More than 34,358 British nationals are currently living in Portugal, while the effects of Brexit are raising questions for all, including holidaymakers and those planning to relocate to Portugal from the UK in the near future.
The December 31st deadline for the UK’s transition period is looming closer, while delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic on travel plans are coming into play.
British nationals arriving in Portugal by December 31, 2020, who want to reside in Portugal, will be required to register with their local Town Hall, to receive a Certificate of Registration. The deadline for registration was originally set for March 29th but was extended by the Portuguese government earlier this year.
Reports are indicating an increase of more than 110% in the number of British nationals registering in Portugal following Brexit. The need to register when you are residing in another EU country has already been the law, however, it has not always been followed due to the freedom of movement and travel previously enjoyed.
There are a lot of issues still to be resolved, some of which will not be answered until after the UK has formally left the European Union on the 31st of December 2020.
Government officials and ministers have emphasized that the rights of British nationals with residency in Portugal will be protected with no significant changes post-Brexit. The matters of taxation and social security still need to be addressed. As it stands a double-taxation agreement is already in place to avoid having to pay tax in two countries. Registered residents will enjoy the same voting rights as previously and the UK driving licences will be recognized as per usual. In areas of healthcare, pension credits and professional qualifications, the Minister has also stated that everything will continue to be accepted.
British nationals will, however, no longer be a part of the European health insurance card scheme. A transition period applies until January 2021 and eligible individuals will need to apply for a new EHIC card. Residents currently living in the EU or moving there before December 31st, as well as British State Pensioners and UK students that have started their course already will be able to continue using their card until January 2021.
The Portuguese government has also stated they will make arrangements for a new agreement that will provide British citizens with subsidized medical care. This will primarily apply to holidaymakers and short term visitors, as residents that are registered in Portugal are covered under state healthcare for as long as they remain a resident.
Tourism is still a driving factor
Portugal has been investing heavily in its tourism sector and the pandemic has hit the country hard. More than 2 million British nationals choose Portugal as a holiday destination every year. The new laws and agreements will allow a smooth post-Brexit transition and encourage British tourists to travel to Portugal as normal.
Portugal will also not require British passport holders to apply for a visa for a stay of under 90 days after December 31st. In addition, Portugal has announced it will open a dedicated “UK Passport” channel since UK passport holders will no longer be able to enter through the EU fast lane. This will prevent any unnecessary delays or queues and allow for faster transits through border and passport control. Other European airports are also following suit and adding dedicated UK passport gates.
There is no denying that Portugal will do anything it can to remain a preferred destination for British holidaymakers. Already there are positive signs of travellers patiently waiting until after the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccinations are rolled out. Searches for Algarve, the southernmost region in the country, have been increasing at a rate of 48% per week for the period between April and August 2021. The region of Algarve attracts more than half of the annual British visitors to the country (1.2 million in 2019) and is working hard to prepare once again to welcome tourists as a safe destination.
Algarve saw a huge surge in British visitors earlier this year in August after it was removed from the Covid-19 no-entry list. The number of flights required extra staff and immigration personnel, however, it still didn’t make up for the huge losses to the economy due to the pandemic.
A statement made by the Portuguese Tourism Minister Rita Marques summarizes the sentiment offered by Portugal at the moment. “No matter what happens, the Portuguese will always stand by the British because British travellers are very important to us.”.