UK expats stuck in limbo in Portugal?

Thousands of British expats in Portugal say they are stuck in limbo, they claim, because of the country’s failure to issue them with post-Brexit residency cards. The Portuguese Border and Immigration Service has not yet issued WA biometric cards needed by every UK national under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. On mainland Portugal only a temporary document and QR code has been issued, which affected Brits say is not recognised locally or at international borders. Many UK nationals who made Portugal their home before the withdrawal agreement came into force are facing deportation and arrest when they try to enter another EU country, according to Tig James, who runs the British in Portugal campaign group. She explains that they are enduring complications including being unable to register for health care, births and face obstacles when it comes to family reunions.

Tig has told the press: “The process needed for UK nationals to register for residency took months to be put in place and, prior to that, caused a great deal of difficulties specifically for those arriving just before the end of 2020 who were not allowed to obtain any residency documentation. This meant they were unable to sign work contracts with many being threatened with retraction of them including, most notably, five easyJet pilots who had moved to Portugal with their families solely for that purpose.” She added: “People were not only unable to obtain work but were not permitted to register for health care, social security, at banks, the tax office, every known institution in Portugal. Many stopped at Portuguese borders were being threatened with deportation. Finally they were allowed to register for residency and a system put in place where a QR code was given stating that all were legally resident in Portugal but it wasn’t the WA biometric card needed by every UK national coming under the withdrawal agreement.” James went on to say: “I have been promised the cards would be arriving soon since July 2019 and that has been the unvarying reply since.” A spokesperson for the government has answered the claims by noting that current residency documents of British citizens living in Portugal continue to be accepted. “The document with the QR can be used whenever they travel, as proof of their residence in Portugal, guaranteeing also access to public health services and social security benefits.”

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