Hello to all readers of our blog! Today we will continue our story about people who, in spite of everything, go towards their dreams and a new life. You will learn the story of Andrei, a young entrepreneur from Omsk, in which he tried to tell everything about his move and starting a business in Portugal.
How do I decide to move to another country?
If I’m honest, I never thought I would decide to move to another country. If you ask where it all started, the first thing that comes to mind is my sister’s experience. Back in 2013, she moved to Germany. She studied at a language school and was looking for a job at the same time. A lot of people did that back then, and not without success. She managed to find a job, got her residency status, and stayed there. My story was a little different.
I inherited the business from my father, a small workshop for making handmade furniture. It was a complicated business, but very interesting and profitable. However, this work had one serious drawback. I had to work 10-12 hours a day, and I could only dream of weekends. Funny, but this crazy pace was the second reason for the move, but about this later. Naturally, with time this kind of work burned me out. I began to have health problems and my productivity faltered as well.
That’s when I made a small rule for myself. Once a year, steadily, for two or three weeks, I would turn off my phone, pack a minimal set of things, and go on a little vacation.
You know the worst thing about going on these trips? Coming home. Every time I had to fly from the warm, cozy beach of conditional Greece or Spain to my native Omsk, I felt a little cheated. Don’t get me wrong, I love my hometown very much, but each time I had to make a huge effort not to get off the plane.
I met my second home on one of those trips. In 2018, on the advice of a close friend, I decided to visit Portugal. The plan was simple: a week in the capital and a week in Faro on the local beaches.
Lisbon was wonderful. A beautiful ancient city with amazing architecture and a very distinctive flavor. The first week flew by in a flash as I walked around the local sights. As for Faro, I was a little less lucky – the southernmost region of Portugal greeted me with torrential rain. But, there was nothing to do. The hotel was paid, the flight home was only a week away, so armed with an umbrella and raincoat, I set out to explore the city.
It’s funny, at the time I could not even imagine how one week could affect my life. I had no definite goal. I just wandered the half-empty streets of the city, going into the first cafes I saw and talking to the locals. It was then that the real Portugal was revealed to me. And, what was my surprise when I realized that the heart of Portugal is not the cozy streets with streetcars and not the beaches with a wonderful ocean, but just the local people. When you get into this community, you instantly become part of it and it doesn’t matter what language you speak or why you came there in the first place.
In addition, in one of the local bars, I happened to run into my compatriot. Sergey had moved from Moscow in 2016 and opened his own little place here. Even then the thought flashed through my mind: “Why am I any worse? My business is relevant not only in Russia, I can find the money to move, so why should I sit in one place? That thought was the beginning of my long journey and, although not immediately, incredibly changed my life.
First thoughts about moving to Portugal
When I got home, I decided to seriously consider moving. I weighed the pros and cons, read thematic forums and, of course, calculated the necessary budget. At the time, I had a pretty good amount of money that I had saved to build a house, and that was just enough for my venture.
I was finally convinced by my sister. She was completely settled in by then, so I had a real-life example of someone who could pull herself together and start a new life. Anyway, I needed to move on, so, closer to fall, I started getting ready to move.
How was the move and starting a business in Portugal
In short, there is nothing scary about the move itself. You need to gather the necessary documents, take them to the embassy and just wait for the permission to be issued. In a month, if there are no problems, all the necessary things will be in hand and you can easily fly to Portugal. The main task was to take my business there, and here everything was not so simple. To begin with, let’s break down what I had at the time of the move:
- First, all the necessary tools and production technology. We rented new space, brought in everything we needed, and the workshop was ready! In the future, there really wasn’t a problem with that.
- Secondly, a ready-made customer service strategy. My plan at the time was just to transfer our experience from Russia to the European market. That was a major mistake, but more on that later.
The other side of the scale was what I would lose in the move, namely:
- Of course, I couldn’t take my staff with me. Also, business immigration involves the fact that I have to provide jobs for 10 local citizens. That seemed like a major problem to me at the time. I couldn’t even imagine where and how I would find these people.
- The search for new premises. You need a decent amount of floor space for a workshop. Plus, the space shouldn’t be too humid and hot – pretty severe restrictions for a coastal southern town.
- Registering the company. I am not a lawyer and the intricacies of registering a company in Europe were far too distant.
It was a foregone conclusion. I needed someone who could guide me through all of this. Preferably with knowledge of the language and local citizenship.
Collaborating with MoveToCascais and the first steps to a new life
When the whole situation finally became clear and I realized that I could not handle it on my own, I started looking for people who could help me. I came across a mention of service MoveToCascais absolutely by accident in one of the immigration forums. I will not go into the details of all consultations, but I will tell you the plan that was suggested to me:
- If there is nothing keeping me at home, I can fly to Portugal right after the visa application. Of course, all the steps of registering a company can be done online, but in person, it would be easier and faster. In addition, it will be possible to immediately deal with the issue of finding a room for the studio.
- For the move and the subsequent registration of a residence permit, I will need to apply for a visa D2. In order to get it, I had to draw up a business plan and a capital investment plan.
- I need to find a good place to live when I arrive. And, preferably in the long term – it’s further help for a residence permit. The bad news is that the rental contract must be filled out in Portuguese. In addition, local landlords are wary of newcomers, and often require a fiador – a Portuguese citizen, who will act as a guarantor of the deal. The good news is that the agency can provide me with an interpreter and act as a guarantor for long-term rentals.
- Further, it is necessary to officially register. This includes obtaining a NIF (Individual Tax Identification Number), opening a bank account, and registering my future activities.
- The next step is to obtain a residence permit. This needs to be done as soon as possible, as the visa is valid for only 4 months.
- And of course, you need to find workers and get the whole process started.
Well, the plan is done, so it’s time to do it! I will tell you about each step in more detail.
The first step is the easiest. It is necessary to prepare and submit all the necessary documents to the embassy, namely:
- certificate of criminal record;
- as I wrote above, a business plan and the resources to implement it.
Further, an interview followed, after which I only had to wait for my permit to enter Portugal. Once it was granted, I packed everything, bought a one-way ticket to Faro, and hit the road to my new life.
Lodging & Registration
While I was worried that it would be difficult to find an apartment, I managed it in literally three days. I settled on a nice little apartment five minutes walk from the University of Algarve. Most of all I was surprised by the price: after what my sister told me about the insane rent in Germany, local prices seemed incredibly low. In fact, even by the standards of Moscow and St. Petersburg, it was cheap to rent here.
Furthermore, a registration followed. The first thing I did was to go to the office of the nearest tax office and get an individual tax number. The cost was minimal, something like 10 Euros, but it was a very important document that was needed at every step. The next step was to open an account at a local bank and register my business activity.
Finding a workspace
There was a lot of work to find a suitable space for a workshop. There were actually lots of options, but each had its own flaw. Here the space was small, there the mold was on the ceiling. Total search took 3 weeks, but the ideal option still found. It was an old wood storage room. It was 80 square feet, the conditions were perfect, and it was all for a bargain price. Check everything for mold, bring in tools, work on cosmetics and that’s it – the workshop is ready!
It remained only to hire staff and you can start work. But, before that, we needed to resolve the issue of registration of residence permits.
Registration Portugal residence permit
Have heard the popular opinion that this is the most difficult and time-consuming stage of all. From personal experience, I can say that it is not. If you have a good reason for submitting an application and, most importantly, a full set of correctly executed documents, the chance that you will be denied is minimal. Here, as with the visa application, you have to submit your documents to the “service for foreigners and borders” (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF). Here is their complete list:
– Proof of identity and a certificate of no criminal record, as with the visa application;
– Proof of registered business in Portuguese territory. Articles of Association and extract from the Commercial Register;
– Individual Tax Number- NIF;
– Proof of indebtedness from the Social Security Fund;
– The rental contract or a guarantee from a Portuguese resident. In general, any proof of residency in the country;
– Proof of ability to pay.
Thereafter a short oral interview awaits you and that’s it. Your application can take up to six months to process. During this time you can stay absolutely legally in Portugal and carry out any business activity.
First successes and new problems
Finally, all the registration issues at the new location were closed and there was one last problem I had to solve. I needed to find people to work in my company. Once again I was surprised.
I put an ad on a job search website, and within an hour I had a schedule of interviews for the next two days. In addition, they were mostly guys 25-30 years old who for the most part were fluent in English. Within a week I had a full staff. All that was left to do was to find them jobs, and everything worked out.
With the first orders, it was also easy. When I realized that I had no problem recruiting people, I immediately started working on corporate Instagram. Advertising in social networks today works wonders, so after another week we got our first client.
And then came the big day when everything worked. The first orders are in, the work is boiling. It would seem that what could go wrong?
To my surprise, the first orders were turned in and absolutely nothing followed. Two weeks of downtime were replaced by another small order and silence again. It felt like what I was doing just wasn’t necessary. Fortunately, that feeling was deceptive.
When I was planning my work I didn’t consider one very important thing – the local mentality. People in Portugal are as open and welcoming to newcomers as they are conservative in their habits. And this is a very important barrier that many aspiring entrepreneurs who bring their new product to the market crash against. The funny thing is that the only cure for this is time. People should get used to your product and banal “word of mouth” here can be many times more effective than any other advertising. After a couple of months of work, things began to get better little by little. At first two orders a week, then three. Half a year later I was already actively looking for new workers: we were trivially short of hands.
I think that’s the end I can summarize. The next two years passed without any problems. The staff doubled in size, which caused us to have to look for new space in December, but that’s more of a plus than a minus. The quarantine did not really affect the business either – Portugal coped very well with the consequences.
I would like to make a small conclusion. Of course, I was at risk of failing miserably and being left with nothing, but no one knows where my old life would have taken me. To summarize, my philosophy is simple: don’t be afraid to pursue your goal. There will always be difficulties along the way, but there’s always a way to overcome them. And the only thing that will help you along the way is your ambition. I hope that you will succeed. Thank you MoveToCascais for allowing me to share my story. Good luck.