One of the oldest European countries, Portugal occupies the western portion of the Iberian Peninsula with Spain on its eastern flank and the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Settlements first appeared in the country in prehistoric times and Portugal has been inhabited by Roman, Germanic and Celtic invaders throughout the centuries. Once part of the Kingdom of Leon, the country gained independence, under the Treaty of Zamora in 1143, becoming the Kingdom of Portugal.
Portugal has a predominantly Mediterranean climate with a maritime influence along the coast. One of the warmest countries in the European zone, Portugal has warm summers and mild winters. The Algarve region, at the southernmost tip of Portugal, boasts summer temperatures similar to that of the Spanish coastal areas and the area is an extremely popular destination for sun-seeking tourists.
Portugal is a member of both the European Union and the Schengen Area having joined the EU in 1986 and adopted the euro as the country’s unit of currency in 1999. A signatory to the Schengen Agreement in 1995, Portugal now adheres to EU and Schengen rules and regulations as they relate to visitors to the country.
Holders of European Union passports require no special documentation or visas to enter Portugal as a current, valid passport is sufficient. The same rule applies to citizens of countries on an EU visa-exemption list which contains around sixty different nations across the globe. The visa-exemption stipulation is a reciprocal agreement between EU/Schengen Member states and major countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Japan and others. Despite having now left the European Union, British travellers still enjoy visa-exempt travel to all Schengen and EU countries although this situation is set to change in the next few years.
Citizens of countries that are neither Schengen or EU members, or on the visa-exemption list, are termed world travellers and must possess the correct type of Schengen Visa before even travelling to Portugal or any other Schengen Area member state.
The Correct Schengen Visa
All standard Schengen Visas adhere to the 90/180 rule which states that the holder may only remain within the Schengen Area for a maximum period of 90 days out of a block of 180. The 90 days may be used as a continuous block (perhaps for study purposes) or broken up into a number of smaller periods of time as long as the 90 day limit is not exceeded.
While a Tourist Visa is the most likely (and most commonly applied for) type of visa for most visitors, it is far from being the only type available. Choosing the correct type of Schengen Visa is the first, and extremely important, step when submitting a Schengen Visa application.
All visa applications must always be accompanied by any requested supporting documentation and failure to do so will result in a refusal.
Types of visa and supporting documentation required:
Even simply using a Portuguese airport may require world travellers to possess an Airport Transit Visa. This may not always be necessary but should be checked before embarking on any trip involving the use of an airport in Portugal.
- If required, a visa for the final destination country
- Flight details and tickets for the destination country
Using a Portuguese seaport is subject to possessing a Transit Visa. This will most often apply to seamen and ship crew members but can also be required of world travellers arriving by sea.
- Visa for destination country (if applicable)
- Tickets or booking for onward journey to destination country
- Seaman’s book and a copy of same (seamen and crew members only)
- Employment contract (seamen and crew members only)
Holidays and short visits are covered by a standard Tourist Visa.
- Preceding six months bank statements
- Proof of sufficient travel health insurance
- Proof of sufficient finances for visit to Portugal
- Detailed itinerary of planned daily outings and excursions
Not dissimilar to a Tourist Visa, the Visitor Visa is a better choice for world travellers who intend to visit or stay with friends or relatives residing in Portugal.
- Copy of invitation from friend or relative
- Letter of invitation confirmed by local Portuguese authority
- Declaration of Support which has been legalised by a Portuguese Notary Public
- Copy of the Portuguese resident’s passport and/or the host’s residency permit (if applicable)
- Documentation to confirm host’s full address (household bills etc.)
- Detailed itinerary of planned outings or trips while in Portugal
World travellers wishing to visit Portugal on any business, or business-related, matter should possess a Business Visa.
- Invitation letter (or other proof) from Portuguese business concerned
- Details of any meetings, conferences or trade events scheduled
- Proof of adequate finances to cover time spent in Portugal
- Cover letter explaining the reasons for the visit
- Copies of registration for any trade fairs, conventions or business events scheduled
World travellers intending to study in Portugal for a period of 90 days or less must have a Study Visa. Longer courses will require a long-term Student Visa.
- A letter of no objection from current educational institution declaring the student will leave Portugal when the course is complete
- An internship agreement if the student is undergoing an internship
World travellers requiring surgery, medical attention or treatment in Portugal are required to have a Medical Visa for this express purpose.
- Doctor’s medical report confirming need for treatment
- Confirmation from Portuguese medical institution giving dates and details of planned treatment
- Proof of full payment or payment arrangement for treatment
The above are the most commonly issued forms of Schengen Visa for Portugal but there are other, less well-known types including visas for cultural, religious, artistic and sporting events as well as for members of an officially-recognised visiting delegation.
Regardless of which type of Schengen Visa is applied for there are some essential requirements in every case. A current, valid, biometric passport is vital as the application cannot be processed without one.
Other basic requirements include:
- Passport should be no more than ten years old
- Passport should contain a minimum of two blank pages for affixing the visa
- Passport should expire no sooner than three months after the last date to be spent in Schengen area
- All requested supporting documentation must accompany the application
- Copies of any previously held visas
Depending on the individual circumstances, birth certificates may be required for children and married applicant’s may also need to produce marriage certificates. In many cases, proof of income such as bank statements and/or wage slips may also be requested.
The list of supporting documentation that may be required is almost endless which is why it is so important to check (and recheck) precisely what is required.
Consulate or Embassy Interview
Once the application form is complete and all documentation collected and checked, it is necessary for the applicant to attend a personal interview at the nearest Portuguese embassy, consulate or designated visa application centre.
The interview must be arranged by the applicant (not the embassy) and it is at this meeting that the application form and all supporting documentation will be checked for errors and omissions. An error at this stage will almost inevitably end up in a delay in processing the visa or possibly an outright refusal.
The application process can be exhausting and time-consuming but the procedure must be followed as laid out and it is advisable to submit an application around six weeks before the date of travel to allow for possible delays.