The big things start small, and so our Portuguese story with Seryozha began with innocent conversations. Imagine the picture: two students had not even met at that time, but both of them were already cherishing the dream of moving somewhere warm, sunny and calm. It’s not that we were so bad in Russia, but I can’t stand the cold since childhood, and Sergei dreamed of having his own small business. Setting one up in my hometown was a bit scary: we had both heard enough stories about the turbulent 1990s. My friends also tried to start their own business, but nothing worked out, even though they tried.
When we graduated and started living together, it was somehow forgotten. Work, everyday life, and then a wedding and the birth of Katya, the second pregnancy, buying our own apartment, again work and everyday life. We got back on our feet, we both made good salaries. And then there was the question of some kind of investment in the future. Sergei always approaches such questions very thoroughly, so we studied a bunch of things: from buying real estate in the capital to buying stocks. And one day in conversation with a colleague, I brought up the topic of moving to Europe, which I had dreamed of a couple of years ago. And then it started to happen.
How to get a residence permit in Portugal
A colleague told me how her former classmate received an invitation to work three and a half years ago. Now they have their own small firm, a house on the ocean, and in a year they plan to apply for Portuguese citizenship. At that moment I realized that this was exactly what I had been dreaming of.
The next month we spent searching for all the necessary information on how to get a residence permit in Portugal. Even then it was decided to look for a job in Portugal and use the work visa. There are a lot of job sites on the Internet, so if you are an in-demand specialist, you will have no problems with the search.
Along with this, it was necessary to solve another important question – how will this whole move? At first we tried to figure it out ourselves, but the whole process seemed incredibly confusing. Then it was decided not to waste unnecessary strength and nerves, and refer to the immigration agency. And, frankly, not a mistake. Since then, the whole process of moving went smoothly and easily. We were immediately given a list of all the necessary documents, helped with their filing, and even found a place to stay for the first time.
If you decide to create your own startup in Portugal, there are several ways to do it. The easiest way is to buy a franchise from an existing company. Provided you invest at least 350 thousand and create jobs for five Portuguese citizens.
Moving to Portugal: from the application to the suitcase
The first job offer came to Sergei, and I dealt with the issue of work on the spot. I was issued an ordinary tourist visa, so that I could stay in the country for the first time, while I worked out my job. My husband already had a contract, so he got his work visa right away. During that time, we met people online who had similar experiences. The mood was constantly bouncing from “everything will be super cool” to “we won’t make it”. Found a forum where we occasionally chatted with other immigrants – it was a little reassuring. If they succeeded, then we can do it too.
What documents are needed to get a residence permit in Portugal
We had to run around with it, but we ended up with this:
A job offer or signed employment contract for at least 1 year.
A certificate of no criminal record.
Confirmation of funds, bank statement or financial guarantees from an employer or a resident of Portugal.
Confirmation of the qualifications stated in the job offer or employment contract.
Then we signed up in line for biometrics. This is an important step, for which we need to fly to Portugal. When this procedure is passed, you have to wait 4-6 months. We waited almost 5 months, then we got a notice that our application was approved. And the most interesting thing began: the long-awaited move to Lisbon.
Weather and Nature in Portugal
We moved here in the fall, but I was still thrilled. The climate here is much milder than in Russia, with no drastic changes in temperature. It’s not hot in the summer: the comfortable temperature is a little over +20. In winter it is not at all cold, snow falls only in the mountains. The weather is usually rainy, but you can survive it if you remember the Siberian frosts.
In Portugal, nature is amazing: next to the conifers real palms, cacti, and blooming magnolias. The view of the open ocean just takes your breath away, I fell in love with boat trips. You can see real whales and dolphins, and for fishing fans every day is a holiday. We’re not really into it, but my husband’s friends often bring us fresh fish.
Comfort and safety for all
Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world. It has a low crime rate, so the country is ideal for those who move with elderly parents and young children. My husband and I are still careful: we don’t let the girls go out alone, we don’t leave the house late at night. But cases, where something out of the ordinary happens, are extremely rare in our neighborhood. This is more the exception than the rule.
Speaking of children. In Portugal babies are very welcome in public establishments. You can freely come to a cafe with a stroller, no one will mind. There are well-equipped places for walks with children, different areas for kindergarteners and teenagers. Children’s leisure here is no less diverse than the adult’s.
What to see and do in Portugal
Lisbon was chosen not only because it was the capital. Sergei has always dreamed of spending more time on his favorite hobby: surfing. And here there are all the conditions for this: clean and safe beaches, quality equipment, schools for beginners. On the coast there are really a lot of people trying it for the first time. Very cool, although I myself am not a fan of extreme sports.
There are also routes that are famous among yachtsmen. We don’t have our own yacht yet, but who knows, maybe we will join this sport. In the meantime, just admire the sails from the shore, especially beautiful here at sunset. You can play golf, fly in a balloon, go horseback riding. My 6-year-old daughter Katya adores horses, so when she gets older, we will definitely try horseback riding. But, of course, not only sports!
The old streets of Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, and other Portuguese cities are architectural museums in themselves, but there are also unique places that are loved by tourists. Among them are castles, gardens, parks, museums, and viewpoints overlooking the ocean. If some sights we see a couple of times in our lives, I would love to settle down by Lake Sete Sides. There’s the cutest little village here where you can try real goat cheese.
As a mom, I can’t help but mention places to visit with kids. Portugal has a beautiful oceanarium and a large zoo. There are different museums, including playgrounds. A huge number of water parks, working not only in the hot summer season. For lovers of sports and creativity – circles and sections of interest.
Working and socialising in Portugal
Sergei is a talented programmer, and he is comfortable working anywhere in the world. He speaks good English, and in general this helps him make contacts with Portuguese people, too. Many of his clients work remotely with his husband, but he finds some here through acquaintance. For the first couple of years he worked quite legally, but for himself. Now he’s slowly building up his small team. Some of his colleagues, by the way, are also from the CIS. He is going to open his own LDA. This is the kind of closed joint-stock company that is convenient for Portuguese entrepreneurs.
It is a bit more difficult for me in this respect: I have studied languages both at uni and for general development. I am fluent in English and know Spanish, which, by the way, is somewhat similar to Portuguese. But the pronunciation is quite different there, and at first it was hard for me not to get confused. Of course, over time you get used to it, and a live language environment is the best teacher. But I would still advise immigrants from Russia to learn it at least at the elementary level before moving. It’s much easier that way.
I worked as an accountant in a large Russian company and I know languages, so I found a job in Portugal quickly. But I didn’t work long. Serezha and I dreamed of a boy, so in the new place I was pregnant after six months. By that time he had already started earning good money in Lisbon, so we didn’t have to worry about anything. Now I’m on maternity leave and I’m doing what I’ve been missing in my life: all sorts of handicrafts. I try to sew on the order of children’s textiles and soft toys for babies.
Surprisingly, the pay for this kind of handiwork here is not bad. In Russia, a friend who was doing almost the same thing complained about the depreciation of her work: clients would try to haggle for such a discount that she could barely make a profit. Although I am at the beginning of my big way, but with this I have not yet encountered. Although in any country, of course, there are both good, sincere people and crooks.
Portugal for children
Katusha is now in her sixth year, which means that she will soon be going to school. There are Russians, Kazakhs and Ukrainians in our neighborhood in Lisbon. We go to the same kindergarten with them, so my daughter speaks Russian with some of her peers. We are slowly teaching her English, and we all learn Portuguese together. Local kids call her in Portuguese: Catarina. At first, she was embarrassed, but now she introduces herself to new acquaintances. It looks very funny.
We chose a private kindergarten, there is one nuance: you have to wait for 9 months, and it is better to stand in a queue right after the birth of the child. While we both went to work, we had no opportunity to sit with the children myself, and I did not want to hire a nanny. As a result both girls go to a private kindergarten, but in different groups: younger and older. The daycare center differs little from a domestic one: the same toys, cribs, books, and teachers.
But they speak Portuguese with the children here, and that is a plus for us. In our kindergarten in the older group, we can do dancing, but Katya showed no particular interest in it, and we didn’t push it. If you want, you can even find Russian-speaking preschools, but we decided that it’s better for the girls to learn the language from childhood. And we speak Russian with them at home.
Alisa is almost three, she will soon go to the older group of the kindergarten. It’s much easier for her to adapt than for Katya because she was just a baby when she moved here. I try to make sure that she feels the difference between the two languages because sometimes kids babble in some crazy mixture of Russian and Portuguese and no one understands them.
Secondary education in Lisbon
Katya has just started kindergarten, and we have already looked for a good school for her. In Portugal, there are private and public schools. We decided on the first option because it is more convenient for us. But our private school is partly sponsored by the state, so the payments will be minimal. So far we have not decided which profile we will choose, because our daughter is still small and her interest in school science has not yet formed. But the good news is that it has little effect, and after 9 years in high school you can change the profile and prepare for university in the subjects that you like.
Education in Portugal is divided into two main stages. When a child finishes secondary school, he or she enters the second stage. It is already paid because it is optional. After the 9th grade, you can continue in a general school or get a specialty in technology or vocational. Employers, by the way, prefer certificates of Secondary Secondary Education, which are issued in regular schools. And afterward, it is compulsory to go to university, but my girls and I are still very far away from this, and they will choose their specialty themselves.
Pregnancy in Portugal
I have been seeing Portuguese doctors for my third pregnancy. We are in the country legally, and we have the money to go to a private clinic, so there would not be much of a problem in any case. But what I will say now is very important. If you came to Portugal illegally and got pregnant, do not panic. They are very loyal to immigrants here.
It is important to go to the nearest clinic. There the pregnancy will be confirmed and a document will be issued, which will allow you to be seen in any public or private clinics that cooperate with the Sistema Nacional de Saúde. And you do not have to pay for it at all.
The pregnancy is managed by a regular family doctor. But if there are any abnormalities, he will refer you to another doctor. At the appointments, there is a nurse, who writes down standard indicators. The doctor prescribes vitamins or refers you for tests if you have any complaints. Each pregnant woman is entitled to 3 free ultrasounds at different periods. All in all, it is very simple and comfortable, I hope that the delivery will go without any adventures. By the way, any child born in Portugal has the right to permanent residency or citizenship.
Medicine for adults and children
In order to be treated in Portugal, a foreigner must have health insurance upon entry. This is a prerequisite, otherwise, you will be treated only in emergencies. In addition, it will cover the costs. For residents, the news is better: here you need to get registered, and then in case of any ailments go to his family doctor. He will be assigned by the medical facility to which you are assigned. Private clinics are different: you can choose a doctor from among those who are willing to work with another family of potential patients.
Treatment in both private and public institutions is of very high quality. Prescribed drugs are partly paid by the state, for this there is a special labeling system. Depending on what status is assigned to the drug, you will be refunded from 90 to 15% of the cost. But this is only if it was prescribed by a doctor. Paid in public institutions only services of dentist, plus in rare cases the family doctor may ask 5-20 euros for services. Also, you have to pay up to 40 euros if you are examined.
From the obvious minuses – the queues. This is the reason why we still chose a private clinic. In Portugal, the medical staff is qualified, but there are few orderlies, nurses, and other junior specialists. Therefore, in public hospitals, people are often in a hurry, and the wards can be overcrowded. There is no such thing in private hospitals.
Now for the good: Children’s medicine in Portugal is completely free, all costs are covered by parents’ taxes. A child can undergo routine check-ups, he is given all the necessary vaccinations for his age (measles, mumps, rubella, and other standards). If you want, you can even go to a consultation on a healthy diet.
It’s important to understand that there are no perfect countries, and there are pitfalls everywhere. But still, in Portugal, Serezha and I managed to realize our dream. Now my husband will have his own business in Europe without double taxation, and our children will receive European-type diplomas and be able to work wherever they want. I do not know yet, whether I will go back to work as an accountant or devote more time to family and hobbies. But I’m sure that in a few years, we will exercise our right to get Portuguese citizenship. After all, we don’t have to give up Russian citizenship for the sake of it.
If anyone is inspired by our Portuguese story, I advise you to fly here on holiday. Even if you do not want to stay in Portugal for a long time, a flurry of emotions is guaranteed. It really is an insanely beautiful sea and nature, a pleasant climate and incredible old houses. Well, for those who also dream of moving to Europe, we wish you good luck!