My wife and I became Portuguese residents last February with the intention of moving here, from Scotland, in March. Due to Covid and our flights being continually cancelled and rescheduled and then cancelled, we eventually got here in June via Amsterdam.
We initially registered our driving licences with IMT and then discovered we needed to excahnge them within 90 days or face sitting a Portuguese driving test. We had decided we would just have private health care insurance, but that proved very expensive so we decided just to “pay as we go”, however you need to be registered with SNS to be able to exchange your licence. I initially emailed AMA on the evening of July 22. I received a reply at 09:17 July 24 saying they had forwarded my enquiry to SNS. 8 minutes later I received an email from SNS with precise details of where to register, when and what documentation I needed. I emailed them thanking them and received another email saying if I needed anything further not to hesitate in contacting them.
My wife and I went to our local centre - without any appointment - however because of Covid new registrations were all being processed on line. The receptionist gave us the email address and asked us to scan the documentation to it.
For various reasons, mainly procrastination, I didn’t get round to this until 30 September. I received an email from the SNS on 2 October with my wife’s certificate attached and mine on 4 October.
I have used a private doctor once and the service was excellent. I have had cause to deal with, but not use, the SNS and have found everything to be very well done. I needed an appointment, for a non urgent condition and decided this time to use the SNS. Apart from a lengthy, compared to the UK, 3 weeks wait, everything else went smoothly.
I translated all my requests via email, into Portuguese and used my local kiosk to scan the documentation. It is important that you register at the correct centre, follow the instructions to a T. I have discovered that Portugal is fairly bureaucratic, and you need to accept that and adapt. I also found people appreciated that I had translated everything. Made it easy for them to help me.
I have been taking Portuguese language lessons for a year now. It is not an easy language but people here really do appreciate me trying to speak it.
So in summing up I think sometimes people expect things to be the same as in the UK, They lose patience, expect everyone to understand English and forget that things do move at a different pace here.
The benefits, lovely weather, friendly people and food and wine so inexpensive, all majorly outweigh any drawbacks I have come across.
I was surprised at a number of things in Mr Shanahan’s letter criticising the SNS. He couldn’t find the email on line anywhere, it wasn’t a web site so that is not surprising. If he had not received a reply he should have gone to his designated Health Centre and made sure he had the correct email address and centre. They are allocated by your address. 2.4 miles away doesn’t seem far?
There is plenty of help for how to do these things correctly on line. The expats association “afpop.com”, the UK Government webpage “Living in Portugal”, “ expatexchange.com” just to mention a few.
I also wholeheartedly agree with Senhor Cavaleiro and his letter on “Crit Brits” - people coming here should not be criticising the Portuguese way of life - it is what most of us came to enjoy!
David Jess, Faro.