PORTUGAL’S GOVERNMENT recently announced the launch of the new Cartão do Cidadão (Citizen’s Card), a five in one card that contains all the data currently provided by the Bilhete de Identidade (Identity Card), the Cartão de Eleitor (Voter’s Card), the Cartão de Segurança Social (Social Security Card), the Cartão do Serviço Nacional de Saúde (National Health User’s Card) and the Cartão de Contribuinte (Fiscal Card) – see front page story in last week’s issue of The Resident. However, no mention was made as to how this introduction will affect foreign residents in Portugal, many of whom currently hold the five individual documents, the only difference being that their identity card is the Título de Residência (Residency Card).
The Resident’s reporter Caroline Cunha spoke to the British Consul to the Algarve, Bill Henderson, who confirmed that the new card is for Portuguese nationals. The consulate confirmed that no announcement has been made with regard to if, and how, it might apply to the foreign community in Portugal in the future.
Perhaps it is far too early to expect such news, especially considering that the pilot scheme for the Citizen’s Card will only be launched in the Azores later this year and the full roll-out for Portuguese citizens could take as long as eight years.
It may be that the foreign community has not been included in the project at the current stage, but it would seem odd if individual entities, such as the Finanças, Centros de Saúde and Juntas de Freguesia, were forced to continue producing and issuing individual fiscal, health and voting cards purely for the needs of foreigners in the years to come. As yet, however, nothing has been announced to suggest otherwise.
Portugal is not alone in introducing this new technology. Similar schemes are in pilot phases throughout the European Union and cards are in the throes of being introduced in Finland, Belgium and Estonia.
The Portuguese government concedes that it is a long and complex process and has given the example of Belgium, in which the process of introducing the card began in 2001/2002 and the authorities do not expect all Belgians to have the card before 2008/2009.
Until there is any news on the inclusion of foreign residents in the scheme, all procedures for renewals and new applications for the five individual documents should be undertaken as normal.
New look Residency Card
A new development that exclusively affects the foreign community in Portugal, however, is the announcement by the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiros (SEF), the office for foreigners and border control, that a new model of Título de Residência is being issued, replacing the simple and rather old fashioned paper version. The new, plastic, credit card style residence permit claims to offer greater security and be more practical.
The new card includes a digitalised photograph, signature, fingerprint and identity details, and an optical section that can be swiped through a card reader. In appearance, it is very similar to the European driver’s licence cards.
The introduction of the new style Residency Card does not, however, interfere with the validity of existing cards issued in the previous format. These remain valid and will only be replaced with the new model when they expire. However, for all those applying for the permit for the first time now, the new model will be received.
The new card confirms to the uniform model used across the European Union and, as well as providing all the necessary information, boasts greater security, being aligned to universally recognised features and standards.
For further information visit www.sef.pt or call 217 115 010.