Following her widely read article, 'Become a Portuguese citizen AND keep your British passport,' Sue Fletcher offers help and advice to those deciding to follow the rules in Portugal and apply for residency, thus avoiding a fine of between €400 and €1,500.
Sue Fletcher writes: "Many of us arrive in Portugal and never bother to take out any form of residency in the firm belief that we aren’t required to do so under the EU freedom of movement rules.
However, under Portuguese law, EU/EEA/Switzerland citizens who remain in Portugal for longer than 3 months, have to formalise their right of residence by registering at their local Camâra (town hall) within the following 30 days. The certificate obtained is valid for five years and the cost is €15.
In light of Brexit, the British Ambassador to Portugal has been attending a series of ‘surgeries’ around the country talking to British overseas residents about the possible outcomes of the UK leaving the EU. Currently little is known, but Kirsty Hayes did stress that all British citizens should make sure that their authorisations for residency, passports and other documentation is up to date and in order.
Thankfully, the regime in Portugal for EU citizens is very straightforward when compared to that of the UK. You need to go to the Camâra in person and take with you the following documents:
Workers, pensioners and students:
⦁ a valid identity document - passport
⦁ a declaration on oath that you are employed or self-employed in Portugal. Take any proof of employment with you.
⦁ a declaration on oath that you have sufficient financial resources for yourself and your family members.
Currently, because of the agreement Portugal has with the UK there is no need for UK citizens to have a private health insurance policy but be aware that this may change after Brexit. If you come from an EU country that asks Portuguese migrants to have a health insurance policy, then you too will require this and provide proof.
Students also require an additional declaration on oath that they are registered with an officially accredited public or private educational establishment.
When I registered at my local Camâra no actual wording for the declaration was given on the form and I had to write my own in Portuguese. This may not be the same across the country but if you wish to use this wording please do:
‘Eu declaro que tenho meios suficientes para que eu e a minha família a viver em Portugal sem necessidade de pedir ajuda ao Estado Português.’
Should you fail to register, the law provides for a fine of between €400 and €1,500 (at the time of writing - March 2017), although personally I only know of one person that has had a fine for this and that was several years ago. In addition to the fine he had to register to pay tax in Portugal and back-tax for the years the authorities considered him to be resident here, even though he had paid tax in the UK. He had to get a tax refund from HMRC.
The law also provides for fines should you register or remain registered without meeting the necessary conditions above. This fine can be between €500 and €2,500.
In the event of an abuse of the law, fraud, or false marriage or partnership of convenience, residence rights will be refused and withdrawn.
The Benefits of Residency
With the residency certificate you can import a car. You can also do this without paying the current hefty tax – a useful article covering this can be found here:
Currently, with the residency certificate you can register your EU driving licence with IMT, rather than exchange it for a Portuguese driving licence. Again, how Brexit will affect UK driving licences is as yet unclear, but it is expected that the EU aspect of the UK driving licence will be removed when the driving licence is exchanged at renewal. This might also force a swap to a Portuguese licence which will then make it illegal to drive a foreign registered car.
You also can register for discounted healthcare through the Portuguese national health service (SNS) and the following link gives a succinct guide to healthcare for foreigners in Portugal (https://www.angloinfo.com/how-to/portugal/healthcare/health-system/healthcare-for-foreigners).
Another benefit of residency is the right to vote in local and EU elections. This is particularly important as the local Mayors hold a lot of power and more powers are being devolved from central to local government. Local elections will take place this autumn (2017) and registering to vote is carried out at the local Junta de Freguesia up to 70 days before the election. Just take your passport, fiscal number and residency permit with you.
After holding this residency certificate for 5 years you can apply for a Permanent Resident Card.
All international citizens who become official residents or employees in Portugal, however, whether from the EU or outside of Europe, typically gain the same healthcare rights as Portuguese nationals and will be covered by health insurance in Portugal - although not all types of treatment are available for free, with many requiring a patient contribution.
Permanent Resident Card - for EU/EEA/Switzerland citizens
Once you have been legally resident in Portugal for 5 years you can apply for your Certificate of Permanent Residence. This is valid for 10 years.
You need to either go to your local SEF office in person or you can post your application. The form can be downloaded from the SEF website and comes with three languages, Portuguese, French and English: http://www.sef.pt/documentos/57/Mod0011_v2.7_comunitarios.pdf
The form is relatively straightforward but be sure to tick the correct form of resident’s card you require on the last page. For an individual applying it is option 2.
Documents you will need to provide:
In case you have changed your address since applying for your original residency, you will also require documental evidence of change of address – for example, an Attestation of Residence issued by the local parish (Atestado de Residência da Junta de Freguesia), Final Deeds of Purchase (Escritura de Compra e venda), or Property lease contract (Contrato de Arrendamento), and photocopy of the same.
You will be required to wait for 15 working days. The Permanent Residency Card must be collected in person as you are required to give a fingerprint and pay a fee of €15.
To attract more foreigners Portugal offers a ‘non-habitual resident’ (NHR) scheme that allows new residents special tax benefits for their first ten years in the country. It offers a low income tax rate if you are employed here and allows you to receive foreign income e.g. pensions – tax-free.
For a more detailed explanation visit this link:
Note about Brexit
Currently, we have no idea how Brexit will affect UK citizens with regard to permanent residency. However, what is known is that non-EU citizens need to sit the language test to gain permanent residency, so if you have the five year certificate from the Camâra, then it is probably worth applying for the permanent residency card as soon as possible, before the UK exits the EU. What is also unknown is what happens when we need to renew our permanent residency cards after ten years.
Details of the language test can be found here."