SEF
Queues outside SEF offices are just the tip of the iceberg: in one day in October there were 29 MILLION attempts by people to contact SEF by phone...

Visa renewals – including ‘golden visas’ – move online

Decision taken “to avoid long queues” and “extremely congested telephone lines”

Months of agony suffered by foreign residents battling to renew visas with SEF (foreigners and borders agency) have finally seen a new approach: renewals have moved online.

That doesn’t mean people cannot (try to) access SEF’s ‘in-person’ services. It simply gives those who have spent fruitless hours attempting to now have an alternative.

The announcement came last night, during evening news bulletins, in which it was stressed that this is the first time ‘golden visas’ have been included in the online renewals process.

Previously, other forms of visas have moved to being available for renewal online – again due to an overwhelming demand.

There are currently 21,500 people whose visas expire in the next few weeks, and almost certainly a lot more than this number whose visas have long since lapsed.

Golden visas holders have been particularly frustrated; these are generally people whose whole reason for applying for this type of visas centres on the need to travel throughout Europe – but with their visas left lapsed for so many months now, dozens have found themselves in a state of legal limbo.

SIC television news’ report last night featured film footage of the kind of queues that regularly build up outside SEF offices.

Daily capacity of the service “does not exceed three thousand”, explained SIC – adding that during just one day in October, there were 29 MILLION attempts by people to make an appointment during a 12-hour period.

Pressure was such that SEF’s telephone switchboard “stopped working”.

According to SIC, there are around 225,000 requests or expressions of interest to reside in Portugal in SEF’s system, and “awaiting a reply”.

As progress in procedural bottlenecks now looks much more likely, the government has stressed that expired documents related to the permanence in national territory continue to be considered valid until 31st December 2023.

This may sound ‘satisfactory’, but for foreigners seeking to travel outside Portugal, it actually isn’t: even other European countries do not accept Portugal’s validity amnesty, and there have been reports of foreign residents (attempting to use ‘expired visas’) being arrested/ deported from countries they have travelled to.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com