I gradually got to the front of the queue at the VFS Global office in London. On entering, you walk through a scanner and to the front text. Honestly, I have no idea why they have a scanner. Maybe it’s for authenticity, or maybe just a prop. Either way, everyone just walked through. No checks, no beeps, and no searches.
The front desk was manned by two people. I presented a confirmation of my appointment and my passport. And, just like the deli counter, I was presented with a small slip with my appointment number on it. Directed downstairs and told to wait to be called in turn.
On arriving in the basement, there are rows of chairs facing seven cubicles. Around fifty chairs, with maybe ten free. We weren’t quite at the point of having to play musical chairs.
To the side of the cubicles is an area with several computer screens and a printer. A few people were frantically trying to print information out. I guess paperwork they had forgotten or extra information they need to provide me. Being in the basement, there is no mobile signal. But that didn’t stop people from waving their phones around to try to obtain a signal.
Tucked in one corner is a machine where you can purchase the travel insurance you required. But on the day I visited, there was a sign advising the machine was not working. It looked like the sign had been there for a while, so don’t rely on getting your insurance at the VFS office. Fortunately, I had my insurance sorted.
Forty minutes later, my number was called. I was called to cubicle two. My application handler was Signa, who is originally from Albania. Interesting name. After a quick search, it appears that Signa means “victory”. Let’s hope it’s a good sign!
Pleasantries over, and it’s down to submitting all the documents for my application. I’ve detailed below all the documents I provided. Just as a reminder, I am no expert, this is the approach I have taken. Only time will tell whether it’s the right approach.
- Official form – I completed this ahead of the appointment. I was confident that I had completed it correctly. Yep. The form was completed correctly.
- Passport – I handed over my passport along with two colour copies. The passport was checked, and one of the copies was handed back.
- Two passport photos – I had to print my full name and date of birth on the reverse of one of the photos. The other one was added to the application form.
- NIF certificate – Both sides of my NIF certificate were presented.
- Criminal record for UK – this was the original ACRO certificate.
- Request for criminal record by SEF – I provided the authority for SEF to undertake a criminal record check in Portugal
- Summary of financial accounts – I prepared a full summary of all my accounts on a separate document. This detailed each account and the balance as per the statement I was providing. This summary is not required, but it was very welcomed and enabled Signa to cross-check all of my accounts.
- Portuguese bank account – I only provided one bank statement, including all the transactions on the account, since I opened the account six months ago. I have double the minimum amount required in my account.
- UK bank account – I presented six months of bank statements for both my main UK account and a secondary account. Only the last three months were required for both accounts, and I was handed back the earlier accounts.
- Wise account – I provided a statement from my Wise account which I hold a small amount in both GBP and Euros.
- UK Savings accounts – I provided the annual statement of my UK savings account. I do not believe this is a requirement although it provided evidence of being able to financially support myself for the duration of the visa.
- Evidence of pensions – I also provided the annual statement of my private pensions. I am not of pensionable age, and it will be at least five years before I draw on this although as my savings accounts, it is evidence of my financial position.
- Tax certificate – I provided my latest P60.
- Payslips – Signa requested my payslips and employment contract. I provided payslips for the last six months. However, as I will not be continuing this employment when I move to Portugal, I did not provide my employment contract.
- Proof of passive income – I have a rental property so I provided the contact with my tenant with this income cross-referenced on my bank account.
- Valid travel insurance – I presented the certificate for my travel insurance which exceeds the criteria required. This insurance will commence from the date I leave the UK.
- Proof of travel to Portugal – I provided a copy of my Eurotunnel booking detailing the date I intend to travel, which corresponds with the date my insurance commences.
- Proof of accommodation in Portugal – I provided a copy of my lease agreement for the property I am renting in Portugal. The contract was for a full year, although commenced in May, which is before the date I travel. The contract does though have an automatic extension.
- Proof of current address in UK – While my bank statements have my address detailed, I also provided a recent bill from my energy supplier as well as my council tax statement. In addition, I provided a list of my residential addresses for the last three years.
- Personal statement – I provided my personal statement in both English and Portuguese.
- Proof of sale of property – Because I have already sold my property in the UK, I provided the completion letter and statement from my lawyer to validate the source of my savings.
- Proof of travel for the return of my passport – I need my passport to be returned before I leave for Portugal as I have a holiday booked with my daughters. Therefore, I provided a copy of the holiday booking as evidence of the date I need my passport returned.
With all the documentation completed, it was time for my photograph and biometrics to be taken. Glasses off, sit back and no smiling. Photo taken. Right-hand fingers are placed on the scanner, followed by my left-hand fingers, and finally both thumbs.
I also had to add my address to the label the courier will use to return my passport, and hopefully, my visa.
All done. Except for payment. My credit card popped into the machine, PIN number entered, and the transaction completed.
After Signa checked my application one final time, I received a confirmation printout and my credit card receipt.
Every document I handed over Signa inspected it, underlined my name and usually at least one other item on the page. For example, the balance of funds in my account or the address of my rental property.
It felt like a very smooth process. Every document I was asked for I provided. I was also able to include additional supporting evidence to support my application. Yes, I’ve probably provided more than I needed to, but I’m sure that’s a better position than not providing enough.
Overall, I was in the VFS for a little under an hour and a half. The actual appointment to hand over all the documentation was less than thirty minutes. I reckon that was swift because people who had been called before me were still in their appointments. I put it down to good preparation and having everything in order and easily identifiable.
It’s now just waiting
As I left the VFS, I felt good. If I had not torn the muscle in my back the day before, I am sure I would’ve done a celebratory dance on my way back to the train station.
The day after my appointment, I received a text and email advising that my application had been sent to the Portuguese Consulate.
Fingers crossed the next message I receive is to advise that my passport is being returned.
This has been my personal experience and while I have not yet heard whether my application has been successful, I am happy if you want to contact me regarding my approach and any questions you might have. Just add a question in the comments below and I’ll respond!
As always, I’d like to thank everyone who reads my blog. I am humbled by your interest in my little world. I write for myself and I write in the way I read. I’ve always approached this as my personal blog. I enjoy writing and helps me think things through.
Featured image used by kind the permission of Marc Najera
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Thank you. Muitio obrigado, Marc