In our blog we talked about possible investments, jobs and even starting your own business in Portugal, but there are other ways. Portugal Student Visa – one of those options. Today Lena Akimova, a graduate of the Department of Psychology of the University of Lisbon, shared her story of moving and studying in Portugal with us.
How to decide to move to Portugal
My name is Lena. I am a psychologist by education, living, and working in Portugal. I have been living in Lisbon for the last six years. I have a bachelor’s degree from SPbGUP and a master’s degree from the University of Lisbon.
I first thought about moving when I was in my third year of BA. Portugal always seemed to me like something unexplored and beautiful. Even in high school, I was impressed by the works of José Saramago and Fernando Pessoa, and I always imagined that one day I would see with my own eyes all these incredible seascapes and cozy little streets.
The first phase of my studies was coming to an end, and the question of choosing an institution to enroll in graduate school began. And then I remembered my old childhood dream. Indeed, what prevents me from continuing my education in Europe? My parents were not against it, it was just a question of whether it was possible. First time I searched for all the information myself. I communicated in the thematic forums, and at first, I tried to find all the information.
Exams and relocation prep
I decided to get serious about it about a year before I entered and started learning Portuguese. By myself and then with tutors via Skype. I usually studied once a week, close to midnight, as my work schedule and time difference allowed. But it was so much fun!
It’s all about passing the exam, of course. In Portugal, wherever you’re applying, you’ll need to take a Portuguese language test. A list of all the requirements for admission looks like this:
- In order to apply for admission, you must provide a document of previous education translated into Portuguese. The document must be apostilled, which can be done at a special department of the Russian Ministry of Education. After that, the original document and its translation are to be sent to the chosen University, where a special committee will decide on its legalization.
- A certificate of knowledge of Portuguese at the level of B1 or B2 is required for admission.
- The application must also include a copy of the passport, sign the Declaration on honor (a statement certifying that the applicant is not a Portuguese citizen and has training for university studies), where previous studies must be indicated.
Applications are submitted and processed in several streams, the timing of which can vary. The most common are December, April, and June.
Selecting a school and the first steps to a new life
And now, the moment of truth has arrived. I had to decide which institution of higher learning I was going to attend. There were a few options, but first things first.
University of Porto
The University of Porto is deservedly considered the best institution of higher education in Portugal, with a total of over 30,000 students. Considering that the city has 240,000 inhabitants, the University of Porto can be called a full-fledged student city. Every eighth inhabitant is a student of Universidade do Porto! The only minus that was decisive for me when choosing was the cost of education. The most prestigious university of Portugal, unfortunately, was unaffordable for me, so I had to consider other options. Next in line was the University of Coimbra.
University of Coimbra
One of Europe’s oldest universities, located in the small Portuguese city of Coimbra, located between Lisbon and Porto. It was founded in the Middle Ages at the end of the 13th century and has the status of an ancient university along with the Universities of Bologna and Paris. The University of Coimbra is considered the leading educational institution in the country and is one of the top three universities in the Portuguese-speaking world. It would seem to be a great option, but there was one important problem – the main profile of the university. Basically, the university prepares technical specialists, and I was interested in the humanities.
University of Lisbon
Funnily enough, it was the University of Lisbon, the crown jewel of Portugal’s educational system, which was the last place I looked. A major university, for many years top of the Shanghai rankings, it offered ideal conditions for studying. Convenient location right in the city center, a comfortable dormitory, good teaching staff, and of course a great historical background bribed, but finally, I made my choice when I visited their student portal. Also, the opportunity to sign up for free Portuguese courses was a huge plus.
Student Visa Portugal. Application and process of registration.
Selecting an educational institution is done, the exams are passed, the last step is to apply for a Portuguese student visa and you can hit the road. There are two types of permits under which a student can legally enter the country:
- Short-term student visa.
An option suitable for short-term study programs of up to 4 months.
- Long-term student visa.
For any program that lasts more than 90 days. The student then has to apply for a residence permit: 90 days after arrival. The residence permit lasts for one year. If it lasts longer than one year, the permit can be renewed for up to five years.
It was the long-term visa type D that suited me. In order to obtain it, I had to prepare the necessary documents, namely:
- Document of enrollment in a local university.
- Confirmation of my solvency and funds for living.
- Certificate of no criminal record
- Confirmation of accommodation in Portugal. Even hotel reservations are acceptable.
First days in the new place
I was very nervous before the move, but thankfully everything went just fine. Of course, thank you so much to my family and friends who have been supporting me the entire time.
From the first days, I was just thrilled with Portugal. I can’t tell you how it felt to walk through the streets as if they had been written in my favorite novels. I wandered through the capital and could not take my eyes away from this beautiful city.
It wasn’t easy at first to adjust to a more measured rhythm of life. I think every person who has come from the Russian capital tells me how difficult it is to switch to a normal rhythm after the Moscow race. I am no exception. But in all of this, it’s quite easy to navigate and then build your day to match the rhythm of the locals.
I quickly fell in love with the Portuguese tradition of morning coffee. At the time, I lived next door to a café owned by an elderly married couple. Their regulars were lovely Portuguese grandparents, rare tourists in that area. So did I. It was just nice to hear the question in the morning, “Is it your usual?
How does a student find housing in Portugal?
Finding housing in a foreign country is, for many, the toughest part of the move. Where do you find a suitable offer and an apartment that fits your budget? How to make an agreement with a landlord and sign a rental contract? All of these questions are confusing and can keep you moving for months.
First of all, let’s understand what housing options you can find and how much it will cost. Portugal has a very interesting apartment classification system. They do not count all the rooms, but only the bedrooms. It looks like this:
- T0 is a studio apartment. The living room and kitchen are combined into one spacious room.
- T1 – two-room apartment: bedroom + living room and kitchen.
- T2 – three-room apartment: two bedrooms + living room and kitchen.
- And so on.
If you’re a student and plan to live on your own, then the T1 option is great–there’s usually plenty of room for one person.
The number of rooms also affects the final price of the apartment, but this is not the deciding factor. It is more important in which area or city the apartment is located. Rent a T1 apartment in the center of the capital can cost you 900 euros per month. At the same time, the same housing, but closer to the outskirts will cost up to 500 euros.
Say a few words about my own personal experience. Originally I wanted to stay in a hostel, but the guys from MoveToCascais found me the ideal option, which I could not refuse. A cozy one-bedroom apartment fifteen minutes walk from the university. Located in a great neighborhood and rented at a very nice price.
Student visa in Portugal. Registration of residence permit in Portugal.
When the issues of admission and settling into a new apartment were resolved, there was one last step after which it was possible to fully immerse in studies. It was a prerequisite for any foreign student who came with the purpose of the long-term study, was to apply for a residence permit in Portugal. On paper everything looked complicated: you need to collect the right package of documents for registration of the application, submit it to the Office for Foreigners and Borders (Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service – SEF), where you will appoint an oral interview, and only after its successful completion, the coveted residence card will come to you by mail.
In fact, in my case, everything went absolutely smoothly. To begin with, I gathered all the necessary documents. Among them:
- Passport valid
- Document proving a good reason for being in the territory.
- Portugal for a long time – in my case it was a certificate of admission to the university.
- Conviction certificate.
- Confirmation of funds for accommodation and tuition.
- Confirmation of permanent residence. If you move into a dormitory, you should be given a certificate of occupancy. In my case it was a copy of the rental agreement.
The beginning of a new life
The move was the starting point for a change and a very important change professionally. I’ve always loved teaching, I enjoyed it during my university years. Now I privately teach Russian to foreigners. Classes with enthusiastic students of Russian are incredibly inspiring. Each student opens up a new world! Everyone has a different cultural code, language background, and level of erudition. I teach scientists, lawyers, artists, accountants, and high school students. And I really enjoy it. In addition, I work as a freelancer with various projects and write texts.
In my free time I study Portuguese, read various professionally helpful articles, and finally got around to working my way through a huge reading list I used to put off until later. And, of course, traveling. Portugal is small, so it is very convenient to travel around. You can go around the whole country even without a personal car. Even though in six years I have gotten to know different parts of the country pretty well, each new trip reveals Portugal in a new way