With the ongoing Parliamentary shenanigans back in England we thought it might be sensible to do what we could before 29th March 2019 to secure future winter sojourns. Whilst most British holidaymakers in Europe are unlikely to be significantly affected by Brexit, we knew we would be because of the ‘no more than 90days in any 180days’ rule. So the research began.
And fortunately, given how useless my MP back home was when I asked him for advice, the British Foreign Office, the Portuguese immigration service (SEF) and our local Portuguese council have issued lots of informative leaflets and online guidance.
The key message is a reminder that EU citizens who are in Portugal for 3 months or more must register with the Portuguese authorities and obtain the Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia (CRUE). And the British should do this before 29th March. So we had our plan of action, but before I tell you how we got on let me share a few vital links for all the Brits currently in Portugal.
- Downloadable SEF leaflet on how to keep your rights of residence
- The SEF website
- British Embassy advice and guidance
- British in Europe – a collation doing what they can to protect the rights (especially pensions and healthcare) of those who live here full time
I also recommend if you are British and living here that you sign up for email alerts from Foreign Office about living in Portugal. These alerts will keep you informed of any changes before the 29th March 2019 or the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020. Essential given how much is still so uncertain. By the way even if there is a no deal scenario, Brits already resident here technically will have until 31st December 2020 to register, however given there is a constitutional crisis looming in the UK I wouldn’t risk it! So register now if you haven’t already.
Now I have shared some of the important stuff let me tell you our CRUE story.
Having chatted to friends we quickly gathered that the process for obtaining the Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia (CRUE) wasn’t that complicated but it did vary slightly from câmara to câmara, and in some places year to year. Since none of our English friends live in Olhão, we decided the best thing to do was to ask the Câmara Municipal de Olhão directly. The reception staff were incredibly helpful, not only did they confirm what documentation we needed they also showed us on a map where the offices were for two of the documents we didn’t have, namely the Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF) and the Atestado de Residência.
Most non Portuguese living here already have these before they begin their residency journey because they have bought a home here. However we rent short term every year and don’t have a Portuguese bank account or mobile phone, so our residency journey was going to be a real journey around Olhão as we got all the paperwork together.
It began with obtaining the ‘Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF)’. Apparently this is one of the easiest things for foreign nationals to get in Portugal, and we certainly found it simple and quick!
The only documents you require are your passport and details of your permanent address, which for us was our UK address. Here in Olhão the NIFs are obtained from the Repartição de Finanças de Olhão located by the library.
The biggest challenge we had last Monday was working out which button to press on the ticket machine as there were two buttons with the words ‘Número de Identificação Fiscal ‘ beside them. We went for the first one, and were delighted when seconds later our ticket number came up on the screen.
However we had chosen the wrong one! Fortunately we didn’t have to get another ticket, the very nice lady transferred our number into the correct queue and so we simply had to sit back down and wait. About an hour later our number came up again and we were able to go to the correct counter to obtain our temporary NIFs. Well we were once we realised you have to hand over your tickets before they start helping you!
Now we had our NIFs we could obtain our Atestado de Residência, and so on Tuesday morning we headed off to the Junta de Freguesia de Olhão, near the bus station, as it is the parish council which issues the Atestado de Residência.
They required our passports, proof of address (in our case the bills for rental apartment) and the NIF paperwork. After half jokingly telling us off for not being able to speak Portuguese very well, the lovely lady completed the forms for us. For a few moments everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Then she told us that two Portuguese citizens who lived in the parish needed to visit the office to attest in person that we lived here. Gulp!
It wasn’t that we don’t know anyone in the parish but our wonderful Portuguese friends run a restaurant and the Junta de Freguesia is only open weekdays between 9am and 4:30pm. Would they be able to help?
Fortunately they could and on Thursday morning they joined us at the Junta de Freguesia. After they had signed multiple forms and photo copies had been made of their citizen cards it was all done. Our application forms were completed. We paid the tiny fee (3.40Euros each) and were told our Atestado de Residência would be available the following day after 10am. But before we left our friends were told by the freguesia staff to only speak to us in Portuguese so our Portuguese would improve!
On Friday morning we returned and were delighted to find our atestado de residência waiting for us. We were ready to progress to the next step.
Which was to return to where we had started – Câmara Municipal de Olhão – as it was here we would complete the forms for the Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia (CRUE). Our Portuguese friends had warned us on the Thursday that the queues at the câmara could be very long, and so we decided to delay our visit until after we had had lunch.
We’d spotted on a previous visit there is a ticket queuing system like at the finanças and so rather than end up with the wrong ticket again, we asked reception for advice. Having very proudly confirmed in Portuguese we had all the paperwork required we were told to press button B, and so we did. Approximately 40minutes later our number came up again and the final step was about to be undertaken.
We sat down together as I am not working and MrB is retired and so we expected he would need to make a declaration on oath that we had sufficient financial resources for ourselves. However the very friendly man, who spoke excellent English, never asked!
He did though take copies of our passports, our NIF paperwork, and our recently acquired atestado de residência. We were also asked to provide the names of our respective parents, our telephone numbers and our email addresses. And MrB was asked what was the highest level he had been educated to, and whether he was married!
Around 30minutes later, despite me attempting to damage the very nice man’s desk, all of the data had been entered into the system, including digital copies of all the paperwork we had brought. We had assumed we would be coming back the following day to collect the Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia, but we were taken to another desk where we made the payment of 15euros each and in return received our respective signed and stamped CRUEs.
Amazingly within a few days (or should I say hours) of commencing the process we had acquired 5years residency. So very exciting and also a huge relief as every day back home the Brexit ‘farce’ seems to be going from bad to worse.
Thank goodness the Portuguese Government want UK nationals living here to stay here.
We are now looking into the requirements around driving licences and health care, although thanks to the British government incompetence and also the political impasse in the UK parliament it is all still incredibly uncertain. At some point this year we will be investigating whether the new national Portuguese citizen’s cards are available for part time residents too, and a month or two before 8th February 2024 we will either be renewing our CRUE or applying for permanent residency.
But for now we are just happy we are legal residents. Thank you to all the Portuguese officials who helped us through the process, but most of all a huge huge thank you to our lovely friends José and Maria who gave up some of their very valuable time to assist us with the atestado de residência.
PS Do note that your CRUE paper should never be given to anyone, only copies. And if you lose it a replacement costs 25euros, and if you move house you need to obtain another atestado de residência with your new address details before getting a new Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia.