Portugal, what a country!

It is great to be here! We still wake up every day and pinch ourselves that it’s true, we live in Portugal! The summer was wonderful; the weather couldn’t have been better, mid 70’s to low 80’s. Now, I’m told that this was a very unusual summer and that it is usually much warmer. And to that I say, thanks universe, and hope that cooler summers will be a trend. 

And, of course, the food has been fan-freakin’-tastic everywhere we have gone. The same goes for the wines. I used to be such a wine snob. In the US I would look at the wine list and sometimes not even have wine if there wasn’t anything that looked good on it. Here, the house wine is fine! They are nearly all good if not excellent. 

As for the Portuguese bureaucracy, we have been extremely lucky. At our visa renewal appointment, we only had to wait about 15 minutes and when we went to finanças (Portuguese IRS) to register after getting our resident visa cards, we waited five minutes tops. Incrível! So far, so good. 

The DMV (IMT in Portugal) was another matter. You have three months after you get your resident card to turn in your foreign driver’s license for a Portuguese drivers’ license. (Although, I have been reading that that is about to change, and it will soon be three years before you must get a Portuguese license.)  If you make the three-month deadline it only costs 30 Euros. If not, it costs 60 Euros and you must take a driver’s test. (Ugh!) Before you can go to the IMT and get your new driver’s license, you must register with the Centro de Saude, (national health system) and get a certificate of health. You must also get a certified copy of your driving record to prove the validity of your current driver’s license.  Three months, no problem.  Right. 

After wrangling with the Colorado DMV and the USPS for a month, we received the certified copies of our driving records by registered mail.  At this point, we now had 10 days before the deadline to turn in our US licenses.  It cost $64 and change to mail four pieces of paper to arrive in Portugal within a week.  International logistics are still costly and time-consuming. 

It took three trips to various Centros de Saude and a trip to the wrong IMT office before we made it to the right office and spent the afternoon waiting for our numbers to be called. (It reminded me of the afterlife waiting room scene in the movie Beetlejuice.)  Happily, though we spent the day from 9-5 between the health office and the IMT offices, we made it on the last day of the deadline! Whew! Got ‘er done! I guess long waits at the DMV are universal.  

Now, theoretically, we should be Portuguese bureaucracy home free until next June when we will have to renew our resident visas again.  It has certainly been an adventure! 

Still Moving?!

So, we have been living in Portugal for two months now, and Raios!  (Damn!)  It is amazing.  I wish that I could convey how wonderful it is.  Daily, I am blown away by how fantastic the food and drink are not to mention the scenery and how helpful and friendly the people are. 

Slogging through the bureaucracy, however, continues.  The movers packed and picked up our things in Denver on February 11th and we are still waiting for our ship to come in, as it were.  The first estimate for arrival of our personal belongings was April 11th.  When we had not heard anything by the 15th I sent an email to Transparent International (which has been anything but transparent), asking if there was a new guestimate for an arrival date.  Finally, a few days later, I got an email from the company in the Netherlands that is handling the Euro portion of our moving program and was told that April 24th would be the new estimated date of arrival.

But I get ahead of myself.  Let me back up.  Around the time that we arrived in Porto I got an email from not so Transparent International informing me that our shipment was on a container and BYW, we owed them another $4,000!!!  (I had already paid them $5,000.)  Isto é uma merda do caraças!  Go ahead and look that up if you dare, it is a multi F-word phrase in Portuguese.  (Yes, my Portuguese is getting better by the day and more colorful to boot.  I still have a long way to go, needless to say!)  Oh, yeah you had a lot more stuff than we thought!  Mad as a hatter did not even begin to cover how pissed off I was/am.  My first thought was, you know what?  Keep it, I don’t even need any of that stuff.  Then, of course, I realized that it would become a legal nightmare that I would rather not entertain.  So, I emailed them and asked, what are my alternatives?  They said that they would check with the Euro movers and get back to me.  They knocked off about two hundred dollars.  So, now our 30 some odd boxes of personal items worth about $1,000 is costing us $9,000 to ship to Portugal. 

My only small consolation is in the misery loves company department.  After talking to other recent ex-pats to Portugal, it turns out that everyone we talked to went through the same thing!  WTF is all I have to say.  How can these mafioso movers get away with this?!  I will be Yelping the bejesus out of them once we do get our things.  Here is my advice to anyone moving overseas:  DO NOT SHIP ANYTHING!  Take only what you can check on the plane.  It is not worth the brain damage.  The estimates for moving our “act” overseas ranged from $3,000-5,000.  What did we say about everything costing twice as much and taking twice as long as you think?  Right.  Try three times!

Oh, and guess what?  There is a list of documents that we have to come up with before taking delivery of our goods if we want to avoid paying duty on everything.  Now, I had seen the certificado do bagagem mentioned early on in my research about moving to Portugal but lost the memo in the shuffle. It is one of the required documents and it must be issued by the Portuguese consulate in the states that issued your resident visa.  Flashback to San Francisco.  I emailed the consulate in SF asking what I needed to do to get the luggage certificate?  Well, they referred me to the site that spells it out.  Again, color me clueless!  Check it:

Required documents:

  • Signed and dated declaration (must be in Portuguese, see example below)
  • Add two photocopies of the declaration (so, the original plus two copies); (The copies do not need to be notarized BUT the original may have to be, check notes below);
  • Copy of valid Portuguese ID Card OR copy of valid Portuguese Passport (personal data page) OR EU country passport (personal data page) OR third country passport with residence visa (personal data page and residence visa page); (The copies do not need to be notarized);
  • Documental evidence of the dates of beginning and end of residency in the country (copy of bills, driver’s license,…);
  • Documental evidence showing the personal goods have been used for at least 6 months before the end of residency in the country;
  • Cover letter explaining the service you require and your contacts (email and cellphone number);
  • Self-addressed postmarked envelope;
  • Check payable to “Portuguese Consulate”.

IMPORTANT:

– Make sure you send all of the required documents. Incomplete applications will not be accepted and will be returned.

– It is necessary for the signature to be notarized if the declaration is made outside our jurisdiction (checked by the address on the return envelope).

– Person requesting this certificate must be a legal resident of Portugal, regardless of citizenship

It is almost as bad as the application for resident visa requirements.  I could just cry.  Can you say, frustrated to tears?  And there is a prize in it for anyone who can tell me what, “documental evidence showing the personal goods have been used for at least 6 months before the end of residency in the country,” might be.  (Like I saved all of the receipts for everything I ever purchased in the past 20 years!)

And, that’s not all!  There is a registration form that must be filled out by someone at the town hall here in Gaia saying that we are registered to live here, and proof of work contract, among other things that we already actually have.

Bongers International, the movers in the Netherlands (I swear, that is really their name!) now says that the container has arrived in Rotterdam and that the new guestimate for arrival in Porto is between May 5-11th.  Let’s hope it’s later since it took the Portuguese consulate in SF a week to reply to my email.  Once I assemble all the documents, translate our inventory into Portuguese and have it all notarized, I must Fedex it all to the consulate with a prepaid return envelope and a check for $50.03 for the cost of the certificate.  ($50.03, really?)  I can only hope that I can pull it all together and get the certificate back before our things arrive.  Boa sorte!  (Good luck) with that.  Now, if only we actually owned anything worth the $9k that we could sell to make up for our stupidity!  Experience is an expensive teacher, I guess!  Caraças, I say!

Give Me Visa Approval or Give me Death!

( I’m pretty sure that death would be quicker and less painful!)

Well, it’s the end of December and as everyone says to me lately: you’re still here… yup, we are still here in beautiful BFE, USA.  Ok, not so beautiful when the high probably won’t crack 20 degrees tomorrow.  Not to mention the government shutdown due to mango unchained and his hare-brained ideas.  I was hoping to be gone by October and here we are staring down the barrel of January 2019.

Let’s recap, shall we?  We started the process of moving to Portugal last March 2018.  Ten months later it feels like we are no closer to achieving that goal than we were then.  Now, a lot has happened since then and here is my advice to anyone contemplating a move to another country:  do not believe what you read on the internet.  There, I was told that a resident visa could take anywhere from two to four weeks for approval and that Portugal was one of the easier countries to emigrate to.  A friend who resided in Lisbon for a year said it shouldn’t take more than a month.  On December 24th (X-mas eve, bummer!) it was 90 days since we made our visa application and we are still waiting.  (Granted, the Portuguese visa website says to apply 90 days out and hey, it’s the Portuguese government, after all.  Could be worse, I guess; could be Spain or Italy.)  It may take more than twice as long as you think to get that resident visa approval and will certainly cost you at least twice as much as you might think.

Once again, I am reminded of Kafka’s The Trial and have started to suspect that our government idiocy isn’t helping our cause any. If only I could have done this two years ago.  That is when I decided that I wanted to relocate to another country and it is now over two years in the making.  I never could have guessed that it would take so long.  I thought, six months, tops.  Boy was I unclear! 

Since first submitting our online visa application in July, which got us an in-person visa application appointment in San Francisco in September, it has been almost six months.  The time disconnect between the online application and the in-person appointment (Not to mention the stress levels involved!) caused me to forget that in the email I got acknowledging my online application, at the bottom it listed a site where I could check the status of my visa application.  Which I completely disregarded since we weren’t there yet and wouldn’t be for a couple more months.

I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago and thought, wait a minute, wasn’t there something about checking visa status somewhere?  After going through months of emails, I found it and the password to access the site.  Hallelujah!  Now finally, maybe I could find out something about our progress.  Here’s what it said… there are four stages in the visa application process:   Application acceptance, consideration, analyzation and finish.  Our applications have been analyzed.  Or, as I like to say:  we’ve been done, duly analyzed!  So, now we know that we are one step from our visa application process being finished.  What does that mean, exactly?  Diddly squat from where I’m sitting.  We are thisclose, apparently, although what that might mean in real time, I have no idea.  Just as in The Trial, is seems to have no end.

My assessment of the whole process?  I think that resident visa approval to move to another country is a moving target (like trying to nail jello to a tree) that depends on timing and political climates.  Five years ago, I’m sure it would’ve been A LOT easier.

As a result, we are looking forward to a bleak and dismal New Years and we are still waiting.  Ugh.  Darkness before the dawn?  I can only hope as we go on month number four of paying for two places to live, one unoccupied and where we want to be.  (Having an address in Portugal was one of the resident visa application requirements.) Let’s hope that the new year will bring good news ASAP.  In the meantime, happy new year and I hope that we will have a happy one next year.

Thanks to Mark Baylor for reminding me to keep at it!

Hold, please.

After our visa appointment in San Francisco and some breakfast, we headed back to the airport.  Joe flew back to Denver and I went on to L.A. to see family there.

I texted our realtor in Portugal and asked if he would be willing to be our reference and he responded that he would be glad to.  It’s a good thing that he agreed to help us, once again, since we don’t know anyone else over there!  Thank you, Rui Castro!  You are our hero!

It was fun to catch up with friends and family and be reminded of why I wouldn’t want to live in L.A. again.  An hour to get from the west side to the valley during rush hour.  Really, it takes an hour to get just about anywhere in a car in L.A.   Pass on that action.  At least, the weather was nice.  The wining and dining were great, and it was a nice distraction from knowing that we would be stuck in the US for at least another probably eight weeks.

I was warned about the snail’s pace of government bureaucracy in Portugal but when I returned to Denver and Fedexed the last documents to the consulate, I tried to email them as well.  All emails have been returned as undeliverable.  There is a phone number on the website that states that the Portuguese consulate is currently not taking phone calls or returning messages.  There was an “sos” email to which I sent a note saying that I had fedexed documents to them and would they please confirm receipt of said documents.  I received a reply that my email was received and nothing else.  Ugh!  They did warn us, but the complete lack of communication is disconcerting, to say the least!

On the heels of all this, a hurricane hit Portugal on October 13th.  The first one of this magnitude to hit in 176 years!  Awesome.  Luckily, by the time it hit landfall, hurricane Leslie was downgraded to a tropical depression and did the most damage to Lisbon with a beach side restaurant destroyed and the roof of a stadium blown off.  I texted our fairy Godfather, Rui and he replied that Porto was OK, just a lot of wind and rain.  So, our place is vacant but still standing.  Hallelujah.  Thank God for small favors!

So, now we wait.  The Portuguese consulate has our passports and I guess that’s about all we can do.  That and cross our fingers and pray to God!  I’m also guessing that it will be December before we get our visas, at the rate we’re going.  And I wanted to be out of here before last summer!  Ha ha.  Now it looks like we will have to endure half the winter in BFE, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Here’s to hoping for a mild one courtesy of El Nino.

Our gracious host/landlord is hosting Thanksgiving and has invited us, which is so nice and, obviously we will attend, but have I mentioned how much I hate turkey?  Why do Americans think it is so great?  Oh, never mind.  Americans love a lot of things that I don’t care for,

which is one of the many reasons we have got to get out of here!  Holding.  And dreaming of Portuguese food!

Grilled cod dinner at Churrasqueira Kinay in Porto.

Back to BFE, USA and points west.

Having returned from ten days in Portugal, I now had two days to finish preparations for our visa appointment in San Francisco.  I may have mentioned that BFE Denver, Colorado does not have a Portuguese consulate. Rumor has it that it once did but, that was before my time.  So…if you want to apply for a resident visa to live in Portugal and you live in BFE, Denver, you must go in person to the Portuguese consulate in San Francisco.  Online sites say how easy it is to “move” to Portugal, these are bald faced lies; easy it is not!

Among other things required to obtain a resident visa for Portugal are: (and they don’t mention them all on the “official” site, mind you) $3,000 per person relocating deposited in a Portuguese bank account (See previous post on the catch 22s of opening a bank account over there!) and, ideally at least $50,000 in liquid assets, read cash, per person as well.

I also read that everything (all documents) should be in duplicate.  I compiled a list of documents, in duplicate that included all items on the Portuguese consulate’s list of required items including:  letters of intent (why you want to live in Portugal and what you plan to do while there.  I’ve also read that you had better keep it simple and doable because they judge your worthiness on how probable your statements are to actually happen).  Proof of plane tickets to Portugal and back, because you must come back to the States to renew your visa every year for the first five years.  Here’s the kicker:  how do you make plane reservations when you don’t know when the visa will be approved?  If you don’t plan to return to the city in the US you left, you can’t get round trip tickets and…then what?!  Oh, and I was also told to include birth certificates and marriage license, if applicable.

Holy mother of, can you believe it?  It is a miracle to me that anyone pulls this off.  You had better have the tenacity of ten Jack Russell terriers to get through the process.  I could not figure out what to do for plane tickets since I had heard that they are not always “required” and had purchased one-way tickets to Lisbon leaving October 20th (this date was a stab in the dark.  I got the travel insurance knowing I would probably have to change the date).

I was freaking out about it after my friend told me you HAVE to have a return ticket, and the night before the visa appointment, as we sat in a hotel room in Burlingame, California (S.F., by the airport), I purchased round trip tickets with random dates in September 2019 from Lisbon to L.A., Ca., and back from my, oh so smart phone.  Another two grand.  Ka-Ching.

Ok, now I felt as ready for this appointment as I was going to be.

It took the better part of an hour to get to the Portuguese consulate in San Francisco from near the airport.  (Another reminder of why we want out of BFE, USA:  Traffic hell!)  When you think of government offices you probably think of an office building, right?  Well, the Portuguese consulate is in an old house in Presidio Heights, a residential neighborhood!  We arrived within ten minutes of our first appointment.  Joe was scheduled at ten am and I was up at ten fifteen.  There was a couple ahead of us and we weren’t seen until about ten thirty, and then they took us together, contrary to what is stated online, that it is one appointment per person.  No problem.

After looking over our paperwork we were told that our reference had to be in Portugal and that we needed a letter from them, so my friend Simone was out since she was coming back to the States in October.  FFF!  What was I going to do now?!  Oh, and take your time getting a reference letter to them because their systems were down and would be till…???  And there are 15-16 applications ahead of you.  Once our application was complete, it would be at least six weeks to visa approval.  Welcome to European government bureaucracy.  Can you say DISAPPOINTED?!  Ok, time to regroup.