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HomeMilitary TravelExpat Retiree Profile: Transferring to Portugal as a Single Dad or mum

Expat Retiree Profile: Transferring to Portugal as a Single Dad or mum


Sunset behind a suspension bridge

Tales concerning the adventures of American expats residing overseas most frequently function {couples} taking the leap as a group or younger singles having fun with their freedom. Should you don’t match that mildew, you’ll love Heather Proctor’s story! A single mother, she moved to Portugal along with her teenage daughter. They discovered their group, and they’re thriving in Lisbon!

On this private Q&A, a part of our Expat Retiree Interview Collection, learn how Heather’s journey after a medical retirement from america Navy introduced her and her daughter world wide, to Merida, Mexico, and eventually to their new house in Portugal’s capital metropolis!

Heather has nice recommendation for anybody shifting to what has turn out to be the highest vacation spot in Western Europe for expats and digital nomads in recent times, and she or he shares her experiences touring internationally as a single father or mother!

Contents (click on to increase)

Why did you determine to maneuver abroad, and the way did you select Portugal?

After being stationed in Japan for two years, I believed to myself “Wow, life overseas is superb in comparison with the States!”

I needed to decide on a brand new set of orders outdoors of the U.S. after I completed teacher obligation at Naval Air Technical Coaching Heart Pensacola. Sadly, I used to be medically retired earlier than this might occur.

I made a decision to journey the world with my daughter as “gradual vacationers” to see if we needed to reside the nomadic life. As a lot as we favored this fashion of touring, we each needed to have a house base someplace.

What attracted me to Portugal was the low value of residing relative to the U.S., the straightforward entry to contemporary produce, the standard of life, and the way simple it’s to journey inside the European Union (EU) and to Africa.

Lisbon was truly the primary worldwide metropolis that I ever visited. It was my first port go to whereas on deployment once I was assigned to the united statesEnterprise CVN-65 again in 2011.

After doing plenty of analysis and seeing the chances for Portuguese citizenship or everlasting residency, we took the leap of religion and moved to Portugal!

A woman and her teen daughter taking a selfie with the beach in the background
Heather along with her daughter in Portugal on the day they acquired their residency

You have been residing in Mexico earlier than shifting to Portugal. Why didn’t you agree there as an alternative?

After I made a decision to maneuver abroad, I bought my house in Florida, and we headed to Mexico to save cash for our massive transfer. We lived in Merida for 7 months, and it was top-of-the-line choices I ever made.

Your entire metropolis is simply magical! The locals are pleasant and at all times keen that will help you with something, with out you even having to ask.

There are a number of the reason why I made a decision to not settle in Merida.

One of many predominant causes was the warmth and humidity. I’ve autoimmune points, and the solar and warmth don’t agree with my physique. I can’t even depend what number of instances I’ve been out within the solar and have fallen in poor health immediately.

One more reason was that I’m at school for movie. It’s simply method too sizzling for me to be outdoors within the solar making an attempt to movie tasks for varsity and leisure.

Lastly, my daughter is in highschool, and she or he needed to attend faculty in Europe. I needed to have a house base and re-enter her into a faculty system that may put together her for faculty. Beforehand, I had been unschooling/worldschooling for five years.

Don’t get me flawed – many individuals find it irresistible in Merida. I’ll at all times come again to go to that stunning metropolis.

What did your daughter take into consideration shifting to Portugal?

After we moved to Portugal, my daughter was 14. She beloved the thought of residing in a brand new nation. She was actually open to it.

Personally, I believe she was amazed with the standard of life and the experiences we had whereas touring. She didn’t have these experiences whereas residing within the U.S.

Inform us concerning the visa course of for acquiring your Portuguese residence allow.

I utilized for our D7 retirement visa in June 2021 and was accepted on the primary try. We selected the D7 visa, however some candidates with underage youngsters go for the household reunification (D6) visa as an alternative.

I joined a terrific Fb group referred to as American & FriendsPT. That group is very beneficial, as a result of the admins and group member are up-to-date on all of the adjustments that come from VFS International (the corporate that manages the executive course of associated to visas for some Portuguese consulates within the U.S.) and the embassy. With out that group, I’m positive that my visa software and every part I wanted to submit would have been a wrestle.

It took a complete of 10 working days to obtain a reply from the embassy after my software was despatched.

A woman in sunglasses taking a selfie in front of the ocean
The gorgeous coast in Ericeira,, simply north of Lisbon

As a resident of Florida, I fell underneath the Washington, DC consulate’s jurisdiction. It’s necessary to notice that every consulate has completely different guidelines and their very own set of necessities. For instance, once I utilized, the DC consulate solely wanted proof of 6 months of housing, and they’d settle for Airbnb, Reserving.com, and so on.

(Word from Poppin’ Smoke: when making use of for a Portuguese visa, you need to apply by way of the Portuguese consulate that corresponds to your state of residence.)

The San Francisco consulate was the exact opposite. They required candidates to have a 1-year lease, and it couldn’t be from Airbnb or Reserving.com. Many candidates have been getting denied due to this requirement on the time.

| Associated Studying: Making use of for a Non-Profitable Visa to Stay in Spain

For the DC consulate, I wanted a fully-funded checking account in Portugal. I learn that individuals spent months making an attempt to open an account overseas. I took one other route, which I extremely suggest, as a result of it was much less aggravating.

There are two banks in Newark, NJ that fulfill the requirement. One is Buyers Financial institution, which is partnered with Millennium right here in Portugal. The opposite is Montepio Banco, which is an precise Portuguese financial institution. You’ll be able to go to both financial institution in particular person or on-line and open an account.

Did you want permission out of your daughter’s father to maneuver her to Portugal or for different worldwide journey?

I wanted documentation to ensure that us to use for our visas to reside in Portugal. There’s a regulation, the Worldwide Parental Kidnapping Crime Act, designed to forestall worldwide kidnapping, and the documentation is a requirement.

It was not simple, and it took a number of months for my ex husband, who has been absent from my daughter’s life for nearly a decade, to agree for us to maneuver to Portugal. However I wrote an settlement that labored in our favor, and we have been ultimately allowed to reside in Portugal.

I submitted this documentation, and there have been no questions requested once I utilized for our visa.

We’ve traveled all around the world, and it wasn’t till a latest journey to Mexico, whereas leaving Germany, that I used to be requested the place her father was and whether or not he knew we have been touring.

I informed them that I had all my documentation and that I don’t want his permission for journey, as a result of we have been already residents of Portugal, and I had our residency playing cards. I at all times make sure that I’ve a duplicate of my custody association together with notarized copies of our written settlement and my ex-husband’s driver’s license and signature.

What did it’s good to do to convey your pets to Portugal?

Bringing a pet to Portugal from america is usually a bit difficult, and it’s actually necessary that you simply time every part accurately. We introduced a canine and a cat.

A small dog lying on a bed and a white cat on its back
Heather’s pets that she dropped at Portugal

It took us time to discover a vet that was USDA accredited. Many vets usually are not accredited, and I needed to go to a different state to discover a vet that was accredited and that additionally knew methods to accurately fill out the varieties for worldwide journey.

Our animals already had vaccinations that have been nonetheless legitimate. Nevertheless, as a result of the USDA-accredited vet I discovered was not the identical vet who gave the unique vaccinations, each of my animals needed to get repeat vaccinations. Additionally, each of my animals have been rescues, so there was a slight challenge with the date that they have been microchipped.

You’ve gotten a really slim timeframe wherein to submit the paperwork: 10 days previous to journey. Inside these 10 days, your paperwork have to be stamped by the USDA and you need to obtain the unique again in hand so you may journey with it.

I needed to continually contact my vet, who needed to contact the USDA workplace, to verify my paperwork was being processed and overnighted again to me. I acquired the paperwork again two days earlier than journey.

At whichever airport in Portugal you fly into, you additionally should contact the veterinary workplace that handles importation of animals. When you arrive on the airport, you’ll go to this workplace, and they’ll look at your pets to verify they’re microchipped and that you’ve got all the mandatory paperwork to convey the pets into the nation.

It is vitally necessary to look on the USDA web site earlier than you consider bringing your pets to Portugal to just remember to meet all the necessities. Should you don’t have the well being certificates, you should have a tough time bringing your loved one pets into the nation

How does the price of residing in Lisbon examine to the U.S.?

The price of residing is extra reasonably priced than many main cities within the U.S. I can solely communicate for a family of two.

Two folks can reside comfortably off $2500 USD inside Lisbon. The price of residing is greater the nearer you’re to the town heart. Should you select to reside outdoors of the town, the lease shall be less expensive, and you can reside off $2000 USD a month.

I pay €1400 for a contemporary T3 (3 rooms) with 2 loos in a renovated constructing. The value isn’t preferrred for a lot of, however I like all of the home windows and pure mild. Plus, I’ve a number of balconies, and I even have an elevator, which many flats in Lisbon should not have.

The sun over buildings as seen from a hilltop
Stunning sundown at Jardim da Alameda Dom Afonso Henriques

Portuguese folks don’t make as a lot as Individuals do. Whereas making use of for our visas, we needed to deposit a 12 months’s price of funds in a checking account. The quantity needed to equal the annual minimal wage in Portugal.

For one grownup it was lower than €8,000, which interprets to a median wage of €665 a month. (For kids underneath 18 years previous, you need to deposit a further 30% of the annual minimal wage).

Some examples of the costs for groceries . . . A fresh-baked loaf of bread is about €0.65. Within the U.S. it will be over $2-3. A 6-pack of rooster wings is about €1.18 vs $5.23 within the States.

Good wine will be discovered for as little as €2.99 at Pingo Doce (the native grocery retailer), whereas within the States, you’ll simply pay over $7 USD for cheap-tasting wine.

Fish can be very low cost right here. Even whereas residing in Pensacola, FL, which is on the water, I’d pay about $34 for possibly three respectable items of salmon. Right here, I can purchase the complete filet (about 1.5 -2 kgs) for underneath €25.

I bear in mind shopping for just a few small potatoes, a broccoli head, onions, and tomatoes, and I spent underneath €3. Meals is extra reasonably priced right here.

Do you communicate Portuguese? If not, is it arduous to navigate day by day life?

I don’t communicate Portuguese fluently but. I’m nonetheless studying.

Having some primary data of Spanish has helped, since many phrases are the identical or similar to the Portuguese language. Many locals communicate English, particularly the youthful youngsters.

You received’t have bother if you happen to come to go to or reside in Lisbon. I’ve heard that outdoors of the opposite main cities and vacationer areas, like Porto, Sintra, and Algarve, folks don’t communicate as a lot English. The language barrier could possibly be an issue in a small city.

Did you enroll your daughter at school in Portugal?

I enrolled my daughter in Portuguese personal college. The homeschooling guidelines are strict in Portugal, and I needed my daughter to be round native youngsters to be taught the language extra simply.

Tuition is less expensive than a global college, which will be about €1800 a month vs the €466 I at present pay.

My daughter is the one American within the college, so they assist and cater to her. She is studying Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese.

Whereas she is studying Portuguese one-on-one (she is the one pupil who doesn’t communicate the language), her classmates are studying English. As talked about above, lots of the youngsters communicate English as nicely, so they assist her translate her research whereas at school.

The place do you get your well being care? Do you might have a neighborhood insurance coverage plan?

You may get your well being appointments at a neighborhood physician or the native well being clinic. I’ve a non-public medical health insurance plan that I acquired from my financial institution. I pay €16/month for 2 folks, and that’s the medium tier. It covers dental care as nicely.

In Portugal, you even have a well being providers quantity that means that you can get care on the native clinic without spending a dime or a minimal amount of cash. I’ll say that I did have to attend a number of months simply to get a well being quantity.

Issues like this take time, and persistence is a should if you reside in Portugal. I’m awaiting an appointment with a specialist, however I’ve sufficient medicine to final a number of months.

I even have TRICARE protection, for which I pay $24 USD monthly for 2 folks.

(Word from Poppin’ Smoke: navy retirees who’re enrolled in a TRICARE plan are coated worldwide. Right here’s the way it works.)

Are you working or planning to work whereas in Portugal?

At the moment, I don’t work due to my disabilities. My navy retirement is greater than sufficient to cowl the associated fee to reside in Lisbon.

I’m a movie pupil learning digital cinematography on-line, and I plan to do freelance work as a approach to keep busy within the discipline of pictures and movie.

I additionally run a group right here referred to as “Black in Portugal” with three different expats. Our group is predicated round wanting to attach the African diaspora right here and assist bridge the hole in Portugal.

A large group of friends standing in a park
Heather’s “new-family reunion” with the group in Portugal

Previous to shifting right here, I had no concept that there have been so many individuals, particularly within the Lisbon space, from former Portuguese colonies in Africa, equivalent to Angola, Cape Verde, Sao Tome, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique.

Via Black in Portugal, we now have native occasions and meetups, and we’re making a constructive house away from house group for us to thrive.

Inform us about life in Lisbon! What’s a typical day or week?

Life in Portugal for me is solely superb!

A standard week for me appears like waking up within the morning, taking my canine out for a stroll, after which having fun with the remainder of the day. I usually meet up with associates for lunch or dinner, or I’m exploring the town.

Since Lisbon is a vacationer space, there may be at all times one thing happening, and it’s a really lovely metropolis. The viewpoints and the structure are merely superb!

There are castles and previous lookout factors. Folks even joke about how one can be in San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro on the identical time, since you may seize the Sanctuary of Christ the King statue (just like the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil) and the 25 de Abril bridge (designed by the identical architect who designed the Golden Gate Bridge) in a single picture.

A suspension bridge with a statue of Christ in the background
Cristo Rei (Sanctuary of Christ) behind the Ponte 25 de Abril (April twenty fifth Bridge)

Lisbon is thought for its “Seven Hills.” On daily basis is a leg day if you happen to reside right here, particularly if you happen to reside or transit on one of many seven hills.

There’s a lot to do and see for all ages. I extremely suggest, in case you are visiting and even residing right here, to take the African Lisbon tour. You’ll be taught so much concerning the African historical past of the transatlantic slave commerce that Portugal performed an element in.

The nightlife in Lisbon can be superb. My associates and I’m going out usually to many various institutions. I’ll say that if you happen to plan to exit in Portugal, particularly in Lisbon, be ready for an extended night time. The Portuguese like to come back out after 12:00 AM and the golf equipment don’t shut till about 6:00 o’clock within the morning.

Public transport is sweet. Not solely do we now have buses, we now have a terrific metro system, and we now have a tram that goes across the metropolis. We even have a number of practice stations. Getting round could be very simple.

For €40 a month you may have a month-to-month go that won’t solely cowl transportation inside Lisbon, however to Cascais and Sintra in addition to different cities within the metropolitan protection space.

Do you might have many associates from the native inhabitants, or do you primarily socialize with different expats?

I’d say that I undoubtedly have plenty of expat associates, however I even have a very good variety of native associates as nicely.

One among my predominant objectives of shifting to Portugal was to create a group of expats but in addition to attach and kind natural relationships with locals as nicely. Dwelling out of the country, having a neighborhood good friend can go a great distance.

A couple of women posing in front of a building
The unique “OG’s” of Heather’s group that she created

How does single parenthood in Portugal examine to the U.S?

Transferring overseas as a single father or mother has its challenges. These embody, not solely elevating a baby in a single father or mother house, however residing in a rustic that believes {that a} man ought to give his consent and authority in terms of a baby.

I had points organising financial institution accounts for my daughter. I wanted permission from my ex-husband so as to take action, although I’ve custody, and I’ve documentation stating I don’t want his permission for something revolving round our daughter.

I additionally had points with organising a tax identification quantity for my daughter, as a result of the workplace needed my ex-husband’s passport and his permission.

In different elements of life, as a single father or mother to an older youngster, I don’t discover shifting to Portugal as troublesome as it will be if my youngster was youthful.

My daughter is an adolescent. She has her personal mind-set, and she or he has her personal associates. If she was youthful, I would wish to search out different dad and mom that had youngsters her age who would wish to do play dates and different issues which are kid-related for her age.

In America, I believe there are far more single mothers in additional of a group the place you may arrange play dates on a regular basis. In Mexico, all of my associates had youthful youngsters, so we’d meet up on the park twice every week. One among my associates had youngsters my daughter’s age, and that’s when she would spend time with youngsters her age.

In Portugal I don’t have any associates with youngsters which are my daughter’s age. My daughter normally simply makes plans along with her associates from college, they usually hang around on the weekends.

Right now in my life, elevating an adolescent, I’ll say that I’ve performed my greatest to show my daughter proper from flawed and to at all times to do the best factor when nobody is trying. She is a younger grownup, and she or he has a thoughts of her personal.

On the age of 18, I would like her to have the ability to stroll into life as a younger girl who has been uncovered to completely different cultures, has traveled and lived all around the world, and who has the power to make choices with out me having to inform her what to do. I would like her to have the ability to make her personal sound judgments primarily based on how she was raised and our unconventional life-style.

I believe that it’s not widespread for a girl to reside outdoors of her house nation alone with a baby. I proceed to remain hopeful, and I proceed to face my floor, understanding that I can nonetheless make the most effective choices for my youngster as a single father or mother.

What do you want about residing abroad, and particularly, about Portugal?

In comparison with america, I benefit from the top quality of life residing in Portugal and abroad. The standard of life is so significantly better, not just for myself and my daughter as Black African Individuals residing abroad, but in addition for our psychological well being.

For me the local weather in america could be very poisonous for the time being. I discovered myself depressed residing within the U.S., and because of this I needed to go away. I additionally needed to have a secure place to boost my daughter, the place I should not have to fret about her when she leaves the home as a result of she is a Black younger girl.

One other factor I like about Portugal is how simple it’s to get round.

I additionally like that lots of the meals right here should not have all of the poisonous components like they do in lots of meals within the U.S. I truly really feel significantly better once I eat right here and never bloated, as I usually really feel once I eat meals in america.

I additionally like that my daughter has a tremendous college the place she is completely happy, and she or he matches in, at the same time as a foreigner who doesn’t communicate the native language in any respect. The range right here in Portugal is superb, particularly in Lisbon.

What are a few of the challenges of expat life in Portugal?

One of many challenges is making an attempt out the brand new language that I’m studying. I discover that once I’m out in shops and I’m making an attempt to offer my NIF quantity (a tax ID quantity), I say it in Portuguese, however typically they only inform me to talk English, or they only discuss in English.

It’s form of arduous and irritating typically, as a result of if you’re making an attempt to slot in with the group and communicate the language, you form of get discouraged.

I bear in mind one time I used to be in a lamp store, and I used to be asking a query utilizing Google Translate, which isn’t at all times the most effective (it’s Brazilian Portuguese). The girl informed me that my Portuguese was horrible and that I ought to simply follow talking English. It was hurtful, however I do know that if I maintain making an attempt that I can solely get higher.

One other problem right here is discovering consolation meals that I like. There’s a retailer right here in Lisbon referred to as the Liberty Retailer that sells American objects. Nevertheless, they are often very costly. There’s additionally one other retailer in Berlin, Germany that sells American meals. You should buy them on-line, and they’ll ship to you in Portugal in 2 weeks.

Lastly, crucial factor that’s a problem is the Portuguese forms. If you ask a query, you by no means know what reply you’re going to get. It is dependent upon the particular person you’re speaking to that day.

I discover that the Portuguese are very laid again, they usually go about dealing with what you are promoting in their very own method. There’s not an accurate approach to do something that I’ve observed on this nation, so it varies primarily based on the particular person you discuss to.

For instance, after getting my COVID- 19 vaccine, to file it within the Portuguese system, I used to be given an e-mail tackle from the native Well being Heart to ship our vaccine playing cards. I saved emailing and emailing, and after a month and a half, I nonetheless couldn’t get our vaccines inputted into the applying.

I went with my realtor, who speaks Portuguese, to the native Well being Heart to search out out what was happening. My daughter wanted her digital proof of COVID vaccine for her journey to France along with her college.

Once I acquired there, they gave me one other e-mail tackle and informed me I wanted to ship the vaccine data and look ahead to them to enter it. I stood my floor and mentioned no, and I waited to speak to somebody with my realtor.

They have been capable of enter our COVID vaccine data into the system proper then and there.

Little issues like this are irritating, since you get the runaround from folks typically. I recommend you include plenty of persistence and know that the American method isn’t the one method of doing issues, particularly if you reside outdoors the U.S. Persistence is a advantage.

What recommendation would you give to anybody who’s considering of shifting overseas? Do you might have any particular recommendation for Portugal?

My recommendation for anybody wanting to maneuver overseas is be sure to do your analysis. Analysis, analysis, and do extra analysis.

I counsel you to make use of social media to attach with communities in your goal nation. Via Fb teams or Instagram, you may discuss to people who find themselves already on floor and get as a lot precious data as attainable.

Additionally, it’s good to attach with folks on a private degree in order that if you arrive, whether or not you’re on a scouting journey or shifting there, you already know at the very least one particular person.

Transferring overseas is usually scary, however I promise that it may be the most effective factor on your life and psychological well being.

Should you’re fascinated about shifting to Portugal, I recommend you come and do a scouting journey for at the very least 2 to three weeks. Some folks do solely every week of scouting, however I really feel that it’s not sufficient time so that you can scout completely different areas to get a really feel of the group.

Lastly, encompass your self with like-minded people who find themselves additionally wanting to maneuver overseas or who’ve moved overseas.

I bear in mind telling people who I used to be shifting to Mexico with my daughter, and the very first thing they mentioned was “Are you not afraid of the cartel? Are you not afraid of being human trafficked or shot at?”

They might additionally say issues like, “Mexico is so harmful, why would you wish to transfer there along with your youngster?”

I’d reply that America is simply as harmful as every other nation. There are good components and there are unhealthy components. Merida has been ranked the second most secure metropolis in North America.

Do your analysis and please don’t hearken to the naysayers. There are such a lot of completely different communities on the market for you that can allow you to make your transition and journey overseas.

I additionally wish to add that my mother came over me for two weeks once I was residing in Mexico. She was so amazed! My mother had by no means pictured herself residing outdoors of america, however one thing modified when she visited that magical metropolis.

She returned to the U.S. and bought her house, and now she resides in Merida! She is going to journey to Portugal subsequent and hopefully, it will turn out to be her house base. My mother is in her 60s, so it’s by no means too late to journey.

I even have a number of associates who’re my mother’s age and both reside in Portugal or are making the transition to maneuver right here. They’re trying ahead to residing in Portugal and residing overseas.

What are your longer-term plans? Do you propose to remain in Portugal for the foreseeable future?

My long-term purpose for Portugal is to remain at the very least 5 years so I’ve the choice of changing into a everlasting resident or a citizen. The general purpose is to have the ability to acquire an EU passport and proceed to reside in Portugal.

I don’t see myself residing outdoors of Portugal within the subsequent 5 to six years. It’s such a terrific place for me to reside, and my daughter loves it! Though she’s going to go to varsity quickly, I’ll nonetheless take into account Portugal my house.

Observe Heather’s adventures on Instagram and YouTube. Yow will discover Heather’s group, Black in Portugal, on Fb and Instagram.

* * *

Ought to YOU transfer to Portugal?

If Heather’s story piques your curiosity, and also you’re desirous to be taught extra about life in Portugal, take a look at one other expat perspective from an early retiree who moved to Portugal from the U.S..

Should you plan to go to Portugal for a scouting journey, right here’s our itinerary and ideas from our 2 months of gradual journey by way of Portugal. As Heather talked about, it’s a good suggestion to spend at the very least a number of weeks discovering the group that’s best for you.

Additionally, be taught concerning the greatest locations in Algarve, Portugal’s southern coastal space, which presents a heat local weather, lovely seashores, plus a mixture of busy resort areas and smaller cities.



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