On another thread, which has gone way off topic (but still remains full of substance), I strongly urged people to write letters to SEF. Below, I will repeat what I wrote there, followed by a MAJOR UPDATE. But first, some stories:
I’m a US passport holder. Back in 1999 I was working and living in London with my family. We submitted our application, along with our passports (required) for our annual visa renewal, which should have taken two weeks. Five days later, the Immigration department headquarters in Croydon moved to a new office across the street. The entire immigration system broke down. For nearly a year not a single visa renewal was processed. Meanwhile, they held on to the passports of everyone who’d submitted a renewal application (including ours). We were in a bind. Eight months passed. My wife had a business trip scheduled, and we’d planned a family holiday abroad. If we got emergency US passports and then left the UK, we’d have to return as tourists, our work and residence visas would be terminated and we’d have to leave the UK to reapply. Business people couldn’t travel. Brits marrying foreign passport holders had to cancel honeymoons (I met several such couples). Tens of thousands of foreign professionals fled Britain, businesses were relocating, the US and other governments protested, lawsuits were threatened, but the Home Office did nothing. So I had the bright idea of writing to my local member of Parliament. He had no reason to help me; I wasn’t a voter, he would gain nothing politically from helping me. But he indeed replied, raised a question in Parliament, and wrote to the Home Office. Ten days later I got a call from the Immigration Department to collect my family’s passports and visas. Ours were the only visas processed at that time. When I went there, I was the only civilian in the building. When I walked into the office, the staff SNEERED at me. “You’re the chap who got Parliament after us,” a female clerk said as she literally tossed the passports across the counter at me.
My letter worked, but look at the attitude inside Immigration! Hmm…
Back home in Hong Kong, in 2001 (we couldn’t abide living in Britain), HK Immigration denied a visa for an animation artist I was hiring from overseas. He failed the minimum education requirement for a professional visa (he was a high school dropout), but was a genius artist. Again I wrote a letter, to the Director of Immigration, telling in heartfelt terms why I needed him. He got the visa.
Back to the Portugal GV: during my 15-month wait for initial approval, I told these stories to my lawyer in Lisbon, and suggested I write a heartfelt letter to the head of SEF, explaining my intention to move to Portugal and my reasons for applying for the GV instead of other visas. She was aghast! Don’t do it! She warned that any hint of favors to a GV investor would be political suicide.
I sent the letter anyway. It garnered me a bland response from an underling which said: “Wait”. Did no good for me, but apparently no harm either. My 15-month wait at the time was normal.
Earlier this month I sent a new letter regarding my wife’s lack of approval for her renewal. Our biometrics appointments were in Faro (me) and Porto (her) in November 2021. I got my new card in May. Hers is still in limbo.
Why am I boring you with these stories? Because I a letter-writing campaign might possibly do some good. I wrote to the Porto regional office, addressed to the office director. I explained to him that my wife’s expired residency card is an obstacle to numerous practical and professional matters, which in turn delays her relocating and hiring local Portuguese, and so on. This is all actually true. I wrote the letter in my best Portuguese, and had my tutor clean up my grammatical errors and adjust a few sentences into more formal language.
UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!
According to the Portugal CTT tracker, my wife’s letter was received by the Porto regional headquarters of SEF on Tuesday 9 August. Nine working days later, Monday 22 August (today), my lawyer sent notice that her visa renewal had been approved and her card would be issued pending payment.
Coincidence? Maybe. A result of her heartfelt letter? Also maybe. But one thing is absolutely certain:
The letter did not harm her case!
So, I repeat: get out there and write to SEF. It will not backfire on you. At worst, it will have no effect. Or, just maybe, a couple weeks later you’ll get the result you want.
The contact information can be easily found on the SEF website. What if we all wrote letters to the regional directors handling our cases? Not angry letters, not pleading, not scolding, but heartfelt explanations of our own circumstances and our desires to connect with and contribute to Portugal, that it isn’t all about money. Let them see that we are real people, not cold-hearted oligarchs. I’m talking about physical paper letters, not e-mails. Bureaucrats worldwide have a Pavlovian response to actual paper.
It’s clear that their delays in processing Golden Visa applications are entirely arbitrary, differ from office to office, and are totally at the discretion of whoever is in charge. If each regional director gets twenty or thirty such letters, maybe their stone cold bureaucratic hearts might rattle back to life.