Some of the reports highlight the fact that there are British people who are unable to get jobs, to register for health care, or to change their address. There are even people who have been deported when they visit another EU country.

This was the case of Nicola Franks, who told Sic Notícias, that she was stranded when she tried to land in Holland. “I was stopped and told that I had overstayed”.

Like many UK nationals, she has a document with a QR code issued by SEF (Portuguese Immigration and Border service) that can be used whenever she travels, as proof of residence in Portugal, also guaranteeing access to public health services and social benefits.

Problems

However, the problem comes when some authorities do not recognise this paper as proof of residence. The border agent “looked at these papers that he had never seen before and decided that they were not legitimate papers that they were in fact only applications for residency and turned me back to Portugal”, Nicola said.

This is because "a QR code was given stating that everyone was legally resident in Portugal, but it was not the biometric card required for every UK nationals coming under the withdrawal agreement" said Tig James, Co-President of British in Portugal.
“Without a biometric card you can’t register for health care if you move address. The tax office refuses to change addresses without a biometric card so even if a UK national gets a driving licence it gets sent to the wrong address if people have moved”, Tig James told The Portugal News.

In addition, “banks refuse to change addresses without the tax office say so, so credit/debit cards are sent to the wrong address, vehicles are unable to be matriculated so costing UK nationals thousands in importation fees for vehicles that should be free to import, garages refusing to repair vehicles, the QR code not being accepted at many EU borders with the holders of such code often being threatened with refusal of entry into the country, detained or deported”, she lamented.

Positive experiences

Despite these unfortunate stories, Michael Reeve, CEO of afpop (Association for Foreign Residents and Visitors to Portugal), said he has not heard any reports of members experiencing such a negative situation - on the contrary.

In fact, "we have reports from our Members that they have had their documents accepted as promised by the government," he stressed.

“They have documentation which is accepted by the Portuguese authorities and the government has extended the validity of the documents”, he said

Madeira and Azores

The second and final phase of the process for UK nationals to obtain their final documents began in Madeira and the Azores in February.

“We know that members on the island of Madeira completed the process and advised us that it was a very quick and easy thing for them to do”, Michael Reeve said.

However, while afpop members are happy with the process on Madeira, British in Portugal say there’s still a lot of work to do, even on the islands.

"In those regions many are still waiting to be seen and get their biometric cards. The pilot project had a number of difficulties that still exist," Tig James said.

Moving forward: Loulé and Cascais next

Apart from the islands, SEF told The Portugal News that they are working with the town halls of Cascais and Loulé - municipalities with the highest number of British residents - in order to start issuing biometric cards.

"The municipalities will provide the necessary facilities and human resources to run the service and collect the biometric data. This will start in Cascais at the end of this month," they said, adding that SEF will notify approximately 2,500 UK nationals in chronological order.

Meanwhile, SEF guarantees that the QR Code document remains an official residence document in Portugal and is valid until the new card is issued, as well as the current European Union residence documents are also still accepted for travel purposes, as long as they are not expired, until the new residence card is issued.