The SEF Appointment


SEF – Full form – Servico de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (Foreigners and Borders Service)

By the time of our rescheduled SEF appointment on 31st May 2023, we were in full defensive mode, ready if somewhat hesitant, to do battle with them. They had taken on almost a mythical avatar in my mind and I was ready for anything, putting my trust in the Gods. Luckily for us, a representative from our Law firm, Sara, was accompanying us and this boosted our confidence immeasurably

We had planned the whole visit like two generals orchestrating a battle. Reach Lisbon on the 29th; spend the 30th visiting our lawyers and bankers; and visit SEF on the 31st.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I hate bureaucracy and any such encounters fill me with anxiety. So it was with great trepidation that we headed to the appointment venue on the outskirts of Lisbon. Sara was supposed to meet us there and had given us strict instructions to not stand in any queue until she arrived since we had appointments. Those instructions we followed religiously. The queue outside seemed like a mile long and there were at least two that we could count while waiting for her to arrive. Thank God for her instructions because we would definitely have not known where to start and I don’t think the guards knew any English.

A nondescript building in the middle of nowhere had the power to seal our fate

To battle…

Sara arrived almost on the dot at 9 am, the time for our appointment, made us wait and then vanished inside that dark, mysterious cave where SEF has their offices. The anxiety left me the moment we spotted her and she ushered us into the bureaucratic maze of the SEF Empire.

By now we were pretty much relaxed and followed her like little sheep to the counter. She then began to chat with the officer behind his glass enclosed counter while we sat some distance away and took in this mysterious world we had entered. As usual, at times like this, we reverted to playing the fool and joking amongst ourselves – our way of dealing with stress.

Looks harmless, no?

Let me tell you about some of our worries.

While we knew that this interview was just a formality, we had heard and read enough stories online about the length of the process to keep us worried. The procedure is that after the interview, which could take up to 4 months, you have to wait for an indefinite period before you get your residency cards. Until then you have to stay put in Portugal. Our visas were only valid until the end of Aug. You do the maths. We considered ourselves extremely lucky to have gotten the appointment so quickly, a week after landing. There had been plenty of articles read about how SEF was short-staffed blah – blah. What would we do if the cards didn’t arrive by the end of August? Apollo help us! (For the Illiterati, Apollo is the Greek God who ruled through bureaucracy).

Cheers – we did it

Anyways, the whole interview (such a misnomer) was spent with Sara dealing with the SEF officer and us just going to the biometric machine to have our photographs and fingerprints taken. Sara handled all the paperwork with the officer and we were done in two hours! Unbelievable! It just goes to underscore what we knew all along – getting a good law firm to guide you through the D7 application process is money well spent. Please do yourself a favour and retain a law firm for your application.

We came away from the interview with our spirits up. The last hurdle had been crossed. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the residency cards to arrive in the mail.

Let’s get this party started



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