The Path to a Portugal Residence Visa

February 21, 2018

The story til now, but first a rant.

Gathering info about a Portuguese residence visa has had me frustrated several times an hour. Ever try to find info beyond the official offering for a visa and other essentials of a non-English speaking country? One where there are different rules for EU and non-EU citizens? One where few English speaking non-EU citizens have figured it out and left detailed notes? Where people post ‘answers’ based on how things were when they did it years ago and don’t have a clue laws have changed? Or they post ‘answers’ based entirely what they remember from other posts? I verify the important stuff because almost nobody links to authoritative sources. For what I consider critical, about half the time the conventional wisdom is wrong, at least in part.

But What About Thailand?

Been here, done that. Bored because there is nothing new. Can handle the heat but would have a better quality of life with not so hot. I can afford better or at least different. The jet lag returning from travel in Europe seemingly gets worse every time.

Why Portugal?

Friendly people. The climate of their central coast is similar to the central coast of California. Considerable cultural, geographical, climate, etc differences in a small country. Good base for exploring Europe. Less expensive then most other European countries. Seafood, Black Pork and Arabica blends of coffee beans from Brazil and former Portuguese African colonies that are to. die. for.

Bad Timing

I became aware of Portugal at the wrong time. I knew it was one of the warmer, poorer European countries. Knew I’d get around to visiting. Then the travel and expat press began promoting it as the Next Great Place. The latter no doubt was aided no doubt by an earlier decision by the Portuguese government to entice both high value workers and pensioners with no income taxes for their first 10 years.

More expats increased demand for rental housing in the Lisbon area and others to a lesser degree. The immigration service and consulates grew backlogs. Someone decided this couldn’t go on – or something like that.

Now we have to do what?!

When I began looking into getting a visa, the application required hotel reservations or an Airbnb for a month or so. Now you need a 6 month lease. That’s a tad difficult as you must apply for the visa in your country of residence. On you own, you’d have to arrange a lease using email and Skype in a language you don’t speak. For a country where most rental properties are not listed because of the high cost. For an apartment you’ve never seen. Paid for by wiring a deposit to a person you’ve never met – who might not be a landlord. No. Hell, no.

One solution is to hire an English speaking property agent who farms out part of the work to a lawyer. Or hire a law firm with English speakers who farms out part of the work to a property agent. Add money. Lots of money. Thousands of Euros. You end up with a lease, a NIF (financial number required to do just about anything involving money changing hands that isn’t at retail), probably a bank account in your name, and some other stuff that don’t matter here. Such firms seem to exist only where expats congregate: Lisbon and the Algarve region. Two of the areas where I don’t want to live. And you still haven’t seen the property or it’s surroundings.

Plan B – The TL;DR version

Go without a visa, stay up to 90 days. Visit a few (currently 4 possible) towns that look good on paper. Look at apartments. Form an impression.

Usually takes about a year to get a residence permit after entering on a residence visa. Can’t imagine buying a car before that. Compare each town’s walk-ability to my walking ability, verify the relatively flat terrain seen on maps and photos, try the tiny bus systems, and decide if riding a bicycle would be advantageous, necessary or suicidal

Business is personal in Portugal, so in each town introduce myself to property agents and whomever a law firm decides is appropriate. Lease something in the most promising town. Before my return flight make an appointment by email with the Portuguese embassy in Bangkok. Start today with something I should have started in December: learning survival level Portuguese.

Moving Slow (pun intended)

This plan means I’d still have my apartment when given the visa. Then I’d have to decide whether to keep the Hua Hin apartment for a while.  My apartment costs ~$155 a month. I wouldn’t be the only tenant who pays all year while only occupying during high season. Right now I’m thinking I’d keep it for a while. On reason is it would be nice to leave Portugal during the wettest and coldest 2 months of the first winter. Also, if living in Portugal soon turns out not to be for me, returning to Hua Hin would be my Plan B.