In my attempt to get EU citizenship as an American, I previously documented my experience trying to get EU citizenship through Poland which didn't go as planned so I went on from there, and decided to try applying for a visa through Portugal. While the country has an option for Golden Visas at the time of this writing, it would require a minimum of €350,000 or above. The D7 visa for Portugal is meant for people who want to retire in Portugal, but minimum qualifications are proving a little under €8,000 of stable passive income per year which allows room for some of those working remote to apply for the visa.

I went through numerous resources including Facebook groups and the internet in search of how to properly apply for this visa, and finally gathered enough information to set an appointment day with VFS Global in New York which is an agency responsible for brokering the submission of visa applications. The D7 route basically requires the submission of an application for a temporary visa needed to enter Portugal to then apply for permanent residency. After renewing the permanent residency for a total of 5 years while living a little over 180 days per year in the country, those with permanent residency are able to apply for Portuguese citizenship after taking a basic Portuguese language exam.

While the process initially seemed like less of an investment than doing a Golden Visa, it still ended up being a headache to get everything organized so I have documented my application submission for reference. Anyone trying to move to Portugal, or gain EU citizenship through Portugal will hopefully find this helpful.

The day of the appointment

My appointment was for a weekday morning through VFS Global New York. There were already 4 people waiting before me, and everyone has to wait outside. People were there for other countries with the most popular one being France. For anyone who needs to use the restroom, there is a nearby McDonald's where one can use the restroom after purchasing something. I was called in just a few minutes before my scheduled time.

Once inside, I signed in at the front desk, and was directed to the waiting area for Portugal. I was called up immediately, and staff were really nice. I was asked what country and visa I was applying for then, after a moment, was asked to begin submitting my documents in the order of the D7 checklist. I highly recommend organizing all your documents in this order because it made the person collecting my documents quite happy. I prepared a table of contents cover sheet for brownie points. The table of contents itself was not taken nor were the tabs I created.

Submitting the documents

All my documents were unstapled upon collection. Here's how the collection went down:

  1. Completed and signed visa application form with a recent color photograph (2X2). I had scotch-taped my photograph - a staff member removed it and glued it on to my application.
  2. Certified copy of passport. A staff member took a statement that was signed by me and notarized at my bank. The statement had the following declaration: "I certify that this is a true and correct copy of the original passport in the possession of (my name)." She also took a colored copy of the image page of my passport plus the page above that page (all one page). This same page had the same declaration signed and notarized as the one I mentioned. I also had a full copy of my passport in black and white. She originally started collecting pages with stamps on them, but then gave back all the copies (I did not notarize these).
  3. Personal statement and résumé. The staff member read the whole thing and my résumé. My personal statement mentions that I am looking to buy property. She asked me to e-mail schengen.nyc@vfsglobal.com after my appointment with a PDF that documented my search history and work with brokers. I did this immediately when I got back and included a Justificação de Circulação Cliente from my broker.
  4. Confirmed accommodation in 3 receipts. I booked with a hotel that offered 100% flexible cancellation using Agoda, and printed off the receipts. I highlighted the dates as I had to book 3 separate reservations.
  5. Proof of financial support. I provided the past 3 month's of my bank account statements showing stable income from one of my properties' rental income. The amount is a few thousand US dollars, and the staff member asked, "is this the only amount financial support you have?" I then provided an asset account letter from one of my financial institutions. This showed a few hundred thousand US dollars, and she took it. Next, I provided a lease agreement for the source of my rental income. She did not collect any part of the lease agreement.
  6. Criminal record certificate with criminal record certificate apostille receipt. I used PrintScan for these documents (they have a few locations in New York). I explained that the apostille would take a number of weeks, and the staff member said that this was fine, and to mail her the apostille once I received it. I asked what the address to mail this to is and it is as follows: 145 W 45th Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10036
  7. Completed declaração de autorização form. My form was in Portuguese, but my responses were in English.
  8. Proof of Health Insurance. I used Cigna Global's basic silver plan, and requested a COVID-19 letter of coverage and certificate which they gave me within one week. The staff member highlighted that the plan said "Worldwide coverage excluding USA." I did not include anything regarding repatriation, and she did not ask about this.
  9. Receipt of a direct one-way flight which I booked for 2 months away from my appointment date.

The whole appointment took about 20 minutes. I walked by the Times Square Line Friends store after to let my mind chill (too bad it was closed).

My thoughts on the whole experience

I would say that the most annoying thing that had to be done was the criminal record certificate. In addition, everything was delayed due to the pandemic, and I was told that VFS Global is now requesting proof of a funded Portuguese bank account and NIF (a Portuguese equivalent of a U.S. social security number) which is not so straightforward to get if one is in the U.S. There are a bunch of individuals who claim to be attorneys in Facebook groups dedicated to Portugal American expats, and they ask for $150 to over $200 to get a NIF. The reason this is sketchy is because you have to give a bunch of personal information to a stranger, wire transfer money to a stranger, and pay this stranger annual maintenance fees for something that is nearly free to get if one is physically in Portugal with a local acquaintance who will act as a financial representative.

Overall, applying for the D7 visa was like any other visa process for any other place in the world - arduous. My head replayed the Zootopia scene with the sloth at the DMV over and over again, and I believe that this thought definitely summarizes the feelings of anyone going through the process.