Delights turns to disappointment as Algarve's first Brits called for collection of biometric data
'Celebrations' at Loulé's Espaço de Cidadão, in the presence of government dignitaries, soon dampened as it was impossible to move forwards because of a computer glitch...

Delight turns to disappointment as Algarve’s first Brits called for collection of biometric data

Residents of Loulé municipality arrive on time, but ‘system fails’…

Delight in the Algarve turned to disappointment as 3,500 Brits in the municipality of Loulé started to be called for ‘collection of their biometric data’ in order to be issued with new residency cards, following the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

This was the moment so many who have been tip-toeing in trepidation due to less-than-secure paperwork hoped that everything would change.

But it was not to be… the first arrivals, so eager to move forwards in a process that has left Brits in Portugal trailing behind all other British communities in the European Union, discovered nothing could be done… the IT system had thrown a wobbly.

David Thomas, of Safe Communities Portugal diplomatically posted online: “Although there were IT problems experienced during the afternoon and today, this was not the fault of the staff of the Espaço de Cidadão. They tried to help in every way they could and although we were unable to go through the process as scheduled, they promptly arranged new appointments. I would like to thank them for their efforts”.

Mr Thomas’ patience however was not shared by other residents, many of whom left frustrated comments.

“They had one job to do, and they couldn’t even do that…” (followed by initials for a well known expletive), stormed one – while another questioned: “Why can’t the guys who organised the vaccination programme in Portugal be drafted in to organise the issuing of the Biometric cards? They were efficient, organised and delivered what they promised…”

Why does Portugal suffer these embarrassing systems glitches when the spotlight is on them? No one seems able to answer.

As another commentator has stressed: “Will be so glad when this is resolved, on one side we are told that the QR-code form covers you but then the college where my daughter is going to refuses to accept it and are refusing her free transport, books and bursary…”

The ‘problems’ with QR-code forms are legendary, and from the look of what happened last week, there is still some way to go.

Loulé appears to have been chosen as the first municipality in the Algarve to start calling residents because it has so many of them (3,504). The next municipalities with most Britons registered are Lagos (3.369), Albufeira (2.177) and Tavira (1.577). The Algarve as a whole has more than 18,000 Britons, all of them waiting for the biometric cards that will start making life in Portugal a great deal more ‘official’.

A statement from SEF last week, outlining events in Loulé, said the process of collecting biometric data “will be extended to other Portuguese boroughs” (it just hasn’t said when. Obviously, with the problems experienced, it is impossible to predict).

The service insists that “the certificate with the QR code continues, which can be downloaded from the Brexit portal, continues to be an official document of residency in Portugal under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and valid until the new card is issued, as are current residency documents of the EU which continue, equally, to be acceptable for the purposes of travel, as long as they are within validity, until the new residency card is issued”.

In spite of these constant assertions, many Brits armed only with QR code certificates have found all manner of ‘rights’ denied them.

Advice? Keep close watch on email inboxes, as SEF’s call – when it comes – will come that way.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com