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How To Obtain A Portuguese D7 Visa For Your Family: Everything You Need To Know

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Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Given the flood of questions about our relocation to Portugal, I’ve taken the plunge and launched a second blog titled ‘American Family in Portugal’. Join us as we share our journey and insights into expat life in this beautiful country!

Dreaming of the tiled city buildings, the kind people, and the beautiful coastal views of Portugal?  Us too!

The above list is just a few reasons we decided to move our family to Portugal. You can read all about our decision to move here.

If you are considering a move to Portugal, you’ve probably been introduced to several types of visas. After looking at our options, our family went with the D7 Visa.

It’s been a long and confusing journey at best, but we now have visas! We are on to the next step of converting those to permits. (More on that below!)

I want to share some insight on everything you’ll need to know to make obtaining a D7 visa easier.

Note: This information applies to US citizens only.

Why Applying For Your Portuguese Visa From the USA (as a US Citizen) is the Best Option

We made the decision to move to Portugal in the midst of our full-time travels. The Portuguese Visa application process takes approximately 12 weeks, and frankly, we didn’t want to stop traveling that long!

We originally looked into getting our visas IN Portugal and quickly learned that this is very difficult. The only way we could have done this was by “hiring” ourselves through a business that we created in Portugal or by trying to obtain the Golden Visa. The Golden Visa is for those who are quite wealthy with lots of disposable income to invest in Portugal. The contractor visa also had a lot of hoops to jump through.

That being said, the best option is to either remain in the USA while waiting for your application to be processed or obtain a second passport. (Learn how to obtain a second passport here) However, you do need to be available, or have someone available, in the US to send documents when requested. These documents are usually expected within 48 hours, so be sure you are prepared.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer to Help Obtain Your Portuguese Visa

While not necessary, hiring a good lawyer to help you through the application process can be very beneficial and highly recommended.  I was initially opposed due to the cost, but honestly, it was well worth it in the long run!

We hired Vasco to help us at the recommendation of a client.  That client had obtained the ultimate Golden Visa, but Vasco helps many people with all kinds of visas.  

A good lawyer can help walk you step-by-step through the entire process. Many hiccups arise when applying for a D7 visa, and things can change on a whim.  Lawyers deal with this process regularly and are very well-equipped to deal with surprises.

Vasco and his team were also able to get us a NIF number, which is quite difficult (really, impossible from the US on your own as far as I can tell) and takes months to get in-country. A NIF number is like your financial, and social security number in Portugal. We needed it for our kids to go to school, and for most purchases in Portugal, you must provide your NIF number.

Another reason why I was glad to have a lawyer: this last summer, our entire application, documents, passports, and all of our luggage was stolen in California directly following our visa appointment.  Vasco and his team were amazing at helping us recover a year’s worth of lost documents. On our own, this could have completely derailed our plans.

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Opinions shared are my own, and I only endorse products I support. By clicking on any of the links below, I may get a small commission if you purchase at absolutely no additional charge to you. I appreciate your support.*

How Much Does A Portuguese Lawyer Cost?

Of course, the cost for a Portuguese lawyer will vary case by case. For our family of 7, we paid around $3,000 USD.  This cost included obtaining our initial visas (which are good for one year) and our renewals at year two and year four. It also offers the possibility of converting into a residence visa after 5 years.

When You Can Apply for a Portuguese Visa

Your application cannot be submitted to the consulate more than 90 days before your intended arrival in Portugal.  The visa process can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks. It’s important that you plan and send your application at the correct time to both be within limits and get your visa in time for your arrival.

Which Consulate Location Do I Work With?

The Portuguese Consulate you will need to work with depends on your state of residence.  Both Colorado and Utah work with the consulate in San Francisco.  However, there are other locations, like Washington DC, New York, Boston, and more.

Find out which consulate you will need to work with here.

Each office’s requirements will vary slightly, but a good lawyer works with these consulates often and knows what each office wants to see.

Using VFS, a Visa Processing Service, to Apply to Portugal

Currently, all applications for visas to Portugal are being processed through VFS. (At least at the San Francisco consulate).  This third-party company works closely with the consulate to be the first step in the visa application.

During the Covid lockdown, VFS closed.  We were told at that time to apply directly through the consulate itself.  Personally, I think it is easier to go directly to the consulate; they seemed easier to work with.  

However, we were missing a few documents, and then Lucy had her accident, so we put off our application at that time.  Once we were ready again, VFS was back open, and we resumed the process with them.

VFS does have a helpful hotline you can call with questions.  You can find more information here.

Required Documents for a D7 Portuguese Visa

The most overwhelming part of a D7 Visa Application process is, by far, gathering all the correct documentation.

Here is a list of all the documents needed for a Portuguese visa:

  • Visa Application Form.
    • This can be difficult to understand, as it is in Portuguese.  
    • You’ll need a personal reference IN Portugal to vouch for you.  For us, this was our lawyer, Vasco. Initially, we tried to use a friend we had made in Porto; however, it was difficult.  You need their Portuguese ID number, a letter of recommendation, their address, etc.  It felt a bit too personal to ask someone I barely knew.
  • A passport photo of the applicant.
  • Certified copy of your passport.
    • This can be done in two different ways.  Either the application company, VFS, can verify your passport copy against your actual passport in person, OR you can get the copy notarized.
  • Motivation Letter.
    • For this, we basically wrote a letter to the consulate explaining why we wanted to live in Portugal.  They want to know details such as what you love about Portugal and how you would benefit their country.  Proof that you will not be a burden to their country financially.  What do you intend to do once moving to Portugal, etc.
    • Vasco modified this letter for us a bit to make it extra clear that we make our money independently. It was important to note that we will be financially self-sufficient and plan to add value to Portugal.
  • Proof of Accommodation in Portugal.
    • I believe this requirement has recently changed.  You must now prove a lease agreement of at least 6 months in Portugal.
    • We can tell you from experience it is not easy trying to search for a rental property online.  
    • Vasco also let us know that many foreigners are being scammed into signing leases for properties that don’t exist!  They are paying 6-12 months of rent upfront and never getting that back.  Be careful!
    • We leveraged Vasco’s relationships to get this portion done.
  • NIF number.
    • A National Identification Number, or NIF, may be the most challenging item to obtain without a lawyer.  In fact, I’m not even sure how to do it, as this was not part of the requirements when we tried to apply alone last year.  You can think of this as sort of a social security number for Portugal.  Every member of your family will need one.
    • Vasco and his office obtained this for us.  You can read more here if you are doing it on your own.
  • Portuguese Bank Account.
    • This is technically NOT a requirement, but according to Vasco, it can really help beef up your chances of approval.  Honestly, I doubt you could obtain this without a lawyer.
    • It was a bit scary… it requires you to send personal information like social security numbers, birth dates, etc.  I told Chris, “Either we will get a Portuguese bank account out of this, or we will lose our identity.”  Sadly, I didn’t know that all this information would be stolen from us later in California.  We’ve had to take extra measures to protect our info since.
    • The acceptance papers were mailed to us from Lisbon, and I was given an account number to wire money into.  You must sign and mail the papers back to Lisbon to complete the process.  
    • For our family, we were told the ideal amount to wire was around 30,000 euros.  This is about a year’s worth of income for a family in Portugal.
  • Financial Supporting Documentation.
    • This can be whatever you want to use to prove your financial independence from the country of Portugal.
    • For us, we provided the following:
      • 3 months of bank statements from our business.  Highlighted are the payments to ourselves.
      • 3 months of personal bank statements
      • Ownership proof of our business
      • Personal savings account statements
    • If you are employed, this could also mean paystubs, proof of employment, length of time with the company, contracts, etc.
    • If you are getting a new job in Portugal, you will apply for a different kind of visa.  You can explore all Portuguese visa options here.
  • Children’s Birth Certificates Apostille.
    • You’ll first need the original birth certificate, officially stamped or marked by the state of issuance.  
    • You will then use the state that issued the original document to obtain an apostille.
    • The best way I can explain this is that the state is proving to Portugal that it is legit.  They add another seal and piece of paper, called the apostille, to the birth certificate.
    • Obtaining the apostille can be done by mail; just Google instructions for the appropriate state.  I had to work with both Colorado and Utah.  Each had a different form and different fees.  They will mail the apostille and birth certificate back to you once it’s completed.
    • For the application, you need a good copy of both the original birth certificate AND the apostille.
    • We were not asked for the original when we submitted it. However, it can be requested at any time.
    • Include copies in your child’s application.  You can also include an apostille in your application as an adult, but our VFS agent did not want that for us (see more info below).  We only included copies in the individual child applications.
  • Marriage License Apostilled.
    • If you have your original marriage license, use this.  If not, you’ll need to get a certified copy.  You’ll know it is certified because it will have a notary attached, an official stamp or seal, etc.
    • Mail to the state of issuance for an apostille.  If you also have birth certificates to apostille in the same state, you can send everything together.
    • You need a good copy of your marriage license and the apostille in EACH family member’s application.  For us, that was all 7 applications.
  • FBI Background Check: SEALED.
    • This is only applicable to those over 18.
    • This is the most sensitive document by far because it needs to be SEALED.
    • I made many mistakes with this before I understood what “sealed” truly meant. The UPS or FEDEX envelope in which your report comes in must remain sealed.  VFS will open this mail envelope and verify to the consultant that it was sealed.
    • To obtain this, you can find a background check center in your area.  We first used an office in Denver.
      • We were required to apply for a background check and provide our passport as an ID.
      • Your fingerprints will be taken and compared against the FBI database.
      • Your report will be available within a day or two.
      • You’ll need to request the sealed copy be mailed and pay for it. Otherwise, it is only provided to you online.  A simple printout of your report WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.
      • Another option is to use Accurate Biometrics.  This is what we did the second time.
        • For this, we simply filled out the application online and paid the fees.
        • We then went to a local UPS store with a kiosk and did our fingerprints.
  • Criminal Background Consent Form.
    • Another item that is now required is a simple form that permits Portugal to check into your background additionally if they chose.
    • This is only for adults (possibly over 16 years old)
    • If applying at VFS in person, you’ll need to sign this form in front of the official.
    • If mailing in your application, this form needs to be notarized.  Sign in front of the notary.
  • Health Insurance in Portugal.
    • We tried and tried to research how to get health insurance specifically for Portugal. It was easy to find international health insurance, but this isn’t sufficient for the application.
    • We are still working on getting Portuguese Health Insurance. So far my attempts to reach out to companies have been unsuccessful. I may need to use Vasco and his team again (at an additional cost) to get this going. We will need it in order to covert our visa to permits in December.
    • For now, we have an extensive, 6-month travel insurance plan.  It needs to have a minimum coverage.  The basic plan for our family with World Nomads seems to be sufficient. Our plan costs about $1700 USD.
      If you are traveling anywhere, we highly recommend purchasing travel insurance. World Nomads is our go-to. You can get a quote here.
    • The promise to obtain Portuguese health insurance upon arrival was made very clear in our motivation letter.
  • Appropriate Fees.
    • The application fees can only be paid by cashier’s check, which you can obtain these from your bank.
    • You need a check for the Consulate of Portugal.
    • You also need a check for VFS.
      • There is a fee to process the application, as well as a fee for shipping.
    • These fees change EVERY MONTH.  If the amount on the cashier’s check is wrong, it will not be processed.
    • Check the latest fees here.
      • For our family of 7 applicants, we are paid just over $500 to the consulate and about the same amount to VFS. 
  • Your Passports.
    • It is NOT required that you send your passports right away with your application.  You can wait until they are requested by the consulate.  However, we opted to send them with our applications since we wanted the process to move as quickly as possible. If you send them later, the process will take longer.
    • Since we still wanted to travel while we waited for our visas to process, we obtained second passports for all members of our family.  This is another financial investment that you may not want to make, but for us it was well worth it.  You can read more about that process here.

How to Submit Your Application 

I was told by VFS to ship the documentation directly to their office in San Francisco. You can chose the speed and carrier that you’d like to use; be sure to get a tracking number.

Our lawyer told us that they would get shipping labels from the consulate.  Honestly, I don’t know what this means, but I trusted their process.

TIP: Scan copies of ALL documentation before sending it in.  This was so helpful when all of our documents were stolen.  I was able to head straight to a FedEx Print Center and get it all printed again.  All I had to replace were the original live documents, the apostilles, and the passports.

Disclaimer: You Will NOT Get A Visa to Portugal After This Process

I know, this whole time, I’ve been referring to your “visa application.”  That’s because it’s easier to understand that way.  However, what you will actually receive from the Portuguese Consulate is a PERMIT. This permit allows for two entries into Portugal. 

Once in Portugal, you are required to visit a local SEF office, where you will apply for an actual D7 visa.

During your first visit to the SEF office, you will schedule an appointment time with an official.  Beware, this may be a month or more away. We arrived in Portugal in August and didn’t have our SEF appointment until December. It was very difficult to find a single appointment time for all seven of us, so we actually had two separate times. I’ve heard from many ex-pats that it can take a year or more just to get the SEF appointment!

Once your appointment date arrives, I’ve been told it is an ALL-DAY process.  *Think the slowest DMV office ever.*

After the appointment, obtaining your official 1-year visa may take a few more weeks to arrive.

Our Update:

When I first wrote this post, we were still in the process of applying to Portugal. Our visas and passports arrived by mail two days before our flight to Lisbon. Wow! It was close.

With Covid-19, entry requirements might change at any time, and US citizens may not be allowed into Portugal without a visa. Be sure to keep up with the changes here.

For now, we are just waiting for our SEF appointments in December.

I’ve been asked for my “citizen number” a few times, but we won’t have one unless we get the permanent Portuguese visa about 6 years from now. So far, it hasn’t been a problem that we don’t have it.

Portugal has three “numbers” for citizens:

  • NIF, or fiscal number
  • Citizen number
  • Health Number. This has to do with the public health system. For now, we just have to pay for private services and get private insurance.

We are SO glad to be in Portugal! It is just as beautiful, friendly, and lovely as we remembered it. We’ve had zero regrets and are excited to get our new lift rolling here.

Good Luck!

This is all the information I have about this process so far.  I’ll try to update you on the next steps once we actually get our permits!

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Portugal

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Additional Reading

My Experience Learning European Portuguese: Portuguese Connections School in Lisbon, Portugal

Moving Your Family to Portugal from the United States: What to Know

First Anniversary Of Living In Portugal: How Are We Doing?

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: Family Travel Moving Your Family to Portugal from the United States: What to Know - 7 Wayfinders

  2. Amanda Alves

    If I understand correctly you only included copies of the original and the apostille in each person’s application, right? I am trying to figure out if I need to request 5 separate marriage license apostilles and 3 birth certificate apostilles?

    • Leslie Stroud

      You only need one original and just include copies in all but one application! Be sure to keep a color copy of yourself of the original as well!

  3. Pingback: My Experience Learning European Portuguese: Portuguese Connections School in Lisbon, Portugal - 7 Wayfinders

  4. Hi Leslie! We are at the beginning of the process and our service/attorney recommended opening a bank account also. Similar to your feelings, it is frightening sending all of this information. If I may inquire, you said that your identity was stolen in California. How did that happen? Was it due to applying and funding the account? If so, what would you have done differently? I read you’ve taken extra measures since, would you mind sharing? Thank you!!

    • Leslie Stroud

      Hello, Tim! It is very scary to send all of this info! I completely can relate. However, our identity being stolen was totally unrelated… our visa docs were stolen out of our rental car while we were in San Fran! We used Lifelock and our bank, amid other things, to lock it down. For example, you can lock down tax returns by requesting a PIN with the IRS.

      So far, we’ve only seen a few odd transactions, which our bank took care of right away. I’m hoping we are in the clear, but we are always mindful and careful with it!

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