One of the challenges of obtaining some residency visas is the need to already have accommodation in Portugal before you move to Portugal. You can’t just arrive in Portugal and then look for a place when you arrive.
Suitable accommodation can take many forms. If you’ve purchased a property, that’s definitely acceptable: you just need to show the deeds to the property. For most people, it means a rental contract. You can either travel to Portugal or find a place to rent or try and find somewhere virtually.
In the past, most people simply rented an Airbnb, often renting several months of Airbnbs and moving around the country as they decided where they wanted to settle. Multiple hotel bookings were also accepted. Unfortunately, Airbnbs and hotels are being accepted less and less, although it does depend a lot on the consulate you’re applying through. If Airbnb bookings are still being accepted at your nearest consulate, this is the easiest option, but it’s increasingly not an option.
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Another option is a letter of invitation or term of responsibility form from a Portuguese resident, inviting you to come and stay with them. This letter typically has to be notarised to be accepted and you’ll likely need to send a copy of their ID with the document as well.
Renting Through an Agency
Although a lot of Portuguese rental agents don’t like to sign rental agreements with people who are outside of the country and have never seen the property in real life, this is becoming more and more common. And, thanks to Covid-19, virtual viewings and video walkthroughs are becoming more and more common, so it’s less of an unusual request to make. Bigger rental agencies, like Remax or Century 21, will be more used to the requirements of the D7 than private landlords.
You don’t get to see the properties in real life, but you can still get a good feel for the property. Google Maps can help you get an idea for the neighbourhood as well, although be aware that some things might have changed since the map was made.
Regardless of whether you view an apartment in-person or virtually, many Portuguese rental contracts have a clause that allows you to break a contract one third of the way through, providing 120 days notice is given. As contracts are typically at least a year in length, in practice this would mean you’re able to leave the contract after seven months.
Note: Since the lease will need to be “official” (not all are) you’ll need a NIF. Bordr.io are able to arrange a NIF for €150 (or €140 if you use the code PORTUGALIST). The lease will also need to be registered at Finanças for it to be considered official.
One option is to come to Portugal on a scouting trip and to rent (or even buy) a place while you’re here and then go back and apply for the D7.
It can be a bit tricky to estimate the dates correctly and obviously there’s the cost of coming to Portugal, but the benefit is that you get to see lots of rental properties in person and find somewhere that you really like.
There is one way that you can use Airbnb to find suitable accommodation in Portugal and that’s to contact hosts to see if they’d be willing to give you a proper long-term contract (rather than the standard Airbnb lease).
The benefit of this approach is that you can find a property that has lots of great reviews and, based on those reviews, you get a good idea of what your future landlord will be like as well. Many hosts will say no, particularly if you want to do this during the peak summer season, but others will be open to the idea.