As I said at the end of the last post in this series, we started to get cold feet about Italy. We’ve looked at some weather data, and it is hot there. “No duh” you might be thinking, but it’s one thing to think “ah yes, the beautiful, sunny Italian countryside” and another to think “holy hell it’s like that all year long, and they just had a summer that they named after THE DEVIL because of how historically broiling it was. Maybe not so much?” And hey, we also really like France. Sooooo… I begin the research on visas in France. Same story as Italy, basically. I mean, look: every country is different, that’s why we have different countries in the first place. They are all going to have their peculiarities in every process or system you look at. But fundamentally, practically every country (and I only use weasel words here because I haven’t personally investigated every single country) has a visa process for staying long-term, and they boil down to “are you not an evil supervillain and can you support yourself?” and if you pass that test you can stay. And in all of those countries, the problem is not, fundamentally, “will you be given permission?” but instead “how big is the lake of utter horseshit that I have to swim across to get that permission?” only, you know, paperwork instead of horseshit. So what’s the difference between Italy and France, process-wise? Near as I could figure out, the Italian bureaucrats are mercurial and finicky, and you had to be light on your feet to adapt to the desires of the bureaucrat you drew that day. Whereas, French bureaucrats are persnickity rules-lawyers who start from “no” and have to be cajoled into “yes”. In either case, though, scrupulous adherence to every stitch of their policies usually wins out.
So, France? There are definitely some pluses to the French route. First of all, the geography of the country yields some climate very similar to what we’ve gotten used to in Seattle. And for all that people joke about the weather in Seattle (“Why is there a waiting period before people from Seattle enter Hell? At first they’re too wet to burn.”) it’s actually bloody amazing here. Sure, it mists a lot, but Houston, Texas gets more rain per year on average than Seattle and it’s not even close. There’s no humidity, we basically never see mosquitos, and summer is roughly 4 months of sunshine and 80 degrees. So, the fact that we can find at least somewhat similar conditions in parts of France is quite a draw. The museums are, of course, first rate. The food… well, yum. We might lean slightly towards Italian cuisine if we were forced to pick just one, but it’s not exactly a chore to eat in France. Still, we aren’t completely sold. The stories of bureaucratic hang-ups are more pervasive than what we’d heard about Italy, and then there was this weird phenomenon wherein Americans living in France just seemed way more uptight than Americans living in other places. Not exactly scientific, but it got our ears up.
Since France wasn’t a slam dunk and we were still unsure about Italy, we kept digging around for options. And it was in this state that we took a vacation to Greece. Our trip to Greece is a tale unto itself (spoiler alert: we never seriously considered living in Greece), but one key point is relevant here. At the airport, I noticed the place was plastered with signs in multiple languages, although most frequently in Chinese, touting the “Golden Visa” program in Greece and directing prospective participants to certain real estate developments that were custom-designed to fulfill said visa’s requirements. What the heck is a Golden Visa?, I wondered. I vaguely knew the basics – in lieu of a complicated regime of requirements for a long-term visa, you could… well, not exactly BUY a visa, but by investing a significant amount in a country they would reward you with a fast-tracked visa with fewer restrictions/requirements, especially as regards time spent in-country. You see, one of the bits about the visa process I haven’t got into yet is that, well, countries don’t like to be taken advantage of. So, they tend to have requirements that say you have to live in the country for, say, 8 months out of every 12. Hardly onerous if you’re actually looking to live in that country, but it puts a real crimp in your plans if you were hoping to jet-set across Europe on the strength of your cool new EU visa. A Golden visa, on the other hand, typically has a requirement along the lines of two weeks every year, maybe even less. They try to make it sound dignified, but Golden Visas are very much a cash-for-services transaction that gets a country an influx of foreign investment in exchange for lax visa rules. Ok, great. We couldn’t afford to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to get such a visa, but if it’s simply investing money that was going to be invested SOME-where in any case, maybe this could work for us. But we definitely didn’t want it to be Greece (again, another story for another time) so where might we try this? Spain… hefty investment that would crimp our cash flow too much. Ireland… way too hefty an investment. Germany… hefty investment, eight years before you can apply for permanent residency/citizenship. Portugal… huh, Portugal.