Start this process 6 to 7 months ahead of your desired move date…
Passport (3 weeks normal processing time)
If you do not have a current passport, you will need to begin with the process of securing one. If your current passport will expire in the next 6 months, renew the passport BEFORE beginning the visa application process. This will be a requirement for most countries when applying for a visa. Since the visa will occupy a page in your passport, you will want the expiration date to be at least a year in the future anyway. You may want to request additional pages to be added to your passport upfront for 2 reasons… 1: each round trip back home to the US will mean 2 stamps in your passport, and 2. hello… living in Europe will facilitate travel to UK, Ireland, and African and Asian countries… each trip will be 2 stamps!
FBI Certificate/Background check (90 to 120 days = 13 – 16 week processing time)
This is required not just for Portugal, but for many countries. The process takes 3 to 4 months, so do not leave this until the last minute!!!!! It WILL hold up your VISA. You will need to complete this step before beginning the VISA application since the certificate is a required piece of the application process. How do you apply for the certificate? Here is the link to the FBI website: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks
You will need to begin with getting fingerprinted. We did a websearch and found that our city-county sheriff’s department provides the service for $20. The advantage in seeking this service from a local law enforcement office versus a consumer agency, is they already have the forms required by the FBI. We went to the Fingerprint office, filled out a form, paid the fee and had the prints in about an hour.
Next, the form. It’s a 1 page form you can download from the link above. Submit the form, your fingerprint cards, and a credit card payment authorization form (also download via the link) by mail. The FBI site will show current processing time. Add to this estimate time for postal mail. There is no way to expedite this process, so please begin early.
Next up… the actual visa application. The embassy requests you apply at least 90 days ahead of your move date.