When the UK fully left the EU on 1 January, this brought an end to over four decades of automatic freedom of movement for UK nationals. While this is clearly a big change, Britons have chosen to visit and make their home in Portugal long before the UK joined the EU and will continue to do so after Brexit. And, of course, Portugal will continue to welcome UK citizens, albeit under different rules.
So how do things work now, and is there anything you need to do to continue enjoying time in Portugal?
If you were already living in Portugal before 2021
UK nationals who can demonstrate that they were lawfully settled in Portugal before the transition period ended can enjoy uninterrupted freedom of movement and citizens’ rights under the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement. You don’t need to have been physically present in Portugal as at 31 December 2020 to qualify, but you do need proof that it was your permanent home at that time (such as utility bills and Portuguese bank statements).
If you hold an existing residence document from Portugal, you will have to exchange this for the new residence permit. You need to apply for this on the SEF website in the first instance, followed by a personal appointment at the Câmara Municipal (Town Hall).
Make sure you register for residence or exchange your existing paperwork before 30 June 2021 to qualify for the significant benefits offered under the Withdrawal Agreement.
If you have a holiday home or plan extended stays in Portugal
Unless you have Portuguese residence or EU citizenship, UK nationals can no longer come and go as they wish. Although there is currently some flexibility due to pandemic travel restrictions, generally ‘third country’ visitors can now only spend up to 90 days in Portugal in any 180-day period without a visa.
This 90-day limit applies across the EU (within the Schengen zone), so you cannot pause or reset your days by spending time in another country, such as crossing the border into Spain. Once you have used up your allowance you will not be permitted to enter another Schengen country without a visa until you have spent enough time outside the area.
Anyone caught overstaying could risk deportation, fines and a record in their passport that can complicate future travel and visa applications.
If you do want to spend more time in Portugal, you have two general options: you can apply in advance for a visa for each extended stay; or unlock unlimited freedom of movement by becoming Portuguese resident.
Acquiring Portuguese residency in 2021
If you want to enjoy uninterrupted access to Portugal as a UK national, you will need to apply for residence under the relevant post-Brexit immigration rules. In order to gain residence if you are not working in Portugal, you will need to:
- Demonstrate you have “sufficient” annual income to support yourself and any dependents without relying on the state.
- Have adequate health insurance cover for Portugal (this will have to be private as you are only eligible for state cover once resident).
- Apply at the relevant embassy or consulate in the UK with the relevant documentation in advance of moving.
- Commit to spending a certain amount of time in the country (generally 183+ days in a year).
You will also be expected to register as a tax resident in Portugal and meet your tax obligations, as required. Note that you will need to provide similar proof/documentation each time you renew your permit.
Portugal’s ‘golden visa’
Portugal offers a more flexible residence option for third-country nationals who can make a substantial capital investment in the country. Known informally as the ‘golden visa’, this provides the freedom for you and your family to come and go as you wish in Portugal without having to become fully resident.
The most common way to qualify for this programme is by buying Portuguese property worth at least €500,000 (€350,000 in an ‘urban regeneration’ area) and holding it for at least five years. This currently applies across the country, but from 2022, properties in Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve and other coastal areas will be excluded.
Other pathways include buying shares in a company or making a deposit in a Portuguese bank of €1 million+ or investing in a new business that offers employment opportunities or other significant local benefits.
Making the most of Portugal
If you do decide to move to Portugal so you can enjoy unlimited time here, make sure you adjust your financial affairs to suit your new situation. By becoming Portuguese resident, it is highly likely you will also be deemed tax resident, so you will benefit from planning ahead.
Blevins Franks has decades of experience helping British families settle in Portugal with specialist tax, pensions, estate planning and investment advice. Our locally-based advisers can help you take advantage of suitable opportunities and structure your affairs in the most tax-efficient way possible for life in Portugal.