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Brexit: United Kingdom Nationals residing in Portugal


Considering the complicated, but imminent, departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the Portuguese Parliament approved a set of measures as an attempt to preserve the rights of United Kingdom Nationals (“UKN”) residing in Portugal. Thus, on March 29, 2018, Law 27-A / 2019, of March 28, which approves contingency measures to be applied with Brexit coming into force. This Law establishes a set of provisions regarding (i) residence rights, (ii) political-electoral rights, (iii) education, (iv) social security, (v) professional activities, (vi) health and (vii) driving licences.

   (i) Residence right

Law 27-A/2019 applies to all UKN and family members (spouses, factual units, descendants under 21 years old and ascendants) residing in Portugal when Brexit takes place, therefore guaranteeing the validity of permanent residence certificates or permanent residence cards issued previously and thus their residence in Portugal until December 31, 2020.

After this date, UKN and/ or their family members whom, as of the date of Brexit, have been residing in Portugal for less than 5 years, will be granted a temporary residence permit, and, as for UKN residing in Portugal for at least 5 years, they will be granted a permanent residence permit or a long-term resident status.

In order to achieve such status, after the Brexit and until December 31, 2020, those citizens should submit, in the Municipalities of their residence area, or in the Civil Registration Offices equipped with the technical means to that purpose, an application for the issuance of their residence permit by presenting a registration certificate, residence card of the European Union citizen’s family member, a third country national, a permanent residence card or a permanent residence card for family members of the citizen of the European Union who are nationals of a third State or, if they do not have such documents, a proof of their residence in Portugal.

On the other hand,UKN and family members residing in Portugal when Brexit takes place are exempt from said requirements and the presentation of the supporting documents required for the issuance of residence permits provided for in Law 23/2007, of July 4, on the Entry, Permanence, Exit and Removal of Foreign Citizens in Portugal, namely, the respective articles 74 et seq

   (ii) Political-electoral rights

UKN who have been elected to local/regional bodies will be safeguarded until the term of their functions.

However, as far as the European Parliament elections are concerned, if Brexit takes place up to 15 days before the election, the candidate citizens will be removed, automatically, from the electoral rolls.

   (iii) Education

For European Union citizens which attend Portuguese colleges, Law 27-A / 2019 confirms that, until December 31, 2020, the international student status will not be applicable, until the end of the cycle of studies in which they are registered or until they graduate, provided they are already included therein in their capacity as students nationals from a UE member. This is also applicable to those who register until December 31, 2020.

   (iv) Social security

UKN and family members are also granted social security rights when periods of insurance in the United Kingdom are completed, under the mandatory social security regime until Brexit, a period which must be certified by the UK social security authorities.

   (v) Professional activities

UKN who hold an administrative authorization for the exercise of professional activities, in Portugal, for a specified period remain unchanged. Likewise, the right to recognition of professional qualifications remains. 

   (vi) Health

Considering health care rights, the solution differs depending on whether individuals are residents or non-residents.

UKN residing in Portugal at Brexit will continue to be beneficiaries of the National Health Service (“Serviço Nacional de Saúde” – “SNS”) being free of charge, other than those of the restraining fees, of the SNS health care (unless protected by private health subsystems), while non-residents will be beneficiaries until December 31, 2020. The right to health care in SNS establishments and services remains intact for those citizens which are temporarily in Portugal, upon presentation of a valid passport.

There are exceptions for those cases in which UKN move to Portugal to receive medical treatment.

   (vii) Driving license

UKN as well as their family members/relatives shall exchange driving licenses by 31 December 2020.

One important aspect of this Law is the reciprocal treatment for Portuguese nationals in the United Kingdom, which it strictly and expressly required. If such equivalence does not happen, the application of this Law will be immediately suspended. Such equivalence shall be recognized by resolution of the Council of Ministers.

Carla Parreiro Leandro

Guilherme Ribeiro Martins