[Личная история] Portugal. Diving, doing business and a passion for balconies. Should you move?

Dmitry Layer, a former PHP developer and technical director at RBC, VTB24 and Softline, now lives in the south of sunny Portugal. We talked with him about the many pros and cons of living in this country, diving, starting a business, methods of obtaining a “residence” and eternal, eternal problems with paying taxes.

Life before Portugal

I was born in Kalmykia, in the capital, the city of Elista. He was engaged in hand-to-hand combat. In the library I saw a book about IT. Sucked. I started to study. At the university, with a friend, they already made graduation projects to order for people (then still in Delphi).

He defended his diploma in German. After university, I had the opportunity to go to graduate school. Instead, I decided to go see the army. He served in Novocherkassk for a year. Faced with hazing, like everyone else, but the fighting background helped. Automated the accounting of fuels and lubricants (before that everything was on paper). Zampolites and others “checked it out”, they said, the guy is smart, they need one. They offered to remain the captain on the contract. Fortunately, he refused.

I returned to Taganrog, where my wife was studying (to become a psychologist). At first he worked as a hardware collector at Sunrise. Moved to Moscow, got a job as a PHP developer. He worked for several companies, including RBC. He grew up there to the technical director. I decided to move on, prepared myself a shift, left for Softline. There was a team of 150 people under me, they were running about 50 projects. I moved to VTB24, and a few years later I also warmly said goodbye to them. In 2014, my wife and I decided that “it’s time to blame.”

During this time (10 years) we took out a mortgage, bought an apartment, sold an apartment, bought a house on a mortgage. We sold the house with a big plus, ended up with money. On this we, frankly, earned more than on all my work (offensive). There was an airbag, we decided to choose a country to move.

Made up a huge Excel checklist with many parameters. Education, ecology, costs, conditions of permanent residence. It included Canada, New Zealand, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Thailand. But there was no Portugal.

Checked the extreme points of the checklist. Traveled in Europe, were in Bali, Indonesia. I liked Costa Rica very much. But the training system there seemed weak. Our eldest son was already in first grade, but secondary education did not suit him.

The wife’s friend suggested Portugal. I remembered watching football as a child, Porto against Spartak. Maybe fly to see? .. It’s decided!

Let’s go to Portugal! Documents, registration, diving

We arrived in the country and immediately liked everything. People, climate, nature. My wife and I are fond of diving. We arrived in Portimão (a city in the south of the country). From there it is convenient to explore the southern coast of Portugal. We went to the west, then to the east of the country, studied, explored. As a result, Lagos was chosen. There were diving centers here, and sunken ships, which are interesting to look at. We were just thinking of opening our own dive center.

Our way when moving in 2014 (Only it took not 24, as it shows, but 48 hours)

We formalized a company with lawyers, and through it we decided to legalize. We were given a tax number of the company, social numbers for us, its “employees”. These numbers, by the way, ended up at our addresses in Russia, there was a whole problem with them.

We rented premises for a dive center, purchased equipment, and decorated signs. Since the IT topic was familiar to us, we ourselves made a website, a logo, and launched a promotion in social networks. The first clients, by the way, were from Russia.

The Schengen visa was running out, we returned to the Russian Federation to extend it. And we were told – we do not give, there are rules, only after three months. All our plans collapsed. The equipment was idle, the rent was paid … We celebrated the New Year in Russia. I offered my wife to buy tickets as tourists, our visa had several days left. And we were released, we were able to come. I cannot convey the feeling: from the Moscow mud to get into the local sun. Simply chic. After that I didn’t want to go back at all.

There are centers for migrants in Portugal. And we were told that until the Schengen was over, we need to have time to submit the documents. This requires a tax number, social security number and a work contract.

Since the company was ours, we made a working contract for ourselves (my wife is a manager, I am a director). We applied for a temporary residence (it makes it possible to live for a year). The main thing: while the legal process is going on, you can legally stay on the territory of Portugal as long as you like! You can work, but you cannot leave. If you leave, the consideration period will be interrupted, and you will need to re-submit the document. But we didn’t want to leave.

We waited a year and a half. Unfortunately, it turned out that the invitation to receive documents came, again, at the old address in Russia. And they didn’t even call us when we didn’t show up. As a result, we did not come for registration, and during this time our invitation was canceled. Receiving the residency fell through. Shock.

About a year passed, the wife became pregnant. She was a diving instructor with us, and now she could not train. And it was not so interesting to me. I didn’t see the point in the diving center, I didn’t want to hire staff. Moreover, the prospects are vague to be able to stay in the country. Sold it to the British.

And then I met a man from a real estate agency. It was just an old developer who, leaving, knocked down the site in spite of them. I corrected everything, and they gave me a job legally. They bet on the minimum wage (€ 740). But they submitted documents to the migration service that now we have a working contract, not a business contract.

It turns out that everything goes much faster under a work contract in Portugal than in a business. It is considered locally, and for business it goes to Lisbon. Therefore, after three months we received a temporary residence and exhaled freely.

Now, with a friend from SoftLine, we are developing a B2B project LoyaltyGems related to motivational programs. The daughter was born already in Portugal. At the time of birth, none of us had a “residence”, so it is not considered a citizen of the country yet. But it will receive it automatically upon reaching the age of majority (we hope that our family will receive it earlier).

Pros of Portugal

  • Climate. We live in the south of the country. The minimum temperature in winter is +5 ºС. Average annual – +25 ºС. I don’t even want to go on vacation, we just have better conditions. Surfing, diving, kite surfing, mountain biking, everything is there. The water is warm in summer, and in winter you wear a wetsuit, which is also quite normal. The nature is incredible. Wife Shoots Entire Relax Videos on your YouTube… It is full of landscapes that you want to show for hours.
  • The Portuguese speak at least two languages, many three or four. Many British, Scots, Germans, French people lived here. In neighboring Spain, there are fewer such polyglots. Now my son speaks fluent Russian, Portuguese, English, French, understands Spanish quite well. It will not be lost in life.
  • The infrastructure is European. Streets, transport. Great internet: in the south of Portugal, the main highway connecting Europe with the United States passes. For € 30, I get over 300 Mbps.
  • Excellent ecology. Fresh vegetables, fish. Delicious healthy food.
  • It’s very safe here. I’m not afraid to let my children go to school myself. I myself am not afraid to walk at night. Sometimes I don’t even close the car at night. Sometimes there are burglaries, that’s the only thing I hear about. In Italy, Spain, the situation is worse.
  • Inexpensive rental if you live all year round. Since 2014, our payment has not changed. We pay € 450. Two large rooms, a hall and two huge balconies. One balcony 60 m2, the other 30 m2. The Portuguese generally love large balconies. My daughter rides a bicycle on the balcony.
  • Buying real estate is also profitable. Many take out an apartment on credit. Receive up to 10% per year from the change to tourists, this covers payments. And plus their property is growing in value. Some, I know, own three or four apartments. Real estate is mainly searched here on websites custojusto.pt and olx.pt
  • We used to not like that the cities by the sea are very wet. The air is unpleasant over time. And here is such a feature that from about 4 pm every day the north wind begins, and all the moisture is carried into the ocean. These wind movements prevent humidity from increasing too much. Therefore, it is more pleasant for us to be here than in Thailand, Crimea and so on.
  • Portugal is in the same time zone as England, only a few hours behind the United States. It is good to work remotely for high-paid UK companies here. It was during the Covid era that this trend developed a lot.

Cons of Portugal

  • There is a peculiarity here – the Portuguese will answer the question, but they will not show their initiative. You ask – is this document needed? Yes. Do you need a second one? Yes. And the third is also needed, but they will not tell about it! And what, the person did not ask about this?
  • Until recently, there were problems with the import of cars. You had to pay import tax almost the same as the cost of the car. We drove a car from Germany, it cost € 7,000. And I had to pay € 5,000 for customs clearance. In Spain or France, the amounts would be much lower. But now this tax has been reduced, the cost of customs clearance has dropped by 60%. And for a hybrid or electric car, you will generally get only € 200.
  • VAT is high, as elsewhere in Europe. In neighboring Spain – 21%, we have 23%. The rate is progressive, if you get more than € 11,000 per year, the interest will be higher. Pension contributions – 35% in total (11% from the employee, 23.75% from the employer).
  • There is a peculiarity when buying real estate: here the tax is paid by the one who buys. About 6% (depending on the type of property). It’s unpleasant.
  • IT salaries are low. You get from € 1200 to € 3000 on your hands (but these are very top positions). Therefore, many work from here for Britain, the United States, Canada.
  • It is difficult to find a job in the south of the country. It is mainly a seasonal business and tourism. There is little activity in winter. It is better to look for work in Lisbon and Porto, there are large offices, there are enough IT positions, but I also like the climate less.
  • In medicine, the impression is twofold. On the one hand, my wife gave birth here. There was no need to pay for anything, the anesthesia was excellent. A doctor was singled out who accompanied the woman during pregnancy. I can compare with Moscow – I liked it here much more. On the other hand, I hurt my knee. And they could not cure him for a year! That is busy, then you need to do an analysis, then an x-ray. They refused to treat. Physiotherapy was prescribed after 8 months. But here again “the equipment is busy, come back in 3 months”. Although I had sports insurance. As a result, I bought the necessary cream on Amazon myself, and I treat myself.
  • Toll roads. If there is no special device that charges, then in a few days you will receive a letter: pay (€ 1.5- € 3). You need to pay by mail. To do this at first is very lazy, because the amounts are penny. But it turns out that this is very important! Because the company that does this then submits you to the tax office. And you get € 200- € 300 fine at a time. A friend of mine recently paid a € 2,000 fine – on a late payment of € 5 from 2014.
  • It’s the same with taxes: you need to pay urgently and accurately. Otherwise, the fines will be gigantic. We received papers in Russia, we did not have time to pay, we also got thousands of euros.
  • Problems with car services. The service level is very low. They repaired my car for a month, and in the end they did it of poor quality. Therefore, my wife’s brother (he is an auto mechanic) and I opened our own car service. And they brought mechanics from Taganrog. We gave them a work contract – and they received a temporary residence within 8 months. Now, however, this business had to be closed because of covid. But the mechanics have opened their small semi-legal garage, they live in Portugal, they don’t blow their minds.

My advice: if you feel like it, come here on a tourist Schengen visa. Get a working contract (fake or non-fake). Approval of the residence will take about a year. Then you will need to renew it, live 5 years in the country, and apply for citizenship. To obtain citizenship, you need to pass a language exam, or unlearn for three years. Our children will definitely get it: their time in high school is counted.

To move, it is advisable to have 30-40 thousand euros with you. 50 thousand is enough with your head. Starting your own company costs € 250, and then you spend € 150- € 200 per month for an accountant, plus social security contributions for at least one employee (about € 240 comes out for you as an employer paying the minimum wage). It is important to hold out for the first year, until the residence is given. Further it will be easier, it will be possible, among other things, to put the company on pause for six months, not to pay money. Well, if you work for someone legally, then everything is much easier. Here it is not you who pay, but for you.

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