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

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Posts: 29
 Curt
Community Member
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(@curt)
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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: 10
Community Member
(@katontherun)
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Joined: 2 months ago

Curt, thank you for sharing your experience.

Can you expand on the timeline of your process? When did you initiate D7 proceedings? How many scouting trips did you make to decide on where you wanted to live/secure a lease? 

I am awaiting a passport renewal before booking flights this fall for my first visit to Portugal. I am from the PNW (WA) and am considering the north part of the country as I have a super furry dog who would suffer in a high heat/humidity environment. 

My hope is to find a place that is walkable and/or bike friendly as I want to give up having a car full time. Having lived on the West Coast all my life, I also need to be somewhat near the ocean. 

Thanks again for offering your insight and knowledge.

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11 Replies
 Curt
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(@curt)
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Posts: 29

@katontherun Hi, sorry for the delayed reply. I just saw it when I logged in.

Note the D7 process is somewhat dynamic, it can change, and what I experienced may not be what you or others will experience.

Short answer to your questions: a few months of research and preparation, and 2 months for the application process.

The LONG answer:

I essentially had 3 phases: research, preparation, and application.

--Phase 1--

My D7 research started in Portland, OR, and lasted about 3 months. A lot of DIY though, and if you hire an agency to do the entire process you won't have nearly as much research as I did. The main reason my research took so long was due to the lack of concrete information online about the exact process and requirements. Plus navigating Portuguese at times to read the laws. Plus I just needed to learn what I needed to do, and the D7 was/is a fairly big landscape.

After researching I decided to work with an immigration agency to 1) double-check my research and conclusions and 2) help me with a) getting a NIF and b) getting a PT bank account. 

--Phase 2--

Getting the NIF and getting the bank account are what I'd call the preparation phase. Getting the NIF through the lawyer (part of the immigration agency team) took about a week and a half including time for a wire transfer to be received. Getting the bank account took I think more like 2 weeks if not longer. There are shorter/quicker ways to do this such as online bank accounts and online NIF services but I chose not to do that. I wanted things to "look as Portuguese" as they could in terms of application. The immigration agency recommended Millennium BCP as a well-known bank in PT and I can say I have not been dissatisfied at all. The NIF required minimal paperwork and signatures. The bank account, however, involved a good bit of paperwork (I think I counted 60 pages), signatures, and international courier services. Everything had to be perfect for the bank, and at one point I ended up having to have a zoom meeting with a bank manager on top of everything else (notaries, etc.). This part takes a little time. The bank account also required wiring money.

Also every time I talked to a lawyer it involved a wire transfer, which can take days. And the days turn into weeks in terms of the preparation getting done.

We are not out of the preparation phase yet! I had to get fingerprints (all 10) and that was a long process for me (couple of weeks before I got it right). Basically my fingerprints are not very good and it took a long time to sort that out and get it done. The fingerprints are needed for the FBI background check. That check can be short or long depending on how you do it. In my case once I had the fingerprints it was a short process that took a few days. HOWEVER, I saw on this forum recently that VFS may be requiring that the background check be apostilled (by the US State Dept). This is what I mean about it being a dynamic process. If it's required, getting an apostille will certainly add some time to the process, though I'm not sure now much time. 

I also had to get my financial docs prepared. In one case, a local credit union I used proved to be a terrible roadblock. I won't explain the details but I couldn't get docs to my satisfaction. Most people (hopefully) won't face such a hurdle. Also I had to gather other financial docs: proof of passive income, property docs, etc. It's not a lot of work but there were surprises in my case and it took time.

Also I had to find traveler's insurance and get a letter from the insurer stating explicitly that I would be covered in Portugal.

And lastly, I had to get my PT accommodation in order. This was definitely hard. I did not make any scouting trips to Portugal. I chose to find a place remotely and it was not that easy. I have a 6 month lease currently and that is what I applied with. Before my upcoming SEF appointment I will have to either turn this housing into something more permanent or go through other mechanisms to establish that I am a resident here and not a tourist (separate topic).

--Phase 3--

The third phase was the application. You gather your materials, write your letter, fill out and notarize the application, get cashier's checks for exact amounts according to the VFS website, etc.

I sent my application to VFS in DC on Feb 16, 2022 and I received notice from the DC embassy on April 11 that my D7 visa was approved. I overnighted my passport to the embassy on April 11 and had it back in my hand on April 12 with the stamped visa inside.

--Where to live--

About places in PT, I'm not the right person to ask. I don't know enough of the country yet. You may want to ask in a separate post to the forum. Other people will have much more knowledge about this.

-- But how long will it take for you ---

I want to clarify about the process, the only part out of your control is when you send off the application. Everything that precedes that can be sped up / slowed down depending on how much time you have to do the prep, which services you use, and whether you hire help.

Let me know if I've answered your questions.

Good luck on your adventure!

 

 

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Community Member
(@katontherun)
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@curt 

Wow-thank you for the in depth explanation! 

Clarification regarding your lease: only 6 months? Was this because you arranged it remotely and want some flexibility in case the place doesn't meet your needs? How did you decide on where to lease? Did your agency assist you in finding a rental and securing the lease?

Which agency did you choose? 

I appreciate your taking the time to answer so completely. Have you met up with any other expats in PT yet?  

Obrigada!

 

 

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 Curt
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(@curt)
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@katontherun Each consulate (and the embassy in DC) sets their own accommodation requirements. I applied from the East Coast and was under the jurisdiction of the DC embassy, and their requirements state only a 6-month lease was necessary (at the time I applied).

Applying from the West Coast means your application will go through the consulate in San Francisco and you will have to abide by their requirements. These requirements are usually listed on the VFS website for your jurisdiction, and possibly also on the consulate website (can't remember). But you can also email the SF consulate directly and ask about the requirements. 

That's what I did when I was living in Oregon, which is where I started my research. I would say I even pushed on the SF consulate to explain why they required a 1-year lease when the embassy in DC (for example) requires only 6-months. The replies I got back (there was some back and forth) ultimately were very firm on the 1-year lease. So I thanked them for the correspondence and decided to move to North Carolina and apply from there, partly to take advantage of the easier accommodation requirements for my application.

I used a service called Flatio that I mentioned in my original post to secure a 6-month lease. And getting that length of a term was difficult. I sent requests to many prospective landlords and only one accepted and I took it. That's it, that's how my location in Portugal was decided. I didn't really decide.

Yes the idea was that I might change locations once here. Flatio allows you to break lease with 30 day notice. I doubt, however, that it's possible to get someone on that service to give you a 1-year lease. It's not cost effective for them. Too much detail to explain why, but I really doubt you'd be able to get someone on Flatio to give you a 1-year term. Also, I think there could be risk with that even if you found someone, simply because the SF consulate is stricter in terms of housing requirements and that may include the type of lease in addition to the term of the lease. I would verify carefully that whatever 1-year lease you secure will be sufficient for SF.

When I was thinking about applying from the West Coast I contemplated a separate trip to PT to secure a bonafide 1-year lease. But in the end, for my particular situation, it was better/easier for me to move to NC and apply from there.

As for agencies I used some small ones and even some individual attorneys. The main immigration person I used actually moved to a different role/business so I can't recommend them as they're no longer there. My guess is most people on this forum are using Ei! I certainly see plenty of positive recommendations here for them. I actually had a recent consultation with Ei! and was quite happy with it. The person I spoke with was definitely knowledgeable and was able to answer my rather esoteric questions/scenarios on the spot, and I had confidence in the answers.

About meeting expats, I've only met one expat couple (via Carl Munson who hosts the Expats Portugal show/podcast). In fact, Carl interviewed me on the show as part of that story. He hosts a wonderful and resourceful show if you haven't seen it and there are opportunities to connect with the community there. I'm also enjoying meeting Portuguese people in the rural location where I'm living, which also helps with learning Portuguese, which is a big goal of mine.

Hope that helps!

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 YHA
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@curt Hi Curt, thanks for the thorough response. I have been waiting for 5 weeks to get a response about my application. I submitted my application through VFS San Francisco and everything you stated above is true. I had to get a 1 year lease which makes me nervous but there was no way around this. The only requirement that was different from what you mentioned was getting my application notarised. This was not required so, of course, I'm wondering if this will be an issue. They also collected my passport to send with the application. This was not mandatory but suggested it was a good idea, I was afraid sending my visa later would only delay matters 

As I'm anxiously awaiting a response, per VFS I keep looking for updates on the 'Track my Application' tool which so far has only let me know my application was submitted to the consulate. Did you utilise this tool for updates on your application? You stated you received your approval from the embassy in DC so I'm assuming I will be receiving my approval from the embassy in SF? I appreciate any additional insight you or anyone else can provide. 

Obrigada!

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 Curt
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(@curt)
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@yha

I didn't use the tracking tool you mentioned (didn't know about it). 

About the notarized application I had to do it. But I think that is because I mailed my application, whereas you (I'm assuming) went to VFS in SF and they checked your proof of identity there at that time. (The notary is, as I understand it, necessary to prove the identity of the applicant when VFS is not present to do that).

The embassy in DC and the other consulates all have slightly different processes and requirements. But my understanding is they all use VFS. And further that the sequence of events (let's call them hurdles) is like this: your application > VFS > embassy/consulate > SEF. 

You met the VFS requirements/checklist. So they passed your application to the consulate as the next step. My understanding is the consulate will evaluate your application and also check with SEF. SEF does things the embassy/consulate doesn't, such as doing a criminal background check in Portugal, etc. 

My guess is that your application is simply in process. But if you want to dig further about the status you could (not saying you should, but I did) inquire with the consulate directly. I was nervous to insert myself in the process with my questions, but on the other hand I didn't trust VFS to be competent. So I contacted the SF consulate during my research phase and the DC embassy during my application phase. Both replied back and were actually quite cordial and answered my questions. And of course I was super polite, and very formal in my emails. As formal as you can get.

When I inquired with the DC embassy about the status of my application (a few times over a few weeks), I was told that they were waiting on SEF to give final approval or rejection.

It could be the case -- and I'm speculating now -- that the VFS tracking tool is not granular enough to indicate whether the consulate is still evaluating your application or whether the consulate is waiting on final approval/rejection from SEF.

There's one other thing I haven't mentioned yet to anyone who is waiting on their application. Here's how I handled my wait. I told myself that worst case, if rejected, I could start over with a new application. I'd lose time and money but I would probably be able to correct whatever problem had occurred.

And also keep in mind the embassy/consulates and even SEF (via the consulates) can communicate with you if there's a problem that can be fixed. I actually had that happen. It's too long to explain, but the essence is SEF passed a question to me via the embassy and I answered to the embassy and they passed my answer to SEF. It was to clear up some discrepancies in my application. 

I hope that helps.

 

 

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 YHA
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@curt I really appreciate your thorough response. It's definitely helpful. I know I need to be patient and VFS did tell me the consulate/embassy would reach out if they had any questions regarding my application. I like to believe no news, is good news. If I don't hear anything in the next week or so I will take your advise and reach out to the embassy. Thanks again!

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(@jonesdn2020)
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@yha To add to what @Curt stated. You do not need the application notarized for the SF VFS since they only allow in person applications. We went through the SF VFS in December 2021 and met others that did as well.

We did use the tracking tool but you will get the approved email before the tracking tool updates. If they need anything they will email you.

Our D7 and our friends were all approved at the 8 week mark. We collectively worried and then we were collectively elated! 

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 YHA
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@jonesdn2020 Thanks so much for this information it definitely makes me feel better about the timeline. So happy you and your friends were all approved. I'm hopeful I will get good news in 3 more weeks.

If you don't mind me asking, Did you all wait to schedule your flights until after you were approved and did you purchase a roundtrip ticket or can I book a one way ticket?

Thanks again, I really appreciate it!

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@yha We actually came over while waiting for our D7. We booked a roundtrip so we could return to the states and get our D7 before our 90 days were up as tourists. We then booked a one-way back.

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@yha I just watched the Thursday evening Expats Portugal YouTube video with Ei! Cristina stated that SF VFS in now taking 10 weeks to process the D7 applications. Make sure you are subscribed to the Expats Portugal YouTube channel for updates.

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 YHA
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@jonesdn2020 I will definitely watch the video. Thanks for sharing this Information. At the time I submitted my application they told me 8 weeks but they did advise me if there are any issues there would be delays.

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(@hank_2021)
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Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing!

 

A++++++++++++++++ would read again!

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1 Reply
 Curt
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(@curt)
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@hank_2021 Thanks Hank!!

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(@crecarole)
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Thank you all for your responses and updates.  Well, the good news is that you were right, there was never any info that came under the tracking numbers, nor was there there ever any FedEx deliveries.  The Better news:  3 days later, I got notice that they sent my package for approval.  That was last week.  Yesterday, I got notice that my visa was approved and they asked me to send in my passport!  WOW!!!  1 week!  I am so excited. All that worry for virtually nothing.  Thanks to you here at this forum, you eased my stress a LOT!

 

 

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 Curt
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(@curt)
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@crecarolegmail-com that's great news. You may have set a record for the quickest turnaround. At 2 months wait, and having to cancel a flight, I can officially say I'm jealous. Congratulations on the good news and thanks for posting your update.

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@crecarolegmail-com Congrats!

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(@crecarole)
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Thanks!  I do have an attorney that helped me through the process, and will continue to help through the process on the other side in Portugal.  Now I am awaiting the return of my passport. I am not sure if having an attorney (at a big cost), was partly due to the quick turn around, but I am telling myself that to justify the cost.  Also, seriously, the help has been invaluable in so many other ways.

 

Next-a logistical nightmare of how to move out, have the walk-through, get my deposit back, ship stuff, not pay a hotel for a month of living on this side of the Atlantic, and other things. And then the whole 24 hour horror movie of  airport time, flying with a 16 year old kitty who does NOT like changes to her routine, getting through the customs process and airport in Portugal w/vet check, driving for a few hours and then, finally......home.

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10 Replies
 Zoom
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@crecarolegmail-com One thing I can shed some light (just our experience though) is the pet arrival in Portugal - we came from the East coast, but had a connection in Frankfurt. When we arrived in Porto, the officials in customs stopped us (our dog was very visible in a carrier on top of the cart) and said we need to see the vet at the airport, so we went to see the wizard but the vet office was closed so we came back to customs - at this point there was some discussion between 2 officials, and they asked us where our flight was from, and we said Washington by way of Frankfurt, there was some more discussion and then it sounded like one official decided if the Germans let him into Germany, then Portugal was OK with it - they waved us in and that was that.

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@zoom Thanks very much!  I read something about the fact that the pets have to be vetted at the first entry place in the EU, not at the arrival place. Others said it's the arrival place.  I already contacted the vet's office at Porto airport.  They have been very kind, and actually asked for her paperwork in advance to make the visit less stressful for all.  I have a connection as well, and didn't plan on taking her to the vet office there as there is not a lot of time between flights.  So many things to work out!  I appreciate your help and experience.

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 Zoom
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@crecarolegmail-com We actually had a 3-hour layover in Frankfurt, but the Germans never check pet paperwork (we've taken our dog to Germany several times). But I think the officials in Porto just decided that since we had already entered the EU in Frankfurt, they wouldn't bother.

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@zoom Thanks very much.  I will be laying over in Amsterdam, but it's a short layover.  It has me a little concerned that I got notice that things are taking forever to move through the airport due to the influx of Ukrainian refugees.  I hope there is enough time to catch our next flight to Porto.  I am grateful for your input!

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@crecarole Regarding shipping stuff please see my latest post on that. Ei! just stated there are new rules that you may need to be aware of.

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@jonesdn2020 Yikes!  I will look at your new post. Choosing a shipping company from 4 quotes over the weekend.

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 Zoom
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@crecarole a few things to keep in mind -

The items that make up getting your goods from the US to your place here include:

Packing/loading everything into a truck (fairly expensive if you have a lot of kitchenware/crockery/artwork etc, otherwise may not be that expensive)

Storing the goods till they can be loaded on a ship (warehouse costs)

Shipping the goods (if not a full container, this can involve waiting till a shipping company has the right amount of space for your boxes/goods)

Clearing customs at the other end (including port fees, which we found out is actually less for a container than shipping a few cubic meters of stuff, at least in Portugal)

Delivering from the port to your place in Portugal

Insurance to cover the entire journey (or parts if you're packing and taking stuff to the port)

When you compare quotes, look for these items, and make sure you're comparing apples to apples.

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@zoom Thanks very much.  I did get most of those items from the 4 companies I (was) deciding between.  Now there is a 5th, who did mention it.  NONE of the 4 mentioned, as I stated elsewhere, that unless I had full residency approved, I would have to pay duty at 23% + other taxes, and to including storage fees, etc. because I didn't have residency yet.   Yikes!  Nor did any one of them tell me that the "baggage claim" form is something that is MY responsibility and MUST be sent to the Consulate to accompany the shipment.  That would have been so simple to include and would have made my entire time line and decision making process a lot simpler.

****

Similar to that debacle, is the 4 page pdf I got (In Portuguese) from the gas company as to how to pay my first bill.  I already have a Portuguese bank account, but I am now back in the states.  It took me a while to translate that document.  I also asked 3 other Portuguese to reply to a simple question....once I translated the document, I read that there were several ways to pay the bill, i.e. paypoints, Multibanco, gas stations, etc. and to use this number and that number as the identity numbers for my account.  That was to pay at any of those places in person.  I asked those 3 people how to pay the bill from the USA. 

Everything else I have had to pay has included wiring funds to an exchange company, and then having IBAN and Swift numbers to pay those bills.  I didn't see either of those two numbers in the pdf, which is what I was looking for.  The three people answered me that the "info is in the pdf"....yes, I read that if you are in the country, but what about outside the country?  None of the 3 responded.  Now I see they must have thought I have the IQ of a 1 year old....

All the gas company pdf needed to include,  after the part about the places I could pay the bill from, and the identification numbers for my account, was 4 little lousy words......  "Or your bank account".  No IBAN, No Swift needed. Those 4 words would have made my life a lot simpler!  But I figured it out myself. 

Gray hair getting whiter everyday....LOL.

 

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@crecarole We setup direct debit with EDP for electric and EPAL for water. It is one less thing to worry about. We know when we submit our readings to them how much the bill will be roughly. Do make sure you submit your readings so they don't do an estimate for your consumption.

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@jonesdn2020 Thanks very much.  Yes, I planned to do that if I can figure out how to do the readings, once I am in residence next month.  My "sainted" real estate agent will help me learn how to read them - and when - I am sure.  It's a little hard to read anything from 3500 miles away!  Consumption should certainly have been minimal for the period since I viewed the apartment.  Everything was shut off, so I am not expecting giant bills!

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@curt. thank you for sharing this endeavor'ish journey.  I will most likely have similar experience but different road blocks from Canada.  Keep your details close we never know I may take you on your offer to answer questions.

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 Curt
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(@curt)
Joined: 2 months ago

Eminent Member
Posts: 29

@jeanmori7 It seems everyone's experience is slightly different with this process as it's like chasing a moving target. But there's also overlap, so if I can help let me know.

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