UK Citizen’s Rights


Yesterday, I attended the Stakeholders Workshop in Lisbon. As you can see from the program, there were a lot of items covered and here, I will write up my take on the day. Please do bear in mind this is my understanding and if you need further clarification – links to the government websites will be added. I have set an area up in the forum if anyone has any specific questions to ask or you can attend the informal meeting on Sunday.

 Consular Services

The Consulate have a specific role and can offer their support in cases such as

  • Hospitalizations
  • Deaths
  • Victims of crime
  • Welfare
  • Lost passports & Etd’s

There are various ways to contact them and links will be added to this page. There is a dedicated contact centre, web form, Brits in Portugal facebook page, website, a healthcare team in Portugal.

There is an ‘Out reach meeting’ planned for June in Madeira, and I will advise everyone of the date when it is confirmed.

The British Consulate will hold a ‘live’ questions and answers on their facebook page at noon on 23rd March.


As you have all been hearing, if you are living in Madeira, you will need to legalise this by obtaining your residency. Whilst we are in the transition period you will be able to do the first temporary residency at your local Camera, which will give you 5 years. And receive a paper certificate. 

If you have completed 5 years already, you must then apply to SEF for your 10 year Residency, which is called permanent Resident. In both cases there is an agreement protecting your rights to continue living in Madeira as you have done.

If you have your 5 year Residency you must not leave Portugal for more than 6 months or you will lose your right to residency. If you have a 10 year permanent residency you can leave for up to 5 years without losing your right to residency in Portugal. * * (in both cases one will need to reapply for residency again. 5 year residents will reapply but lose their EU rights they retained before, whereas permanent residents can reapply and retain their EU resident rights).

*For those who have lived in Madeira and have not taken up Residency,  may be able to apply directly through SEF if they can prove that they have lived here for more than 5 years. An example: You have lived here for more than 5 years, and can prove it, you do not have to apply for 5 year residency through the Camera.

For people that have arrived or arrive before the end of the transition period, will have until 30th June 2021 to apply for EU residency. Applications for those who arrive after the transition period has ended will apply as 3rd country nationals.

Residency certificate and Residency Card

Currently there are two forms of Residency. The first step is to register with the your local Camera and thereafter with SEF after the 5 year for renewal. This is still the way to apply whilst we are in the transition period.  After the transition period has ended (before January 2021) this will change as applications will be made as 3rd Country Nationals. Currently the certificate and or card that you have been given are still valid, but they will change to a new biometric card that will be given under article 50. There is no date yet as to when this will come into effect or how they will implement this change. As soon as I have this information I will let you know.


If you have Residency, you MUST carry it with you when you travel. From the first of January (unless there is an extension to the transition period) all passports will be stamped when leaving Portugal/Madeira. There are plans for continued use through the airport E- gates and are still to be confirmed, however, when you leave or enter Portugal you will need to show your documentation to avoid having your passport stamped. As a resident, you will not need to have your passport stamped. 

Why is it important to have Residency now?

As we have left the EU and are in the transition phase, once this has ended we will become classed as 3rd country nationals. As such, new rules will apply especially when we travel. This will have some disruptive scenarios for many people who have more than one home and currently travel back and forth freely. Spending time in Madeira will be limited, hence the decision now to getting personal affairs and paperwork sorted, and considering the need to become a Resident.

Swallows….travelling as tourists?

Being a home owner or living for periods of time in Madeira may change for some. Once the transition period has ended. Anyone travelling without a residencia, will be classed as a tourist. This means:

Entry into Portugal/Madeira cannot exceed 90 days within a 180 day period and must be less than 6 months in a year.

* The 90 day rules applies to travelling anywhere in the Schengen area. 

*One may be able to apply for an extension visa but this is down to agreement.

(Biometric data on your passport is used, hence why it is important to establish whether you are a resident or remain as a tourist for future visits to Portugal).

For more information and updates on this:

Driving Licences

If you are a resident or becoming one, you will need to exchange your UK licence for a Portuguese one. Currently, Portugal recognises your UK licence as long as it has been registered with IMT, however if you haven’t changed it yet, doing this now is advised. *As of 1st February we are considered 3rd country nationals and will have to the end of the year to swap them over. Or 90 days after obtaining residency at the end of this year. * This date is not clarified as IMT are still going over the legislation and there is still area for change on this.

Your Portuguese licence is valid for driving on in the UK.

Loss of Categories

Once exchanged you may lose some categories that you had on the UK licence particularly if you were given this before 1986. If you have taken a test in other categories and you want to keep them, you must provide proof when you exchange. Or you can take a practical test in Portugal and have them added to your Portuguese licence.

There is more on this as it is a complex area….but outlining the basics here.

Health Care

As residents you are entitled to healthcare in Portugal/Madeira.  In order to legally continue to receive it and guarantee your right you MUST become legally resident.

Once you have obtained your residency you must register for healthcare. It is a simple process (as you can see above, a poster and leaflet has been produced by the British Embassy and are being circulated around hospitals, clinics and health centres in mainland Portugal. The posters are in English and in Portuguese and clearly state how to register. We do have one for Madeira, but it isn’t ready yet and as soon as I get it, I will post a copy here). However, I have been advised that the procedure is the same.

Register for Health Care
  1. Go to your local healthcare centre (centro de Saude) to register
  2. Take your valid passport and residence permit
  3. You will be issued with a Health no (no de utente de Saude). This is your ID number to access any state- healthcare services in Portugal.
  4. You don’t need a social security number to register for healthcare.
  5. Do not register for or try to access healthcare using your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) unless you are a student or a posted worker.

If you receive a UK state Pension, or an exportable benefit from the UK or are a posted worker, the UK are responsible for your health care. You have the same access as any other resident in Portugal, but should register for Health care using Form S1.

  1. Ask the Overseas Healthcare Team (0044 191 218 1999) for an S1 form.
  2. Register your S1 form at a Portuguese Social Security District Centre. Make sure you keep a copy of the S1 to show the health centre when you register.

As a resident you can apply for a Portuguese issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for visits outside Portugal if you are:

  • Registered with Portuguese Social Security and have a NISS (no de Seguranca Social)
  • Resident in Portugal, with a healthcare user’s number (no de Utente de Saude) and do not have healthcare cover from the UK or another Member State (for example if you are not entitled to an S1)

NOTE: S1 holders who are residents, must take this form when visiting the UK. This will entitle you to free healthcare in the UK.

If applying for the EHIC card, using the website will ask for a social security number. You do not need one for the EHIC card, and will not be asked for one if you apply through any social security office.

Conclusion to the Workshop

It was a packed day of information, discussion, presentations from SEF, IMT, ACSS and the Consular. So many topics were covered in a very short time. So, I have written the basics above that I think are more useful. I have allocated Sunday (please see the what’s on page) to meet up with anyone who wants to know more and discuss this. I haven’t touched on Qualifications, education or the future trade agreement above. Again, I would like to reiterate that I am not an ‘Oracle’ on the above and as many of you know there could be changes to this, but this is where the Government is at right now. Any changes and I will update this page. There are links on the opposite page which I will update and add as and do come back and check this page for updates.

The Government website links should enlighten you more and answer most basic queries, however should you have something urgent to ask or you can’t find the answer to, you can contact me with your query which I can pass on to the Consulate on your behalf.

For pensions, I have taken this off the government website as this is an area all on it’s own

Pensions after 31 January 2020

There will be no changes before 31 December 2020 to the rules on claiming the UK State Pension in the EU, EEA or Switzerland as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

You can continue to receive your UK State Pension if you live in the EU, EEA or Switzerland and you can still claim your UK State Pension.

If you are living in the EU, EEA or Switzerland by 31 December 2020, you will get your UK State Pension uprated every year for as long as you continue to live there. This will happen even if you start claiming your pension on or after 1 January 2021, as long as you meet the qualifying conditions explained in the new State Pension guidance.

If you are living in Portugal by 31 December 2020, you will be able to count future social security contributions towards meeting the qualifying conditions for your UK State Pension.

If you work and pay social security contributions in Portugal, you will still be able to add your UK social security contributions towards your Portuguese pension. This will happen even if you claim your pension after 31 December 2020.


UPDATE: Sent by the British Consulate -notes on the meeting

Session with SEF


Colleagues from SEF explained several important points:


Absence – SEF colleagues were clear that UK nationals should be careful not to fall out of the protection of the Withdrawal Agreement. If someone has been living in Portugal for less than 5 years, they cannot be absent for more than 6 months in one year if they wish to maintain their residence status (unless the absence that be justified to SEF due to specified exceptional circumstances, such as study, in which case a person could be out for 12 consecutive months). If someone has been living in Portugal for more than 5 years and has the right of permanent residence, they can be absent for up to 5 years and still maintain their right to residence in Portugal.


Document – a new document will be introduced for UK nationals under the Withdrawal Agreement (current residents and those who become residents during the transition period) towards the end of this year. It will be a biometric document and although will be based on a Third Country National document, it will have different wording on it, saying it is issued under Article 50 (to demonstrate the holder is a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement).


Process – SEF are still planning how to introduce the new system. They are keen to avoid issues with appointments and would like to ensure that all UK nationals have the new document by the end of this year. The process for exchanging current residency documents has not yet been decided.  More information will be coming in the next few months, probably from June onwards. UK nationals do not need to take any action at this time apart from ensuring they are correctly registered as a resident in Portugal.


Communication – the British Embassy and SEF are working closely to ensure clear communication to UK nationals. There will be a campaign on registering as a resident coming soon, and a renewal of the campaign once the new document has been introduced. We encourage UK nationals in Portugal to sign up for email alerts for the Living in Portugal page, which will be updated as soon as more information is available on the process for obtaining the new document.


Travel – nothing changes during the transition period. From 1 January 2021 onwards, although plans are still to be finalised, so this is still subject to change, the Portuguese want to ensure minimum negative impact for UK nationals both resident and visiting UK nationals when travelling to Portugal. This means that UK nationals may be able to use e-gates for low-risk non EU countries on both entry and exit. If a UK national visitor uses the e-gate, their passport will still need to be stamped on both entry and exit from 1 January 2021 onwards (until a new secure IT system is introduced across the EU). Resident UK nationals should travel with both their passport and residence document to avoid their passport being stamped.  If agreed by both the UK and EU, there will be visa-free travel for citizens between the UK and Schengen Area. This means UK nationals will be able to visit the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. More information about visa-free short stay visits can be found on the European Commission website here.  We also recommend UK national travellers (including ‘swallows’) sign up for email alerts for our travel advice pages to keep up to date with the latest.


Session on the next phase of negotiations


Free trade agreement – the UK and the EU are now commencing negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. These negotiations will not affect the Withdrawal Agreement or the rights that this protects for UK nationals living in Portugal. The UK government has set out further information on its approach to the future relationship. More information can be found on GO.UK here. Those who own businesses in Portugal but who trade or have significant business links with the UK are encouraged to keep up to date with the latest information on GOV.UK and from the European Commission over the next few months.


Higher education – for EU students wishing to study in higher education in the UK, home fee status and access to financial support has been confirmed for those meeting the eligibility criteria and starting their course this autumn (academic year 2020-2021). They will maintain the right to home fee status for the duration of their course. The rules for EU students who wish to study in the UK from academic year 2021-2022 onwards are still to be decided. This wasn’t covered in the session but UK nationals who live in Portugal and who wish to access higher education in England will be eligible for home fee status and access to financial support, as long as they meet the relevant criteria, for 7 years from the end of the transition period. More information can be found in this written ministerial statement.  As education is devolved in the UK, students wishing to study in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland should check the offer for UK nationals in the EU with the relevant competent authority.


Session with IMT


Our IMT colleagues have now confirmed that UK driving licences will continue to be valid during the transition period.  As such, the advice to UK nationals living in Portugal remains the same; they should exchange their UK licence for a Portuguese one by the end of the transition period. The IMT website has a FAQ document in English about exchanging a UK licence for a Portuguese one.


The rules regarding driving licences from 1 January 2021 are subject to further negotiations between Portugal and the UK. In the absence of an agreement, following the transition period, UK nationals will have up to 2 years from the date they become resident in Portugal to exchange their licences without having to take a driving test. 


IMT colleagues were clear on the loss of categories. They explained that licences issued in the UK prior to 1997 granted driving categories by extension. In other words, people who passed their car driving test in the UK before 1997 were granted such categories as BE, C1 and D1 without the need to take a test. In Portugal, these categories require the driver to take a test and cannot therefore be granted on exchange of licence unless the driver can prove they took a test in the UK. In Portugal, the only categories of vehicles granted by extension are mopeds and motorbikes up to 125cc.


Session on healthcare with ACSS


Practical issues at health centres – ACSS are aware of some of the practical issues UK nationals experience at health centres, such as being asked for a social security number. ACSS and the British Embassy have launched a joint healthcare campaign to try to prevent such issues. Digital copies of the leaflet and the poster are attached. If UK nationals are experiencing issues at their health centre that they are unable to resolve, they can contact our healthcare team at