Your rights as an expat during Brexit

The Portuguese government recently released details of its plans to assist British expats living in Portugal. However, there is real imperative for swift action. There are around 45,000 British expats living in Portugal, but only 23,431 of these are officially registered as permanent residents. Failure to organise the essentials before the Brexit deadline could make residency more complex.

A pamphlet published by the Portuguese government entitled ‘The United Kingdom Nationals Keep Their Right of Residency’ states that in the case of a no-deal scenario “the guarantee to acquire the right of permanent residence would only apply to UK nationals who are resident in Portugal before March 29”.

However, Portuguese efforts to provide an extended ‘Brelcome’ to Brits and to ensure that no expats unwittingly fall foul of Brexit have gathered apace over recent months. For example, Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita said additional immigration staff would be sent to popular expat destinations such as the Algarve and Madeira Island in order to ensure as many residency registrations as possible go through.

Portugal is making sincere attempts to ensure smooth transitions for British expats in the country as well as for the three million British tourists who visit Portugal each year and, ultimately, this should mean, whatever the nature of Brexit, all of public healthcare access, social security rights, interchangeability of academic qualifications, and easy access to visas should be assured.

The following are a few points of note for expats.

■ Establishing Residency
The first thing you need to do as an expat is to ensure you are correctly registered to reside in the country – nearly half of expats are not. Those who have legally resided in Portugal for five years or more (or anyone whose 10-year permanent residence card has expired) should apply for permanent residence with Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras. You will need to show your residence card, passport or identity card, and proof of address if it has changed.

Those who do not have a permanent residence card, and anyone arriving in Portugal before the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020, will need to register at their local City Council (Câmara Municipal) as the withdrawal agreement states that the current rules for registration will apply until then.

■ Healthcare
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, you should check with the NHS for updates on healthcare entitlements of UK nationals in Portugal. However, there is every chance the Portuguese government will take all reasonable steps to ensure that UK nationals do not face any inconvenience, and registered residents should continue to receive state healthcare as they did pre-Brexit.

If you have not done so already, you should enrol at your local medical centre by showing your residence certificate in order to receive a user ID.

■ Expat wealth
It is important that you are not reliant on accounts and cash cards from UK-financial institutions for your cashflow needs in Portugal post-Brexit. Although there are strong indications that you will still be able to access your UK-based money easily, there are no guarantees, so you should ensure that you have contingencies in place for continued access to your wealth.

It is also important that you consider your tax obligations following the UK’s exit from the EU. Portugal and Britain have double taxation treaties in place and although these will not change come March 29, the complexities of Brexit mean that as an individual taxpayer, with your own unique financial affairs, you should speak with your wealth manager about how best to structure your wealth while also meeting your legal obligations, both in Portugal and the UK. If you have not done so already, apply for a Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF) so that you can open financial accounts, pay tax, and buy, sell and rent property.

Brexit is also a time for expats to review their pension planning. This includes looking at UK and Portuguese state pensions as well as private pensions and perhaps considering an international pension transfer such as QROPS or SIPPs.

■ Help during Brexit
Portugal has made clear its intention to support the rights of British expats during the uncertainties of Brexit. For example, the government recently said that it would support a delay to Brexit, while Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva has proposed a provision to enable Brits in Portugal to keep their voting rights in local elections.

Despite these efforts, however, it is still essential that British expats in Portugal organise their wealth, assets and residency status in a way that best reflects their goals and interests. Blacktower FM in Portugal can help you do this. For more information contact us today.

The Blacktower Group was formed in 1986 and has earned its reputation providing wealth and management and pensions planning advice to clients in the UK as well as those who are resident abroad. Our proven and bespoke service can help you accomplish your financial goals.

By Manuela Robinson

Manuela Robinson is the Joint-Country Manager of Blacktower in Portugal. With offices in Quinta do Lago, Cascais and representation in Madeira.
[email protected] | 289 355 685
Blacktower Financial Management (International) Limited is licensed by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission. Licence 00805B. Blacktower Financial Management Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.