I'm newly arrived from the US (3 weeks now in Portugal). In case it's helpful for anyone else I want to share how I got here. Everyone seems to arrive in a different way with different circumstances.
I'm here on a D7 visa. It was a loooong process for me, so the story is long. If anyone has questions I can give more detail.
How it happened:
- From the West Coast US I had multiple Zoom consultations with several different immigration services and attorneys to determine whether I qualify, how best to structure finances, and to understand what I need help with and what I can do on my own. These were minimal cost and well worth it.
- Create passive income. My wife and I own a house on the East Coast US (we were renting a house where we were living on the West Coast). We paid off the remaining mortgage on our house (technically I was told this wasn't necessary but I did not want to take any chances with my application). We also put the house in my name only instead of joint ownership. I would be the sole applicant for the D7.
- Get a NIF and a real Portuguese bank account. I decided not to be tempted with internet banks or NIFs that come from apps or internet services. I wanted the strongest D7 application I could achieve, so I hired an agency and with their "power of attorney" I got a NIF and a real bank account (after a crazy process with the bank).
- Transfer money to Portugal. It was hard to know how much to transfer. More is better obviously. I decided to transfer 10K Euros. The bulk of my savings stayed in the US.
- Roadblock #1 -- The 1-year lease requirement from the San Francisco embassy. This was a showstopper for me. I emailed the embassy directly to see about a workaround but there was none. I refused to rent a place sight unseen in Portugal for a year. I have issues with mold and other stuff so I didn't want any surprises. Plus, there is the crazy possibility of renting a place and then (for whatever reason) being denied the D7 visa. Then what?
- A few months passed, and we moved back to the East Coast (a move we'd considered anyway). This meant my application would be routed through the Washington DC embassy instead of the SF embassy. I had heard from consultants that the DC embassy, at least at that time, was more lenient regarding initial accommodation requirements, and this proved to be true.
- I gathered the supporting financial documents: bank statements, proof of no mortgage, copy of rental lease for our house, etc.
- Wrote a 1-page application letter from the heart about why I wanted to move to Portugal, and explained details I knew would be necessary such as the method (wire transfer) that I would use to shift money from the US to Portugal, etc.
- Filled out the application in Portuguese. Dangerous! I do not speak Portuguese yet. But I could read enough and translate enough to do it. It was important for me, for internal reasons, to do this part entirely on my own, which was true also for my application letter.
- Get the application notarized (more difficult than I thought because it was in a language other than English and many notaries wouldn't do it). I do still remember the person who did it, a very polite elderly man with a great demeanor. I went to his home and we chatted for a while about life before getting started on business. He said the notary is notifying the signature, not the contents of the document. So it would be fine. He then asked me if I understood the contents in Portuguese. "I think so, mostly," I said. He then paused, turned his head, and said in a wise voice that I should understand what I'm signing. I was confident about everything except one thing. But I dropped my doubt at that moment. Yes, I want to do this, and it was notarized and mailed to VFS that day.
- Wait. Wait. Wait. This is the part we've all heard about. You must wait.
- VFS notifies me: my application is incomplete. My accommodation is not sufficient. I'd booked a 1 month stay in a Lisbon hotel hoping to slide by on that and then find real accommodation once in Portugal. I was given "48 business hours" to find a 6-month lease. VFS has poor English, if I can say from my experience. And given that VFS was at that time completely unreachable by phone I had a choice to make: did they mean 48 hours not including weekends, or did they mean 48 business hours, a term I've never heard used before.
- I was prepared for this moment and used a service called Flatio to quickly solicit a host of places for a 6 month lease within 48 hours. Only 1 accepted and I took it immediately and gave the details to VFS the same day.
- Skipping some details here (mostly about VFS being a really poor service, and having to cancel a flight, and etc.) but after some weeks I was notified by the DC embassy that SEF in PT had given final approval for the visa. I overnighted my passport to the embassy and by 10am the next morning had my passport back with the visa stamp.
- I booked a new flight and started figuring out how to pack. I arrived in Portugal with a small carry-on sized backpack.
- Oh, that place I booked for the 6-month lease? It's in a rural location (closest city Aveiro) with no real transit. I bought a bicycle when I landed in Portugal and I took the train to the last station and then bicycled 10 miles to reach my new accommodation.
I'm here! I made it and want to thank Portugal for this opportunity. I still have to get through my SEF appointment (in August, on the last day of my D7 visa validity) but hopefully all will be fine. I am hoping to fly back and forth to the US something like every 3-4 months to visit my wife and cat and relatives. But this is an important move for me/us and it was not easy getting here. It took about 9 months total. My wife could not leave the US due to work (we tried). But we felt it was worth it to seize the opportunity and make sure we gained residency sooner rather than later.
I have done some challenging things in life. This feels hard but not too hard. The small backpack I brought with me contains my most important belongings for traveling (digital camera, audio recording equipment, laptop, first aid kit, a few clothes, passport, phone). That same backpack is how I transport my groceries from the store, which is about a 35 minute bike ride away. It's simple living, but I am so thrilled to have made it and to be here.
Thanks for this community also! I did spend a good bit of time researching the forums as part of my preparation. I found some good advice and information here, and I just wanted to share my own situation/story in case it's helpful for anyone else. Oh, I am studying Portuguese and love it. It's a big goal for me to be able to gain some fluency.
Good luck to everyone else making this journey.