Hello, all from sunny Portugal! Today we have a special story: you will learn all about working in Portugal and applying for the EU Blue Card from the lips of someone who has been through all the difficulties of the move himself. EU Blue Card is a great opportunity for you as a highly qualified specialist and for your family to get the opportunity to live and work not only in Portugal but also in any country, which is part of the European Union. Today you will learn the story of Vladislav – a young IT specialist, who two years ago fulfilled his dream and moved to Portugal.
How it all started
It’s amazing how our small actions and decisions can affect the rest of our lives. If in 2015, when I was finishing my studies in Moscow, someone had told me that in five years I would be one of the leading developers in a promising European startup, and I would drink my morning coffee admiring the endless ocean, I would not have believed it. Even now it’s hard to believe, especially when I remember this dream. But first things first. First of all, let’s go back to the day when I said to myself, “Yes!” and took the first step toward a new life.
As it was already said, five years ago I was a usual “young and promising” specialist, who was looking for my first job in the crowded Moscow market of IT candidates. Behind my shoulders, I had only a diploma from my native university and a couple of unfinished student projects. Needless to say, every interview ended with the phrase: “We will call you back”.
By happy coincidence, after two months of my search, I met an old high school friend who had been working at an “international industry giant” for a couple of years and they were just starting to recruit for a new department. Prospects for career growth are minimal, but for me, it was a perfect start. Naturally, I agreed and after only a week I received the long-awaited position of a junior front-end developer.
I worked in this position for exactly one year, and to be honest, I try not to remember this time. The endless number of small, totally unrelated tasks, low wages, and a twelve-hour working day nearly deprived me of the desire to continue doing what I love. The only thing I got out of that place was the opportunity to point out a year of development experience at a recognizable office, which forever saved me the trouble of finding a job.
I spent the next two years as a front-end developer at a small company that was building custom turnkey solutions. A separate project, a pleasant team, and wonderful working conditions. At that time it seemed to me that I found the perfect job, which I had been dreaming about lately and everything will be only better from now on, but, unfortunately, all good things come to an end sooner or later.
I will not go into details, but by the middle of 2017, we were openly told that one day we should expect the closure of the company. For me, this news was a real disaster, but we had to look for a way out of the situation. I did not want to go back to my old life, besides the Russian IT vacancy market at that time had noticeably emptied. And then the thought occurred to me, which was the key to my whole history: “Why in Russia? And indeed, what was to prevent me from trying to find a job abroad? My English is at an appropriate level, and my specialty is quite disposed of. In addition, there are noticeably more jobs in the European market.
It’s funny, but this is the question I get asked most often. And the answer is incredibly simple. There are only two reasons:
- Portugal is one of the IT capitals of the world. Every year the biggest exhibitions and summits are held there. Lisbon is also the leading city for the number of startups launched every year.
- Portugal is much cheaper than central European countries. With my extremely limited budget, this was very important.
Ups and downs
Well, the goal is set, so it’s just a question of finding a good job. It remained to find a good job, to understand all the intricacies of the immigration process, to calculate and save the necessary amount of money to find a good language course… It may sound naive, but I planned to do it all alone. Well, common sense won, and I did not bury the dream of moving to Europe under tons of literature.
The entire first month was spent reading the forums, surfing profile sites, and studying the stories of other immigrants. I increasingly realized that I could not do it alone, and more and more often I paid attention to the mention of consulting agencies. It was then, on the recommendation of one of the forums, that I met the guys from MoveToCascais.
They offered me this plan of action:
- The first thing to do is deal with the job search. Without an employment contract in hand, nothing will work out for sure.
- Further need to arrange a work visa. The choice I had was two options: visas D1 and D3. Both options give me the right to live and work in Portugal. The only difference is that in the first case, I can only apply for a normal residence permit, but in the second has the possibility of obtaining a “Blue Card” from the EU.
- When the question of the visa is resolved, I need to find a suitable place and apply for residency.
- The last step is to apply for Portuguese citizenship.
Once this plan was drawn up and talked about, we immediately set about its implementation. And the first, most important step in my path was the search for work in Portugal.
How to find a job in Portugal?
Often I come across an extremely popular question on the web, “How does a foreigner find a job in Europe?” The answer is simple – the same way you would do it in your home country.
The first thing I did, along with experts from MoveToCascais, was to put together a resume and cover letter. In theory, you can do it yourself, but be prepared to pay for the services of a translator. All information should be listed in both English and Portuguese.
The next stage is distribution. As in Russia, the most effective methods for finding a job turned out to be:
- Place a resume at a specialized recruiting agency.
- Use ordinary job search portals.
- Create a page on LinkedIn (in my case, just put me on my LinkedIn status as open for suggestions, and change my region from Russia to Portugal).
I had my first interview a week later. A representative of a small IT startup approached me through a resume on one of the portals and offered me a job as a developer. The conditions were great, but I had to say no because of one problem. The company was located in Beja, a small regional center in the south of Portugal. Of course, the country is very small and it took me a couple of hours to get to Lisbon in my car, but this was not a good option for me. I don’t drive a car, and I just wanted to try my luck in the capital.
The next offer I received on LinkedIn. This option reminded me of my very first job. Needless to say why I refused.
One last thing. The option I was offered by the recruiting agency staff. A young, growing team, an interesting project, and an office right in the center of the capital. Of the minuses, this is the lowest salary of all those offered before, but for me, at the time it was not critical. I understood that by some miracle I found almost the same job which I had been doing for the last two years, and I took it without thinking twice.
It is possible, to sum up, the intermediate results: I have the employment contract in my hands. This is, in fact, the most important stage in the move. It remained to get the visa and we could go! It was decided to opt for an employment visa for highly skilled workers and, in the future, to get an EU Blue Card.
Why the EU Blue Card is needed
Let’s start by figuring out who the EU blue card is for. A little spoiler – for anyone who can get one. The blue card is the counterpart of a regular residence permit, which gives you several advantages compared to the standard resident status, namely:
- You will have the same rights to working conditions as any EU citizen.
- If your work contract expires and you do not want to renew it, you have three months to find a new job. And you can look for it not only in Portugal but also throughout the EU.
- For you significantly reduced period after which you have the right to apply for citizenship – only 21 months. For an ordinary resident, this period is 5 years of residence in the country.
- A last nice bonus: The blue card will also simplify the immigration process for your spouse: he/she will be immediately granted residency, even without a work contract.
Doesn’t that sound tempting? I thought so too when I first studied the conditions, but there is a fly in the ointment about the process of obtaining the blue card.
Getting a D3 Visa for Highly Qualified Professionals
In order to be eligible to participate in the Blue Card program, it is not enough to obtain a regular work visa. Just for such cases, there is a visa D3 – for professionals with high qualifications. Although it sounds rather complicated, in fact, it was very transparent. To obtain it you need:
- I have an employment contract, valid for at least a year.
- My salary listed in the employment contract must be 1.5 times the minimum in Portugal.
- I must have professional qualifications related to the activities that are specified in my employment contract.
The employment issue is resolved, there are only two points left. On them, I propose to elaborate.
The wage must be 1.5 times the minimum wage in Portugal. Many people consider this requirement as something difficult to achieve, but let us look at the numbers. The minimum wage in Portugal at the time of my move was 676.67 € / month. Consequently, the employment contract should include an amount of €1000 / month. Is it a lot? Let’s turn to the average value. At the time of my move:
- The average wage in the country was 1188 EUR/month.
- The average wage for highly skilled workers was 1,430 EUR/month.
What conclusions can be drawn from this? If you are planning to get a job in Portuguese IT, this condition will not be an obstacle for you.
Possessing professional qualifications. The only problematic condition for participation in the program. You can be a great professional with years of experience in a similar position, but you will need a document that proves your qualifications in any case. The easiest option is a graduate degree. If the school you graduated from has international accreditation, nothing else is required of you. Otherwise, you may need proof of your qualifications from the Foundation for Science and Technology in Portugal.
The non-standard requirements are dealt with. Next, to the above, you need to add the standard documentation for applying for a visa, namely:
- passports (national and foreign);
- certificates of criminal records;
- confirmation of address on the territory of Portugal (from hotel reservation to rental contract);
- photo of standard format.
Once the application is submitted, you have to wait from one to three months (in my case, the process took exactly 60 days), to pick up the long-awaited visa and you can go! And if up to this day I still had some doubts, when I walked out of the airport building in Lisbon, I knew for sure that everything would work out.
Renting an apartment in Portugal
The next question I had to decide was about renting my first place to live in Portugal. Initially, I expected this to be the main expense, but I had a very pleasant discovery. It turned out that Portugal has some of the lowest rental prices in all of Europe. On average, if we consider the capital prices, renting a two-bedroom apartment in the center will cost you up to 700 € / month. In residential neighborhoods prices are even lower – you can find a good option of 500 € / month.
So how to find a good apartment? Here opinions vary. I used the services of a home search engine (something like our “Cian”). There are many similar services and they are all intuitive so that even if you do not know the language, no problems arise. The only thing that may cause difficulties is the local classification of apartments, so let’s focus on this issue.
The classification system of apartments in Portugal is really different from what we are used to. Do not count the square footage and not even all the rooms, but only the bedrooms. It looks like this:
- T0 – apartment studio. Living room and kitchen 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.
I can add from myself that if you plan to live on your own, the T1 apartment is ideal for you. It is the best option in terms of the ratio of the rental price to the final housing area. I also recommend paying attention to the description of the apartment you plan to rent. Most often rents are already furnished, but it happens differently. If the description says mobiliado, then everything is fine.
First days in a new place
The day has finally arrived when we can breathe easy and get some rest. It’s funny, but during the whole moving process, I somehow missed the moment when I went from a rainy March in Moscow to a warm Portuguese spring.
To be honest, up to that moment I had never gone beyond the Russian resorts and I just did not understand people who are ready to sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of going to the other end of the world. That day I understood everything perfectly. Unfortunately, I can’t describe in this article the feeling of walking in a foreign country, talking to completely different people, but still feeling at home. I realized that I had finally found a place where I wouldn’t want to leave.
The beginning of something bigger
And now, we’re back in the present! I’ve been living and working in Lisbon for almost two years now and I haven’t regretted my decision to move for a single day. During that time I have had a lot of changes in my life: I bought a bike, started to do sports, and even tried my hand at kitesurfing, and in just a month I plan to apply for citizenship, but that’s another story.
In conclusion, what I would like to say in conclusion: do not be afraid of bold decisions. Such seemingly crazy thoughts can lead you to a place you will never want to come back from.