Colorado, US of A

Ok, so I’m back in the US of A after 18 months.  My current long-term plan is to get a visa to move to Portugal.

Breckenridge, CO

Why Portugal?  Portugal is an incredibly laid-back country.  One day, I saw a bus stuck at a corner, unable to make the turn because someone had parked their car on the side of the road and ran off to do something.  The bus was half way around the corner before the driver figured out that he couldn’t make the turn.  With the bus blocking the intersection until the parked car was moved, all traffic stopped.  Guess what happened next.  Nothing.  No honking or yelling.  Everyone just waited.  Except for the bus passengers who decided to walk the rest of the way to their homes instead of waiting.  Like I said, laid-back!

Also, the cost of living in Portugal is half of the cost of living in the US.  A meal in a restaurant cost half.  A house cost half, on average.  Gas costs double (so stop complaining), but eggs and bread cost half.  I can go on, but let’s just say that wine cost 1/3 the cost of wine in the US! 

To get a visa, I must hand deliver my application to the Portuguese Consulate (actually, a contractor, but…) in San Francisco, CA.  The application isn’t difficult, but it is confusing because the instructions are written to cover every possible scenario.  I have to pick through them and find what applies in my case. 

The first thing I didn’t understand (about the visa process) was that getting an appointment with VFS Global, the contractor for the Consulate, was going to be the hardest thing to do.  I thought no problem, I could get an appointment in November.  My appointment is on January 9th.

Then the Portuguese authorities want 90 days to process the application, which seems fair but pushes my arrival in Portugal to April.  Another ‘long pole in the tent’ is the taxpayer identification number or Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF) and a Portuguese bank account.  Both are required for my application, and I paid an online company to get both while I was in Portugal.  Not hard, but not easy.  Everything was in Portuguese, including the bank’s website.  I couldn’t change the language setting until after I had everything set up… could have been the first thing, but it was the last.

Fannette Island, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Next, is the FBI criminal background check which I thought would take a long time, but turned out to be pretty easy.  That is, it’s easy enough to do in the US, but difficult to do outside the country.  I went online and applied, paid my $18 fee, then registered to get my fingerprints taken digitally with the USPS.  I did that from Munich, just so it had a few days to percolate before I got to the Post Office back in Denver.  At the post office, I paid a $50 fee to use their special No-Ink machine for fingerprinting.  The FBI said it would take a week or two, but by the time I was back in the car, my FBI check was complete!  Got to say, it was pretty easy. 

Only problem is that the FBI check has to be Apostilled by the State Department (an Apostille authenticates the document for foreign governments according to a 1961 treaty).  And the apostille can take up to three months.  That’s bad since the FBI check can be no older than six months.  But there is an exception!  The Portuguese will accept the FBI check as-is if it is in the original, unopened envelop.  I was worried about what the FBI would find—bad time to discover something is while sitting in the consulate—but I didn’t need to be.  I got a PDF copy of the report right away, so no surprises.

Lake Tahoe

Now, while I’m waited for January 9th, I am collecting financial documents and filling out the two (2) forms that are actually required.  It’s all part of the “don’t be a burden” clause: show that you have money, health care, and a place to live.  Copies of military retiree account statements and bank accounts.  A certification letter from TRICARE.  TRICARE is like insurance for military, but is actually a “benefit plan mandated by Federal Law.”  Sure.  So, like health insurance, but just that little bit less good we’ve come to expect from the government.  Yet, it is accepted by the Portuguese, so I won’t have to pay hundreds for a travel insurance plan.  Then, I rented an Airbnb for six months starting on the day I plan to arrive in Portugal.  If I had relatives or friends in Portugal, I could live with them… But my family and friends are just not very accommodating.  And you know what they say about fish and house guests…

Like I said, it’s all pretty easy, just a bit confusing for the uninitiated.  I’m hope I won’t have to retract that statement on January 10th.

With three months to kill before my January appointment, I needed something to do and bought a Vail Resorts Retired Military Ski Pass for $170.  Thanks!  I spent six weeks in Colorado.  I got a few days of skiing in at Breckenridge before the price of lodging tripled.  Then, I moved to Lake Tahoe for a few weeks (again before the prices spike for the winter season), and a few more days of early season skiing.  Next, I’ll go to San Francisco!

Waiting for the train from Reno to SF.

It’s all good fun, but my bank account is crying.  Paying five months of lodging and travel up front really hurts.  I am looking forward to having a few months where the bills are already paid.  Can’t wait to get somewhere with half the cost of living.

I am also looking forward to having a home base in Europe.

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