Some tips for tourists and wannabe immigrants to the Açores

Getting here
There are several daily regular flights from Lisbon to São Miguel and also 3 regular departures/arrivals a week from Boston, MA and one from Gatwick, UK. All regular flights are run by SATA Azores

There are about 17,000 hotel beds on São Miguel. If you prefer to stay in a private house, there is Casa de Falesia in Mosteiros with 3 fully equipped apartments and access to swimming pool, rental car etc.

Your furniture and personal belongings must be transported in a container. There is a shipping company, Horn Linie, that departs from Hamburg on a regular schedule. They also take passengers if you feel like travelling along with your stuff.

The car, if not in the container, may be driven to Lisbon and shipped to the Azores by the Transinsular Co. A Ford Escord costs (in June, 2004) about € 450 single fare. Then you will have to pay about € 15 in port tax. You will see the car 3 days later. You are allowed to drive on the islands for 6 months with your foreign registration plates.

Getting a visa
You do not need a visa for a short visit to the Azores. If, however, you intend to stay in the Azores, you will need a visa. Visas are issued by the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras on Rua Marques Praia e Monforte. If you are an EU citizen, this should be a mere formality. Visas are good for 5 years.

The following papers are needed:

  • Your passport
  • Four recent photos, passport style.
  • An extract from the criminal record. You get that at the Justice Palace on Rua Dr Luis Bettencourt and the charge for the service is € 5
  • A bank account or proof that you are able to support yourself
  • Health insurance document. You are not covered by the Portuguese wellfare benefits unless you run a business here. If you are an EU citizen and can prove that you are retired, the health care is free for you and your wife/husband. Make sure that you get the E121 form from your local social security administration.
    there is an other way: you can register yourself as a "Trabahleiro Independente". You do that at the Financas (see below). It means that you will have to do your IRS every year and set a zero in the "Redimentos" column (annex B) and you will have to pay a monthly fee of about 50€ to the Segurança Social. This will also entitle you to a small pension the day you are 65.
  • A Numero de contribuente which you get from the Direcçao Geral dos Impostos (a.k.a. "Finances") on Avenida Infante D Henrique This is about the same as a social security number.

Buying a house
In general, houses are quite expensive on the islands. A 3 bedroom house not too far from Ponta Delgada would cost you at least € 250,000 and that is a stripped version. Do not expect to find refrigerator, stove and other kitchen equipment. Oh the other hand, these things are not that expensive.

Land is also quite costly. A lot around 1000m2 (0.25 acre) within 15 km (10 miles) radius from Ponta Delgada would be about € 130,000 up with permission to build a house. Farming land is less expensive but you can only build on one percent of the area, so it has to be a BIG piece of land.

Get a lawyer to do all the paperwork. He will charge you a few hundred Euros but, believe me, you won´t be able to handle this yourself unless you have a university degree in Portuguese.

Getting a car in
If you have a Motorcycle - feel happy. You will not have any trouble getting Portuguese registration plates. If, however, you have a car, then prepare for some real red tape.

Don´t even attempt to do this yourself but consult the SODORA company on Rua do Melo and they will run all the paper work for a small fee.You will need the following documents:

  • Your visa and/or passport.
  • A document that shows that you have moved out from the country you came from.
  • A document from the local frequesia showing that you live here. Make absolutely sure that the date is at least 6 months past the date of purchase of the car.
  • A Numero de contribuente (see above)
  • A permanent address in the Azores.
  • All the vehicle documents.
  • The Bill of Lading for the shipment of the car. This is very important because it shows the date the car arrived in the Azores.
  • A document from the Direcçao Geral dos Impostos (a.k.a. "Finances", see above) that shows that you do not owe money to the Portuguese State.
  • A valid driver's license.

Also, be prepared to present some additional documents. It all depends on the mood of the customs officer. If you are not able to present those papers and get the work done within 6 months, be prepared to pay several thousand € for the priviledge to drive your car here.

Once you have managed to get the car through the needle eye of the customs, you will have to get Azorean registration plates.

  • Visit Direcção-Geral de Viação to get a Portuguese registration ("Matriculo"). Bring the paper from the customs that shows that the car is cleared. This will cost you about € 200.
  • Visit the shop across the street from Direcção-Geral de Viação and order a set of registration plates. These have to show the vintage of the car.
  • Mount the registration plates on the car.
  • Visit Centro de Inspecção de Viaturas to get a document that the car is in working order. If they find anything not being in order, visit a workshop to have it fixed and then go back.
  • Go back to the Direcção-Geral de Viação to get the final documents.
  • After some months, you will get a letter from Direcção-Geral de Viação telling you that the Livreto can be picked up. This is the final document that shows that you are the owner of the car. You will have to pay another € 65 for the Livreto.
So, if the car is not very dear to you: Sell your car before emigrating and buy a new one here.