We at MoveToCascais love and live our work. We’ve been through the difficulties of immigration ourselves, so we’re as immersed in our clients’ problems as possible, helping and supporting them on all issues, trying to make a bed, if not a straw, then a couple of blankets and a mountain of pillows. Different in age and personality, they all become close to us and send us holiday greetings.
If we become friends, we occasionally spend a couple of hours by the ocean, watching the waves and drinking nice Portuguese wine. Today I am beside Igor Romanov, a young IT professional who took a risk by moving to Portugal on a “startup visa” and starting up a small business.
– Igor, thanks for coming. You promised to talk to me at length about moving, work and life in Portugal. Let’s start from the beginning. You’re a young guy, why go anywhere at all? In Russia, IT people make good money, if they wanted to. Everything is relative. At the time of my move, I was 27, did not have a steady relationship with a girlfriend, not going to get married. When you go into the profession thoroughly, you have no time for anything, there is very much competition. Once I opened a job website, they have such requirements… To earn good money, you have to be a narrowly focused professional and constantly improve and expand your qualifications. I consciously entered, already in school I learned layout on my own. I got my first money for the website when I was 15, so I’ve been working for 14 years already.
– Why did you decide to go and why Portugal? If I understand correctly, Tomsk has very serious IT companies, with a good money offer for your level.
– Missed the heat. I wanted a different life. To sit with a laptop in a lounge chair, savoring wine, looking out at the sea. For me the mentality of the Portuguese, their leisurely pace is just right.
– You could go to Sochi, to the Crimea, to the islands… Thailand, for example.
– Actually yes, to go and work for some big company remotely, to lie under a palm tree for an IT person is an achievable reality. But I wanted my own business, I wanted to try something more. I didn’t see an interesting niche in Russia. I did not like it in Sochi, and especially in the Crimea, because the locals, “in the pursuit of goodness, are ready to kill their neighbors. People live among beauty, putting their lives on hold, with only money in their eyes.
In Portugal, in Cascais, it’s different. The salaries of the locals are less than in Europe, but they also don’t have the expense of heating and warm winter clothes. People are very unhurried, enjoying life. The civil servants are among them. Our people are wildly angry, I do not react in particular. In fact, that’s what I get out of it.
– Do you miss your home?
– Of course. I miss my parents and brother very much, but they are coming to visit me in August-September with a tourist visa if they don’t close the borders because of the quarantine.
– Tell me more about what you do.
I have registered a company. I have my own team of like-minded people, some of them former fellow students, working remotely from Tomsk. To do business in Portugal it is important to know the local nuances of business, so you have to “boil” among Portuguese people, Russian-language forums are no help.
In addition, sitting in Russia, getting a decent contract with Germans or Englishmen is unrealistic. I came to Portugal in order to use the local realities in my work. It is easier for Europeans to open a representative office here than in Russia, but the locals are concrete rubber men. They promise one thing, but it will be done one day later. They are not punctual. That is why “our” locals look for IT people among ours. Some of the EU investors do the same. So initially I was focused on B2B, possibly outsourcing.
IT industry in Portugal
– How do you think the IT industry in Portugal is developed?
– Portugal, and this is no secret, is a very conservative country. Many IT developments for ordinary people in small towns like a personal office in the bank, getting a certificate, electronic registration somewhere are absent. Although all banks are connected by a system of electronic payments. Top up your cell phone account, transfer money somewhere is easy.
I repeat: the problems are mostly for small towns, for large cities there are no such issues. For me, of course, it’s a bottom line: just do it. But such projects require a lot of money. I’m thinking about it now.
The startup market is growing before the quarantine 4-7 per day were registered. About 20-25% of vacancies are related to IT, HR, and management in this field. Large IT companies are opening representative offices in Portugal. Salaries are also good – an average developer will be able to earn 20-30% more than a specialist from another field. I would be paid around 3000 euros.
Portuguese IT people get a good education, often in European high schools. Almost all of them graduated from private math schools. Employers treat them accordingly. They pay 14 salaries a year, provide food, organize away holidays, and send them to school. From the point of view of an ordinary employee – everything is super: vacation almost a month, corporate parties, various bonuses. But I look at it as the owner of the company. And it’s hard for me to compete with a company like Cloudflare.
Startup visa Portugal in detail
– Tell me more about what program you went under?
– Went on a startup visa. It is easier and cheaper than investing in a new business. And I can get grants from the European Union. A startup is a project from scratch with an expected high level of profit. The criteria for both the manager and the project are prescribed. I must be of legal age, have no criminal record, have no Schengen, and never reside there (visa attracts non-Eurozone countries). I had to have about 5.2 thousand euros per year in my personal residence account. My 125k was sufficient.
There are other requirements for the IT project. While I was thinking about the project I met different information: the creation of 5-10 jobs and capitalization of the project 325k a year or in 3 or 5 years. With jobs more or less understandable, the more in the plan, the better. But with the capitalization … Some sites say that the value of assets, others – that you need to issue shares, yet encountered the information – that it is a turnover per year, which really winds up if you run, for example, 50 thousand euros between 3 companies. It turned out to be simple. Went to the site through which to apply. It says “turnover and/or asset value of 325k per year for 5 years from the date of the contract with the business incubator. The value of assets in each country is calculated differently. Therefore, it is important to know the local legislation, to keep tax records in order to bring the project up to this amount.
First, a business plan is created. It, along with the application, personal documents, motivation letter, and presentation in English (you can do it in Portuguese), I sent it through a specialized website for startups. Got approval from business incubators, sent an application to the embassy for Portugal residence permit and work visa.
Living in Portugal
– Tell us how you get along with the locals.
– The general opinion online is that the Portuguese are nice and helpful people. This is generally true, but there are exceptions. Yes, the country is quite safe, but people, like everywhere else, are different. In general, people are like people, the atmosphere is very welcoming.
What about jobs for locals (I have to organize jobs) – there is a superficially fragmented education, in my opinion. Of course, there are very cool guys, but they try to go to Germany, where the salaries are higher. Probably that is why our investors in IT specialties try to hire guys from CIS countries – it is easier to explain, and the program code will be logical and beautiful
I have an assistant (secretary and office manager in one package), a hostess – I do not know what to call it – cleans and makes sure there are products for snacks in the kitchen, a frontend – develops the client-side in Portuguese. We have 3 people here, 4 remotely, and 5-8 I bring in on an ad hoc basis. Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to outsource.
In general, I would say the attitude towards startups is gentle. A quick registration, tax exemption for a year, consulting assistance, a place in an incubator.
A few more words about the Portuguese startup visa and getting a residence permit
– Will you share how you got the visa?
– With the visa it’s simple. When I got the approval from the incubation center in Lisbon, I sent the application through the visa center website, paid 90 euros consular fee, and gave the documents to the embassy. In 4 days I received the approval.
– What’s your history with the residence permit?”
I don’t bother. SEF visited right after arriving, got social security number and tax number. Business is registered as well. The first residency has to be renewed several times before I get my passport. And on paper it’s quick. In reality, additional documents are constantly required. I will not deal with this issue, I will sign a contract with “our” who specialize in this very thing.
immigration agency, for example. It’s easier for me to turn to you – you’ll help with translation, you’ll back me up if I need a representative, you’ll help with the documents.
I’m determined after 5 years gain Portuguese citizenship. It’s a common story. I’m fine with the fact that I don’t need to renounce my Russian citizenship. And I can live in Portugal for 8 months a year. Right now my company is keeping me, it will be a little easier – I will be able to live in Russia (if nostalgia for birch trees tortures me).
General impressions of Portugal and Cascais
– What do you think of Cascais?
It felt like being a midget and walking among dollhouses. At first it felt unreal. Those towers in the architecture, something like chess… But overall I liked it. I wanted warmth – I got it:
The climate here is comfortable.
– I have a strange feeling from the conversation. You’re not thrilled about the move, but you’re not very negative either. Why is that?”
– Responsibility, sometimes I feel 10 years older. I’m not a migrant worker who came to work. I’m investing money, building and growing a business. So I look at many things from a different angle. I have guys from Ukraine working for me. They are happy with their income, they are absolutely happy with their standard of living, although their house and car are rented, it’s almost an impossible task to take out a mortgage. But they are happy, riding around the country, learning to surf. I have only 10 surfing lessons and 6 in a golf club, I learn the language, I understand the local laws. I have no time. Realistically in terms of money I have to manage 325k euros/year in 5 years after starting the project.
– Is it a lot?
– No. With proper management, the bar is successfully overcome by a small firm even in a crisis.
– Have you managed to see Portugal?
– A little bit. It’s a small country. It’s easy to go to another city in a day, see and come back.
– What did you like, not among the sights, but among the usual things?
– The bike paths. Wonderful pavement, made along the lines of automobile pavements. Not along the sides of the road, but of one of them. A full two-way track with no poles right in the middle like we have. Sometimes I bike to Guincho Beach.
– What do you eat?
Oh, at first it was Jamon, bread, and fruit. Now I’ve switched to homemade food. In the stores, all the products are fresh and of good quality. I cook for myself sometimes, but more often I go to restaurants and cafes. I miss our cuisine a little, but otherwise, everything is just fine.
Buying and renting a house in Portugal
How do you like the house prices?
If you compare Portugal to the European Union, to Germany or France, housing is cheap here. A nice little apartment in Lisbon can be rented for under 500 euros. Given the local wages, it is quite affordable.
On the whole, as elsewhere, good housing is expensive by local standards. As a “budget” for a labor immigrant can be considered calvings, converted from hotels. The difference is the level of comfort, food, and neighbors.
You can rent an apartment, but consider that Cascais, where I moved from Lisbon, is the Portuguese Riviera, a popular vacation destination. Demand is high, prices are inflated. A lot of people are worried about the noisy crowds with singing and dancing.
The energy certificate of my house B-. The apartments are not intentionally heated. I rent a small apartment, there is a bedroom, an office. Installed air conditioning, if it is cool, I turn on the heating. I have a three-year contract so far.
I don’t have a lot of things. When I arrive, I have my bag with my things and my backpack with my laptop and books. Clothes are stored in an equipped dressing room. I would say the environment is spartan. Lodging along with utilities and communications is about 400 euros. If you want, you can find it cheaper.
– Share how and when you found an apartment? Our compatriots usually check into a hotel or a company lodging when they arrive…
– I found it on the first website with ads for rent. Looked at the photos, wrote, asked for the documents. Keep in mind that if you sign a long-term rental agreement, you may be required to have an official representative who will be your guarantor. In Lisbon, I rented for 2 months, for Cascais a bank guarantee passed – Garantia Bancária.
– Do you have an office?
– Yes, first I used the government assistance, then I rented an office. Co-working spaces are noisy, with the risk of someone stealing your ideas.
The office is 2 offices, kitchen, restroom with shower. Furniture and kitchen appliances and air conditioning were already there. The safe and laptops are on me. Costs the pleasure along with communication costs, security 2000 euros per month.
– Just be honest. Is it worth it?
– If the goal is to get Portuguese citizenship, absolutely. Also, if the idea is really worthwhile, Portugal is open for business. But, of course, you have to be prepared for local difficulties. At least the language.
For many, just immigration is a horror, and here the business. But if you work here, not profanity, the money here can be more profitable (I’m talking about the IT-sphere only). Especially if you use government grants.
Acclimatization and difficulties in life
– How did you get over the acclimatization? I arrived in May, which is a comfortable season. In November-February it was cool, so I managed to get a cold. Otherwise, the climate is pleasant. The temperature does not drop below +10, so you can’t find any Russian frosts here.
– You mentioned books, an I.T. guy and a paper copy – somehow it does not stick. Took a couple of programming books with me, Everything else in electronic form.
– Say, what advice would you give to future immigrants?
– Think with your head. Come on a tourist visa first, scout things out. Then invest your money. Before coming to Portugal you should study the language and the local legislation. In Portugal, there are many Russian speakers, but the official conversation will only be in Portuguese, even if you speak good English. I had misunderstandings with civil servants, I had to politely insist, referring to the law. And everything was solved quite adequately.
– Do you regret leaving?
No regrets for a minute. When everything is fine you can ignore the minuses. There are problems in any country. I like it here. Another thing is that I don’t consider Portugal home yet. My adaptation period is not over yet, but I am attracted by the mild climate, safety, a certain general feeling of security and comfort.
Well, Igor, thank you for your candor. I think that so much work has already been invested that when you get back on your feet you’ll come to realize that you belong, that you’ve become part of THIS world.
What a sincere conversation we had. You’re next in line. Stop doubting your abilities and take action!