Moving Countries – Getting To Portugal 

We received news about our visas being granted exactly 60 days from the date of our application. We had dreamt of this moment since we decided to start the process. Whenever Sunil and I imagined how the moment of seeing those visas in real life, stamped in our passports, would feel – we proclaimed that we would definitely burst into tears and then do a wild dance. 

The actual event was such an anticlimax, to be honest. Our son called to tell us the courier had arrived with our passports at the very moment when Sunil was heavily anesthetised and undergoing dental surgery, and I was in church (!) with my mum and Lana. So, so much for wild jubilation and emotional outbursts!! 

We kept it together until we reached home and sat in absolute awe, staring at those three little stamps on our passports that would completely change our lives. 

Lana had a special thank you to say at Mount Mary’s

The first thing we had to do was get our tickets to Portugal sorted. Being summer and peak time for travel, we were stuck with some really insane airfares. I understand that the airlines have to make up for lost revenue with the pandemic, but the airfares right now (to anywhere in the world) are nothing short of highway robbery. However, we honestly had no option, so we sucked it up and booked three tickets to Porto for the end of May. We figured one month would be more than enough to pack, sort out pending paperwork, and say our goodbyes. We were a bit too fast to pull the trigger there, though. 

Goodbyes suck

Let me explain – when you receive your D7 visa, there is a notation on the visa about your SEF appointment. This all-important biometrics appointment with Border Security in Portugal decides whether your D7 visa, valid for four months, is changed to a two-year Temporary Residence Permit (and later extended for three more years). One has no say in where this SEF appointment is scheduled for and what time or date. Our three appointments were scheduled for the 18th of July. Fine. That works. We would have settled in and could make it to the appointment with no problem. On closer inspection, we realised, much to our dismay, that all our appointments were in different locations but simultaneously! There was no way our daughter Lana, who is special needs, could manoeuvre this without our presence. We immediately wrote to the Consulate in Goa, who told us to approach the SEF directly. And also warned us that SEF appointments were few and far between and that rescheduling would be complicated. 

This is when our lawyers swooped in and saved the day. They waved their magic wands (read: worked the phones night and day) until they rescheduled our SEF appointments to…the day we were to arrive in Porto! And our appointments were in Lisbon. Eep! We could not reschedule these appointments again, so we had to scramble around and prepone our departure by a week. Suddenly we had less than three weeks to pack our lives into six suitcases and leave. 

Did we do it? You bet we did. 

We knew we were returning to India in August / September to tie up our rental on our Bombay apartment and for other paperwork, so we packed and planned accordingly. Winter clothes and personal belongings like books and curios were kept for our next trip. We sorted out a summer wardrobe and all the paperwork needed for our first three months in Portugal and bit the bullet. 

How do you pack a life into six suitcases?

Thankfully, the apartment we were leasing out in Porto came fully furnished. Our landlady assured us that it was fully inhabitable from day one, so we didn’t have to pack any household goods. That didn’t stop me from carrying one set each of basic crockery and cutlery, as well as some of my beloved masalas and condiments. From past travel experience, I knew that the family would soon miss hot food and curries and planned accordingly. 

I have to interject here and insist that anyone planning a big move stock up on those vacuum packing cubes. They are indispensable for packing bulky items such as jackets, linen, towels, and even clothes. Just keep an eye on your bag’s weight, as these get very compact and heavy once sealed. 

Wish us well and we’re off!

And that’s it. We were packed and ready in record time and set to start the rest of our lives. 



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