“You must get a NISS number,” said the teacher, standing in the sunlight and showing me a piece of paper with a list scribbled on it. “We need a NISS, and a vaccination certificate for your son. Also a health card.” All that? Where do we start? Well for a start you can’t get a NISS number without residency, which of course I found out the hard way. So we set out to get our residency certificates.
Thus began our journey to get a NISS number (Portuguese National Insurance Number) to send our child to school. We’re in the EU and so as an official told us, the schools can’t technically turn our child away. Still, we wanted to do things correctly so we went off to the local town hall to apply for Portuguese residency first, armed with passports, utility bills, blue sky and sunshine.
The town hall is a vast, airy building, large floor to ceiling window at one end with a tree planted in front of the window – on the inside. Quite pleasant to hang around in, unlike the tatty social security office where you get your NISS, or the Finance Office where you get your Fiscal Number. We took a ticket for ‘Tesouria’ and sat down at one of the light wood chairs until our number came up on the screen.
Paula who served us spoke English which was a relief. She’s getting to know us quite well and is always called upon when we turn up at the Town Hall to explain stuff such as we haven’t got the right piece of paper for my child to have school dinners or that we are in the wrong office to pay our IMI (council tax). This time she explained patiently what we would need to get our Residency Certificate. I asked for non habitual residency. Actually I insisted upon it. It would keep our tax rate down. Paula shook her head. “Nao.”
This was a starting point for confusion. All Paula knew was that non habitual residency wasn’t something she dealt with and after some enquiries discovered that this was purely tax related and that it was something we had to apply for at the finance office after we had got the initial residency. So doing things in the right order, the first thing we needed to get for our residency certicate was a criminal records check.
We were sent to the Justice Department up the road to get the criminal records check, another smart, beige stone building. This cost 10 euros and took about ten days. During this time we were off to England so it was some time later when we actually collected it and some time later still when we returned with it to the Town Hall. As we waited we noticed an expiry date at the bottom of the document in tiny writing. Which was the end of that week. Well, that should present no problem.
Our lady at the Town Hall smiled at us and explained we had to get proof of where we resided at the Junta de Freguesia in the village. To get over our disappointment of not getting immediate residency we went to the cafe and had some local Montejunto cakes, a crispy filo pastry filled with a Bakewell tart like treacly mixture. Heaven. We were over our disappointment therefore fairly quickly and headed to the village Junta de Freguesia. We met the white-haired mayor who was very friendly and handed us some old brochures about the area to browse through while we waited. Should we have bought him a bottle of wine, I wondered, or was that just in France?
Armed with the correct paperwork for my husband and I, and pleased as punch at feeling initiated into the village, we went back to the Town Hall. Handed the new bits of paperwork over. Went back again to the Junta de Freguesia as we hadn’t asked for any documents for the children, thinking it included everyone at the address. Another hour or so, then another day, went by.
Back to the Town Hall. Oh, we hadn’t bought bank statements. The lady apologised at having to take bank statements but it was necessary. Being a citizen of the EU, I wondered why. Ho hum. It was close to lunch time and we had the school run to do. Aware that our criminal records check was shortly due to expire we nipped back for lunch and returned straight after school drop off with the bank statements.
Paula took our documents and we waited. I sat and examined the polished marble floor and flicked through a brochure showing photos of local festivals we hadn’t been to and events we hadn’t known about. Twenty minutes later she returned and handed us our residency certificates. We handed over 10.50 euros per certificate. Then wahey! We were residents.
Oh, but wait. I had always been confused about the length of time a residency certificate was valid for. We now found out that it is until your passport expires. So while my children and I are done for around the next five years, my husband whose passport expires next year, will have to go through the whole process again in a few months time.
Now for the NISS number. Back to the cafe first though for some more Montejunto cakes.
Summing up, you will need for each person:
Criminal records check + 10 euros
Certificate from the Junta de Freguesia
10.50 euros per certificate
N.B. Residency will only last until the passport expires.
The above apparently varies from town to town and is a rough guide based only on our own experience. I take no responsibility for any mess, legal or otherwise, you find yourselves in based on this information.