Today marks our one-year anniversary in Portugal. It's amazing how fast the time went as it seems like only yesterday that we were frantically packing our bags at my sister's house, repeatedly adding and removing prized possessions, then weighing them on her bathroom scale to make sure they were under 50 lbs. I remember our difficulties dealing with the unhelpful and confusing consulate, getting an out-of-state USDA certified vet to perform the international air travel check up on our cats (eternal thanks to Torrington Animal Hospital), having $130 stolen from us while attempting to find storage for our boxes by Dolores Esquibel at North Valley Self Storage, and managing to somehow to donate/sell/throw away everything in our old rental that wasn't packed and leave it clean for the next tenants.
But we made it! We arrived exhausted in Lisbon, and a few days later met up with friends in Coimbra we'd met online who greatly helped us get our lives in order in a new country. They took us to the Loja where we got our Contribuinte numbers and applied for residency, then around to the stores and realtors, plus they introduced us to some amazing Portuguese cuisine as well as helping us find an apartment. Their advice and help was paramount to getting a lot of the things done that we needed to and we will be forever in their debt.
One we were settled in a permanent residence, we still had a few months before our two huge boxes containing everything we needed to work and live arrived. We shipped through UPakWeShip, and had been told everything would arrive by the middle of June, but unfortunately it took about another month after that to get here. During that time we lost several job opportunities which was frustrating, but we realized if we ever did this again that the dates provided are just a rough guess and rarely accurate.
Thankfully our boxes arrived in almost perfect condition - only one of the corners had been crushed and a baking pan inside had been bent, but things could have been MUCH worse. Alicia, the woman we worked with at UPak before we moved was absolutely amazing. She was helpful, friendly, communicative, and never once got annoyed no matter how many questions we asked. Once in Portugal though, our customer service needs were transferred to a gentleman in England who was pleasant, but not very good at getting back to us in a timely fashion. His quotes regarding the date of arrival of our boxes kept moving farther and farther away from the original date, but at least everything got here in the end. All in all, I'd probably use this company again should we ever have to undertake such an extensive move.
For anyone who's contemplating a similar move, we used 2 of UPak's boxes and going from Albuquerque to Coimbra which was about $2400. UPak also offers a storage facility in either North or South Carolina, which you can keep your boxes in until you are ready to ship (you'll have to ask for a quote from them regarding fees). We had lived in a large 1 bedroom and brought no furniture with us, however we did bring our photo lighting equipment. If you are planning on bringing furniture, you'll probably need more boxes.
When we headed to Coimbra's Loja do Cidadão on Avenida Fernão de Magalhães, we were relieved to discover that the requirements for residency were much less extensive than those we needed to get the stamp from the consulate to go to Portugal to apply for residency. We needed:
Numero de Contribuinte (1 - 8 week processing time)
Passport and a copy of your passport
Paystubs or certified bank/Paypal statements showing income
Titulo de Residencia (official document from your local junta stating your address and a seal)
Proof of health insurance (we signed up through our bank, Activo Bank, and the premium was 90% less than I was paying in the US)
€160 processing fee
This year we've been told we need mostly the same things, except no proof of health insurance and instead a copy of our apartment's lease. We're bringing the health insurance info just in case though because you never know.
One of the most difficult requirements to come by in order to move to Portugal is a job or source of income. In a country where unemployment is ridiculously high, especially among the youth, finding a job is difficult for skilled Portuguese citizens, let alone immigrants. Most expats I've met here are either retired and living off their pension, independently wealthy, living off their savings or income from stocks/funds, or self-employed. I fall into the latter category, making my income primarily online through sales of my photography. Every now and then you'll meet someone teaching English, but unlike other countries you can't just expect to come here and find a job in this field.
Perhaps the best way to live in Portugal if you don't fall into any of the above categories and can't find a job over here is to save up some money in advance and come for 90 days via a tourist visa. Rent an apartment through a service like Airbnb, get your Numero de Contribuinte, open a bank account, take a language course and explore. Who knows? An opportunity might present itself that you never would have known about had you not visited Portugal.
We continue to hope that fortune smiles upon us and that we have no problems obtaining residency for yet another year in beautiful Portugal. We are still learning its ways, but Coimbra has really begun to feel like home to us, even though we still stare at the beautiful architecture and views like tourists as we walk by. We are slowly learning the language, but understanding what people are saying is still much more difficult than reading and speaking. I'll know I finally get Portuguese when I can have a conversation with someone over the phone and don't have to keep saying, "Não compreendo."
Language aside, Portugal feels much more like home than I ever imagined it could and I can't wait to see what the next year holds in store for us.