In retrospect, going through the D7 Visa Process and moving to another country during a worldwide pandemic may not have been the smartest move.
In fact, I recall a FaceTime call, last fall, with a good friend in San Francisco suggesting that perhaps we should just wait a few months. Yes, Biden was ahead in the polls…but so was Hilary 4 years ago. And frankly, I was worried. The country was more divided and our democratic systems were more at risk than any time in the last 150 years.
Denise’s motivation was a bit different as it related to when we moved. House prices were going through the roof. In only 3 years our house had appreciated over 35%. It seemed like the perfect time to cash in on California’s somewhat erratic housing market.
Plus we weren’t getting any younger…tick, tick!
Information and Disinformation
You can read a lot of articles. You can read a bunch of Expat and Facebook Forum posts. You can watch some YouTube videos. Some of the information is very good. Some is just crap. When you don’t understand the process it is difficult to tell between fact and poop. If you know me you know, I hate bureaucracy and I may be the least patient person in the world! Very quickly we decided it was worth $500 to hire someone that could give us reliable information and guide us on the quickest path forward.
We contacted several “relocation specialist” companies. Trust me there are a bunch of them. We interviewed a few as well. We quickly settled on Relocate to Portugal, a firm run by a Canadian who lives in Porto. Unlike the other firms we interviewed, RTP offered us a solution to the fact that we lived in California.
You see, Portugal maintains 5 consulates in the US…each responsible for a different part of the country. As CA residents, ours was in San Francisco. But due to the coronavirus that office was closed. And when it opened it would likely be months, perhaps even a year, before they could work through the backlog.
But if we knew someone in Florida who would let us use their address, we could apply through the DC office. And the DC office was allowing all applications to be processed remotely. We quickly called Joyce and Karen. Wa-la we had a solution!
Pulling Together the Application
If you really want to know the details of applying for a D7 visa, feel free to contact me. We can chat on WhatsApp or I can send you the document I put together for some friends. Having made that offer, let me be clear. This is not my business. The process and requirements change somewhat frequently. In fact, some requirements were added as we were submitting our applications. So take anything I offer as just one person’s experience in the fall of 2020. If you want up-to-date guidance and support, I can recommend RTP.
But here is what we had to get/pull together:
FBI background check and fingerprints
Reference letter from Portuguese resident
Letter from each of us about why we wanted to move to Portugal
Proof of Income: You must show about $2,000/person/month (pension, social security, rental income, distributions from investments, etc)
6 months of Accommodations: lease agreement and deposit
6 months of (Traveler’s) Health Insurance
Portuguese Bank Account (this was added as we were applying)
Notarized: D7 Application, Jurat for Passport showing all stamped pages, SEF authorization form
Now here is a fun little diddy. If you are applying as a Florida resident they expect you to have a Florida notary, notarise your stuff. OMG, we were sitting in Rancho Mirage. We thought we had to get on a plane to make a quick trip to the Sunshine state. Nope! There are virtual Florida notaries…thank you Zoom. Who knew? Just getting that contact was worth the $500.
So you pull all that stuff together. You print everything…bank statements, 1099’s, investment accounts, etc. Single-sided of course and don’t staple it because they are going to scan it. Oh, very important, don’t open the FBI envelope! Just trust they don’t know about what you did in college. In our case, contact VFS Global and pay them money because they are the intermediary for many of the consulate offices including DC. Pack it up in an overnight envelope and start the clock ticking.
We sent everything to DC on Thursday, October 23rd. We received an email the next morning acknowledging receipt and requesting an electronic copy of our marriage license. (When we applied, we were applying as two individuals…not as a family. This isn’t because we are a same-sex couple…Portugal was the first EU country to recognize same-sex marriage. I assume this is because they want to make sure either one of you can support yourself in Portugal if the other kicks the bucket or leaves.) Later that same day we received an email saying the package was on its way to the Embassy.
The website says to expect 6-8 weeks. RTP had told us their fastest turnaround was 23 days. We weren’t quite that fast. On November 23rd, 31 days after we sent the package to DC, we received an email confirming our Visas had been approved. At that point, we sent our passports to DC. A few days later they were returned, Visa attached, and a letter stating the date and time of our SEF appointment. (We’ll explain temporary residency and the SEF appointment in a future post).
Before You Ask
Here is a question we are frequently asked: How did you know when to start your lease or health insurance given you didn’t have approval for your visas? Good question! We set October 31st as the date by which we would send the document to Washington. We then allowed 2 months to get the approvals and visas. So we picked January 1 as the date we would start in Portugal.
Another frequent question: Did you wait till you got your Visa to book your airline reservation? Again, a good question. But the answer is no. We actually purchased airline tickets in October for a flight on December 31st. I thought it would be very romantic to celebrate New Year’s Eve as we traversed the Atlantic. We booked so early because we were traveling with Onix, who unfortunately was too big to travel in the cabin with us. TAP, the Portuguese airline offering direct flights from Miami to Lisbon, can accommodate 4 pets “below”. So we booked our flight early to ensure we had a “ticket” for her.
If you have other questions, please add them in the comments below: