Getting a Tourist Visa Extension in Portugal
Remaining legally in Europe's Schengen zone for over 90 days is not easy if you do not have a long-term visa. In these times of great global and domestic economic uncertainty, even if you are a student, it is becoming more difficult for non-EU citizens to acquire the coveted long-term visa.
However, Portugal is one the few Schengen countries to make things a little more simple for those who have long-term ambitions. If you do decide to go for a long-term visa, Portugal accepts a variety of reasons for “purpose of stay” besides being a student or working for a Portuguese company. You can be involved in an internship, work as a volunteer for a nationally recognized organization, or be engaged in academic, scientific or otherwise highly skilled research.
If your stay does not fall under any of the above categories, you should know that Portugal also allows not one, but two extensions of the 90-day tourist visa. Technically, this means that you could stay on in Portugal for a consecutive period of nine months without even thinking about a long-term visa. Although the first extension is simple enough to obtain, it is the second extension that is trickier, as it requires a solid purpose of stay.
If you want to apply for the first extension, the National Center for Immigrant Support, or CNAI, in Lisbon should be your first stop (CNAI also has an office in Porto). The incredibly diverse population of Lisbon is a perfect example of the large wave of immigration that has continued to flow into Portugal from its former colonies, including Cape Verde, Mozambique, Angola, and Goa. Instead of reacting by enforcing stricter immigration policies, Portugal has instead welcomed these people with open arms, offering a broad range of helpful services designed to make the immigration and integration process as smooth and efficient as possible.
The SEF, Portugal's foreign police, make the decision on all visa applications. However, to get more information about the visa extension process, you can visit Lisbon's very friendly and well-organized CNAI in the Martim Moniz neighborhood. A wide range of languages are spoken by the staff, including English and Spanish, but English speakers are few and you will usually have to wait longer to speak with the staff.
If you prefer to ask your questions over the phone, you can also call the CNAI hotline from a local landline via Skype (+351 808 257 257) or mobile phone (+351 218 106 191).
Make an Appointment
You first must make an appointment over the phone. It is possible to make an appointment online through the SEF website, but this is only if you have a transit, short-stay, or temporary stay visa in your passport. You will enter in your visa number online when you make your appointment.
If calling for an appointment, it is highly advisable to get a Portuguese friend to make the call, as you will be on hold forever if you ask for someone who speaks English. You can call only from a local landline (+351 808 202 653) or mobile phone (+351 808 962 690). Call as early as possible (the office opens at 8.30 am) for the shortest wait time. Also, try to do so at least a couple weeks before your tourist visa expires, as the appointment date will be set about a week or so from the day you make the call. Make sure you get the exact address of the particular “Loja do Cidadao” (Citizen's Shop) that you will need to visit for your appointment.
The required basic documents for extending your tourist visa are rather simple:
- Passport (valid for at least 6 more months).
- Copy of identifying page of your passport.
- Two recent, color passport-sized photos (EU passport size, not U.S. passport size); these can be taken in 10 minutes at any Kodak shop around town (6 photos for about 7 euros).
- A bus/plane/ferry ticket (or e-ticket) showing that you will leave Portugal by the end of your extension. Book your ticket on the date which is 90 days or less from the expiration date of your first 90 days. The important thing to remember is that your ticket must show that your next destination is either your home country or a country that you are legally allowed to enter, so it cannot be another Schengen zone country. If you show a ticket that takes you only to Spain, you will be denied your extension.
- Documented proof of accommodations (apartment contract, hotel receipt, letter from home stay, etc.)
- Proof of finances: they will most likely just make a copy of your credit card, but take a printout of your latest bank statement or a signed letter by the person or institution that is supporting you financially
- Approximately 100 euro extension fee (the fee will be based on the length of the granted extension, which might be less than 90). You can pay by cash or credit card, and there is an ATM at the entrance to the center and around the corner as well.
- The CNAI people might tell you that a Criminal Record Certificate is required as well, but they might also tell you that this is only true if you have a "common name," which will take more time to sort through when your application is being verified by SEF.
How to get to Loja do Cidadao in Odivelas Parque Shopping Center
There are several Lojas do Cidadao around the city, and you never know where the SEF will send you when you make the appointment. There is one right outside the Restauradores metro that easy to find, but there is one Loja do Cidadao inside a shopping center that is a bit more difficult to get to. You can of course take a taxi, but if you prefer to go by public transportation, plan to leave at least an hour ahead of your appointment time. From the blue line Odivelas metro stop, you will need to exit the station and up the stairs. When you see the bus stop shelters, you are in the right place. One of the first bus stops you will see has "Voltas" written in green on the side, which is the name of the city's mini shuttle bus (ticket is purchased on-board for 50 euro cents) that takes you directly to the Odivelas Parque mall, within which the Loja do Cidadao is located. While it does sound like a strange setting for a government agency, this citizen services center opens at 8:30 a.m., much before the mall does. You will need to get there as early as possible before your given appointment time, since this center also accommodates those who need to deal with utilities, taxes, drivers licenses, and other such matters. Once the bus drops you off, you might just be able to follow all the other center-bound locals through the mall, and there are huge, red, unmistakable signs inside the mall directing you to the Loja do Cidadao upstairs.
Once You Are In...
As you enter the Loja do Cidadao, you will be asked for your purpose of visit, and all you need to say is "visa." You will be handed a slip of paper with a number and pointed in the exact direction. There should be someone who speaks English in the area for the foreigners services, so ask him or her if you have questions about what to do next. But the normal process is that you will wait in line to give your name to the SEF staff behind the desk. They will find your name to confirm that you have an appointment with them, and then tell you to sit down and wait until they call your name. Once you hear your name, things should proceed smoothly, since the person working with your application will speak English. When asked about the purpose of extending your stay, you can simply say you are still on holiday, and this reason is completely sufficient. As long as you have your documents in order—in particular your ticket to prove onward journey out of Portugal—your application process should proceed smoothly.
Note: If you arrived into Portugal via car, bus or train, and did not receive a customs stamp in your passport (as you would have in the airport), and you did not proceed to register with the foreign police within 3 days of your arrival into Portugal, you will have to pay a fine of 37 euros in addition to your visa extension fee.
For More Info
Make an appointment online: www.sef.pt/portal/v10/EN/aspx/marcacao/index.aspx
Make an appointment over the phone: +351 808 202 653 from a local landline; +351 808 962 690 from a mobile phone.
CNAI help line (Linha SOS Imigrante): 808.257.257 (local landline or Skype), 218.106.191 (mobile); business hours: 8.30-20.30.
Loja do Cidadao inside Odivelas Parque shopping center:
Odivelas Parque Loja 2048
Estrada de Paiã, Casal do Troca
Schedule for Voltas minibus service to Odivelas Parque: www.odivelasparque.pt/acessos