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Helpful tips for D7 visa applicants especially for securing accommodation

Jamie and Constance on beach in Foz

Caitlin is originally from Vermont in the USA, but has lived outside the US for most of the last 10 years. She’s spent time living in Vietnam, Australia, Ireland, the Czech Republic, the UK and now here in Portugal. So she’s very familiar with visa application processes. She knows how sometimes requirements can feel like they’re set out in the wrong order. But ultimately, you have to focus on meeting those requirements, while dealing with the stress and anticipation of your new adventure each time.

How is this move to Portugal different from your other moves?

This is the first time that Caitlin has moved to another country with a visa that has not been dependent on a job or education placement in that country.  That’s because she moved to Portugal on the D7 Visa, which requires you to have an income, but that income doesn’t have to come from within Portugal.

Caitlin told us:
“I’m in Portugal ultimately because of the visa. It’s funny really. So often when you move abroad with a traditional work or student visa, it can make you feel stuck, when the whole point of moving abroad is to feel the opposite. Unlike many other visas, the D7 doesn’t limit you to a specific business or institution.”

What is a D7 Visa, and how is it more flexible?

The Portugal D7 Visa is increasingly referred to as a “passive income” visa, and is a popular Portuguese residency option for non-EU / EAA / Swiss citizens who want to live at least 6 months of the year in Portugal.

By proving you have a sufficient regular income (from anywhere in the world), you can apply for the D7 visa. The D7 visa offers successful applicants the right to live, work or study in Portugal, and travel through the Schengan area freely. As well as the right to work, you can also choose to set up a business in the country. Once the visa is issued and you arrive in the country, you apply for a Portuguese residency card that is valid for two years, and can then be extended a further three years.  

The D7 visa is a great option for Americans looking to move to Europe. As a seasoned traveler, Caitlin knew there were other European countries offering similar visas, (for example, in Spain and Germany), but they’re much more challenging in terms of proving you have sufficient income. It’s for this reason, the Portugal D7 Visa is becoming so popular.

How long does it take to get a D7 Visa?

You can apply a maximum of 3 months before your planned arrival in Portugal, but take into account that the process of approval is normally two months. You can’t apply for the D7 from within Portugal.

Caitlin advises that before you apply, you should work out your timeline, because the timing can be a little tight and sometimes there are delays. You need to take this into account, particularly when arranging moving in dates for your place to live in Portugal.  Not everyone wants to be paying rent in two places at once, after all!  

“My visa took two months to get approved, but my prospective landlord was happy to have a signed contract and the deposit paid only. So I didn’t have to start paying rent until two months later, when I arrived. I was lucky to be able to arrange it that way.” said Caitlin.

Finding and proving that you have accommodation in Portugal

As well as proving that you have an income of more than the Portuguese minimum wage, you need to show that you have accommodation secured. This could be a long-term lease or a purchased property. If you choose the rental route, you have to have a housing contract, before you visa is approved.  

This can be quite stressful and overwhelming for people.  It can also be confusing, because you apply for the visa through the consulate that’s associated with wherever you live in your home country. Some requirements differ depending on the consulate you apply through, so do try to check this before you make the application. Caitlin was lucky enough to apply with a six-month contract, but some consulates require you to have a year-long contract signed.

Like many people, Caitlin used Idealista for her initial property search, and then contacted the landlord. The landlord kindly sent her a video of the property, so she had a good idea of they layout, the decor and so on.  

To review the contract, Caitlin was lucky enough to have a Portuguese friend who could help. She recommends help when reviewing legal contracts, especially if your Portuguese is not at a high level.

Caitlin was able to secure the property with just one month’s rent as a deposit.  Check what deposit is required with your prospective landlord, or real estate agent, before you sign up to a contract.  Although Caitlin only had to pay a month’s deposit, some properties have been known to ask for up to 12 months paid in advance.

Setúbal, Portugal

Choosing where to live in Portugal

Caitlin lives in the small city of Setúbal, which is a small city south of Lisbon. Before moving to Portugal, she’d been to Lisbon for a few days, and to the Algarve, as well as a few towns in the north of Portugal. But she’d never been to Setúbal before.

She found it because she had a checklist of what she wanted in her perfect place to live. It wasn’t a long list, but it helped her narrow down some options. Before she applied for the visa, she found Setúbal using her checklist, and from there, she was able to narrow her property search.

“I knew I wanted to be in a small city of about 100,000 - 200,000 people. I wanted to live near the coast, and I was looking for somewhere more affordable than Lisbon. I had lived in Prague once, and hated the cold, but knew that this wouldn’t be a problem in Portugal, because the climate is pretty warm. Another important thing for me was to find a place with a relatively small foreign community, because having lived many places abroad, I know how easy it is to get sucked into only hanging out with people who share your native language. That’s comfortable if you’re living somewhere temporarily, but because I’d planned to come to Portugal permanently, I wanted to feel motivated to really get involved and hang out with locals.”

Enjoying life in Portugal

Caitlin has been living in Portugal for seven months now, and is enjoying so much that she has just bought a property in Setúbal.  

“The city is small and I came here without having every visited before, but I’m really happy with my decision.  It’s small and situated on a river near the coast, so it’s easy to get to the ocean. We have beautiful beaches nearby, but without many tourists. The water is freezing cold, so I’ve not been swimming yet!  I’ve been enjoying the nice restaurants and bars here. This place has great fish, because it’s on the water. The sardines and the fried cuttlefish are specialities. And there are some really great local wineries and vineyards nearby.”

Caitlin now feels like she knows a lot of people, both foreigners and locals. She recognizes people walking down the street, but also sees plenty of people she doesn’t know.  

“I’ve been really surprised by just how much I enjoy day-to-day life here.  It sounds cliché but the people here are very welcoming.”

Learning Portuguese and making new friends

“Now my challenge is getting to know the locals better. When I first arrived, I met some English speakers teaching at the local school, and they are moving on to other jobs this summer. I know quite a few Portuguese people, and I’m focusing on learning Portuguese. I had some Spanish before I came here, which helps in some ways, but hinders in others. I take Portuguese classes right now, and I’ve learnt a lot, but I’m by no means fluent yet. However, someone did call me a local in the bar the other day, so that’s definitely progress!”

Caitlin’s recommendations for moving to Portugal

  • Know what the visa requirements are before you apply. Check the official websites and the contracted companies that process visas. Information can sometimes be conflicting. 
  • Join relevant Facebook groups, where you’ll find a lot of people who can help with advice on moving. Quite a few people I met through these groups do a huge amount of research, and visit many different places. This works for some people, but for others, an approach like Caitlin’s to narrow down your options could work well.
  • Know that all visa processes can be stressful, even if you’re a seasoned traveller and used to applying for visas.  Take advice where you need it, and be ready for the “radio silence” period in which you’re not sure at what stage your application is. That’s normal, and processing centres make it extremely difficult for you to contact them just to check on progress.
  • Don’t try to get everything done in advance. Get the things done that you really have to do before you leave, and then do the rest when you arrive. 
  • Don’t worry if not everything is perfect. Finding a place to live without seeing is hard, but moving to Portugal on a D7 visa means that you have a secure income. So if you don’t like the place you’ve moved in to and you’re on a rental contract, Portuguese law states you can exit a contract with 90 days notice, so before you sign, make sure your contract says this too. Then if you really can’t deal with the place you moved to, you can move elsewhere.

For more tips from Caitlin, follow her TikTok or stay up-to-date with her blog. If you’re in the process of applying for your D7 Visa, Bordr can help you get your NIF, and open a Portuguese bank account. Start the process online today!

Jenny Teasdale
July 14, 2022

Jenny Teasdale

Blog Author