Cindy Vine is originally from South Africa. She spent over 30 years teaching in international schools around the world. After 4 years teaching in Norway, she started to think about early retirement, and dreams of buying some land and a place that she could fix up.
She didn’t have a lot to invest, and so started to research affordable places to retire in Europe. Initially she found places like Bulgaria and Romania recommended to her. Years before, she’d backpacked along the coast of Portugal, and had great memories of that time. A chance conversation with her son and his wife led to Cindy announcing she was going to buy a farm and retire in Portugal.
“I’m going to buy a farm in Portugal!” I said. “I had no idea where that came from, but once I’d said it, I had to do it!”
She visited Central Portugal in June 2020, when properties were still quite affordable. In one week during the pandemic, she looked at 26 properties. She fell in love with just one of them - a property of 3 hectares in the Castelo Branco area - an old stone cottage built 120 years ago that she decided to buy. Cindy bought her property for less than 20,000 euros. It’s a very rural area - the town where she now lives has a population of about 60 people, many of whom are of an older generation. Of the 26 places she went to see, it was the only one with an urban article, known as urbano.
In Portugal, when buying a property, you should always check the building registration records. Within this registration you will find a property categorized as “urbano” (urban) or “rustico” (rural). However, this does not mean that one is in the city and one is in the countryside. “Urbano” means the property is registered with a licence for habitation. “Rustico” means the land is set aside for agriculture, and it can therefore be very difficult (and at times impossible) to get planning permission to build on land designated for this use. If in doubt, always consult a lawyer. You should also check the Caderneta Predial for the property listings. It’s recommended that this is checked before you sign a contract to buy a property or a piece of land in Portugal.
When she bought the property, the agents helped her get her NIF number and open a bank account. She then worked another year, before moving permanently to Portugal in June 2021.
Cindy moved to Portugal and started renovating the farm without issues. But when she left the country to see family was when her problems began, and she was turned back from entering Portugal twice!.
How did it happen? Well, it all started with the way she was originally advised to enter into Portgual.
In 2021, she was living, working and a resident in Norway, having been working there as a teacher for a number of years. She went to the Portuguese embassy in Norway to apply for a D7 visa, having found the house she wanted to buy in Portugal. On arrival at the embassy, they said she didn’t need the D7 visa, because she’d been resident in Norway for 4 years. She was advised to go to the Camera on arrival in Portugal to get a CRUE - a resident certificate - which she did, with no problem.
She started living in Portugal and renovating the farm. She bought 10 pigs. And then she wanted to go see family. She booked her flights and travelled with her resident certificate. On her return, she was denied entry into Portugal. Why? Because her resident’s card in Norway had expired, so she was told that her Portuguese resident certificate was therefore no longer valid!
Cindy attempted (as recommended) to fly home with another airline. She was turned back again, and couldn’t enter the country where she was now living on her farm with her pigs!
In the end, she had to apply for a short-term Schengen visa in order to get back into Portugal. She then went to SEF in Portugal to get advice. They confirmed her resident certificate was not valid, because she no longer had a resident’s card in Norway, and that she hadn’t been in Portugal long enough to get a Portuguese resident’s card. SEF even told her that as a South African citizen, she never should have been issued the CRUE. Other official organizations told her it was legal way to move to Portugal.
The SEF took her Portuguese resident certificate so they could cancel it. It was recommended she go back to South Africa for 6 months and apply for the D7 visa. This by this point, was impossible for her, because of the farm and the pigs. On asking about her income, she was then recommended to apply for the D2 entrepreneur’s visa instead. But, at the time it was taking 2 years to apply for this visa. In practical terms, this would mean that Cindy couldn’t leave the country for 2 years, or she would have to get a short-term Schengan visa to get back into Portugal and to apply for that she would have to be in South Africa, before going to any third country. Complicated isn’t it!
In the end, Cindy was able to get a visa, and resolve the issues, but after a lot of stress. For this reason, she recommends you take advice and confirm that advice before moving, especially if you are in a similar situation, residing in the EU, but without EU citizenship.
Since moving to Portugal, Cindy has done a lot of work on the property, and invested in breeding kuni pigs, which are originally from New Zealand.
Cindy enjoys how friendly people are in Portugal, even if you speak broken Portuguese. She finds the people very encouraging. For her, in rural Portugal, life feels simpler and safer. She says she could go to the nearby city for the day, without even closing her farm’s front door, and she knows that everything would still be there when she gets back.
One thing she’s had to get used to is the pace of life. At times, when she orders materials for the farm, the supplier might say it’ll arrive in a week, but sometimes it’s closer to a month before supplies arrive.
Had she had more money to invest, she thinks she’d probably have moved closer to the coast, but central Portugal was the area that she could afford. The cost of living is a lot cheaper than in Norway where she was living before, and she enjoys the tranquility.
Cindy has a popular YouTube channel called Cindy Vine Portugal, with some great videos where you can find out more about her story, the farm renovation and those amazing pigs.