Moving to Portugal can be complicated, especially if you’re moving from outside of the EU/EEA/Switzerland and need a residency visa (such as the D7 or golden visa) to move here. You can prepare that visa request yourself, but be warned: it isn’t as simple as ticking a few boxes. Despite this, many people successfully submit their own applications every year, while others enlist the help of an immigration lawyer.
Which is the right choice? Ultimately, the answer to this question comes down to personal choice: would you rather spend your time scraping together the information from Facebook Groups, forums, and blogs, or would you prefer to pay a professional to do it for you. It’s a choice you’ll come across multiple times in Portugal: do the paperwork yourself or pay someone else to deal with the headache.
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And it can be a headache, especially if you make a mistake and need to appeal. The benefit of using an immigration lawyer or company is that they should get it right first the time around (and if it isn’t accepted they can quickly and effectively file an appeal). Immigration lawyers deal with applications like yours every day, and know what’s likely to be accepted and what isn’t. That knowledge isn’t simply how to fill out the form, but being able to read between the lines and understand what qualifies as the right answer (and especially the right answer for that particular consulate). Yep, different consulates have different requirements. This isn’t to say that using a lawyer means there won’t be any work on your end – unfortunately, you’ll still need to gather a lot of paperwork, such as criminal records checks – but at least you know your application is in the safe hands of a professional.
Of course, the downside is that using a lawyer costs money. How much varies from company to company, depending on the amount of work needed and simply how much that particular company chooses to charge. A good estimate for the D7 legal fees is around €2,000 – €3,000. With the D2, you may also have the cost of incorporating a company in Portugal. For the golden visa, the legal fees are typically in the €5,000-€10,000 range (excluding the investment such as buying a property). These fees are normally for the first applicant and family members are usually much cheaper.
Just because a company charges more doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any better, although the ones that market heavily to prospective expats (and so have more recommendations and often better customer service) tend to be on the higher end. Unfortunately, there isn’t a comparison site where you can compare Portuguese lawyers and read reviews from previous clients. You’ll need to ask around to get a recommendation. As you’re more likely not in Portugal yet, that normally means asking in expat Facebook groups.
Finding a good lawyer
Ask on Facebook and you’ll be bombarded by messages and “recommendations”, often from people who stand to make a profit from a referral or even an employee of the company themselves. Even genuine recommendations from other prospective expats need to be taken with a pinch of salt: some immigration companies come across wonderfully during the sales pitch, but you only really find out how good that company’s customer service is once you’re a few months in. But even though some people give recommendations before they truly know whether a company is worth recommending, that doesn’t mean you should disregard their recommendation: it is a step in the right direction and you should look into the company they have suggested.
Google is another place to begin your search, but understand that just because a company ranks well in Google that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best: Google doesn’t know what that company’s success rate in processing visa applications actually is. That said, like Facebook Groups, a search on Google is an excellent starting point.
When shopping around, it’s a good idea to ask for a breakdown of the services provided and the costs involved. If you see that the company is charging €1,000 to obtain a NIF, for example, something other companies charge between €50-200 to do, this may be an indicator that they are overcharging in other areas too. Note: many companies don’t like giving a breakdown of costs, but as a potential customer you should feel comfortable politely asking for this.
Some things to consider
When choosing an immigration lawyer or relocation company, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What are the costs involved and how does the overall fee compare to other companies?
- Does their pricing for simple tasks (like obtaining a NIF or opening a bank account) seem reasonable or over-priced?
- Do they answer emails and return phone calls easily?
- Do you feel like simply another client to them, or does it seem like they’re going to go out of their way to help you?
So should you use a lawyer or just do it yourself? It’s entirely up to you.