Moving to Portugal with A Non-EU Family Member (e.g. Spouse or Partner)

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Written by: | Last updated on March 6, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 7 minutes
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Moving to Portugal as an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen is relatively easy. You don’t need to apply for a residency visa (e.g. the D7 or golden visa) like those from outside of the EU do: you simply need to show that you have the means to support yourself, whether that’s through a job, savings, a pension, or another form of suitable income. Once you’ve shown that, you’ll be given your CRUE (certificado de registo para Cidadão da UE/EEE/Suíça).

But what happens if you have a spouse, partner, or other family member from outside the EU?

  • Certain family members of EU/EEA/Swiss citizens (such as a spouse) don’t need to go through the hassle and costs of applying for a residency visa like the D7, D8, or even D6.
  • They can move to Portugal with their EU/EEA/Swiss partner.
  • Once the EU/EEA/Swiss family member has registered at their nearest câmara municipal and obtained their CRUE, the non-EU/EEA/Swiss person can request an appointment with AIMA (previously known as SEF) under “Article 15.”

Due to the non-EU/EA/Swiss partner technically only having a 90/180 visa, immigration lawyer Sandra Gomes Pinto recommends trying to apply for the CRUE before the 90 day period. Some councils allow this and some don’t.

Some city councils do allow you to register before the end of the three months. If that’s an option, this would be our first strategy: register the EU citizen early, so that we can then contact AIMA to arrange family reunification for the non-EU citizen” [source].

What happens after 90 days?

Sandra continues, “As long as you’ve started the process of family reunification, and can show you’ve been trying to contact AIMA to arrange an appointment, you would be able to defend yourself.”

Richole, a Chinese citizen who writes the travel website Mrs Life Blog, went through this process when she and her Danish husband, Martin, decided to move to Portugal. Martin had already obtained residency in Portugal and then Richole arrived on a family visa, which allowed her to stay for 90 days in a 180-day period. She was then able to request an AIMA appointment while already in Portugal.

The AIMA Appointment 

You need an appointment with AIMA, and getting one takes a lot of patience and, although some people manage to book an appointment online, and a lot of phone calls (for some this is in the hundreds).

Jonny KD, who moved to Portugal in 2021, recommends using a redial app rather than manually redialling. He also says not to use the words ‘family reunification’ when calling, otherwise it’s easy for the person on the other end of the line to assume you mean the D6 visa, which is for families where none of the members hold EU citizenship.

Ashley Long, who moved to Portugal in 2022, recommends following the AIMA Facebook groups to get notified of whenever AIMA releases a new batch of Article 15 appointments.

We got everything ready. NIF, apartment, etc. I’m an EU citizen so I got
the appointment for my residency card reserved at the local town hall
(wait list is several months long). Last but not least there was the SEF
call. A minor detail it would seem. Call them, make an appointment, show
up when the time arrives. My spouse is not an EU citizen so SEF should
take care of her.

So I call them. Nothing.
I call again, nothing, again, again, again …

It didn’t take long and I ran the phone on auto redial for days on end.
Only once I managed to talk to somebody feeling like we finally hit the
jackpot only to be sent to another queue which eventually kicked me out
again. I did this for weeks until we aborted our move to Portugal 🙁

The SEF officers in the various offices couldn’t do anything to help. I
tried several of them without any success. They tried to help but the
system seems to be completely overloaded.

If anything I’d advise any non EU citizen to get the SEF appointment
first or at least as soon as possible. Chances are high that this little
detail causes major headaches.

Roman

Once you do get through, it’s not unusual to be told that there aren’t any available appointments for Article 15 cases. It’s not unheard of to not be able to get an appointment within the 90 days, and many people end up overstaying their visas while they wait for appointment slots to open up. Some people have successfully managed to book appointments online, but phoning is still the more common way.

Richole made the mistake of turning up to AIMA without an appointment and ended up queuing for 1.5 hours only to be told that she wouldn’t be seen without one. She was told to either call AIMA or try to make an appointment through CNAI (Centro Nacional de Apoio a Integração de Migrantes). The next time she came back, she made sure she had an appointment.

Required Documents

Officially, and according to EU law [source], the following documents are required to register a non-EU family member in Portugal:

  • A valid passport.
  • Your registration certificate as an EU national or any other proof of your residence in the country.
  • Proof of the family relationship with you (such as a marriage or birth certificate)
  • For (grand)children, proof they are under 21 or dependent on you.
  • For (grand)parents, proof that they are dependent on you.
  • For other family members, proof that they are dependent on you or there are serious health ground requiring you to take personal care of them.
  • For unmarried partners, proof of a long-term or durable relationship with you.

While the website states that “no other documents may be requested,” in practice it’s not unusual for people to get asked for other documents from time to time. Jonny says he kept a copy of this list just in case he was asked for other documents and he wanted to challenge it.

(An official list of required documents can also be found on SEF.pt [in English] and on Dre.pt [in Portuguese]).

For Ashley Long, who had her appointment in early 2023, the following documents were needed:

  • Application form (you can get this there or bring it in already completed)
  • A valid passport (not photocopies)
  • Marriage certificate, with translation that was less than 6 months old*
  • Bank statements and current account printout**
  • NIF statement**
  • Proof of address (she used a water bill and had brought the deeds to her property just in case, but the water bill was used instead)***

* Ashley’s marriage certificate is from France, which meant that it needed to be translated but not apostilled. Jonny registered his marriage via the Finish consulate in the US rather than have to get their marriage certificate apostilled.

**Non-EU residents typically need to use a lawyer or fiscal representative, such as Bordr or other services, to obtain a NIF and, although the same requirements don’t apply for bank accounts, sometimes require assistance in opening them. Ashley obtained her NIF through her attorney who also gave her a contact at the bank who opened an account before she moved from France.

*** Rather than bring a bill, Jonny used an Atestado De Residência. While this often seen as a “more official” document, it can take sometimes take some work to obtain.

As well as Ashley’s documents, her French husband, who had already obtained residency as an EU citizen, needed to bring the following documents:

  • Valid passport
  • French residence card
  • Certificado do Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia (CRUE) or residency certificate

Ashley had to pay a fee of €21, which she was able to pay with a credit card, and her photos and fingerprints were taken there. Once the interview was complete, she was given a printout that acts as her temporary residence permit until her real residence permit arrives. This is expected to take around 2-4 weeks on average, but the actual time can vary.

After 5 years of living in Portugal, non-EU family members can apply for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.