This is the story of Osman, an IT professional from Istambul, who decided to relocate with his family to Portugal. Now he is our neighbor – he lives just a few blocks from our office in Estoril. He is our client, and we have known him for two years already. One day, while having coffee with Osman, we asked permission to write down his story. Osman was so kind that he not only agreed but also gave us many details of his reasons for relocating, which we didn’t know and which, in our opinion, will be quite helpful for those deciding.
I’ve been dreaming of moving to Portugal for a long time. But something always stopped me. In my native country, I had a business reasonably good, the kids were in school, and my wife had a stable job. But when another crisis started in the country, it was as if everything had stopped. One day I woke up thinking that it was time to change something. My wife was completely supportive, and my children were even excited about the opportunity to move to another country. In general, it was just a matter of determining where to go and collect the necessary documents.
How We Moved to Portugal With Children: Personal Experience
So, the first thing I started with was the question of how exactly you can immigrate to this country. I began to study all possible options so that in the end to choose the most suitable.
So, the first option was to reunite with the family. The way is not bad. But it was not suitable for us, because we never had any relatives in Portugal. By the way, if anyone is considering this option, it is worth noting that the Portuguese include children, spouses, brothers, and sisters among the relatives with whom you can reunite.
The second option is a startup. Any entrepreneur can open one. But there are small conditions. First, there should not be any problems with the law. Secondly, it must not reside in the Schengen countries. By the way, this option is especially good for those who use modern technology and are willing to create jobs. But I have also discarded this option.
Another category of people who have the full right to obtain a residence permit in Portugal is investors. All that is required is to buy a piece of property, the value of which is not less than 500,000 euros. This can be an apartment, villa, and the like. It is also possible to contribute to the reconstruction of the building, in which case the amount will be lower – from 35 000 euros. You can invest in a business or the country’s economy.
You have the right to live in Portugal if you are a student who studies in this country. But I had no plans to go to university. Therefore, I settled on the last, most acceptable option for me: business. The most popular direction in the country is tourism. And here I could feel like a fish in water. After all, in my homeland, I was in the tourism business, so I knew all the ins and outs and was ready to do this business. Of course, this is not the only direction entrepreneurs can choose. You can also engage in poultry farming and grow fruit, olives – whatever is closest to you. I, on the other hand, decided that I would continue the business I had started in my homeland. But, before opening my own travel agency, I had to work for some time in a Portuguese company.
At first, I tried to organize my move by myself. But it turned out to be more difficult than I thought. Of course, there was a lot of information, but it was hard to pull it all together. And if we still decided on the city (we always dreamed of Lisbon), with everything else, there were uncertainties. For example, I am very worried about questions related to school. Of course, we were leaving at the beginning of summer, but since fall, it was necessary to arrange it for our son and daughter.
After a few sleepless nights searching for a solution, I gave up. I decided that I needed to seek professional help. I remembered that when my acquaintances moved, they collaborated with the consulting agency MoveToCascais. I found their contacts, applied, and, we can say, forgot about all the problems.
First of all, we were given a list of all the documents that we needed to collect and told what needed to be done shortly. In general, with the help of specialists, everything went quickly and smoothly. By the way, they also said about the training system in Portugal.
What Documents Are Needed?
Perhaps the most challenging task is to collect the necessary documents. Be prepared that they will have to tinker with them and run through the required authorities to collect all the papers. First of all, the list includes a signed employment contract or a job offer. Such an offer I found, to do it was not difficult. By education, I am a programmer, and for some time, I successfully worked in my specialty and even have some good references. Therefore, I did not have any particular difficulties in finding a job. As for my wife, then initially, she went on a tourist visa. But soon after, she was able to find a good job right there. She is a certified designer and also knows several foreign languages.
In addition to the invitation to work, the mandatory documents will be needed:
- A clean bill of health;
- Bank statement, which proves that you have money;
- Proof of qualification, which is specified in the invitation to work.
Naturally, we need passports for each family member traveling to Portugal. After gathering the documents, we started to queue to take the biometric. After this procedure, we have to wait a few months. Then we received a notice of approval. Then we began to pack our bags and get ready for the move.
Where to Find a Job?
As noted above, I went to Portugal on a work visa, so the question of finding a job was only for my wife. She entered the country with a tourist visa without any problems. And on the spot, she started looking for a suitable job.
Although unemployment is rampant in the country, it is possible to find a decent job, especially with higher education. Since we originally planned to stay here permanently, the search had to work hard. We were warned that illegal work is not suitable because the violation of labor laws is punishable and threatened with deportation.
To get a work visa and a residence permit, my wife had to find an employer and sign an official contract with him with spelled out rights and responsibilities. This is not only a guarantee that you will not be deported but also a guarantee of social security because from your salary will be deducted insurance charges.
My spouse got a job at a small company as an English translator. After that, a month later, she was issued a residence permit for a year. The next residence permit we received together was for two years. And after we had lived in Portugal for five years, we applied for permanent residency.
This is our personal experience. As for the rest, there are several options for finding a job. First, it is best to look for a job when you are at home, and already with an invitation to go to the country. The next is to follow my experience.
It is also possible to come on a tourist visa, and while in Portugal, to find a suitable apartment and buy it. About this option, I told a little bit above. According to the notarial deed, you can stay in the country. Well, in the meantime, enroll in language courses, learn to speak, and find a job according to your professional level.
If you have a degree in demand specialty (medical, construction, architecture, IT), you can safely count on getting a high-paying job, but knowing the language is a prerequisite. If you do not have such an education, but you know the language, it is easy to get an administrative position. And those who do not have a diploma at all will be offered a job in construction, agriculture, and so on.
How Do I Start a Business?
Opening your own business in Portugal is one of the most convenient ways to get a residence permit. I didn’t use it only because I didn’t have any equity capital, so I decided that I would open my own business a little later. But if you have the amount of 5000 euros, you can without problems carry out conceived.
By the way, there are no bureaucratic procedures in the country, which opens up good prospects for future business people. The optimal format of the company here is considered an LLC.
To register a business, you’ll need about 600 euros. In addition, you will have to pay a lawyer who will help make everything right. The registration process takes about a month, after which the businessman is given a plastic card with all company details. Immediately after this, you can get a residence permit, and after five years, you can collect and submit documents for permanent residence.
Finding a Place to Live
With this we have no problems, the consulting agency helped us. They took full responsibility for finding a suitable apartment for us and offered several options, among which we chose the most practical and satisfying all our needs. For the first time, it was enough; now, we have our own apartment, which we could buy after a year of living in Portugal.
In general, it is quite difficult to find rented accommodation in Lisbon on your own. Therefore, this option was the most acceptable for us. The fact that the locals are willing to rent apartments at a normal (reasonable) cost only nine months a year, the other three months – in high season – prefer to rent them to tourists. Naturally, they take for rent much more than the rest of the time.
And also, based on the experience of visiting expats like us, I would like to note that the owners prefer to rent housing to local residents rather than foreigners. Therefore, you will have to compete while searching for an apartment because the landlord gives a couple of days before renting a place so everyone can see it. Then who is interested in the offer informs the owner. He, in turn, chooses the one who likes it best. Chances increase if you offer to pay an annual fee upfront. But again, this does not guarantee that the landlord will not opt for a local tenant.
And one more fact to consider. Most apartments are rented without furniture and necessary appliances. And to find a well-equipped apartment, you will need to try and spend more than a day.
Difficulties With the Language
From personal experience, I want to say that it is best to start learning the language before you move to the country. There is plenty of time for this, even from the moment you start collecting documents.
My spouse and I are fluent in English, but not everyone in Portugal understands the language. Before I left, I briefly studied Portuguese. But there was no practice. The best technique was communicating with locals.
In addition, if you want, you can find courses right there. I did not need them, but my wife did for a while.
There is a metro in Lisbon. Interestingly, the fares depend on the area because the farther you go, the more you’ll have to pay. Buses are also very popular. Fare prices are quite high, so it is better to buy a card immediately and recharge regularly – it will save a lot.
No matter how accessible and convenient public transportation is, as in our country, the best transport in Portugal is a car. Even though gasoline is not very cheap, it is much more convenient to travel by car. From personal experience: it saves not only time but also nerves.
By the way, after you get a residence permit, the domestic driver’s license here becomes invalid, and within three months, it must be replaced by the Portuguese one. If the application is filed later, you must take the exam without training. While waiting for an invitation to the exam, the old license will be taken away but issued a temporary one. Both will be valid only on the territory of Portugal.
We have two children, preschool age. In our country, there are two types of preschools here – public and private. Education in them is not much different, but there is one nuance. Those who plan to enter a state institution must “stand in a queue” for at least nine months. In this case, it is better to get in the queue immediately after the baby’s birth. In general, if you move to Portugal and want to immediately put the baby in kindergarten, you have to choose among private options, especially if there is no possibility of sitting with a child or hiring a nanny. As for differences from our kindergartens, there are virtually none. We chose a private school for our kids, where he attends developmental activities and is also quickly socialized.
As in our country, there are two types of preschools here – public and private. Education in them is not much different, but there is one nuance. Those who plan to enter a state institution must “stand in a queue” for at least nine months. In this case, it is better to get in the queue immediately after the baby’s birth.
In general, if you move to Portugal and want to immediately put the baby in kindergarten, you have to choose among private options, especially if there is no possibility of sitting with a child or hiring a nanny. As for differences from our kindergartens, there are virtually none.
Training in Portugal. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
The first piece of advice: it’s better to send the children straight to a private institution. Although Lisbon is full of public schools, we opted for a private one.
Why? Initially, it was more convenient for us. Don’t worry that you can’t afford the school because the fees are not that high, partly because many private schools are state-sponsored. Children in high school need to decide on a profile, but after ninth grade, it can be changed. By the way, specialized education is a big plus. It allows studying in depth precisely those subjects beneficial when entering high school.
What else would you like to say about school education?
It is divided into two stages. After completing high school, the child and his parents decide whether or not to continue his studies. Since further schooling is optional, it has to be paid for. After graduation, a certificate of Secondary Education is issued, which indicates the specialty obtained. Then it’s on to admission to higher education.
I believe that higher education is a must for everyone. Of course, we cannot say that absolutely all Portuguese people have higher education. According to statistics, it is not more than 40% of the population. But foreigners themselves are very attracted to Portuguese universities. According to European standards, it is not very expensive to study here.
Universities in Portugal are divided into universities and polytechnics. In the first case, you will focus on theoretical research, and in the second, you will gain practical skills. By the way, polytechnics are far from what, in our understanding, is considered a vocational school. In such a school, you can get a diploma in accountancy or teaching.
As in the case of kindergartens and schools, higher education institutions can be public or private. First, studying in public is much cheaper, and private ones are more expensive, but you can get good discounts for diligent study.
To apply for a bachelor’s degree, you must have a high school diploma with good grades. You will also need to take examinations. Few institutions in Portugal teach English, so it is obligatory to know the national language. But we have no problem with this – the children already speak Portuguese fluently.
As for maternity leave, things are slightly different than in our country. Any working parent can go on paid leave for up to 5 months. Until the age of three, the baby can be sent to the nursery, after three to the garden, and then to school.
As for medical services, in Portugal, they are at a high level. If necessary, you can go to both public and private medical institutions. Every citizen and permanent resident of the country has the right to medical care.
The health care system consists of three parts: national health service, special social medical insurance system, and voluntary private medical insurance. Except for dental and some other medical procedures, services are free. In order to cover 100% of the costs, some people prefer to buy private health insurance.
What About Entertainment?
Of course, once we settled in a new country, we thought about entertainment, because we can’t just sit at home all the time! I should say that you certainly won’t get bored in Portugal! First of all, we toured all around Lisbon. It’s beautiful and wonderful here. You can read more about our itinerary in the article: Holidays in Cascais. What’s the best way to spend your weekend? The Complete Guide.
A week after arriving, we went to the ocean. This is probably what the kids wanted and waited for the most. Here you can not only enjoy beautiful sunsets, which perhaps do not exist anywhere else in the world but also go surfing. Beginners are coached by instructors, our family pretty quickly mastered the sport.
In Lisbon, there are many festivals and holidays in which we try to take an active part. There is a world-famous aquarium and many other exciting places which must be visited. If you choose to live here, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.
Moving to Portugal was not a spontaneous decision. It took us a long time to come here. After visiting this wonderful country, I decided to live here one day. My wife and I often brought up the topic. She was initially not against the move, but there was something that stopped us all the time. Of course, first of all, it was scary. The worst thing was the unknown and lack of understanding of how life is in a foreign country, whether we can “settle in,” and whether the children will be able to adjust.
But all fears dissipated as soon as we arrived in Lisbon and entered our first rented apartment. We realized that everything would be fine because otherwise can not be. To those who still have doubts about whether it is worth moving to Portugal, I want to say one thing: yes, you should.
In addition, to give you some confidence, I would like to highlight the advantages that await you in this country. First is the affordable cost of housing. And whether you plan to rent an apartment or buy your own, I assure you it will not be too expensive. Working in Portugal and renting an apartment, we managed to save up for our own place in a good area in the first year. I am sure you will do the same!
Another undoubted advantage is the reasonable cost of goods and services. Living in Portugal is almost twice as cheap as in other developed countries, including Germany, France, and so on.
A big plus is that you can apply for citizenship after five years of residence here. This is one of the best and fastest prospects one can find. For example, to become a citizen of Italy or Spain, to live in the country for ten years, in Greece for seven years.
Beneficial here and for people in business because the country has a preferential tax regime. New tax residents for ten years can enjoy the special regime for Non-Habitual Residents. According to it, income tax is reduced to 20%, and taxes on income received outside the country are not charged at all.
Also, personally, in this country, I discovered many other undeniable advantages. For example, the delicious and healthy food of Portuguese Mediterranean cuisine. Another advantage of living in Portugal for me personally is the low crime rate. Not for nothing, Portugal is recognized as one of the safest countries in the world. And what else is essential for a family which brings up children?
I really like the local climate. It is not too hot in the summer thanks to the ocean breeze. And in winter, it’s comfortable enough, too. And, of course, a lot of sun!
Plans for the Future
To tell you the truth, my family and I don’t regret at all that once we decided to move to Portugal and stay here. It is a beautiful country and has many exciting possibilities for anyone who settles here.
Of course, to achieve what you want, you have to put in a lot of effort and do a lot of work. Now we are reaping the fruits of our labor. Two years after I moved here, I managed to open my own business, which today is flourishing. My travel agency is in demand not only in Lisbon but also in the entire country.
My wife has also managed to achieve great success. She is a sought-after designer, works in her field, and is very happy about it. There are many more perspectives for the children.
Portugal is a country of great opportunities. It is open to all who really want to change their lives for the better and do everything to achieve their goals.
At the moment, we are doing very well and stable. We don’t plan to leave here because everything is just fine. Our life improved, and a foreign country quickly became our home country. There are very friendly people here who are willing to advise and help.
Well, I would like to express special gratitude to the consulting agency MoveToCascais. I don’t know if we could have overcome all the difficulties by ourselves. Your help and support were essential. And for those still in doubt, I would like to advise you: do not hesitate, move, and your life will change soon!