Lessons Learned

D7 and the first few days

In yesterday’s post we wrote about how we embarked on the D7 process. Today we’ll reflect on what we did well, what could have been better, and what we would do differently.

The Good

Given we embarked on this process in the midst of a pandemic, I think we did pretty well. We signed the agreement with RTP on the 23Rd of September and flew to Lisbon on the evening of 30 December. So in a little over 3 months we:

  • Sold our home and two cars,

  • Packed up the stuff we really thought we needed/wanted to keep (10 boxes in a niece’s garage plus our 4 duffle bags, 3 suitcases, golf bag, 1 box, and 1 dog crate with dog),

  • Sold the rest of the stuff (via Craigslist and NextDoor Neighbor),

  • Pulled together the D7 application,

  • Moved to Florida (imposing on friends and family),

  • Received our visas,

  • Had the dog checked out according to Portuguese rules,

  • Got our Covid tests, and

  • Got on a plane to Lisbon.

Based on forum posts we have read, and talking to other expats or soon-to-be-expats … that is pretty quick. In fact, as I look back over the list I am frankly shocked. I am certain that there are a few things that made our journey a bit easier. First, neither Denise nor I are attached to stuff. We have owned 5 homes and moved 5 times in the 24.5 years we have been together. Each move we purged. Pennsylvania furniture just doesn’t look right (to us) in a Florida home…purge. The second Florida home was much smaller than the first…purge. The third Florida home came with a furniture package…purge. We then moved cross country having sold our Florida home “turnkey”…purge. We also sold the California property turnkey.

We relied on good professional advice. Whether it was navigating the D7 process or selling our home; we had great advice and support when we needed it. (If you have sold a home you know there is stress. If the main plumbing line leaving your house and connecting to the main in front of your house has a major failure the week of all your showings…you really need a good realtor/friend to walk you back off the ledge. Thanks, Robyn!)

We also were willing (and able) to pay a few dollars or sell things on the cheap to expedite the process. We watch YouTube videos (mostly done by 30-somethings) that talk about doing the whole process for under $400. Not sure how you do that given the VFS/Embassy fees are nearly that much….add a few FedEx envelopes and the like and it adds up.

We also have wonderful friends that let us use their address and/or stay at their homes for nearly 2 months as we waited on the east coast.

Lessons Learned

There are two significant lessons learned, however. And it is this advice that we think is most important to pass on to anyone considering moving to Portugal. First, get your NIF before your move. The Número de Identificação Fiscal, also known as Número de Contribuinte, is central to all things Portugal. I think of it kind of like a US Social Security Number…but more. In Portugal, there are a lot of things you can’t do without your NIF. For example, you can’t enter into a cell phone subscription, or sign a lease, or open a bank account, sign up for utilities, etc. You can’t even sign up for a grocery chain loyalty program! When you are moving to another country you might actually want to be able to do some of these things. We didn’t. We thought it could wait. Don’t wait. It really isn’t that complicated and can even be done fairly easily from the comfort of your home (anywhere in the world).

Second, don’t move the day of or before a major holiday! You may recall from the prior post that I had this romantic notion of flying across the ocean on New Year’s Eve…arriving in Lisbon on 1 January! Well TAP (the airline) changed that plan when they canceled our flight and rescheduled us for the night before. Okay, no biggie…we made arrangements for another night’s accommodations. I assumed we would buy a SIM card when we got to the Lisbon airport. WRONG! Not only did we not have a working phone … pretty critical for using UBER; we also didn’t have groceries. Our Airbnb “landlords” did take Denise for a quick grocery run the day we arrived…but she only bought coffee and a loaf of bread. The next day, 1 January, EVERYTHING WAS CLOSED! Our hosts kindly drove us to a cafe in Sintra where we spent nearly 25Euros on sandwiches, pastries, and the like to survive!

Okay, okay…so it really wasn’t that bad. And we again imposed on our hosts to take us to Cascais Shopping the next day where we were able to do grocery shopping and buy 2 temporary (i.e. one month) SIM cards so we could survive. Besides, it is experiences like these that color the memories of your travels. And I can think of worst things than being forced to eat patéis da nata and croissants for 24 hours.