Tips and Tricks For Portugal D7 Retirement Visa

Written By: Jakus Eloff
Fact Checked By: Lamia Darwish

Mar 22, 2022

7 min read

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How We Applied For A D7 Visa To Retire In Portugal - A Detailed Account Of Our Portuguese D7 Visa Application Process

Making a permanent move to another country is stressful at the best of times. But doing so during a worldwide pandemic, well, stressful would be generous. But we made it, my wife and I are now permanent residents of Portugal. Well, almost. Still waiting for the last bit of paperwork, but I’ll get to that. Either way, I’ve decided to share our experience and hopefully help anybody out there who is thinking of going through the same process.

Tip #1 Decide On The Best Reason For Applying For Your Portuguese D7 Visa

Firstly, I need to point out that we are retirees, and we approach the move with one goal in mind: gain permanent residence status in Portugal and retire. If you’re looking to move to Portugal for another reason, my understanding is that you’ll need to follow almost the same path as ours (the D7 visa) but you’ll have different motivations and supporting documents. Also, please bear in mind that this was our personal experience and yours could be totally different depending on your circumstances.

Tip #2 Read & Ask Questions Before Starting Your D7 Visa Application Process

To start off, the best piece of advice would be to read. Read and ask questions! We joined various Facebook groups and I was one there daily, just reading other people’s posts and questions. The number of tips and information that I got on those groups were amazing, and more importantly - free & gratis! The groups helped us identify and gather all of the required documents, find and vet qualified professionals to help us with accommodation, and even gave us tips on writing our motivation letters.

Secondly, do your research. When it comes to moving to Portugal the challenge isn’t finding information. The challenge is finding current, trustworthy, and relevant information. My tactic is to find a resource and stick to it. If one piece of information is outdated or incorrect, chances are the rest will be as well. In my initial searches, I found this guide to retirement visas in Portugal.

Initially, I was skeptical because I knew there was no such thing as a retirement visa - it’s a Portuguese National D7 visa, with retirement as motivation. However, I soon realized that they are just using the term “retirement visa” as a catch-all and the information was sound. It helped me a lot, especially during our early planning stages. And when I say early, I mean early… We’ve been planning this since 2016, so it’s been a while coming!

Tip #3 Organization Is The Secret To A Successful D7 Visa Application

Speaking of which, get yourselves a dedicated folder or drawer in a filing cabinet, or what have you, and place all of your documents in there. We created a “Just In Case” and I suggest you do the same. If you’re unsure about whether you might need something, put it in the “Just In Case” drawer. It’s better to be able to go through a purge every now and again and throw away the unwanted documents, than to throw something away, only to realize you need it two months down the line. We learned this the hard way…

As you start gathering all the required documents you’re going to build your D7 visa application docket. This is all of the documents that you’ll be handing into VFS (we decided upon VFS but you should decide on an agency that works for you) and it is extremely important to be well organized. We used two accordion-type folders, the type with different expandable pockets inside, and labeled each pocket according to what documents will go inside.

The Visa Appointment At VFS

We made our appointment at VFS’ San Francisco office and on the day of our meeting set off. The VFS office is about 30 minutes from the San Francisco Airport, and it took us a while to actually find it, due to construction going on about the building. When you’ve arrived, enter by the door marked 110, and you’ll find a little foyer complete with a security guard. When asked why you are visiting, simply tell them that you have an appointment with VFS on floor 5, and they’ll show you the way. There was a short interview about covid, and any covid related symptoms before we were allowed access, but it’s become standard these days.

The VFS office itself is rather small and it feels like a DMV office in all truth. The couple of stations along the wall are separated by plexi shields and everyone wore a mask, which made us feel quite safe. The stations are very small, so we ended up balancing our document folders on our laps.

When attending your meeting I strongly suggest that you are organized and polite. What we tend to forget is that while it's a hassle for us to go through this process, the staff at VFS have to deal with hundreds of nervous, clueless, and bumbling applicants each week. The relief on our official’s face when she saw our accordion folders with labels was worth all of the extra effort.

The interview/appointment process was fairly easy. After questioning us on the Portuguese regulations of the needed documents, all discussed thoroughly in the guide I mentioned before, she asked us if we had the checklist for documents. We showed her the checklist that we downloaded from the VFS website and made two copies of it, one for me and one for my wife. She then proceeded to ask for the required documents.

Required Documents For A Portuguese D7 Visa Application

  • Our Passports
  • Our Visa Applications We didn’t sign the applications before, preferring to sign them with her as a witness and thus avoiding having the documents notarized - a tip I read about on one of the Facebook groups.
  • 2 Color Photos per applicant Although our photos were correct I asked her what would be the solution if that was not the case. She informed me that we could have our photos retaken in the VFS office for $12.00 per applicant. So that is an option if your photos are rejected for whatever reason.
  • Notarized Color copies of our Passports pages 2 and 3
  • Our Personal Statements or Motivation Letter
  • A copy of our signed Apartment Lease It was a 12-month lease and we also included the landlord’s receipt of deposit and 3 month’s rent in advance
  • Our NIF’s
  • Our Financial Information and Portuguese bank statements
  • Proof of our social security benefits
  • 3 months of our American bank statements
  • Sealed FBI Criminal record certificate
  • Portuguese SEF permission to perform a criminal background check in Portugal.
  • An apostilled copy of our marriage certificate
  • Proof of Health Insurance
  • Flight Itinerary

The D7 Visa Fees and How Long It Took To Recieve Our Visas

The agent then asked us if we were aware of the exact fees that they’ll be charging. The fees are listed on the VFS website, and they change monthly, so we waited for the month of our appointment and did our planning accordingly. We also paid the courier fee, for having our passports FedExed to us by credit card. We completed a passport mailing form for the address we wanted the passports mailed and that was it. All and all we were there for a little over an hour and a half. Our passports arrived 7 weeks later, with our brand new visas inside

Now we are days away from boarding our plane and starting our new life in Portugal. Because we are retiring there we want to be able to apply for permanent residency as soon as possible. If you want the same I suggest you take a read through this permanent residency guide I found.

Our final pieces of advice for prospective Portuguese retirees are:

  • Be as organized as possible. It’s the best and easiest way of getting the VFS official on your side.
  • Do loads of research. If you are unsure, research some more. When confronted with different facts, reach out to an expert - there are a couple of them on the Facebook groups.
  • Be prepared. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

Check out the Atlys community discussion forum for more questions.

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