Povitar Singh, better known as Sandy, is still trying to figure out the best way to win over customers for the restaurant that opened three months ago next to Avenida de Roma, in Lisbon. The lunch buffet started this week because those who work in the area told him they need to “eat well and quickly”.
He arrived in Portugal a year and a half ago and is one of the many Indians who chose the country to live. This was the fastest growing community last year. and keep coming. Many are on the waiting list to obtain a residence permit, such as Sandy.
Until 31 August, the Aliens and Borders Service (SEF) issued 63,884 residence permits (AR), which represents a decrease of 12.6% compared to the first eight months of 2020 (72 973). In the same period this year, they received 589 asylum requests (international protection), 7.68% less than in 2020 (638). There are over 64,522 immigrants officially residing in the country, not counting the thousands awaiting their regularization.
This year, immigration numbers continue to rise, albeit more slowly than in the years immediately prior to covid-19. Consequences of the limits to world circulation with the pandemic, but also of the delays in the conclusion of the regularization processes, which have worsened. Many services closed during the months of confinement, which increased the wait from a year and a half to at least two.
Starting the process is easy, the difficult thing is to arrange an interview to present the remaining documentation, which until a month ago was done by the applicant via the Internet, without respecting the order in which the processes were entered. The SEF changed the form of booking, starting by calling the “declarations of interest” presented in 2017 and 2018. This month is scheduled to schedule the requests for 2019.
Povitar Singh delivered the documentation in June 2020. But that, he stresses, did not stop him from “opening a business and getting on with life”. It explains why he chose Portugal to live with his family, his wife and two daughters. “ANDI’ve been here twice, the last two years ago, and I really enjoyed it, it’s a very good country for business. It’s very easy to get the papers and it doesn’t take a lot of money to start a business. In Australia [onde vivia antes] it takes a lot of money. Here, you want to start a company and get a license. And it’s easier for immigrants to get a residence permit.” Besides, with the pandemic, transfers in commerce “are cheaper”.
In 2020, the Indian community recorded the highest growth among immigrants, almost 40% (see graph). They entered the top 10, replacing Guinea-Bissau. Povitar feels that his fellow countrymen continue to choose Portugal, especially for the environment and the ease of regularization, which he says has no parallel in other EU countries.
Add to the atmosphere and the way they feel welcomed. “I’ve been to Germany, France, Switzerland, Australia, the United States and many other countries, they don’t like immigrants. Here, we are respected, I opened the restaurant three months ago and the people around here are friends. And my daughters can walk around metro, on the street, everywhere, no problems”.
“The poorest don’t emigrate”
“Povitar, Sandy, is 42 years old and lived with his parents and brother in Australia, who left India 11 years ago. He visited Portugal twice, the last one precisely to assess the possibility of working on his own. He has some money, which also allows him to hire a lawyer and an accountant. He emphasizes that “the very poor cannot emigrate”, it happens in his country and in general. “
“My parents, my family, have some leased properties. To get a visa, you must have an annual income equivalent to 32 thousand/50 thousand euros. We left India in 2010 looking for an opportunity. There’s a lot of population, we don’t have good health conditions, for a person to be treated well, they have to go to the private bathroom. And the same with education. In Portugal, public schools are good”.
Sandy tells his journey without stopping smiling, explains that the oldest daughter, Pravleen Kaur turns 15 that day. It was last Wednesday and the restaurant closed for the big party. “It’s a special age”, it says. The second daughter is Japneet Kaur, age 6. The two start school activities in the country this year. Pravleen was given two evening gowns to wear to her birthday celebrations and will not think about that day in the new adaptation. But she confesses that she is apprehensive about school, her father explains that she is also going to learn Portuguese. Japneet jokes.
Sandy’s father and brother stayed in Australia, he decided to permanently change that country for Portugal, after having traveled to several continents. It arrived in February 2020, a month before a pandemic broke out. The country went into confinement, he opened a supermarket in the area where he lives, in Benfica. He sold it to a Nepalese man when he had the opportunity to stay with the restaurant of a friend from his homeland, who had to return to India after his mother’s death.
The restaurant is the Kings Kitchen, which is parallel to the avenue of Rome. It was closed as pandemic numbers continued to rise. It opened again three months ago, it is still in the installation phase, for example, it will change its name. It will be Sandy’s Restaurant. “It has been closed for a year and there is a lot to change. I am following my dream, I always wanted to have a restaurant”.
The menu is varied and not just with Indian cuisine. Sandy guarantees that his samosas are special, stuffed with chicken and mozzarella, just like the roast chicken, curry, but also the pastas and pizzas. “And I know how to make good cod or chicken à Brás”, he says.
Some of the specialties that you will have at the lunch buffet, from Monday to Friday, for 5.99. And it’s not even worth talking to you about the maxim of chefs: that a restaurant must have a reduced menu. “People like good food, which is what we do. And I know children’s tastes, they like pasta, pizzas, hamburgers. In this area, there are many companies, but also families, I have to make a menu that everyone can enjoy” .
And its cuisine has diverse cuisine: Asian, African and European. Cooks Saikh Hamid, 59, a Pakistani who has lived for 39 years in the Netherlands and who opted for Dutch nationality (when he migrated to his country he did not allow dual nationality) and Hamid’s wife, Afifá Shaikh, 40, from Morocco. They have been in Portugal for a month. Sandy, on the other hand, makes Indian specialties and has been learning Portuguese dishes over the Internet, also when he dines out, which he says he loves.
Europeans and Asians
In 2020, the SEF issued 118 124 new residence permits, 8.5% less than in 2019. The year ended with 662 095 foreigners residing in the country, 12.2% more than in the previous 12 months. But the increase from 2018 to 2019 was 22.1%. Until August 31, 63,884 more had obtained the AR, to which 589 refugees were added. The latter came on their own or through the United Nations Relocation Program.
Brazilians are the largest foreign community, with 183,993 inhabitants in the country. But it grew less than the Indian and British communities.
The United Kingdom rose to second place, a position ceded by Cape Verde. As a matter of fact, there are people from several EU countries opting for this southern Europe, such as the Italians and the French. They have come to occupy the top places in the table of foreign communities, putting Africans and those from Eastern Europe in the background. The weight of those from Cape Verde, Romania, Ukraine and China decreased.
It should be noted that there are many immigrants obtaining Portuguese nationality, which is no longer included in the national statistics of foreign residents. But, Indians are also in the top 10 of the list of new Portuguese and continue to rise in terms of residence permits. The list of new Portuguese is led by Brazilians and Israelis, these last descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, which simplifies the process.
For whom the process was complicated, it was for the British because they no longer belong to the EU. The transition period ended on December 31, 2020. And many of these citizens chose to emigrate from the UK before Brexit.
Since January 1, 2021, to obtain a “residence visa” are subject to the same regime as other third-country nationals (Law 23/2007 of 04.07.) They must have a valid residence visa, granted for one of the purposes as long as you are in Portugal: you have proof of means of subsistence; accommodation; you are registered with social security; you have not been convicted of a crime that in Portugal is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year, explains the SEF.