Transferring my life overseas is a months-long process. It may take a couple of years. I thought once I had physically arrived in Portugal I was on the downhill stretch.
Not even close. (Getting here was just half the fun…)
I knew I had an appointment with immigration for my residency permit set for a few months after my arrival and I would have to bring some paperwork; I wasn’t sure what. Fortunately, the SEF website provides a list.
I also knew I needed to find a permanent place to live. When I applied for my visa I arranged six months of accommodations through Airbnb. The rules changed and people applying for residency visas now need a one-year lease or the deed to their new house. This is one of the toughest points to navigate—it’s hard to commit to a one-year lease if you haven’t spent time in the area; more so if you’re not sure your application will be approved.
The visa application process also now requires that you have a finance number (NIF) and Portuguese bank account. (You will probably need both of these for buying a house or signing a lease, anyway.) All these things can be done long distance, but it’s easier if you are here. I recommend a scouting trip or two to decide where you would like to live, find a place, get your NIF, and set up your bank account. Due to COVID, my SEF (immigration) appointment was delayed by four months which gave me time to set up all these things.
I was keyed into the idea that once I had my residency permit, I was all set.
Au contraire. Each step leads to the next series of steps. Now the real process of transferring my life overseas begins.
The residency permit gives me a whole new series of things to do—my next set of steps. These are things I couldn’t do without a residency permit. First is getting my driver’s license transferred. I can drive on my US license, but I need to transfer it to Portugal within 90 days of becoming a resident, otherwise I have to take a test—in Portuguese—which will not end well. Which means a trip to the local Saúde (health center/hospital) for a permanent Numero de Utente (user health care number). I am hoping it will be a one-trip deal, but I am not counting on it. From there I need to have a medical scan, so this week I am picking out a doctor and dentist from my health plan and setting up appointments. Then it’s just a matter of filing the paperwork and waiting.
Another concurrent set of steps will be to find an accountant who is well-versed in US and Portuguese taxes. I need to apply for a Portuguese social security number. My business is in the United States; I am a remote worker at this point. There is some sort of reciprocal scheme between Portugal and the States that keeps me from being double-taxed for the first ten years. I’ll start with where I am and if, down the road, I need to figure out more sophisticated tax strategies, I should have a better grasp of what needs to be done and what can be done, as well as know more people who can advise me on these things. Right now, it’s baby steps.
And there’s probably another set of steps after that.
It’s all a learning process and it may be a process that goes on for years. In five years I can apply for citizenship. If I do, that will be another series of steps, including passing a Portuguese language test. (Yes, I had better start studying now, I know.) If I get a car, I will learn about getting it registered and insured and what inspections are involved. If I buy a house, that will be another learning curve.
Right now I’m doing as-needed learning. I look at it as leveling up in a video game. I figure this out, I move to the next level. It’s all cumulative. I keep adding to my basic knowledge and I am comfortable with the fact that I will never have it all figured out. No matter where you are, things are constantly changing. We live in a dynamic world. No one has it all figured out. Or if they do, it won’t be for long.
I tell myself that the constant learning curve keeps my brain well-oiled. Some days I don’t feel up to the task of figuring things out. Some days I don’t want to navigate this new world. And then I look back at how much I knew when I arrived (nothing!) and how much I have learned in a relatively short period of time. I’m still green, but I’m building my core knowledge. Things that were once stressful, like grocery shopping, have reached their US level of merely annoying. That’s a good sign. It means I’ve reached a certain comfort level. It’s reassurance that I’m making progress. Transferring my life overseas is not a one-shot deal and that’s okay. I’ve learned to enjoy the process.