Discover more from Expat in Portugal
If you live in the Pacific time zone and are reading this while drinking your morning coffee, I am likely sitting nervously in a Portuguese government office. My hope is that they let me leave with a single piece of paper.
You see Denise and I are among the 130,000 immigrants that provisionally settled in Portugal and have cases pending before the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (Foreigners and Borders Service). SEF, Portugal’s version of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the States, is
… a security service within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MAI) that, in the context of internal security policy, is responsible for carrying out checks on persons at the borders, monitoring aliens inside national territory, preventing and fighting organized crime involving illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings, decide upon asylum applications, issuing passports and identification documents to foreign nationals, in order to safeguard internal security and individual rights and freedoms within the global context of the migratory phenomenon. - Safe Communities Portugal
Typically the number in the queue is not quite so high. But in March, all SEF offices were closed due to the (Covid) State of Emergency. This occurred less than one week prior to Denise and my original SEF appointment. The Visa in our Passport is long expired. The government is playing catch up and they catch up with me today.
If you are a regular reader you may have picked up on the fact that I am the “big picture”, not “nitty-gritty detail”, kind of person. I frankly hate government forms, retrieving records, printing, and collating. The fact that I choose to be the one responsible for the D7 application and our SEF applications speaks to my need to be in control, not my desire to play with paper.
So I am pleased to report that the package I produced for this appointment is not quite as complex as the one I put together for the D7 application.
SEF application form (retrieved from their website)
3 months of Portuguese Bank Statements
Means of Support documentation
Note: Remove all staples as items will be scanned
Based on Friend’s Experience
Based on conversations with friends that recently successfully completed their SEF meetings, the application process may not be as stringent as I was led to believe by our relocation assistance company. For example, we were told we must have a registered lease of at least 12 months. I have spoken to folks that went with their 6-month Airbnb paperwork. We were told to purchase private medical insurance while others went with only their traveler’s insurance or numero de utente (the number showing you are in the public health system). Finally, just two weeks ago other friends went with everything listed above…yet the agent didn’t ask to see anything proving their means of support.
These stories give me confidence that we will complete the process successfully. We have done everything “by the book”. Even though they may not ask to see proof that we can support ourselves, I have statements from my Vanguard, Schwab, and our Florida bank to prove it. Denise has 3 months of military pension payment stubs which she will show at her appointment on Monday. I even have a form showing our lease was registered. So I am as confident as one can be when facing a government official.
We have also been told that recent appointments are moving along quite briskly, often in less than one hour … Eric’s only took 20 minutes. Perhaps the agents are feeling the pressure of the backlog.
Wish me luck!
Update: It is 16:00 and I am already home from my SEF appointment. I was called at exactly 15:00 (on time). I was assisted by a lovely, English-speaking agent. She requested my Passport, SEF application, NIF form, and proof of address (i.e. lease). That’s it! My photo, index finger fingerprints, and signature were recorded on a machine. She printed the document and asked me to sign it. I paid using Multibanco the €156,20 fee. The agent explained I would receive my two-year card in 3-8 weeks by mail. In the future, the card can be renewed online for 3-year terms. Yes, I was overprepared but who cares. Better than having to make a second trip. I love Portugal.
Update #2: Denise and I both received our Residency cards in the mail within 2 weeks of our appointment.
Update #3: I can confirm that Denise and my experience was not unusual. My friend DJ broke my 14 minute record, leaving the Lisbon SEF office in just over 10 minutes. And friends in Porto found the entire process anticlimactic today 9September 2021 when the SEF employee handed most of their documents back to them, scanning only a few.