Can it really be five years ago that we blogged about gaining our 5 year Certificado de Registo?! – see this post – R is for Residency – for more information about that process, as if you are a national of a European Union country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland and you remain in Portugal for a period of more than three months, you must request a Registration Certificate (Certificado de Registo) from the Local Câmara or Council of your area of residence. This document formalises your right to reside in Portugal.
After you have held a registration certificate for five consecutive years, you can request a Permanent Residence Certificate (Certificado de Residência Permanente) from the Foreigners and Borders Service or SEF (Serviço de Estrageiros e Fronteiras); which lasts for ten years and is renewable.
Well we knew that much information … so off we went to start the process .. and this post is the result of all of our research, teeth-grinding, hang-wringing and long periods of waiting. Be warned .. it’s a long post and that seems about right for the process we went through .. one that, in theory, should be quite simple to execute.
But the good news is … at the end of this … we are now ‘legal’ for the next ten years! So don’t give up hope!!
The biggest hurdle to overcome is actually getting an appointment at the SEF office.
Our local office is Portimão, and the only other office for the Algarve is based at Faro – so it depends where you are as to which office you are under, (don’t try to book in at the wrong one!). The official position for booking an appointment is that you can either log on to the SEF website – here is the direct link to the page you need for the 10 year Residency
Or you can call them on their outrageous ‘price per minute’ “helpline” available from 9am – 5.30pm (Monday-Friday) landline 808 202 653 or mobile 808 962 690
Well after about a week (no joke!) of trying to book online (it just kept coming up “Number Error” as a message) or calling the helpline.. which is all in Portuguese at super-fast recorded message speed .. Press 1 for residency .. Press 3 for the Algarve .. Press 7 if you have lost the will to live yet .. Press 9 .. oh sorry no we are going to swop to an engaged tone now and annoy the heck out of you .. please call back later ….
We gave up! We thought “hang on a minute, we only live 5 minutes drive from the SEF office .. we’ll just go in there and book an appointment”. Oh how naive of us! We went there, took a ticket (obligatory of course!) and sat waiting for about half an hour, with a rather bemused expression on our faces ..what are all the different options for on the TV screen?! .. you can have any letter from A to J .. all different .. all relating back to the people clutching tickets sat on the plastic chairs that might have been there since the previous week. One woman had a picnic lunch with her – oh dear that should have been a warning sign for us!
We eventually get to the desk .. to be met with a miserable Mrs “no chance” .. who informed us that the only way we could get an appointment .. at the actual SEF office .. that we were currently sat in .. at the very desk no7 that we were currently sat at .. with the very woman we were sat in front of .. was to … wait for it … call the national helpline number or use the SEF website.
GROAN! We explained that we had been trying for the last two weeks .. that our 5 year residency was about to run out in three weeks time … and that could we just book an appointment with her there? Oh no! She “helpfully” gave us an email we could use instead to book an appointment through …. and that was it.
Needless to say .. we tried the email she gave us … and after about five days … we got a reply …. telling us .. yep you’ve guessed it …. we could call the national helpline number or use the SEF website.
Desperation set in! We searched online and found out that we were not alone, that loads of people were struggling to get an appointment. Then randomly someone said they went in to the Portimão SEF and asked them .. and got an appointment booked in there and then! Much gnashing of teeth when we read that one! Then a friend airily told us “Oh I just took all the paperwork in ready, I didn’t have an appointment, they just did it there and then for me … ”
And research online also suggested that the SEF office at Faro might be an option for some .. well – not the actual office of course (!) The appointments for SEF apparently can be made by going to the CNAI group office adjacent (to the left) of the SEF offices in the Faro Mercado Municipal. We cannot tell you definitively whether this works or not as we didn’t want to drive all the way to Faro to be told that they could only do bookings for the Faro area and not Portimão.
GRR! I sat one afternoon working on the computer randomly pressing my F5 button on the SEF booking page and then suddenly .. I had put Dave’s details in .. (I kept swopping between us!) it went through and there it was .. pick a date and time for your appointment .. Blimey! I quickly pressed the first option available and registered our email .. two minutes later we had an email confirming Dave’s appointment !!!
Great I thought and went back to book one for me … yep you’ve guessed it – no chance!!! After about two more days of trying, I gave up – and having asked friends who had been through the same process in Beja a few weeks before .. and who confirmed that they both went in under one booking as they are married and have shared finances .. and we thought “go for it!” We risked it and left it at the one appointment .. it was like rocking horse poo!
The appointment was actually dated about 10 days after our 5 year residency had expired .. but Mrs “happy” assured us that would not be a problem if we were late as she slid over the useless email address to us … there wasn’t much we could do about it anyway so we didn’t worry too much .. apart from friends teasing us that we would be ‘illegal aliens’ and have to start the 5 year process again (!!!!) … (Postscript – we were fine!)
We then had about three weeks to gather everything together that we needed. Mrs “happy” had given us a tiny scrap of paper with a few things ticked .. it wasn’t much use I have to say, and photocopies of the obligatory forms which had to be completed in advance. Luckily our friends saved the day and sent us over the information they had been given which turned out to be spot on. Phew!
The Form you need to have completed (page 1 is shown above) can be accessed via this link:
Look out for this named form under Impressos On-Line – it’s about half way down the page:
Cartão de Residência (Pedidos/Renovação/ Alteração de Dados/ 2ª Via) UE / EEE / Suiça e Familiares
You can select it in either PT or EN and then print it out and complete it. Most of it has English translation incorporated, and the non-translated section on page 3 we left blank and it was completed for us when we got there; as it’s about the legislation around residency and we were unsure which boxes to tick!
And the list of documents you need to take with the form … ? All of these!
Here is our breakdown for you of each one:
- 2 passport sized colour photos
We went to a pro photo booth in Portimão Continente (first floor Kodak shop) to get ours done to make sure they were the right size. You need a white background … and no-one seemed to know whether you are allowed to smile in your photo or not (!) so we went for the enigmatic Mona Lisa look (!)
- A photocopy of your passport – we did colour copies to be on the safe side
- An Atestado from your local Junta de Freguesia
We thought this would be more complicated than it was – and we had no idea what we needed to take with us, so we took everything we could think of!
Turns out to be a straightforward form they complete for you which you collect a few days later once it has been signed and sealed. We had to show (for each of us)
- NIF – Fiscal number
- Address confirmation – we had our house deeds document which has both our names registered on it .. we also took bills in both our names as back up
- Our original 5 year residency form the Certificado de Registo (which came from the Câmara)
The application form is filled in at the Junta while you are there – and even asks you for the full names of your parents, which seems a pretty strange thing to ask a grown man of 61 to complete! Everything gets photocopied and stapled to death and the form itself only costs 4€ each – bargain!
- Means of Subsistence – Finances
We asked our accountant for help with this one and she sent us back our latest filed and completed tax returns from 2016. We are both sole traders and file an annual return so that made things quite simple … apart from the 16 pages of A4 we each had to print out .. and we also took copies of Dave’s P60s for the periods covering the 2016 financial year here as well.
Our friends made us smile – when they went to fill in their paperwork the husband had to complete a form to agree to be financially responsible for his wife as she has no income here of her own except his pension (they are married!). She was not impressed!!
We cannot find any information for EU citizens about any ‘minimum’ amount of finances required to prove in order to gain the 10 year residency .. so if anyone else can update us on that – please do post a comment below.
- NIF – Fiscal number and
- Social Security number
We photocopied ours ready – and as we are tax payers the social security number information was already on our tax returns .. but we photocopied it separately from the Segurança Social paperwork too (we were taking no chances here!)
- Your 5 year Certificado de Registo certificate
We photocopied it ready – but they take your original copy and keep it – so make sure you take the Original Version with you!
The 10 year Residency costs only 15€ – we took cash with us as so many official government offices don’t seem to have cashcard machines …. and we put it with all the papework required .. and the completed form for each of us .. in a small wheelbarrow and pushed it all into the SEF office on the allotted date and time.
Eagle-eyed readers might have spotted the major potential pitfall with us at this point .. two of us sneaking in under one booking on the day .. well we were lucky, and we think we now know why some people had been luckier than us up to this point .. We had an appointment for 10am so we thought that we would get there a little early .. stories of our friends waiting 4 hours to be seen in Beja were ringing in our ears that morning as we contemplated taking a book to read .. or some food .. to keep us going … Well we took the obligatory ticket at 9.49 am (Tip: the Security Man is VERY helpful!) .. we were number E001 .. we looked up on the screen and saw that desk 7 was registered at number E013 .. and though uh-oh .. then it tipped round and reverted back to 001 .. and we were up! Straight in and to the desk .. we were a little stunned to be honest as we had expected to be there for ages waiting .. and the lady at the desk was a different lady .. not Mrs “happy” .. this lady was genuinely nice and helpful .. she went through all of our paperwork, ticked everything off …. we paid our 15€ each … and at 10:06 am we were out the door .. clutching a receipt each .. having been told that they would call us when the forms were ready to be collected and that it would be “about 2 weeks!” (The legal requirement is that it should be ready for collection within 15 days)
And that was that!
Well .. tick forward 2 weeks and we got the call this week to collect our forms .. no need to book just come in. Well that sounded ominous and sure enough when we got there today, we were given ticket numbers B0041 and B0042 .. and good old desk 7 was only on B0028. We went for a coffee at a nearby café .. came back 15 minutes later and it had inched on to B0029. We drew lots .. I won .. so Dave stayed in the queue and I scampered over to Pingo Doce on the other side of the road to do the food shopping .. we figured we had a while to wait!!
I was happily at the checkout paying when suddenly Dave called me and said you’d better come back quick … we are up! Haha! I loaded the car, ran back over there to find Dave sat at desk 7 … with yep you’ve guessed it, Mrs “happy” being as miserable as ever and threatening to make me take another ticket and wait again! I sneaked quickly down into the seat, tried to look pitiful, and she reneged and did my form for me .. which involves lots of signatures and a fingerprint!!
And that’s it! Suddenly you are legal for the next ten years .. and you have a silly piece of tri-folded card that you are miraculously supposed to keep in a pristine condition .. for ten years!!! I doubt mine will last ten months! I think we are going to go back to our lovely Local Junta and see if they will do a Certified copy of it for us the same as they do for a passport .. that way we might be able to keep the original looking half-decent!
So there it is – our blow-by-blow account of gaining our ten year Permanent Residency. And despite all the administrative pain .. it was worth it, as it is a great feeling knowing that we are “here” for the next ten years! Next up .. finding out about gaining dual-Citizenship before Brexit lands .. which we can apply for after six years of consecutive residency. Let’s hope we don’t have to go back to the same desk at the SEF for that one!
January 2019 – Update!
Two things to update you with … the SEF website has finally arrived in the age of the internet and you now create an account with them (you need an email address!) then you can book your appointment online – it’s a MUCH improved system !!
Be warned though that they are currently running about 3-4 months ahead in terms of appointments!
And secondly – as of the 9th January 2019, the old ‘folded card’ residencia is now being replaced with a new ‘Permanent Residence Certificate of the European Union.’
This new card is identical to the national Citizen’s Card in format, and is a shiny ‘credit card’ rather than a folded piece of paper.
Please Note – you will need all of the same documents as listed above (except you don’t need the photos – see below) and it’s the same form to fill in – but you will ALSO need to take evidence of your ‘numero utente’ for the health centre too. This is also incorporated into the card, making it a very useful document. The lady at the SEF counter did say that you will still need to show your passport though as well as the new card (sigh!)
They take your photo, fingerprints and signature digitally at the SEF office .. The new card costs 21€ and they post it out to you in about a week’s time.