Immigration lawyer to help establish residency: pros and cons?

Hello, fellow expats-

My husband and I recently arrived in Lisbon from Mexico, and we're looking forward to our second expat adventure here in Portugal. We're signing a lease on an apartment in the next few weeks, and beginning the process of establishing residency.

We are both American citizens, but my husband has dual US/UK citizenship (his mother was English). 

We got an estimate from an immigration lawyer to handle the residency process, and it seemed quite high to me. Perhaps naively, we're thinking of handling the residency request ourselves, but I'd like to hear about pros and cons or potential pitfalls of doing so first (and maybe find out if the lawyer's estimate was indeed on the high side, or if 1500€ is normal for 2 residency permits. Nothing is more expensive than disappointment!).

We handled most of our own residency visa obligations ourselves in Mexico, where we lived for 8+ years, but of course, every country is different and I'd love to hear about your experience here.

In particular, if there are any other couples out there with one EU citizen and one non-EU, I'd love to hear from you :-)

Many thanks,

Hi Missy,
I'm also looking for an apartment in Portugal,especially in the east Algarve (Tavira)
I just called the portuguese Ambassade in Romme and they gave me the name  and ph number of an italian lawyer which has an office in Lisbon to help new residents to get all the papers necessary
to apply for a residency in Portugal.
I'm sending an email to him right now and he will reply to me within 1 days to answer to all my questions regarding me and my wife and,how much he will charge us for his work.

I will let you know asap his answer on this matter.
Ciao from Italy

Hi Missy,

Save your money!!! Generally speaking, unless you have a complicated asylum case or something, you either qualify for residency, or you don't. Assuming you do, a lawyer is simply going to work as an overpriced secretary. Unless your time is worth more than 1500€, my advice is that you do it yourself. And remember this, that price is for only ONE residency permit - as an EU citizen (still), your husband doesn't even need one.

In our case, I am American and my wife is Brazilian, with four girls at home, born in Brazil, Slovenia, and Portugal. So our situation is not quite the same, but maybe the loose thoughts in my head will be of some use. I am NOT an attorney, so know that my counsel comes with no guarantees, but I have lived in several different countries, including another EU state, and probably have more experience than your average Joe with such things. In this group though, maybe that is not very unusual...

Portugal actually has a negative growth rate right now, and is very accommodating of foreigners that want to live in Portugal and spend money, especially if you bring that money with you!

In the case of your husband, since he is an EU citizen, he has a right to live in Portugal simply by choosing to do so. He should obtain a NIF (tax ID number) from Finanças, and register at the Freguesia, but I am pretty sure he does not need to even notify SEF. He is, by agreement, "essentially" already a citizen. However, YOU do need to obtain proper residency. As a UK citizen, I'm sure your husband could sponsor you for residency in the UK, but not sure whether or not he can sponsor you to live in another EU state. If so, that would probably be the simplest avenue. Definitely an appropriate question for SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras).

Let me clarify something that many seem to not fully understand - forgive me if you already know. EU citizens from one country can freely move to another EU country and take up residency there, but simply having legal residency in one EU country, as a non-EU citizen, does not allow you the same freedom. Essentially, you are a "ward" of Portugal until you obtain citizenship. As such, even once you have a título de residência from Portugal, you will still be required to show your passport to travel by air to other EU countries. Your Portuguese ID card will not be sufficient. (I travel a lot for work). Your husband will have to show some sort of national ID, but it does not actually have to be a passport - because he is an EU citizen.

Are either you or your husband employed in Portugal? If so, an employment contract, with a salary that meets the minimum requirements (very low), and you are set. As long as you find employment, you can obtain residency (my case). Alternatively, if you are retired with adequate pension income, or have some sort of income from a business (even if it is in another country), you are also good. I don't know all the details in such a case, but I do have some American friends that were (recently moved back to the US) essentially self-funded. If that is your case, I might be able to put you in touch with them to learn more. Also, Portugal has been granting "Golden Visas" for a few years now, to anyone that purchases property for at least 500,000€. I think that you have to actually use your funds for that, and that financing doesn't count. This avenue certainly doesn't apply to me!

Unlike US immigration services, SEF does not bite. Don't be afraid to call them with questions. Your título de residência will cost about 180€. The first one is good for one year, and subsequent permits are good for two years. After five years of legal residency (of any kind) you can apply for permanent residency. After six years of legal residency, you can apply for citizenship. I am not aware of any requirement for permanent residency before obtaining citizenship, just any form of legal residency (even a student visa counts). From what I understand, most apply straight away for citizenship at the five year mark, as the process takes some time. I don't fully understand how the gap year is covered, but from what I understand, as long as something is in process with SEF, you are good to remain. You can also leave and reenter, as long as you have an appointment with SEF, and the appointment sheet to prove it. This actually happened with us when our older girls went to Brazil to visit their "other" dad (they are actually my step-daughters). We were unable to obtain an appointment with SEF prior to them leaving, and our residency permits were to expire before their return. I called SEF to ask how to handle it. "No problem, make the appointment for the first available date, then when that date is approaching, call to reschedule." Then I just emailed the appointment confirmations for them to reenter the country.

I'm sure I haven't opened the heavens and clarified the whole world for you, but hopefully that helps in some way. If you have any further questions that you think I might be able to help with, fire away. I'm always happy to steer you in the right direction when I can, and not afraid to say "I don't know" if I can't.


Many thanks, Shane, for your thoughtful and thorough response!

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hello how are you well i can advice you  is better you go to  CANI   you can get  better  help  from  them or immigrants  is a organisation may be they can help you and because they have there own lawer for helping expat

thank you


Hi Shane

I picked up on this post recently as myself and my husband are moving to Portugal in January 2018. I am the one with the pension and was told by our Portuguese Consulate in South Africa to be the applicant and that once in Portugal we go to SEF and I apply for my husband on the grounds of "family reunification".

I see you mentioned that income from any source is also acceptable, well my husband will be earning money from his business here, so I am now a bit confused as to why we couldn't apply as a married couple and not have to go through the "family reunification" process. Oh well can't go back and redo everything now.

You mentioned that you have a friend who lived in Portugal and was self sufficient. Would you be kind enough to ask him to contact me on any information that he can share with us.

I would be most grateful.

Olá PetalinPortugal

We are relocating to Portugal as a couple using separate Own Income Visas. We are non-EU citizens and our migration lawyer will be processing our applications separately e.g.  fiscal ID. Other matters like opening a bank account will be as a couple. We gave our migration lawyer our POA to help with the fiscal matters. Hope this helps.


Hello Musefaery

Thank you.

Hi Missy

Portuguese Law is extremely complicate and complex.

Applying directly for residence or Golden Visa will be a Headache to you.

The amount is perfectly normal, my husband that lived in America paid 3.500 € and took 2 years.
I strongly recommend you not to do it yourself



I am an America citizen married to EU citizen who has her resident citizen registration . I talked with an SEF agent to obtain resident registration and was told our American Marrage Certificate was no acceptable because it was not an EU Marrage certificate. We have been married and have lived in the USA for 20 years. Our Marrage certificate is registered and officially stamped as a true copy. Our primary residence is Portugal. We have purchased a home. Have income, tax numbers etc. how do I get SEF to accept our Marrage certification?

Hi all, I am interested to find out the bit about self funded residence option in Portugal. Myself and my husband both are running businesses and would like to relocate to Portugal. I looked at self employment visa, is it hard to apply? Or should we start a company (branch) in Portugal and employ ourselves as sole representative of the company? We are both non EU.

Kindly share your experience please!


Hello Fred

According the Portuguese Embassy in my country, any government (public) documents (e.g. Criminal Certificate, Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, etc) should be notarised by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then apostille by the Portuguese Embassy in my country. The apostilled document will then be recognised and should be accepted by the SEF.

All the best!

What a terrific and timely thread, though it's raised as many questions as answered.  Can anyone recommend an immigration lawyer? 

I'm currently base in the US, so assume a lawyer based in the US would be preferable though I'm open to Portugal based if that's the best option.

Hi Eddie

I can recommend you my Visa Gold Lawyer.

Give some details about your intentions and I talk with him.

He has done for me and my friends several ViSAS process.

You did assume wrongly because any lawyer in USA can do the VISA GOLD process in Portugal.
It has to be done locally with the official Portuguese Institutions.

Send me your contacts – email, name and mobile -  by personal message and Ill introduce to him and help you in Portugal

Best Regards

Okay- sent you a dm

whats  a DM ?

DM = Direct Message

That's what the kids tell me at least ;-)

Many Thanks Eddie, my kids  are already grown

Hi! I am also looking for a reputable lawyer. I have two questions: if I go the self-funding visa route, is a certain amount of money in my U.S. account enough, or does it have to be in some sort of retirement fund or trust fund?

Additionally, I am a U.S. citizen and a Brazilian citizen. I need to know if I need police reports from both countries.

So anyone have a good lawyer or firm they can vouch for?


1 st question - U.S. account  is enough ;
2nd question - yes, i Think y need police reports from both countries.

I recomend you contact the office of a Lawyer in Lisbon

Please contact me my email

Thanks, Cristina! I couldn’t find your e-mail, so I PMed you!

Macunaima :

Thanks, Cristina! I couldn’t find your e-mail, so I PMed you!


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Do you know how can i send you a Direct message?



Yes Cristina: via ***

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Please do not post any contact details here on the open forum. Use the message system for this.

Unfortunately, Expat doesn’t t allow  which I consider to be a perfect violation of the rights, freedoms and guarantees of citizens

Hi! Are you pleased with your migration lawyer's work? If so we'd love his/her name and email. We are a US couple, self-employed/-sufficient, with two daughters considering relocating to Lisbon and are keen to know if we could get a residency visa. Many thanks!


Hi alex,

I've sent you a PM with the website link of a very good immigration lawyer here in the Lisbon area.
They are very experienced and well versed in the area.

Many thanks!!!!!!

Hello folks,
Me and my family are thinking of moving to Portugal. I am American but my wife is an Asian citizen so that may complicate our immigration process to Portugal. Any suggestions on a good immigration lawyer to help with the process?
I don't have enough money to quality for the investor visa but have enough saved up for a smooth transition and settlement. How much does it generally cost to hire an immigration lawyer? Zeke.

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