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British residents in Portugal – nothing much will change post-Brexit

MinisterSatosForeignAt a meeting of the Socialist Party in Loulé on Wednesday 16th January, the audience was address by Dr Augusto Santos Silva, the Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs.

As the subject of the meeting was ‘Brexit’, Michael Reeve, the CEO of afpop, was invited by the Faro MP, Dra Ana Passos.

As the meeting was a Socialist Party meeting, much of the minister’s presentation was directed at party members to relay the government’s current thinking on the UK’s exit from the EU.

However the minister acknowledged that there were UK citizens in the audience and answered questions about the government’s intentions and desires for the British and Northern Irish community, both current and future.

The main points made by Augusto Santos Silva were:

The Portuguese government has given a firm commitment to UK citizens who are resident in Portugal that their rights as currently enjoyed are guaranteed to continue exactly as they are now.

Anyone who is properly registered as a resident in Portugal will continue to have that right of residency and to renew that residency without restriction.

Obviously the need to register when you are resident in any EU country has been the law for many years, but the need to legally be registered as resident in Portugal now is more important than ever.

Registration should be done before 29th March, which involves a visit to the local Council office.

Those already registered and who hold temporary residency certificates, will be able to exchange these for permanent residency cards when on the renewal date. This right has been confirmed by the Portuguese government and those who have permanent residency will be able to renew it when it is due without restriction.

The minister said that SEF has around 20,000 UK citizens registered as resident in Portugal. The British Embassy says that there are ‘at least’ 35,000 UK nationals in Portugal.

The Portuguese government will be passing a law to extend the period for registering as a resident to the 31st December 2020.

However this does not mean that people who are already here can do nothing until then as this extension is intended for those moving to Portugal over the next two years, allowing them to register as resident under exactly the same rules as currently are in force.

The issue of travel and visas was addressed. When the UK leaves the EU, UK passport holders will no longer be entitled to enter EU countries using the ‘EU Passports’ channel.

Portugal’s government has taken a decision to open a dedicated ‘UK Passports’ channel at airports in Portugal’s mainland, Madeira and the Açores to enable UK passport holders to pass through airports as quickly as possible.

The EU will add the UK to the list of countries that do not need to apply for visas to enter the EU for travel, which means that travellers will be free to come and go, to and from the UK without the ‘90 days in every 180 days’ restriction.

UK citizens resident in Portugal will still be allowed to travel throughout the EU using their Portuguese residency. They will be travelling as Portuguese residents and not as UK passport holders and therefore free movement within the EU will continue. It is not clear how this will work for residents who only have their initial residency certificate, as there is no photo, signature, fingerprint or passport details recorded on that document. afpop has asked SEF for clarification about this.

There are some areas that cannot be discussed until after the UK has formally left the EU. Taxation (including Capital Gains Tax rollover on property sales) and Social Security matters are two areas that need specific agreement between the UK and Portugal and the Minister stated that those will begin at the earliest opportunity after the UK has left the EU. The Minister did stress that those matters were dealt with in bilateral agreements prior to the formation of the EU and, with some updating, would continue.

The right for registered residents to vote in local elections and the right to be elected to local government bodies will be protected in Portuguese law.

Dr Santos Silva confirmed several times during the meeting that UK citizens will continue to enjoy all the current freedoms that they have in Portugal. UK issued driving licences will continue to be recognised, healthcare will continue to be available, pension credits will continue to be awarded and professional qualifications will continue to be accepted.

The minister quoted Winston Churchill, “Keep Calm and carry on,” adding, “continue to do as you have done until advised otherwise.”    

The link below is to the Portuguese government’s leaflet on the subject: https://www.portaldiplomatico.mne.gov.pt/https://algarvedailynews.com/images/pdf/Folheto_Brexit_EN.PDF

For information about afpop, click HERE