Why you should legalise your residence in Portugal before the end of 2020

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As we know, UK’s exit from the EU has generated too much controversy. However, UK citizens and their family members living in Portugal are assured by the Portuguese government that their stay in our country is welcome.

Even so, we are at the end of November 2020 and, at the current date, it is unknown how and what legal procedures UK citizens should adopt to legally live in Portugal, from January 1, 2021.

Much has been discussed on this subject, especially on the stipulation of a possible exception, in the Portuguese legislation, regarding legal residence for UK nationals.

However, if such exception is not laid down, for those UK citizens who are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, that is, who are not residents in Portugal at the end of the transition period, the rules for entry and crossing at borders provided for in national law will be applicable.

As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. UK citizens may need to show a return or onward ticket and prove that they have enough money for their stay. UK citizens will be able to travel to Portugal for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa for purposes such as tourism. This is a rolling 180-day period.

To stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel, it will be necessary to meet the entry requirements set out by Portugal. This could mean applying for a visa or work permit.

In this regard, UK citizens, out of the Withdrawal Agreement, will now become eligible to apply for the Portuguese Golden Visa Programme, which consists on granting a temporary residence permit through one of the eight types of investment provided for by law.

What we know at this moment, is what is established in the Withdrawal Agreement, which guarantees the status and rights of UK nationals already legally residing in Portugal and the existence of the transition period, which will be in force from the exit’s date until December 31, 2020.

Therefore, UK citizens who want to settle legal residence in Portugal before the end of the transition period must register as residents with the City Council of the residence area, requesting the issuance of a registration certificate.

For this purpose, UK citizens need to present a valid passport, proof of address (certificate of residence of the parish council, deed of acquisition of property for housing or lease agreement), the Portuguese tax identification number document and declare, under the pledge of honour, that they have sufficient means of subsistence for themselves and their family. Regarding family members, proof of the respective family relationship must be presented.

UK nationals who currently live in Portugal but are not yet registered as such must apply for the said registration certificate with the City Council of the residence area before December 31, 2020, to benefit from the conditions provided in the Withdrawal Agreement.

The registration certificate is valid for a period of five years. UK citizens may be absent from Portugal without this absence affecting the continuity of their residency, namely, for the fulfilment of military obligations, as well as, temporarily, for a period not exceeding six consecutive months per year, or a maximum of 12 consecutive months for justified reasons, such as pregnancy or childbirth, serious illness, studies or vocational training, or secondment for professional reasons to another Member-State or Third Country.

When the registration certificate completes five years, and before its expiry date, UK nationals living in Portugal may request a permanent residence card with the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF).

The permanent residence card is valid for a period of 10 years, after which it must be renewed with SEF in the same terms in which it was granted (the permanent residence card should be presented instead of the registration certificate). Long absences from Portugal for up to five consecutive years do not compromise the right of permanent residence.

On the other hand, UK nationals who establish their residence in Portugal can also apply for the Non-Habitual Resident status (NHR), which is a more favourable tax regime, extremely competitive when compared to other international tax regimes, which, subject to certain legal conditions and requirements, allows its beneficiaries to be taxed on their income under the protection of this special regime for a period of 10 years.

The NHR is often confused with the Golden Visa Programme, however, they are two distinct and autonomous mechanisms, although they can sometimes coexist: the first is a more advantageous tax regime and the second, as mentioned above, a temporary residence permit obtained through an investment activity in Portugal.

Finally, many UK nationals are also Irish citizens or other EU nationals. In this situation, if they intend to live in Portugal from January 1, 2021, the legalisation process does not change, since they continue to be EU citizens because they are also nationals of the Republic of Ireland or of another Member-State.

|| RSA – RSA – Raposo Subtil e Associados
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