New Portuguese law secures UK expatriates’ rights


Please note that this article is over six months old. While Blevins Franks takes care to make sure that information is accurate on the date of publication, some content may change over time. You should not rely on the accuracy of legislation and tax information in this article; take professional advice for your circumstances.

The Portuguese government has locked in residency and healthcare rights for UK nationals in Portugal, even if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

The Portuguese government has locked in residency and healthcare rights for UK nationals and their families in Portugal up to the end of 2020. 

Having announced its no-deal contingency measures for UK nationals in January, the Portuguese government embedded these protections into law on 28 March. This provides welcome reassurance for British families living in Portugal amidst ongoing Brexit uncertainty. 

Residency rights and benefits

The protections ensure that UK nationals who are settled in Portugal before the date the UK leaves the EU will continue to be seen as residents, even in the event of no-deal. 

The right to remain and access associated benefits, including healthcare, will continue uninterrupted for existing residents and their families until 31 December 2020. 

To qualify, UK citizens who have been in Portugal for under five years will need to apply for a registration certificate (cartão de residéncia) with the local câmara municipal or conservatória before Brexit takes place. With this date still uncertain, it is essential that anyone who wants to stay urgently registers with the authorities. 

Current residence documents will remain valid. After five years of continued residence, Britons will be able to apply for permanent residence under softer rules than usually available to non-EU residents (‘third country nationals’). 

While those who already hold permanent residence have the right to stay, check the expiry date. If it is due to expire within six months, apply for renewal now to ensure you can continue to enjoy today’s rights and benefits without interruption. 

Other commitments for UK nationals

  • Professional qualifications will continue to be recognised for those practising in Portugal before the date the UK leaves the EU.
  • Those enrolled in Portuguese higher education before 31 December 2020 can complete their studies without needing to adopt international student status.
  • Residents can continue driving under a UK licence until 31 December 2020 and have until that time to exchange for a Portuguese licence without having to sit a Portuguese driving test. 
  • Visitors to Portugal will remain eligible for free healthcare up to 31 December 2020, so long as the UK agrees to provide reciprocal treatment to Portuguese nationals in the UK.

However, the legislation states that the guarantees for Britons are conditional on the UK reciprocating for Portuguese citizens in the UK. While the citizens’ rights agreement has been agreed in principle on both sides, this still needs to become formally agreed and currently depends on the UK leaving the EU with a deal.

With still so much uncertainty, it is a good idea to take personalised advice as soon as possible to establish what you can do to secure your future in Portugal.

Contact your local Blevins Franks adviser

Blevins Franks accepts no liability for any loss resulting from any action or inaction or omission as a result of reading this information, which is general in nature and not specific to your circumstances.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.