How we moved to Portugal on a Digital Nomad (DN/D8) Visa in 6 months

We moved our family to Portugal on the Digital Nomad (DN or D8) Residency visa and Accompanying Family visa in just 6 months, here’s exactly how we did it.

How to Apply for Portugal’s Digital Nomad Visa

The Digital Nomad (DN) has 2 versions: a short stay and a residency (long stay). As we were planning to move to Portugal with our dog, we opted for the residency, which is good for 2 years and renews for 3 years. The process is quite straightforward and easy to do yourself, no lawyers needed. The requirements are all online and there are tons of resources, including some rather amazing fb groups, and the VFS.Global website, which is the agency that Portugal uses to handle visa applications. That said, we are not lawyers and our method is not a guarantee. The DN visa is still quite new and the requirements may continue to change. Even during our application timeline, we heard the requirements differed depending on how the offices decided to handle/interpret the rules, i.e. San Francisco’s office was said to be stricter and treated the DN/D8 exactly the same as the D7. Please keep that in mind! Here’s how we recommend you prepare for the DN visa application.

pasteis de nata, Time Out, Lisbon, Portugal
pasteis de nata, Time Out, Lisbon, Portugal

1. Start with Planning

Tons of expats end up disappointed after moving their whole life to another country. Plus, moving internationally and the visa application’s themselves cost a chunk of change. So invest your time and energy in the planning phase: figure out your budget and what you need to live your ideal life.

Take a scouting trip and use the full 90 days of a tourist visa to give yourself enough time to feel out the vibes and find your community. On your scouting trip you can get a NIF and set up a Bank Account yourself and save that expense. Depending on your timeline, you can even try to lock down your accommodations then. As we’d both visited Portugal before and Carl had a specific BJJ gym in mind, we already knew what neighborhood we wanted to be in. Also, we had a pretty short timeline, so we decided a scouting trip wasn’t necessary.

Based on your needs, wants, and your financial ability, create an outline for your ideal moving to Portugal timeline.

2. Book your VFS appointment

One of the very first things you’ll need to do is to book your visa application appointment at the VFS office in charge of your jurisdiction. Start looking for an appointment earlier than you think: we wanted to move in October, but when we booked our appointment the earliest availability was not until December. The VFS website is also known to have some issues and during the rush to meet the NHR deadline, appointments were completely booked through the year. Likely that won’t be as much of an issue now, but it still doesn’t hurt to look earlier.

3. Prepare your Visa Application

Check the Portuguese MFA website and the VFS website for the latest requirements. These are things we included in our applications – we’ve got a handy printable checklist here.

Documents for the Digital Nomad (Residency) Visa

  1. National Visa Application: make sure to format all dates as Day – Month (letters) – Year, i.e. “15-Dec-2023”.
  2. 2 Passport photos: we submitted regular U.S. sized passports.
  3. Passport
  4. Notarized copy of passport
  5. Sealed FBI Criminal Record
  6. Permission to the Dept of Borders and Customs for Criminal Record from Portugal
  7. Personal Statement
  8. Travel Health Insurance: Swisscare
  9. Proof of Employment: letter and paystubs and latest invoice
  10. Accommodations: rental contract and latest rent receipts
  11. NIF
  12. U.S. & Portuguese Bank statements
  13. Tax Returns
  14. Print out of intended flight itinerary (one way)
  15. Official Copy of marriage certificate
  16. Domestic money order

Documents for the Accompanying Family Visa

  1. National Visa Application
  2. 2 Passport photos
  3. Passport
  4. Notarized copy of Passport
  5. Sealed FBI Criminal Record
  6. Permission to the Dept of Borders and Customs for Criminal Record from Portugal
  7. Personal Statement
  8. Accommodations
  9. NIF
  10. U.S. & Portuguese Bank statements
  11. Apostille marriage certificate
  12. Travel Health Insurance
  13. Print out of intended flight itinerary
  14. Domestic money order
Porto, Portugal
Porto, Portugal

A couple things are more time sensitive or take the most time:

  • One of the most fun and stressful parts was locking down our 1 yr rental contract – the rental market is competitive. We worked with a wonderful realtor, Natalia, to help us look since we weren’t in Portugal to physically check on the listings. You can reach out to Natalia Fox via her email:
  • There’s a few companies that can help you get a NIF & Portuguese Bank Account while outside of PT, we used Bordr.
  • Criminal Record from FBI: left sealed (for some offices) or apostille (by US Dept of State). Takes a few weeks to get and is valid for 6 months.
  • For the Accompanying Family application, one of your copies of marriage certificate should be apostille (by the state that issued your certificate).
  • Wait to get your money order until just before your appointment in case of the pricing (currency conversion) change.

Check out our handy timeline to make sure you accomplish everything at the right time.

4. Attend VFS appointment and submit application

Print and organize all of your paperwork. We also scanned everything and saved everything in a Google Drive folder as a back up. Our appointment was in the San Francisco office and took under an hour itself but our appt was delayed a couple hours due to understaffing. You don’t need to arrive too early to your appointment as the security folks won’t let us in more than 10 minutes prior.

Once you get into the room, the VFS agents will provide a checklist for the order they want everything in. The order changes every once in a while and some of the Facebook groups are good for finding the most recent checklist or money order amounts. Note that my Digital Nomad checklist and the Accompanying Family checklist were different checklists and had slightly different orders. You can submit your passport with your application, however there have been stories of passports getting lost, so to minimize the risk, it’s recommended you hold onto your passport until the visa is actually approved. As we had no travel plans, and were too lazy to make a second trip to San Francisco, we submitted ours with our application for efficiency.

5. Wait for visa approval

Waiting for your visa approval is the hardest part because there’s no real-time tracking. The Americans & FriendsPT facebook group has an ongoing visa approval tracker which is probably the most accurate resource for any sense of timing, but everyone’s situation and therefore application may differ.

We waited with no news for around 45 days, when finally Carl received an email asking for proof of familial ties. We immediately resent our marriage certificate, asking if that was what they wanted. No reply. Over the weeks we took turns emailing inquiring but they said while mine is approved, Carl’s was still being processed. It wasn’t until Carl was refreshing our UPS tracking one day and saw that the status had updated and my visa was scheduled to arrive the next day and his the following Monday that we realized our visas were finally approved. We waited a total of 62 days, though if they had not asked for the marriage certificate again, they could have just approved it in 45 days.

Once you get your visa, double check the details and make sure everything is correct. Once you have the visa in hand, you can continue with your plans, purchase flights, and apply for the baggage certificate, which is highly recommended if you will be traveling with a ton of luggage or if you’re shipping with certain companies. Plenty of folks have traveled, including us, with lots of luggage and did not get stopped or questioned, but Portugal is also known to be quite strict about charging import taxes and could slap you with a penalty.

Importing our dog from the U.S to Portugal

With visa in hand, you can start the process for your pup! Because there are timing restrictions, it’s best to do this process AFTER you already have the visa, otherwise timing can get really stressful & costly. We’ve included a detailed, printable checklist and timeline in our handy kit.

Kaka moved from Bali to the US while a puppy, so she had some experience traveling, but it was still rather traumatic for her despite the smooth trip. We also had some experience with international health certificates when we prepped for moving to Japan, but the EU is much simpler. Make sure to check the most recent requirements yourself. Here’s how we got our dog Kacang ready to move to Portugal.

1. Transportation

Determine how to transport your dog to Portugal depending on your dog’s size and breed, the airline, and your financial ability. Flying on an airplane can be really stressful for dogs, so try to keep the trip as efficient as possible. Take a direct flight and the shortest flight you can – you may consider driving with your pup and leaving from a different airport. A direct flight is important because most airlines won’t allow pets on any codeshare flights, meaning any flights that are operated by multiple airlines. Call the airlines directly to inquire about your options.

We flew TAP as they had a direct flight from SFO to LIS with Kacang as excess baggage. Very few airlines will allow anything larger than a 20lb dog in cabin, so most of the time, dogs will have to go into the hold. This is a separate area from general luggage and is climate-controlled and pressurized.
Regardless of where you pet goes, with any commercial flight you’ll need to get an airline approved crate. At only 40-45lbs, Kaka isn’t so big, like a smedium dog, but the crate was size L, so I can imagine it’s quite difficult to find crates for larger dogs. Give yourself plenty of time to crate train and crate water bottle train your dog.

That said, if you have a much larger dog or one that has special considerations, you might look into a pet charter. This will set you back a very, very pretty penny, but for those who can manage it, using a private airline will allow you to fly with your dog in cabin next to you. At the time of researching, the average costs were anywhere from $10,000-20,000 and that would cover the cost of 1-2 pets with one person. Keep in mind there are limitations on where you can take off and land in. Another consideration is that they may check your luggage more closely. That was the one question the customs agents asked us when we came through with our 10 boxes of luggage: whether or not we flew commercial.

2. Health Check

Schedule your Health Check appointment for a vet that can issue International Health Certificates within 30 days of your intended travel date. Because international health certificates are such a pain, less and less vets are doing them, so finding a vet may take longer than you think. The vet we used last time when prepping for Japan no longer did them the following year, so we ended up with yet another brand new vet, United Pet Hospital in Hayward, to do the health check for Portugal.

At the health check you’ll go over the requirements and get or schedule any necessary vaccinations. One of the more recent requirements from the EU is to have a microchip certificate, which is not so common to have in the U.S. Luckily for us, when we adopted Kacang in Bali, we were given a certificate with her microchipping. If you don’t have one, you can ask your current vet to make one, attesting that the microchip in your pet is the one they are scanning.

3. USDA Certified

Depending on the vet you use, either they or you will have to mail in the Health Certificate to USDA to get it stamped. The USDA endorsed certificate is valid for 10 days. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to travel during its validity, you’ll have to redo the endorsement, and possibly the health check appointment as well.

4. Notify Portugal Airport Vet

At least 48 hours prior to your flight, you must email to notify the appropriate airport vet of arrival. This is to ensure there is a vet available when you arrive. Send an email with your arrival info (we’ve got a template) and the following documents:

  • USDA endorsed health certificate
  • microchip certificate
  • rabies certificate
  • Portuguese dog import form
  • proof of payment (if you prepaid)

After emailing the Lisbon airport vet ( we received an email stating the cost of the fee, 40,52€, that could be paid by bank card or transfer. Because we already have a Portuguese bank account for the DN visa, we did a transfer so that we wouldn’t have to worry about another thing on that day.

5. Prepare for & flying with Your Dog

Print out a copy of everything because you’ll also need to show the papers at the airline checkout counter when you check in your dog and having the papers in hand will make the appointment with the airport vet faster. Flying with TAP, we were asked for the exact documents and the flight attendant simply took photos of all the papers – but check with your airline as some will have their own separate requirements.

Arriving at the Lisbon Airport

Upon arrival, we picked her up from the oversized baggage area, which is at the end of the luggage claim just before exiting, to the right. You’ll go down to the end of that hall where the locked double doors where the airport personnel will bring in the special luggage. We waited almost an hour for them to bring out Kacang. Then we went directly across the luggage area to the airport vet office, where they scanned her microchip, looked at the paperwork and wrote us up a certificate to show to customs on the way out. And that was it! We walked through customs and showed them the paper and they waved us through.

Portugal arrival with all our luggage
Using Airport Wexperience as a Porter Service

We used as a luggage porter service to help us get all of our bags off the belt and to the car. They came recommended on the Facebook group, but I thought they were a full service company. When I emailed them for an estimate, I specifically requested a quote for the luggage and the transport service to our apartment. I misunderstood their response when they said I “could contact their driver” and didn’t realize I SHOULD contact and needed to book their suggested driver separately (and that it was a separate cost). In the end, everything worked out and it was nice to have a team waiting for us and ready to help us talk to airport personnel to inquire after our dog when we were waiting a while, or to walk with us past customs, but it felt like quite an expensive service for what it actually ended up being.

They charge by the bag, so if you’re carrying some bags yourself (like backpacks), don’t include that in your inquiry with them, just let the driver know directly how much luggage you have so they know if it will fit in their car. The distance between the luggage belt and the exit to passenger pick up area is less than a 5 minute walk, so we wouldn’t recommend the service unless you have a ton of luggage.

In the end, everything went as smoothly as we could have asked for. So with a bit of legwork yourself and a heap of patience, moving to Portugal on a Digital Nomad visa (with your partner and dog) can totally be done in pretty quickly. If you’ve got questions on how to fill the form or are wondering about the cost of our move we’ve put together a handy info guide that includes a detailed checklist, timeline, costs, document templates and extra moving tips. We hope by sharing our experience, it will encourage you to take the leap and make moves.

Carlienne in our new home country, Portugal


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