It’ a Miracle!

Well, it only took four months from the application date, but we finally got word that our resident visa to live in Portugal has been approved.  Holy mother of the wait from Hell!  I am in shock, and it seems so surreal that we will actually be leaving in about three weeks!  So much to do it is staggering because so many things hinged on getting visa approval.  It is a little over a year since we set out on our first trip to Portugal last February.  I still can’t believe how long and trying a journey it has been, and we are just getting started!  We are still on the road to Portugal, but soon we can rename the blog Adventures in Portugal.  Hal-le-freakin-lu-jah! 

It is strange how some things have come so easily: selling the harp, getting NIF numbers and a decent place to live in the Porto area.  And how long and painful a wait it was for visa approval.  I was so desperate that I was about to agree to pay two grand to an immigration attorney in Lisbon to try and help us speed up the process.  (haha, never use the word speed when talking about government of any kind!)  I had just texted Joe about the cost when he got the email from the consulate that our visas had been approved. (Whew, that was close!)  This, the day after the consulate received the letter I sent with a cashier’s check for the visa application fee, which was not collected from us at the time of application. I can only assume because their systems were down. Hmmm.  Coincidence?  You decide.  Anyone who tells you that it’s easy to move to ANY other country is full of it and/or selling something!

Yup, with no plan B, failure is not an option!
We are all in. Vamos!

Stay tuned, there’s more to come.  Tally ho, and away we go!

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 that 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.  It 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 could never 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, was listed a site where I could check the status of my visa application.  I completely disregarded this 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, it 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 have been A LOT easier.

As a result, we are looking forward to a bleak and dismal New Year, 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 continued.

Well, we survived Thanksgiving (three-alarm hangover notwithstanding).  What is it about the holidays that makes us think it’s ok to drink EVERYTHING in one night?  (Oh yeah, friends and relatives.) The turkey was even good thanks to Marczyk’s Willie bird and a prosciutto and chili rub treatment.  Thanks for an excellent meal, guys.

So, we’re going on eight weeks since our visa application and zero word from the Portuguese consulate.  If we don’t hear something SOON, and we are stuck here through X-mas, I may have a complete meltdown.  I’m not going to lie; the waiting is killing me.  Not to mention paying for two places to live, one in Gaia that is vacant.  I won’t even go into how much I hate “the holidays,” especially X-mas.  After harping for dollars for ten years, if I never hear another X-mas tune again, it will be too soon.

I hear that X-mas is big in Portugal,  and I can’t wait to try the freshly roasted chestnuts sold on street corners everywhere.  Oh, and did I mention the Bananeiro festival in Braga?  When I first started researching Portugal over a year ago, I came across the banana and Moscatel fest that happens on Christmas eve in Braga, which is about an hour north of Porto.  Banana and Moscatel festival, you say?  How wacky, let’s go!  So, I started fantasizing about going to Portugal for X-mas last year already.

X-mas banana
Merry X-mas banana. (Only in Portugal.)

The tropical fruit and wine fest is the outcome of some mad marketing by a guy who owned a banana warehouse and wanted to attract customers.  On Christmas eve a few decades ago, he offered a glass of sweet Moscatel wine to anyone who bought some bananas, and it became a thing, as they say.  And now, every year thousands of folks descend upon the banana warehouse in Braga on Christmas eve.  Just the thought of it makes me laugh, and, want to try it, banana and Moscatel, that is.  It could be a great pairing.

Meanwhile, still in government limbo hell, I realize that it’s too late to be early.  Even if our visa approval comes through this week, we are already in the middle of holiday travel season hell.  Finding a decent one-way airfare will be nearly impossible.  So, if anyone, anyone (of my three readers) knows someone with a private jet that can move us from N.Y to Lisbon once we get that pesky visa, I will throw in free accommodations with us in Portugal for life.  Keep your ears open and let me know, will ya’?  Thanks a bunch, and I will keep you posted of events as they occur.  (Here’s to hoping that events will occur SOON. Hope with me, won’t you?) We need all the help we can get.

Jiver is all decked out and ready to go with his happy santa tail. (You can see Happy Santa Tail on You Tube or Instragram.)

Jiver is all decked out and ready to go with his happy santa tail.

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.  where a beachside restaurant was 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 is 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!  Haha.  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.  There are many things that Americans love 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 preparing 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 the 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.  I purchased one-way tickets to Lisbon, leaving on 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.  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 smartphone.  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 for visa approval.  Welcome to European government bureaucracy.  Can you say DISAPPOINTED?!  Ok, time to regroup.