As the chances of a no-deal Brexit increase the Portuguese government have made it clear they are ready to give comfort to British citizens that they will protect their rights. Interior Minister, Eduardo Cabrita said, “The British are welcome in Portugal as residents, as tourists, as investors, as students. We hope they will continue to come and stay in Portugal.”
In an interview with Reuters Economy Minister, Pedro Siza Vieira, said that Portugal were adopting measures to deal with different outcomes and that they “are ready to do this unilaterally”, but hoped that the UK would do the same for Portuguese in the UK. “We don’t want to put this contingency plan into action. We hope the agreement comes into force and all this work becomes useless.”
The contingency arrangements announced will protect the rights of British expats already in Portugal and give them continued access to public healthcare and social security.
If a Brexit deal is done the transition period will run until the end of December 2020 and new British expats would have until then to demonstrate that they are settled in Portugal. If there is a no-deal Brexit the automatic right for UK citizens to acquire residence will cease on 29th March 2019 at 11pm. Registering for residency qualifies you for a five year permit to live and work in Portugal and enjoy the same rights to benefits and healthcare as Portuguese citizens. If you have an existing five year permit or a ten-year permanent residence card you should check its expiration date and apply for a renewal to avoid any problems.
Those who already have settled status at this time will be eligible to remain and apply for residency in the same way as today. They will then have until 31st December 2020 to apply for a registration certificate (cartão de residencia) at the local cãmara municipal.
In order to demonstrate that you are settled in Portugal, specialist expat financial advisory firm Blevins Franks advise that you should demonstrate that you meet the criteria to be tax resident and ensure you formally register with the Portuguese tax office. They say that other good indicators of residence include registering for the national health card (cartão do utente), holding a local bank account and arranging a Portuguese will. Once settled current partners and close family members can join you. British nationals who spend five or more consecutive years outside Portugal lose their residency status.
With the fall in the pound the number of tourists to Portugal has fallen, but British tourists are still the largest group accounting for around 3 million visitors a year of the total of 13 million. Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, said that airports in The Algarve and Madeira will open separate lanes for British tourists to ease entry after the UK leaves the EU. They have also committed that no visas will be required for Britons to enter Portugal.