valid for 2 years and renewable for 3 years. After a total of 5 consecutive years, we can apply to be permanent residents or citizens.
Minimum Mandatory Stay in Portugal
Once you have your Temporary Residence Permit, it is good for 2 years and can be renewed as mentioned above. You can leave Portugal to travel to another country, or to go back to your home country, but you cannot be out of Portugal for more than 6 consecutive months, or 8 non-consecutive months during the 2 years of validity of your Temporary Residence Permit.
Accepting Risk and Taking a Leap of Faith
One question I’m still frequently asked is, “Wasn’t that risky knowing that you may not have been approved? What would you do if you didn’t have a place to live?” Was it a risk? Of course! Nothing is without risk. No doubt about it. But the desire to begin our Portugal journey was stronger. We decided to give ourselves over to fate - and we focused on the faith we have in each other. We had also been planning this for a long time and felt that we had taken all the right possible steps we could to make this journey happen.
We had already sold our home in January 2020 and were renting a small house on a month-to-month basis in anticipation of this move. We had created a reverse (and somewhat flexible due to Covid-19) timetable starting with the date we intended to arrive in Portugal and then planned the dates of the time-sensitive documents we needed, what steps we needed to make as far as my job was concerned and when we were going to give a 30-day notice to our landlord, and then worked backwards to reach the week we expected to apply to VFS Global. That helped to keep us on track especially with the time-sensitive documents.
By the time we applied to VFS Global in San Francisco on June 2, 2021, we had given away or sold many of our possessions. We had ordered a shipping crate to self-pack what little we were shipping to Portugal, and we had made decisions on most of those items we planned to ship. We had researched VRBO’s in Scottsdale in case there were gaps between moving out of our rental and leaving for Portugal. We had decided on the date I was going to give my required 30-day notice to resign from my job, we researched the best way to sell our car quickly, and we had interviewed estate liquidation companies and had selected one to take away everything we didn’t want in our house and pay us a lump sum for the items.
We were reasonably confident that our applications and documents were complete, but we didn’t want to tempt fate by being too confident. By this time, we had hired a Portuguese immigration attorney to assist us with the final steps of the application process and he felt confident that our applications were strong.
Any Plan B?
As a Plan B, Paul and I decided that if for some reason our applications were denied or delayed, we would pack up the shipping pallet and put it in storage and we would do some traveling – spend 3 months visiting Europe, 3 months in Costa Rica, 3 months in Belize, and 6 months in Panama – and then revisit our plans.
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and now we are finally living our Portugal journey!
To read more about our own firsthand experiences with VFS Global in San Francisco check out my article, Our D7 Residence Visa Experience.
Until next time…
List of Resources:
Americans & Friends in Portugal Facebook Group – Started and managed by Susan Korthase, since 2017 this group has become “the resource” for people interested in moving to and living in Portugal. This is a private Facebook group so you must agree to the rules before being accepted into the group. Once you’re accepted, spend lots of time reviewing the files before asking questions. The Visas and Permits document in this group also provides a comprehensive chart regarding which VFS/consulate office you will apply to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/americansandfriendsPT
ExpaCity – A resource for expert-based information on moving to and living in Portugal. It is a monthly subscription-based service. They vet and interview experts on everything from real estate to relocating pets to immigration and taxes and lifestyle. This resource is well worth the monthly investment if you want accurate and trustworthy information. Your subscription includes an expert directory of professionals that can assist you with your Portugal journey: https://www.expacity.com/
Expatica – A global resource for expats. They have a section on expat life in Portugal including taxes, immigration, working and living in Portugal, and lifestyle: https://www.expatica.com/pt/
Portugal Application Form for National Visa (Permanent and Temporary Stay): https://vistos.mne.gov.pt/images/formulario_visto_nacional_en.pdf
Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Residence Visa information: https://vistos.mne.gov.pt/en/national-visas/necessary-documentation/residency
SEF – Applying for Residence in Portugal: https://imigrante.sef.pt/en/solicitar/residir/