Visas / D7
Portugal is part of the European Union and the Schengen visa space which allows visitors to move freely between several European countries without the need for passport control beyond an initial entry check. Despite much controversy of late, the freedom of people is one of the important cornerstones of the EU and for retirees, a unique and much appreciated way to discover Europe’s Old World charm in a simple and cost-effective way.
As with many countries around the world, Portugal allows most foreign nationals to visit the country for a period of 90 days on a tourist visa, which extends to Schengen travel. This visa can be extended for a further period but limited to the country of the issuing visa.
For longer stays all visitors to the country should apply for the correct visa, in most cases a residence visa. Again, in common with many other countries, the obtaining of a residence visa can be bureaucratic but the qualifying requirements are clearly stipulated. The process is of particular interest for retired, non-EU citizens who may not wish to obtain residence via the Golden Visa route but do so via the D7 visa.
A note for UK citizens: after Brexit, UK citizens no longer have automatic right to residence in the EU, unless they have settled in an EU country prior to the 31st December 2020, and formally registered themselves in the EU country in which they have settled. The Portuguese consulates in London and Manchester are processing D7 visas and the process is similar to other third-country nationals, from other nationalities.
A note for US citizens: although there has been a proliferation of blogs and web posts on this topic, the best point of departure is the official site http://www.embassyportugal-us.org/visa-information/ which describes the process and contains a list of required information. In most cases it is worth using an expediter for the FBI check and on the Portuguese side it will be useful to have a legal representative act to support you with your entry interview, among other aspects.
A key requirement will be to have your accommodation sorted prior to applying. While we always recommend an exploratory visit to view and select your home in Portugal (whether rented or purchased), sometimes this is not possible for any number of reasons including logistics, timing or cost. You may also wish to proceed quickly if you are looking to apply for residence which is later linked to Portugal’s previously tax-free NHR programme which was recently increased to 10% from zero, in 2020. This is where a company such as ours will provide an invaluable service in identifying possible options, if necessary allowing you to take a decision at a distance without the cost of having to make a trip.
We also offer several installation support packages which are unique to this market. Feedback from clients has underscored the value and importance of being supported through the initial phase of any international move, and accelerating the integration process. We have extensive experience in assisting and guiding foreign, non-EU citizens with residence visa applications, ably supported by law firms which have experience in completing and assisting with the paperwork.
Moving to Portugal using the D7 visa application process
(also valid for those who earn a foreign pension)
Residence versus Non-Habitual Residence
All individuals and their families (if dependent) must have the right to reside in Portugal if they wish to remain beyond a period allowed by a tourist visa. For EU citizens, this is simple as the principle of freedom of movement and settlement among all EU citizens and nations, is enshrined in EU law.
For those with non-EU citizenship, and wishing to settle in Portugal or remain for extended periods every year, it is necessary to obtain the right of residence.
Much has been made of Portugal’s Golden Visa program, similar to the US EB-5 visa, which until recently (when surpassed by the Greek Golden Visa) was Europe’s most successful by amount invested. Please see www.algarveseniorliving.com/golden-visa-program/ for more information on that route. However, many people are unaware that there are other routes which are equally valid in terms of obtaining residence. In particular, some do not involve a real estate purchase.
A stand-out candidate is the D7 visa, which is valid for applicants who have a foreign source of income, including pensions. The D7 visa has two distinct advantages over other better-known visas:
- It does not require a property purchase (a long-term rental contract will suffice) and
- It is quicker and much cheaper than a Golden Visa application
The D7 visa subsequently still entitles eligible applicants to apply for the NHR program https://www.algarveseniorliving.com/non-habitual-residency-nhr/
Clarifying a few points…
- Residence in a country is usually defined as spending half a year (183) days in that territory. Some exceptions exist but this is the general, internationally recognised rule. It is not necessary for this period, in the case of Portugal, to be continuous. References which you may find to a continuous period of permanence in order to accumulate the 183 days is incorrect;
- Accommodation in a hotel: many Portuguese consulates do not consider a hotel stay as reflecting a “permanent” nature. Hotels are far too easy to cancel at short notice;
- It is possible to extend a tourist visa for a period beyond the original 90 days, subject to certain restrictions. However, one should not do this repeatedly as it a strong indication of residence under the guise of tourism. This would not be acceptable in other countries, and should not be assumed to be acceptable in Portugal;
- Even if you are an EU citizen, not registering in a country in which you effectively live, is not legal. A country has the right to tax you should you be resident there and in effect be using its public services. One has only to observe the number of British citizens who, under the threat of the perceived “loss” of rights in a no-deal Brexit, suddenly started to register themselves and ensure that they are legally compliant. In effect, there is a tacit admission by both these citizens and their advisors that they have been non-compliant, in some cases for decades. While for EU citizens it is difficult to monitor this situation, it is not the case for non-EU citizens and so we strongly advise compliance is crucial to ensure not only residence rights but also maintaining the validity of driving licences, for example;
- Most of our clients are not seeking to work and are also not able to rely on Portuguese ancestry in order to obtain a visa. In these cases, a different category of visa would apply;
- If any applicants can prove Sephardic Jewish ancestry please let us know as you are eligible for a special fast-track visa.
More than just an application itself and all the supporting documentation, the veracity of the application is crucial. If you are intending to live in Portugal, apply for a residence visa. If you are a tourist, then a tourist visa is the way to go. Do not try to substitute one for the other. For residence visas, the following are the most important documents which will be required:
- Application, or request for the D7 visa, including the reason/motivation for the request, and accompanied by recent photographs
- Passport and sometimes national identity document (of home country)
- Proof of the sources of income, their regularity and availability to be received in Portugal (some Consulates ask for proof that some funds have been deposited into a Portuguese account in the applicant’s name)
- Proof of accommodation, either a rental contract, letter of invitation from friend or family with a statement of continued support by that person (some legal responsibilities may accrue to the individuals concerned) or proof of ownership of the property. Some online sources of information have quoted a hotel reservation as acceptable but our experience is that Consulates will not accept this. Indeed most consulates are now even rejecting rentals under a short-term or “Alojamento Local” contract (often referred to as an Airbnb-style contract). It is best to apply based on a rental that conveys an intent to remain permanently
- Medical insurance, which proves that you will not be a burden to the state in case of a medical need or emergency. Over time, it may be possible for applicants to be eligible to treatment under the national system (SNS)
- Clean criminal record, proven by a certificate issued by the competent authorities of the country of origin. In the US, we suggest using an expediter who will deal with this matter more efficiently;
- Bank information and NIF: in almost all cases, proof of having a Portuguese fiscal number www.algarveseniorliving.com/real-estate-sales/#forex is required. As regards the bank account, it is often required that you have deposited some funds into that account;
- Information regarding your travel plans (tickets and proof of travel)
The process in simple steps
To gather the necessary documents, submit the application and receive a response, allow a minimum of three (3) months.
- Without wishing to overstate the obvious, the first step MUST be to determine whether Portugal is really the place you wish to. If in doubt, undertake a Discovery Tour www.algarveseniorliving.com/discovery-tours/ to check where you wish to be
- If you are thinking of importing a car into Portugal, there is a limit to one tax-free importation per person. Ensure that the cars have been officially registered in the names of the respective applicants for at least 6 months
- Lock down a property, either by buying or renting. Consider having a company with a broad range of expertise be alongside you in this process www.algarveseniorliving.com/real-estate-search-service/. Increasingly, we are working as an exclusive partner for our clients, bringing to bear the years of experience and know-how for your benefit. www.propertyfinderportugal.com explains in greater deal the benefits which that exclusive relationship brings
- Prepare the application and all supporting documents and only submit when you have everything in order
- Once your temporary visa, you will have 120 days to book and appear at the SEF or Borders Agency in Portugal, for an entry interview
- Ensure that any personal effects are exported within the legal limit to allow for tax-free transit
- The temporary residence permit is issued for a year and then subsequently for two further periods of two years, after which a permanent residence document is issued (or a citizenship application can be made)
Some of the risks requiring management
- You may not know your departure date so you may need to purchase a more expensive flight which permits changes. In addition, some Consulates like to see a return ticket which of course it makes no sense to use. A simple but effective approach, which covers you if your application is granted or denied, is to purchase a fully flexible ticket which will allow you to shorten or extend the period of stay (assuming that most people will wish to return home to finalise any remaining matters or to visit family, within the first year of their move)
- Locking in a rental may be difficult if your dates are not fixed. Three practical suggestions are to:
- Aim for a start date no earlier than 3 months from the date of your application, and also see if some flexibility can be negotiated into the rental agreement – again, using a firm such as Algarve Senior Living, with many of our existing owner relationships, this is sometimes possible
- Try to start a rental well outside the peak summer season – November to February is best as owners are most flexible
- If your application is delayed, be prepared to pay for a rental even if you do not manage to occupy it, in time. The risks of delays are unlikely to be transferred to the owner who has no control over the timing of your application