You've arrived in Portugal, ready to turn your Type 1 Visa (also called Type D in Portugal) into a Temporary Residence Permit or Titulo de Residencia. This article outlines the steps, timing and required documentation along with links to the official government sites and forms. Remember that the Type 1/D Visa allows unlimited travel in the Schengen zone and two trips to/back from the US during the 120 days for which it is valid. You can travel to non-Schengen countries as well; you simply must comply with the respective countries rules for entry. NOTE: This is the process you will follow for each renewal, until the 5th year application for a Permanent Residence Permit when you must also prove A2 level language skills.
Scheduling Your Appointment
Apply for your Temporary Residence Permit at the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) bureau that covers the area where you reside. The full list of bureaus is at the SEF Portal (see link in References at the end of this article). Due to the high volume of Residence Permit applications, the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) offices are currently (since mid-2015) asking that you book your initial appointment by calling their main customer service number. Call center hours are Monday-Friday from 09:00 a.m. to 05:30 p.m. The numbers are 808 202 653 (fixed network) or 808 962 690 (mobile network). These numbers can only be called from within Portugal.
- The automated message is in Portuguese so either wait until the end of the message, when an English-speaking person will come on the line, or hand your phone to a Portuguese friend to navigate the menu for you.
- Your appointment date might exceed the viability of your 120-day Visa. When this happens, the SEF sends you an email confirming the appointment (be certain to ask them to do that!). You are expected to print out that email and carry it with you, as it officially extends the duration of your 120-day Visa until that appointment.
- When you go to SEF for your appointment, you will get a number and wait.... while the appointment itself takes less than an hour you might spend the entire day waiting, as many SEF offices give you an appointed time to get an appointment, not to meet with the official.
What to Bring with You
At the SEF website you will find a list of 10 documents to bring to your SEF appointment. That list is copied below along with "notes" if further explanation is helpful. At the end of this section are important links, in blue.
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE PERMIT (GENERAL REGIME, INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES OF APPLICANTS: RETIRED / WITH OWN FINANCIAL INCOME /RELIGIOUS) (ARTICLE 77, PARAGRAPH 1 OF THE REPSAE (LEGAL FRAMEWORK ON THE ENTRY, PERMANENCE, EXIT AND REMOVAL OF FOREIGNERS FROM NATIONAL TERRITORY), IN CONJUNCTION WITH ARTICLES 51 AND 53 OF THE REGULATORY DECREE NUMBER 2/2013)
1. Application delivered personally (on a standard form) signed by the applicant (where the applicant is either a minor or legally disabled person the form shall be signed by his/her legal representative):
2. Two recent, identical photographs, in color with blank background and easily identifiable, except in SIGAP Service Bureaus. NOTE: At the SEF site, the SIGAP Service Bureaus are noted as such. These bureaus take your photo there.
3. Passport or any other valid travel document
4. Valid residence visa NOTE: This is the Visa that was inserted into your passport
5. Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence, as per the provisions of Order number 1563/2007, of 11/12. NOTE: This is the same evidence you provided for your Visa, however account statements should be no more than 3 months old and pension / social security income letters should be dated for the current year.
6. Evidence that the applicant has adequate accommodation NOTE: Provide your rental contract, hotel booking or home purchase contract. The address on the document you provide will be the address used on your Permit. If/when you move, you'll need to update your address at your local Junta da Freguesia (essentially a parish or city town hall) for a fee, taking their validation letter within 30 days to your SEF and paying a fee for new cards. When you are close to the date of a renewal, SEF usually asks you to simply wait until that renewal appointment and change your address then because they are currently too busy to accept simple address changes. If you fail to update your address within 60 days of a change you will be charged a late fee.
7. Permission for checking criminal records (see standard form)- (except people under 16 years old) NOTE: Your signature on the Application form, number 1 above, is permission for checking with the Portuguese Police to ensure your criminal record is clean since arriving in Portugal. There is no separate form for this and it does not refer to any US records, such as the FBI report.
8. A document attesting to the existence of a family relationship, where applicable NOTE: applicable when moving to Portugal to reunite with family and includes birth and/or marriage certificates as applicable
9. Document proving the applicant's tax situation, where applicable. NOTE: This has nothing to do with the US IRS... it's just your NIF number if you have already received one. SEF enters your NIF into the system to detect any fines or unpaid fees.
10. Document proving that the applicant is registered with the Social Security. NOTE: The phrase ‘social security’ refers to the national health plan. As a Type 1/D Visa holder, you must have private health insurance. You need to provide your proof of private health insurance and proof of payment. This is usually a one-page document with your name, dates the policy is effective and policy coverage amounts.
Be prepared for someone to ask you for more documentation than is officially required. Respectfully providing what you can, respectfully declining what isn't necessary--so therefore you don't have it--are appropriate responses. I recommend taking a print-out of the SEF Required Documentation with you to indicate that you've come prepared according to their specific requirements.
- Some applicants have been told by other applicants or even by their SEF official that a new FBI report is required. That isn't correct. Perhaps the applicants misunderstand what is asked for in point 7, above. At this stage, the FBI report has done what it needed to do, which is get you your Schengen Visa. You can bring a copy of that original FBI report with you as a pre-emptive measure but don't let that derail your appointment.
- Some applicants have been asked for Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates and/or IRS reports. You can have your birth and marriage certificates with you, and in fact I've always recommended that applicants bring a copy of all of their original Visa application documents with them. However, "IRS" doesn't mean the United States 1040 filing. This is never necessary with the SEF. "IRS" means the Portuguese IRS; at this point, you won't have filed taxes with the IRS and might not yet have your NIF number. [If you do have your NIF, provide that so it's included on your Residence Permit card. Note that the SEF can enter your NIF number into their system and determine your status with the Financas office.]
You should be able to complete the process and be told you are approved at this appointment. If you fail to bring any required documentation, you will have to make another appointment and return. This rarely happens, usually only to applicants who aren't clear, firm and convinced of what they are doing or who don't follow instructions. You can pay your fees in cash or with a Portuguese bank card (Multibanco) but not with a credit card.
The Titulo Card is sent to your address or your post office might send you a notice to come pick it up, and it arrives within a couple of weeks. It has photo, name and address.
You will renew your Titulo de Residencia 30 days prior to each expiration...or you will try to, yet back logs are pushing out the renewals depending on how busy your SEF office is. The first Titulo de Residencia expires after one year, followed by two, two-year renewals and a final renewal at 5 years that can be a Permanent Residence card if you meet the language requirements. Otherwise, you continue to renew for two-year periods. You are limited as to how much time you can be away from Portugal during your temporary residence cycles. Absences from Portugal for periods of less than six consecutive months during the validity period of any residence permit (and not exceeding ten months in total within the five-year period) or for specific reasons provided for by national law (e.g. military service, secondment for work purposes, serious illness, maternity, research or studies) will be regarded as not interrupting the period of residence.