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I'm a dual Brazilian and US citizen and traveling to Portugal soon to start the process of acquiring Portuguese citizenship (via grandparents).

My girlfriend is Russian, and we are soon to get married, but we haven't done so yet.

<< Edit: Due to the apparent maximal permeation of Russian girl scams completely saturating the Earth, I am compelled to clarify that she and I met in real life and we've been together for a year. The tides of life brought us together and she just happens to be Russian. >>

Apparently, it's damn near impossible for her to get a tourist visa for the EU (Schengen visa).

She needs like $3,500 in her bank account and some proof of Russian employment to even be considered. And even then, they may just stamp her passport as blacklisted for 5 years just for even TRYING.

So, anyone familiar with this?

What's the very best country / embassy to apply? The best route?

I would hate to travel to Portugal without her.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JonathanReez Feb 9 '18 at 21:39
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    There is no such thing as an "EU visa". I'm a bit shocked how often people ask for this here without doing even the minimum amount of research to understand what visa they need. – Szabolcs Feb 10 '18 at 8:00
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    @Szabolcs I use the term EU and Schengen visa interchangeably, and apparently so do many others because this post has reached 3,000 views + with lots of comments and no one else corrected me on this. I'll edit the question anyway to clarify that. But Schengen is a somewhat strange, Chinese sounding German word and EU is so natural to say. – solrac Feb 10 '18 at 11:03
  • Until you actually marry, your girlfriend will have to get a tourist visa just like everyone else in Russia does. Not sure why you have decided it's not feasible. – Dmitry Grigoryev Feb 10 '18 at 21:41
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    @If you're so sure about the correct answer, why did you have to ask? – Dmitry Grigoryev Feb 10 '18 at 22:02
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I also have another option that wasn't mentioned yet.

If your girlfriend is not employed and thinks it might hurt her chances, you can have someone from her family (parents?) on steady employment write her a letter that they plan to provide for her financially. That's a pretty common type of document, спонсорское письмо.

Note that Internets state some Schengen states now explicitly avoid working with 2НДФЛ (that's proof of steady salary by employment) and instead ask copy of your card and ATM check with balance. This means they don't care about funds parking at all.

As a side note, I don't think most Schengen states are afraid that she's going to immigrate illegally. I don't think Russians do that in any visible numbers. They might be afraid she will downshift rapidly or get stuck while low on funds.

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    Marking this answer as correct now, because this actually directly addresses her problem. She's an adult "housewife" type who has no income, so this is exactly the document she needs and avoids all the funds parking tricks. – solrac Feb 8 '18 at 19:52
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    What does "downshift rapidly" mean? It's an idiom of some sort, I presume. – ChrisW Feb 9 '18 at 1:02
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    @ChrisW downshifting is a state of mind where you're no longer interested in work or society but only in laying on a beach, smoking weed optionally. Quite a popular lifestyle choice these days. – alamar Feb 9 '18 at 5:37
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    You can think what you want but some ten thousand Russians found to be illegally present in the EU each year sounds sizeable.. For comparison: about twice as many Indian citizens and about half as many Egyptian citizens are found according to the EU’s statistics. – Jan Feb 9 '18 at 13:16
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    @solrac But what's the point, one can be a perfectly illegal citizen prostitute in Russia. I doubt immigration will pay more, as everybody knows that European men are bean counters. – alamar Feb 9 '18 at 17:03
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She needs like $3,500 in her bank account and some proof of Russian employment to even be considered. And even then, they may just stamp her passport as blacklisted for 5 years just for even TRYING.

This sounds exaggerated at best, simply false at worst. Where did you get this information?

What's the very best country / embassy to apply? The best route?

Because her main destination will be Portugal, she must apply to Portugal. Portugal has outsourced its visa processing to VFS Global. See http://www.vfsglobal.com/Portugal/Russia/.

As an aside, there's no such thing as an "EU" visa. She needs a Schengen visa. There are some non-EU members of Schengen, and there are some EU members that are outside Schengen.

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    The information about $3,500 comes from my girlfriend. She's been running around Yaroslavl asking all her friends for advice, as well as calling all the local travel agencies. This figure (~200,000 rubles) is what she came to me with. The local agencies also charge their own fee, and will pretend that she works for their "shell company" in case the destination country's embassy calls asking if she's currently employed. —— The main problem is that I currently don't have that much money to put into her bank account, nor any friends who can loan her that at this time. Thx for info about VFS! – solrac Feb 8 '18 at 16:09
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    @solrac Official inforamtion is that applying for Portugal visa one needs to attest owning 40€/day. "Note: Foreign nationals who can proof having their accommodation and food covered during their stay in Portugal, they might be completely released from paying the aforementioned amounts of money." – Neusser Feb 8 '18 at 16:41
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    Do NOT send her a lot of money (as a loan or gift) to get her bank account up to the 'required' level. Visa have been denied due to the officers seeing a lot of money coming in and them expecting it to be a loan. – Willeke Feb 8 '18 at 17:45
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    Sorry, forgot to put the link in the text - schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-application-requirements/… – Neusser Feb 8 '18 at 18:08
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    @solrac, many times on Travel Stack Exchange, search for 'funds parking' and a lot of answers pop-up. It is not an automatic denial reason but it is a common one. – Willeke Feb 8 '18 at 18:45
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Millions of Russian citizens travel to EU every year for recreational purposes. Most of those aren't oligarchs. I would expect she needs plane tickets, hotel booking, and a modest sum of money in a personal account. This assuming a short trip.

Portugal embassy as I expect would be essentially rubber-stamping anything that comes their way with valid tickets to Portugal, since it's reliant on tourism and not much else.

There were times when even a valid application could be turned down, but these days I won't expect any difficulties. Any problems thus tend to be imaginary. (as in "imaginary girlfriend")

UPD: She would also need insurance. It's ~10€ per day.

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    The insurance is much cheaper than that. About €2 per day. Just verified it with my insurance company (one of the largest in Russia). – Vasily Alexeev Feb 8 '18 at 22:43
  • Does the “imaginary girlfriend” comment have a deeper meaning than it seems on the surface? – Cory Klein Feb 9 '18 at 2:03
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    @CoryKlein All internet posts that include the phrase "my girlfriend" automatically receive imaginary girlfriend responses. – solrac Feb 9 '18 at 11:38
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    Do you have an actual hard source for your claim that Portugal rubber-stamps everything their way? Your chain of arguments seems too weak to support it. – Jan Feb 9 '18 at 13:18
  • @Jan Rubber stamping everything seems like an exaggeration but there is this: portugalresident.com/… – solrac Feb 9 '18 at 17:21
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If your girlfriend wants to travel to Portugal as a tourist, she must convince the visa officials that she is a tourist and not an immigrant.

  • Having lots of money in the account does not help (much). Having a steady and legitimate income which covers her living expenses in her homeland does help to convince the visa officials that she'll leave again, but there are other ways. Being a student with stable finances from the parents, for instance.
  • Having big, unexplained deposits in the account hurts her chances.
  • It is also necessary to explain how she can afford the trip, both the tickets and her expenses in Portugal. If that money is yours and not hers, she has to explain why she would get that money from you, that you can afford the gift, and that you earned it legitimately. If you lived together before, your gift would appear logical.

This last point is probably where the other applicants from Yaroslavl fail. They cannot convince the visa officials that they have the money for the trip to spare, so they are suspected of planning to overstay and work.

As soon as you are a Portugese citizen the rules change even if you are not married, provided you are in a well-documented, stable relationship.

Don't try any tricks like fake employment. The visa officials are at least as clever as those travel agents, and being caught in a lie will really hurt her chances.

  • Thank you for the warnings on finances / tricks; great to know! – solrac Feb 8 '18 at 19:25
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Getting a EU (Schengen) visa in Russia is really simple. You just need about 12,000 RUB (€150) and go to the nearest travel agency, they will do everything for you: will fill out for you all forms, provide you all required documents and set up for you an appointment at a consulate. You will have a visa in less than a week.

Millions of Russians get Schengen visas every year. While the official rules may sound a bit strict (like €3500 requirement you mentioned), in reality visas are given to anyone and Schengen visa denials for Russians are virtually unheard of.

Source: I live in Russia and for the last 10 years I always had a Schengen visa. Half a year ago I got my last Schengen visa in just 2 days.

  • I appreciate your optimism, but you're simply wrong. My gf has had such a hard time that she gets emotionally upset, literally, when talking about it. Without either a sponsor or a chunk of change and verified employment, not only will they reject her but they'll also possibly blacklist list her, with an actual blacklist stamp on the passport. Already happened to her in the past. She thinks it might be because she's young and attractive and they may discriminate against that. Now she's 33 and recent policy changes have made visas easier to get so maybe it won't be as bad for her this time... – solrac Feb 9 '18 at 0:13
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    @solrac having lived in Russia all my life, the situation of your gf sounds almost unique to me. I don’t know and never heard of a single person who had problems going to Europe. The only exception are those who get a visa for one EU country and then don’t visit it, but visit others. – Vasily Alexeev Feb 9 '18 at 8:48
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    @solrac a further hint for your gf might be to get an Italian visa. Anecdotally it’s the easiest one to get, and they don’t really care if you visit Italy or not. They just assume you did visit it, but from another EU country, that’s why you don’t have border stamps. – Vasily Alexeev Feb 9 '18 at 8:50
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    @solrac believe me, I know a lot of Russian girls who visited EU while in early 20s and with no job. Probably they were not as sexy as yours :) – Vasily Alexeev Feb 9 '18 at 10:55
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    Maybe so, LOL... but in fact any girl can look extra beautiful with fashion and make up. Knowing my gf, the problem before was likely that she tried her hardest to look super hot. This time she'll make herself look haggard and wear a potato sack. – solrac Feb 9 '18 at 11:21
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I was in a similar situation once and this is what worked quite well in my case. I am a citizen of a North American country, have relatives in Russia, and we were planning a 10 day long trip to Iceland, where I didn't need a visa but my Russian folk did.

Once I had arranged accommodation and transport within Iceland for all of us (I was paying for everything except their air transportation), I sent a fax to the Icelandic embassy in Russia (and a copy to my family to present with the visa application) and explained the arrangement, including my coverage of their in-country expenses and copies of the itinerary and hotel and B&B booking confirmations. My family were issued their visas within few days without any trouble.

If you do something like this, I think you should avoid mentioning your plans to apply for Portuguese citizenship though, as it might give the consular officer wrong impression about your actual intents -- you're just planning a short vacation together, right?

  • Nice! I'll comment here later if this advice works out for us. In my case, I'll be renting an Airbnb, so your advice would only apply if all this can be done very quickly. The official websites state that she must apply for her visa at least 15 days before traveling, and I don't know if that timing will work out. Great strategy to know about though!! – solrac Feb 8 '18 at 20:44
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My girlfriend's cousin living in Moscow went visit me and my girlfriend about a year ago. Since then, she has been to Germany quite frequently since she fell in love with my best friend. Each time for a few weeks.

You have to write an informal invitation and add a confirmation on tenancy agreement to prove she can stay at your place. That's enough for her to get a visa. It costs around 150€ and was never denied. I don't get the fuzz here. And she is poor as it can get (no need to warn about scams, I know her for years).

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    OP is neither an UE citizen nor resident, I don't think this way works in this case. – Frax Feb 9 '18 at 9:48
  • That's actually the exact "fuzz" here. She needs that invitation / sponsorship letter, and I think everything will work out. Having the accommodation in advance with proof is great too. – solrac Feb 9 '18 at 10:01
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    He wrote that he's going to apply for a Portuguese citicenship. In my understanding, he's going to marry her afterwards. So, he will be an EU citicen by that time. – Mario Maus Feb 9 '18 at 10:01
  • @MarioMaus True but that will take months or a year + .... First my mother has to recover family documents to prove our Portuguese lineage, then I have to apply. I do have Brazilian citizenship and a famous Portuguese surname, but I'm a non EU person as of now. We plan to marry before that, but for now we're nothin' but lovers. – solrac Feb 9 '18 at 10:12
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    @solrac I hope that everything will work out for you two. By the way, the cousin read her visa documents wrong and stayed for too long in Germany - bad stuff! – Mario Maus Feb 9 '18 at 10:20

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