Before Brexit, this was not an issue as Britons, with or without a residence card, would obviously join the EU queue because they were part of the EU. However, now that they are out, problems are starting to arise for many people who were used to joining the EU queue.

The Portugal News asked SEF to clarify which queue a non-EU citizen residing in Portugal should enter, to which they replied that they should enter the queue for non-EU citizens, because they are not from the EU. In other words, for SEF officials this is not an issue.

According to the Association of Foreign Property Owners in Portugal (AFPOP), “this is something that has been back and forth for some time. The initial answer was that UK citizens who can show a valid residency card can use the EU passports lane, and then it was altered to say that they must comply with the EU directive and use the ‘all passports’ lanes”.

However, the fact is that there are reports of some Britons with a valid residence card who seem to be authorised by SEF officials to use the EU citizens' queue. “Personally, I have always found I was able to use the EU lanes, simply by showing my Residência and not my passport and asserting my right to use that channel”, said Michael Reeve, CEO of AFPOP.

Following the rules

Although this experience is common among many British citizens, this is not what the law states. “Earlier this year I did take this up in a conversation with the head of the SEF delegation at the airport and she, very apologetically, said that they had to follow the EU directives and UK citizens had to use the non-EU channels, but - and this is just my feeling – it seemed to me that she and her deputy were following the guidelines that they had been told to follow, rather than any desire to enforce the regulation”.

According to Michael: “It seems to me that if the SEF leaders are feeling that they have to publicly follow the rules, perhaps they are less emphatic about directing their staff, which does seem to be evident given that the SEF staff at the booths are happy to allow UK passport holders through if they are resident.”

In his personal view: “As far as I am concerned I simply don’t ask the question. I just join the EU Passports queue without having my passport on display and then speak to the SEF officer at the booth. The rules though are that UK passport holders are to use the non-EU booths”.

“As for the rights of residents, that materialises in the fact that UK passport holders with Portuguese residency don’t get their passport stamped on entry and exit at Portuguese border controls, thereby not activating any Schengen travel restrictions, the so called 90/180 day rule. That is where the right lies, rather than the right to use EU entry booths”, he added.

It is also important to mention that the right of using EU passport booths for residents in Portugal “should really apply to all nationalities and not just UK citizens. There are others who could equally, and quite rightly, claim the same right of access (...) a resident is a resident, whatever the colour their passport”, he said.


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins