We arrived in Portugal mid-COVID in September 2020, when the borders were open and it was safe to make the move, and one of the first things we did was to register for Portuguese residency at the Estremoz town hall.

The Camara (town hall) is a beautiful building set at the top of the main Rossio square, and we presented ourselves at reception armed with our passports, NIFs and the deeds (escritura) of the property we purchased.

I don’t think they have too many foreigners asking for a Certificate of Residencia as the guy on reception seemed a little flustered and had to call around to find out which department we needed. Luckily we arrived just as they were all heading off for coffee, so our documents were quickly photocopied and forms signed, which they said would be filled out later. We would receive a visit from the police followed by a phone call to say our certificates were ready for collection.

Now I understand that the procedure for residencia (or CRUE) differs at every town hall across the country, and sometimes it works in your favour to live in a small town where things are more informal – and sometimes it can be more complicated too:

Pro – we didn’t have to show proof of income or funds in the bank
Con – two weeks later we were still waiting…

The GNR country police paid us a visit the next day to check I lived at the address given, my date of birth, contact telephone number and work status…err…? “Housewife will do,” the officer informed me. And how about my husband’s details? No, they only had a request for my CRUE, not my partner’s. OK, so giving them the benefit of the doubt (maybe they only vet the details of some applicants…), we waited two weeks before returning to the town hall.

We had no copy of our application forms, but went to the same office to let them know that it had been two weeks since we applied and were our certificates ready by any chance? Apparently, they have to be signed by the mayor of Estremoz but in most places across the country this only takes 24 hours. So an internal phone call was made to the mayor’s office, and they confirmed that we had to wait for the phone call J

Next day, the GNR called again to check my husband’s details this time—and the day after that we got the call to say the certificates were ready to collect and please bring €15 each. Yay!

So we returned a third time, paid and collected the documents and we now have temporary residency in Portugal for the next five years – and this entitles us to the same rights and privileges as a Portuguese citizen.

Note: Since the UK left the EU at the end of 2020, we have registered our certificates online at the specially created SEF Brexit website and now wait to be called for an appointment to get our biometric card (fingerprints, photo etc.)—I believe that also happens at the local town hall J

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