Posted in Portuguese

Gooble Gobble

Está muito frio aqui em Aylesbury, e sinto o tempo ainda mais porque ontem estive no Porto. Fui para pedir a cidadania portuguesa. Como alguns de vocês já sabem, a nossa família é anglo-portuguesa (ou seja luso-britânica). Não votámos para aquela tolice do Brexit mas quer queiramos quer não, parece cada vez mais inevitável que vai acontecer portanto todos nós ingleses casados com estrangeiros temos de pensar no futuro. Ninguém sabe precisamente o que vai acontecer, nem sequer a Primeira Ministra.

Eu e a minha mulher decidimos que o melhor plano de acção era obter dupla cidadania para todos nós. Portanto, ela está a pedir atribuição de “settled status” (estatuto de residente permanente) e eu e a nossa filha vamos tornarmo-nos portugueses. Depois, venha o que vier, ficaremos juntos e se Deus e o partido conservador quiserem, teremos mais opções do que teriam tido senão.

Pôr o processo em andamento foi um desafio. Foi muito acidentado, e encontrei alguns funcionários pouco simpáticos mas afinal, o Porto é uma cidade lindíssima, e adorei o meu pesadelo burocrático no paraíso. Acabei por ficar lá mais um dia. Um homem muito prestativo ajudou-me. Ainda não marquei golo, mas a bola passou por cima do guarda-redes e está quase através da linha do golo*

Tenho sentimentos mistos sobre isto da dupla cidadania. Não é algo que consideraria antes do Brexit, mas sinto-me confortável com a decisão, apesar disso. É a terra da minha esposa. Falo a língua (mais ou menos). Gosto da música, a comida, adoro a literatura. Claro não sou literalmente português, mas espero que cada dia que passe, merecerei a honra de dizer “eu sou português”

*There y’go, a futebol analogy – I’m half way there already!

Posted in English

Applying for Dual Portuguese Citizenship

Updated 12/3/19 in light of what I learned in Porto

15/01/2022 – there is a sequel to this post that is worth reading since it has some important updates about payment methods.


Well, it looks like some people voted for a national act of self-harm and those of us whose families straddle more than one country need to think about planning for the future. In our case, we’re doing that by applying for dual citizenship (me, daughter, both currently british) and leave to remain (Mrs L, Portuguese) to ensure we’re all in the same boat and can act together in future if some future government decides to make life properly difficult for EU citizens or punish them financially or it becomes difficult to live and work in the countries we used to be able to move around in freely, all thanks to the actions of a bunch of divs who didn’t do the homework before getting into the voting booth.

I thought I’d write down the steps here in case it’s helpful. I’m going to focus on UK citizens living in the UK. If you’re an expat, you’re pretty well covered by other sites like this and of course if you’re Portuguese in the UK there’s a lot of info here.

The obvious point first of all is that it’s almost certainly going to be easier while we’re still in the EU than it would be after we leave and britain is towed across the ocean to be moored off Mar-a-Lago or whatever these idiots have in store for us. In other words, if you’re reading this, you’d better get your skates on.

Basic Approaches

Have a think about how you are going to submit your applications because that will determine some of the later choices you make. Options are:

  1. Go to the consulate in London. If at all possible, avoid this option.
  2. By mail. This is obviously a bit slower and you’ll have to figure out the logistics of how to get your documents validated unless you are mad enough to post the originals, which I don’t recommend, but if you can suss that out, this might be the least hassle option.
  3. Visit Portugal itself. Obviously this is the most fun option because you’ll be in Portugal, and the offices shut 3 hours before the bookshops and about 7 hours before the restaurants so you’ll have plenty of time to unwind.
    Several towns have offices where you can register. I think the smaller the town, the less time it takes because Lisbon and Porto are already swamped with Brazilians, Venezuelans and Brits. Presumably Faro has a massive backlog of “expats” too. Book a few days away. Maybe one for any preliminaries (say, get a NIF, meet with a Translator if you have any documents being translated) and leave two days for the process itself in case you have any problems with that and need to follow up.

Length of marriage

You need to have been married for 3 years to use the marriage route so if you’re not already hitched, tough (but there are other routes you can use – see below). If you got married in the UK, make sure the marriage is registered at the Portuguese consulate too. You will probably have done this if your other half updated their citizen card with a new surname. It’s slow and awful because it involves the consulate. They require all the same documents as described in this blog post, plus you’ll have to use their bloody awful online appointment booking, both turn up in person, and deal with various indignities.

Payment

The cost for an adult is €250. When you go to download the forms (“modelos”), there’s a big warning up front. Translation:

IMPORTANT WARNING

Applications that are not accompanied by the required payment will be rejected outright with all the documents. If payment is made by cheque, it must be a certified cheque or bank cheque issued in Euros from a company with representation in Portugal to the order of “IRN, IP” [this just means the Institute itself] issued on portuguese banks.

This seems a bit repetitive but basically, get thee to a bank that has branches in Portugal (Santander for example), open a bank account if you haven’t already got one, and ask for a banker’s cheque/banker’s draft.

There are two other alternatives. One is to get a “Vale Postal” (postal order) which you can buy at a post office (CTT) in Portugal. Again, make sure it’s made out to IRN, IP and has the correct address. The Vale Postal route is relatively straightforward if you have all the bits you need – the details of the payee (on the form itself) and the recipient, but on the downside, you have to do it in Portugal 3 working days before you submit to give it time to reach them. This is because a Vale Postal doesn’t work in quite the same way as a UK postal order. They mail the slip to the recipient and you need to note the reference number (and keep the receipt) as proof, and then wait for the order to show up at their office.

You’ll also need a “contribuente” (also known as Número de Identificação Fiscal – Or NIF) if you have one. If you don’t have one, you can pop down to the Serviço de Finanças and get one. It takes 20 minutes and costs €10. And if all else fails, just use your UK Unique Taxpayer Reference instead which seems to work.

The final option, if neither of the above is suitable, is the simplest of all, but you can only do it if you go to the office in person: bring cash.

The Modelos

The main hub for the different “modelos” (forms) is on the site of the Instituto dos Registos e Notariado.

Choose the one that best fits your situation. In my case, they were these:

Templates and forms regarding nationality

Model 1C
For children of a portuguese mother or father born abroad that registers their birth in the portuguese civil register or declares that they want to be portuguese.

Model 3
For a foreigner married for more than 3 years with a portuguese national or who lives in a de facto union for more than 3 years.

You need to print the first two pages double-sided and the third and fourth pages are just guidance. Fill it in in black, in Portuguese (Duh!) and using crosses, not ticks in the boxes. I’m not going to translate the whole thing I’m afraid. You can use GTranslate can’t you? Most of it is pretty straightforward, but there are a few weird ones:

  • Quadro 1, Questão 6 includes “Naturalidade”, “País” and “Nationalidade”, which seem to be asking the same thing, but I chose to interpret them as Place of birth (Scotland, in my case), Country (Stretching a point: the UK), Nationality (British)
  • Quadro 1, Questao 8 asks for countries you have lived in previously. You will need to provide criminal records checks from all these countries, so don’t even mention any you lived in as a child or if you weren’t there long enough to be registered and leave a paper trail.
  • Quadro 2, Questão 3 is a bit enigmatic “Do you have an effective link to the portuguese community”. This is exceptionally sketchily described in the form guidance as it stands and I have heard various theories, “new rules” and suggestions but what it seems to boil down to is this: for expats, resident in Portugal, married for 5+ years, there’s no language requirement if you can show something like a deed to a house, a contract with an employer or some other evidence of being a fully fledged citizen, to show you are integrated into society. If you’re non-resident, about the only proof of integration you can produce is a certificate of proficiency in the language, so effectively for us there is a language requirement. I quite like this: you can demonstrate you are integrated into the language and cultural life of the nation rather than the legal and economic life.
  • Quadro 2, Questão 3 again. A bit further down it asks if you’ve performed functions for the state that were not predominantly technical in character. I had to ask my wife about this one as I couldn’t see what it was driving at. I think we decided it meant performing the offices of an MP, say, or a civil servant. The suite of questions seems to be trying to establish if you have any competing duties that might mean you retain an allegiance to the former state, I guess, hence the questions about being in the armed forces, being a terrorist and so on.
  • Quadro 4 needs to have the answers copied from your other half’s birth certificate, and even then, if it’s anything like my wife’s it’ll still be baffling. I just handed it to her and asked her to do the necessary.
  • Quadro 6 needs to be signed and witnessed by someone. Since I was planning to visit, I left this blank to sign in front of the person I handed it to, but you can also do it in front of a consulate employee or a Portuguese solicitor if you are mailing it in.

Documentation

Some of this isn’t really spelled out because portuguese bureaucracy can be a bit hatstand sometimes, so it’s best to go the extra mile and do more than it requests rather than less

  • As I said above, a certificate of proficiency in Portuguese shouldn’t be needed if you have been married 5 or more years but if you are non-resident it’s likely to be your only proof of an effective link to Portuguese community.
  • You need a recent police check certificate in the UK and any other country you have lived in as an adult. The UK police certificate costs, and requires quite a bit of paperwork in its own right.
  • All the other documents it asks for – birth certificates, passports and so on – need to be translated, and officially, not just by you. As it turns out, it wasn’t necessary for my process because the chap said if it was written in English it didn’t need a translation. TBH, I’d suggest you’d better do it anyway since that’s what it says in the instructions and it seems to vary from one person to the next, how rigorously the rules are followed, but it’s up to you. You could save a couple of hundred quid if you skip this step and get away with it, but you might prefer to play it safe. I know of at least one other person who couldn’t get through the process because they didn’t have certified translations of all their papers. They’re also sometimes a bit funny about the certificates being recently issued (especially at the Consulate), so even if you have your original certificate, you should write to your registry office and get a reissued copy too and bring it along. If you’re not sure how to get a new certificate, Google the name of the local authority you were born/married/whatever in and “replacement certificate”.
  • If you do decide to get then translated, it’s quite a complicated process (but don’t worry, with the right help you can get through it)
    • Firstly, the translator can do the translation based on a photocopy, and that’s probably the first place to start since you can do it by email.
    • However, to get it certified, you need to give them either your original documents or a copy that has been authenticated by a solicitor or notary.
    • When they have that, they can attach the translation to the original or verified copy and take them all to a solicitor at their end who can certify the translation as well
  • Now, I didn’t trust the mail with my documents but also feared that if I got them certified in the UK the portuguese authorities might not recognise their authoritah, so what to do? Well, I sent my documents to a couple of translators in Portugal and got the quote I was happiest with (CS Traduções) and sent the documents by email attachment. She then took care of everything basically, and I arranged to pick them up the day before I had planned to submit the application. It was all completely hassle free and she was very patient with all my questions.
  • I already mentioned that if you were married in the UK you need to get your marriage registered in Portugal, so the proof of that is probably enough on its own but I took a translation of my UK marriage cert too, just to be on the safe side.
  • For children, both parents need to sign and both signatures witnessed.
  • For children, birth certificates should be recognised in all EU countries but since the UK might have left before the form gets processed it might be a precaution to get it stamped by the Portuguese consulate in the country of birth. This isn’t written down, just the opinion of one official I spoke to, so take that as you will.
  • As stated above, you’ll need your cheque, Vale Postal receipt, or cash if you’re an adult, but it is free for minors.

The Visit

If you’re visiting the consulate, you’re probably doomed and will have been driven to insanity within a few weeks. I pity you. If you’re visiting Portugal, the addresses of the offices are in the last page of the guidance on the Modelo. Since it says “Balcões da Nacionalidade instalados nas seguintes Conservatórias do Registo Civil” and doesn’t give any addresses for the offices in smaller towns outside Lisbon, I went to the wrong place at first. This seems to be the place in Porto, anyway:

SEF Porto

Av. da França 316, 4050-276 Porto, Portugal
+351 22 207 3810
https://maps.app.goo.gl/fL7zP

It’s a kind of one-stop citizen shop and there are several different services in the same office, so ask at the desk if you can’t find the right option on the machine that dispenses tickets (the tickets are known as “senhas” not “bilhetes”) . Ask for Conservatória and you should end up with a senha with a number that starts with a Q.

Make sure you arrive between 8AM and 8.30AM or you’ve no chance.

Obviously don’t be rude or anything, but do be prepared to be assertive. My wife gave me some samples of indignant customer dialogue to use in case of intransigence but I was quite glad I didn’t need to use them. Apparently the tone to go for is polite but with a menacing air of superiority.

Minha senhora /meu senhor. é preciso ser razoável e justo.
Ora eu já cá estive na sexta e nada foi resolvido ou esclarecido. Isto não pode ser.

Veja lá por favor o que pode fazer porque sinceramente eu estou a ficar desorientado e preciso clarificação

The process can’t even be started without payment. If anything else is missing, you’ll get a case number and can submit the missing docs by post, but the one thing you can’t forget is the money. Owing to the large number of applicants expect to hear back after a year – or 18 months for children. We’ll have left by then but hopefully they won’t have started stoning remainers to death in the public square yet, so we should be OK, I think.

Well, that’s the sum of all my knowledge. I hope it’s some help to someone. Good luck.


I’d like to thank my friends Barbie (who gave me a lot of advice on her own family’s involvement in this process) and Marcos (who by amazing luck happened to be very close by the SEF on Friday and actually came to help out with communication, which was incredibly generous of him)

Posted in English

More About Consulates

I thought I’d add a quick blog post in english to follow up the text I’ve just written in portuguese, for the benefit of anyone who might be going to the portuguese consulate to conduct any sort of business, but especially for anyone who needs to register their marriage and change the name on their ID Card, maybe in preparation for applying for citizenship or applying for a passport. I guess in the age of Brexit there will be a lot of people having to brave the bureaucracy. Sigh.

portuguese-passport-big

First of all, you can only make bookings online on the consulate website and they come available at stupid o’clock at night, so you’ll need to plan this well in advance.

Second, the list of necessary documents the consulate supplies isn’t entirely complete, as I’ve mentioned in my test. For a start, if you’re like us, wanting to register a marriage, you’ll need your other half. In other words, a portuguese woman can’t go along, prove she is married and get her name change processed, she has to bring her estrangeiro husband along and have him sign some stuff at the same time. On top of that, the husband’s birth certificate and the marriage certificate both have to have been issued within the last 6 months. If you have the originals, sorry, but those won’t do, you have to have them reissued. You can do this online without too much effort and at a reasonable cost, and it only takes a few days to arrive, although if, like me, you need to ask for three extra copies because the appointment keeps being rescheduled, you might come under suspicion of identity fraud!

And third, prepare for a slightly tedious day. Although both parents need to be there, it’s best not to bring a child if you can avoid it. In our case, the funcionario got a bit arsey when our thirteen-year-old came, and there aren’t many children with the patience to stick it out for three or four hours in a mouldy building with an all-pervading air of bureaucratic intransigence. What I said in the text is not an exaggeration: we were talking to the manager of the office and staff did keep ambling in without knocking and asking her basically the same question. Their system was down and nobody quite knew what to do about it. They wanted to cancel our appointment and make us come back again but m’wife wasn’t going to put up with that nonsense. There really was a 2014 calendar on the wall and she actually discussed the cases & personal situations of 4 other cases just as chit-chat while we were sitting right in front of her. There were boxes everywhere and the general atmosphere was of complete chaos. It’s no wonder the consulate in London has such a terrible reputation among portuguese emigrants.

I’m not one of nature’s managers, but I could definitely imagine a few changes someone could make to make the whole thing easier for everyone. For a start, just fixing the website to show the correct details of what to bring would save hours a week dealing with wasted appointments of people who don’t have the right things with them. That would make life easier both for the staff and for the vistors. A few signposts, a bit of training in procedures, some customer focus, a few hours spent putting the boxes away in a cupboard… it honestly wouldn’t take much to turn things around and make it work better for everyone.

Posted in Portuguese

O Segundo Casamento

A minha esposa e eu renovámos o nosso casamento nesta semana. Não foi pela nossa escolha. Casámos há mais de dezesseis anos mas ela nunca mudou o nome nos seus documentos. Quando viajamos, passamos por fronteiras com o seu cartão de identidade com o seu nome de solteira. Mais recentemente, tentámos 3 vezes fazer a mudança mas não conseguimos. Há instruções no site do consulado para quem quer fazê-lo mas são incompletas. Então, desperdiçámos muito tempo em agendamentos que falharam por razões de ordem técnica.
Mas nesta vez, chegámos no consulado com todos os documentos necessários, preenchemos os formulários, esperemos durante duas horas enquanto vários funcionários entravam, sem bater à porta, e fizeram a mesma pergunta ao seu chefe. Fitámos ao calendário de 2014 e as pilhas de caixas por todo o lado com paciência. Eu falei português bem.
Enfim, se deu em sucesso e agora estamos casados em Portugal além do Reino Unido.

Posted in Portuguese

Meta os Papéis em Ordem

transferirJá visitei o consulado português com a minha mulher duas vezes. Da primeira vez, exigiram que ela me levasse com ela. Na segunda vez (exactamente com o mesmo propósito) eles zangaram-se com ela porque “mas por que raios de tolice havia de trazer o marido com ela? Mas além de maridos, eles também se contradizem na questão dos papéis. Cada vez pedem papéis diferentes: o seu certificado de nascimento, o meu certidão de óbito (epá! Ainda não morri, apenas cheiro assim!) uma fotografia dum veado, o ás de espadas, uma cópia d’ O Livro do Desassossego…
Tem de se transformar em Hermione Grainger com uma mala mágica em que possam caber todos os seus pertences no caso dos funcionários lhos pedirem.

 

Obrigado Fernanda, Sofia e Celso pela ajuda

Posted in English

Este é o Verdadeiro Teste – The Portuguese Empire Strikes Back

So today was the big day. I turned up just before nine at the embassy and met a Spanish woman on the doorstep who was there for the same reason I was, so unlike last time I wasn’t going to be on my own! We chatted for a while, quite fluently and well, albeit with our different accents until the invigilator came and showed us into the exam room. It was good to have company, although a espanhola  realised early on that we had sat down in random places and had the wrong exam papers with the wrong candidate numbers. If she hadn’t seen that, I would have had her mark and she mine. Having heard her speak, I think I would have had the best of that deal. She was very good. Well, she spoke Spanish already, and that’s like Portuguese but easier and without the Saudade, so she was already half way there.

Part 1

The first part of the exam was straightforward written comprehension. I was a bit low on time and I could see that the last set of questions were written answers (filling in missing words) so I jumped ahead to there because I thought if I ran out of time and had to guess the last few answers it would be a lot easier with multiple choice answers than having to pull words out of the air. In the end, no guessing was needed, but the last few answers were pretty rushed. I feel like I got a pretty decent mark in spite of some pretty tricky double-negatives and a lot of ambiguity to catch the unwary.

Part 2

Next up should have been the written section but they gave us compreensão de Oral instead. This was by far my worst subject last time but I had better strategy this time. I could see that the first 5 questions allowed an extra minute to read the answers but the last two didn’t, so I used the time before the start to read those last two and make little text notes so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed when they came around. I don’t think I got them all right, but it wasn’t a rout like it was in the B1 exam, either.

Part 3

Then came the written section, which consisted of a letter to an airline company who had lost my bags, damn their eyes. I gave them a good ticking off I can tell you! Levaram nas orelhas! Then there was a short essay question about current affairs with a choice of three subjects. I chose traffic congestion because it’s a pet topic of mine and I have ranted about it more than once in text and in spoken Portuguese. The final question was a short exercise in rewriting sentences in different forms, changing from indicative to subjunctive and passive to active and so on. Some were so easy I worried I might have been missing something but I think I did OK.

Part 4

And so we come to the last section – the dreaded Produção Oral. In this section, having a second person in  the room with me was both a blessing and a curse. It was a curse because there were now twice as many people looking expectantly at me while I was talking, which made me nervous and unsettled, but on the “blessing” side of the ledger, the examiner alternated between us, so that we had time to marshall our thoughts and could even get an idea of what we were going to be asked next. I must admit, I forgot a lot of what I had told myself during the first stages of the presentation. I didn’t speak slowly, I blurted. And I skipped past some of my prepared set-pieces in favour of short, easy routes to the end of a question. Very bad. At one point, I started describing my holiday in Lisboa and realised in mid-sentence that I’d forgotten the name of the Torre De Belém. An awkward moment (it felt like about three weeks) passed before I finally unstuck my palsied brain. Apart from that though, it wasn’t a total disaster. I didn’t dry up completely the way I have in a couple of lessons. It was bad but could have been worse. Oh and I also noticed I kept flapping my hands about and knocking the table, including a couple of times with my wedding ring. This wouldn’t have been so bad but the recording device was sitting on the table so I expect it’ll sound like there are shots being fired when someone gets around to listening. Peço imenso desculpe senhor(a)!

Then we moved onto a dialogue between the two of us on the subject of emigration. We had had a few minutes to prepare and we agreed a protocol whereby we would finish by asking “concordes?”. We didn’t stick to it very closely in the heat of the moment but it seems like a good idea because it prevented any accidental interruptions that might break the other person’s concentration. I feel like I did pretty well in this section. I spoke fluently in the introduction, spoke a little bit about my wife’s reasons for coming to the UK and about refugees who have no choice but to leave the country. We ran out of conversation with still about three minutes left and there was an awkward moment in which all three of us were looking around wondering what to say next. Now, if I had been an amiable guffin in a Wodehouse comedy, I would have proposed marriage to one of them just to fill the gap in conversation, but fortunately for all concerned I… Oh God, I did something even worse… I mentioned Brexit.

Minefield anyone?

It went pretty well though. I just mentioned that there had been a debate around free movement and that the results would cause many problems for people like us who lived abroad or (in my case) had married someone from sunnier climes. That filled the conversation nicely and I was able to get in a crack about not speaking to a family member who had voted for this bollocks. TBH we are still on speaking terms so it was a lie, but it got a laugh and I think that helps!

Conclusão

So did I pass? Well, to be honest I’m not sure, and I don’t suppose they’ll tell me anytime soon of last time is anything to go by! Last time I did well in  two sections and so-so in the other two. This time I think I did well in three and pretty badly in one. I hope that averaging it all out, I’ll get by but if I fail I won’t be very surprised.

I’m already thinking ahead to the C1 (advanced) exam a year from now, and if I have to re-sit the B2 in May it will be a pain in the bum but not the end of the world. I’m still a bit disconcerted at how slowly I am acquiring new words and skills in spite of huge amounts of study, but I think that’s just the effect of 47 years of neglect and booze on my poor old brain so probably can’t be helped. The C1 exam seems to be longer and more tightly controlled. For example, the conversation portion of the exam isn’t just recorded in audio but filmed all the way through. Scary! Well, we’ll see.

I’m really looking forward to reading some books in English now. My TBR pile is groaning with gorgeous unread novels, so I’ll relax a little but for a while but I can’t afford to take a few weeks off like last time. I’ve got the wheelie up and I need to just keep riding my bike around the playground.