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Hello from Portugal, and here's how I got here.

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Posts: 30
 Curt
Community Member
Topic starter
(@curt)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 months ago

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. I gathered the supporting financial documents: bank statements, proof of no mortgage, copy of rental lease for our house, etc.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Wait. Wait. Wait. This is the part we've all heard about. You must wait.
  12. 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. 
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. I booked a new flight and started figuring out how to pack. I arrived in Portugal with a small carry-on sized backpack. 
  16. 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.

63 Replies




Posts: 188
Community Member
(@sonia)
Estimable Member
Joined: 1 year ago

I loved your take on facing things as they come and not dwelling on the difficulties, with that approach I’m sure you will have a great life here.

Welcome and the best of luck in your new country.

Reply
1 Reply
 Curt
Community Member
(@curt)
Joined: 2 months ago

Eminent Member
Posts: 30

@sonia Thank you sincerely. That is exactly the approach I wanted to take: be flexible. And also reduce my needs. Thank you for the warm welcome!

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Posts: 58
Premium Member
(@crecarole)
Trusted Member
Joined: 10 months ago

HI:

Glad you made and so happy to hear that you are able to adapt so quickly.  I would actually love to have a place in the country, but I am starting in a city since I will have no car to begin with. 

I am facing something that I haven't seen anywhere that literally just happened with VFS!  Now I am so nervous because I have already rented an apartment, have a bank account, already have electric and gas in my name, etc.  

I have an attorney that walked me through everything.  I JUST sent a complete package to VFS on MONDAY, via UPS, paid.  We went over the package before I sent it.  I had everything  needed, including two new documents that had to be notarized that my attorney told me about last week.  Got it done. Yesterday, was WEDNESDAY. I presume my package just arrived at VFS.  First, I received two emails from them saying I owed another $35 because I mailed a package (too long to wait for an in-person appointment), but I PAID for the package I mailed up front.  One email said I had to pay by June 10, the other said in 48 hours or my application would be sent back and my account deleted.  What???  So obviously, I immediately sent in the money they wanted.  Received a receipt.

Then today, I got two emails about FedEx packages coming to me tomorrow with 2 different tracking numbers.  (FOUR days from me mailing the package in.) My attorney had no idea what they were sending me and why.  A call was going to made by my attorney.  Everything was complete in the package, I can't imagine them even having had the opportunity to review it, let alone reject it. 

Has anyone experience anything similar?  I won't know until I pick up the Fed Ex package, or my attorney has an opportunity to talk to someone about what is going on.  

 

High anxiety here today!  Complete with Mel Brooks singing it.....

Thanks....

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1 Reply
 Curt
Community Member
(@curt)
Joined: 2 months ago

Eminent Member
Posts: 30

@crecarolegmail-com

Yes I experienced something similar with VFS. I sent my application to VFS in DC. Not long after I got an email from "tackingupdates@fedex.com" saying VFS was sending me a package from...Chicago. It didn't make any sense. Why were they sending me a package? Why from Chicago? Did my application get mailed from VFS DC to VFS Chicago? If so why didn't VFS just ask me to mail the application to Chicago in the first place? The only thing they could be sending me was my rejected application. Were they returning my application?

[And here's the part where I was unable to reach VFS to clarify anything.]

So as not to drag this out and make you worried...Everything was ok. The mysterious package never arrived. And I suspect yours won't either. I have a pretty low opinion of VFS. Their communication is extremely poor, and by that I don't mean lacking but instead I mean crazy, unexplainable, and wrong.

Also my impression/understanding of VFS is that they are screeners, not evaluators. What I mean is, they have a checklist and they check that you sent the required documents and money in the correct amounts. I do not believe that they are making judgments on the merits of your case in other words. That's for the embassy/consulate, and later for SEF. That's my understanding but keep in mind only VFS really knows what's behind their own curtain.

Hang in there with the VFS craziness. Basically they are making their broken process visible to you, is my guess, and you won't actually receive any packages. If you do though please let me know as now I'm curious. 

I hope your application is a success!

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Posts: 3
Community Member
(@cabanasbill)
New Member
Joined: 2 months ago

Hello Carole. I had a very similar experience with VFS early last summer. In my case as I recall the additional $35 they requested was payment in advance for the return FedEx package for shipping my passport. Same for the FedEx tracking number. It was unclear to me too at the time why the tracking number was generated well before the package was ever shipped. That MAY just be a FedEx thing? The way it worked was once the Portuguese consulate (in Washington DC in my case) reviewed and approved all my various documents they had me send my passport in to have the visa stamp inserted and then shipped it back (very quickly) using that earlier tracking number/payment. I was worried too, but everything turned out well in the end. About a 6 week process all told, and I arrived here in Cabanas de Tavira in early November. Good luck, and welcome soon to Portugal! Bill

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Posts: 30
 Curt
Community Member
Topic starter
(@curt)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 months ago

Bill is right. Thank you Bill for uncovering a mystery for me. I just checked, and the Fed Ex number that originated in Chicago is indeed the same tracking number that the DC embassy used to return my passport.

I still do not understand why the origin was listed as Chicago. What was weird for my case was the fed ex status showed a specific delivery date by 8pm local time. When that day/time arrived and passed the Fed Ex status just went into some state like "we don't know what happened." I don't have copies of that, but I'm attaching a screen shot that shows the origin listed as Chicago. Clearly though the origin was DC (because I overnighted my passport to DC and they sent it back next day from DC).

But Bill is right about how the tracking number works, thanks Bill for this clarification! But do I have to take back all the bad things I said about VFS??? They really were a problem for me all the way through 🙂

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