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 90 days, 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. She stressed that all British citizens should make sure that their authorisations for residency, passports and other documentation is up to date and in order. Residents will retain their current EU rights in their host country, but under the latest 'Withdrawal Agreement', they will lose the right of free movement, including travel within the Schengen area for longer than 90 days in every 180.
Thankfully, the regime in Portugal for EU citizens is very straightforward when compared to that of the UK. You need to go to the Câmara in person and take with you the following documents:
Workers, pensioners and students:
⦁ a valid identity document - passport
⦁ proof of address known as the Atestado de Residência. For this you first need to go to your local Junta de Freguesia – or Parish Council office – and take with you:
Photocopy of Passport
Photocopy of Fiscal number
Caderneta - house deeds - if you own the house. If you are renting, then you must show your rental agreement.
⦁ 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.
* Proof, in writing, that you have sufficient means to live in Portugal without becoming a burden on the state. For example a bank statement, pension payments etc.
‘Member States may not lay down a fixed amount which they regard as ‘sufficient resources’, but they must take into account the personal situation of the person concerned. In all cases this amount shall not be higher than the threshold below which nationals of the host Member State become eligible for social assistance, or, where this criterion is not applicable, higher than the minimum social security pension paid by the host Member State.’
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 Câmara 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
A degree of certainty once Brexit has occurred. After Brexit and without residency, you will be treated as a tourist and only permitted to live in your house in Portugal for 90 days in every 180 and you won't be able to visit any other Schengen country until you have been out of Schengen for 90 days.
With the residency certificate you can import a car. You can also do this without paying the current hefty tax.
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.
There is some question over the acceptance of UK driving licenses after Brexit so if you plan to remain in Portugal after Brexit you might consider exchanging your license before that date to ensure you can continue driving in Portugal without the need to sit the Portuguese driving test – in Portuguese! You will need to surrender your UK license as it is illegal for anyone to hold two EU driving licenses but once Brexit has happened you can reapply for a UK license as it is not illegal to own an EU license and a third country license.
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).
Until Brexit, 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. This appears to be a right that we will lose after the UK exits the EU.
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:
- Proof of having been legally residing in Portugal for an uninterrupted period of five years.
- A copy of the Certificate of Residence from the Camâra (see above)
- Two passport photographs
- Copies of a valid Passport or Identity Card
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
Note about Brexit.
Brexit is becoming a little clearer for legal residents. The latest version of the Withdrawal Agreement permits any UK resident moving to an EU country and taking up legal residence before Brexit, to retain the right to continue on to gain permanent residence status without the need for a language test. However, during the ‘Transition Period’ there is a possibility that applicants will need to provide criminal background checks. It’s simply a case of ‘watch this space’.