Many British nationals who made the Algarve or other regions of Portugal their home before the withdrawal agreement went into effect, according to Tig James, face deportation and arrest when they attempt to enter another EU nation.
They are also experiencing “dreadful consequences” in Portugal, such as being unable to register for health insurance, having issues reporting a child’s birth, and running into roadblocks when trying to reunite families.
According to expat representatives, the Portuguese Border and Immigration Service is not producing the WA biometric cards that are required by every UK citizen under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, which is what is causing the issues.
The only temporary document and QR code that have been issued so far on the mainland of Portugal, according to the affected Britons, are not accepted locally or at international borders.
‘The process needed for UK nationals to register for residency took months to be put in place and, prior to that, caused a great deal of difficulties specifically for those arriving just before the end of 2020 who were not allowed to obtain any residency,’ said Mrs. James, who claims the issue has severely affected those who arrived before the Brexit agreement kicked in at the start of 2021.
This prevented them from signing employment contracts, and many of them received retraction threats, most notably five Easyjet pilots who had relocated to Portugal with their families specifically for that purpose.
People were denied access to banks, the tax office, social security, health care, and other well-known institutions in Portugal, in addition to being unable to find employment.
Deportation threats were made to numerous people who were stopped at Portuguese borders.
“Finally, they were permitted to register for residency, and a system was put in place where a QR code was given certifying that all were legally residing in Portugal, but it wasn’t the WA biometric card needed by every UK citizen entering under the withdrawal agreement.
Since July 2019, I’ve been promised that the cards would arrive soon, but that has always been the response.
“What are the reasons for the immigration department’s three-year delay? Holidays, the pandemic, staff shortages, and now Ukrainian refugees.
The terrible consequences of not having a WA biometric card—whose seriousness cannot be understated—have paralysed and damaged the lives of UK citizens financially, physically, and emotionally.
“Without one, you cannot register for health care if you change your address (people who are seriously ill and possibly terminally ill cannot receive treatment), doctors refuse to treat you, and appointments are canceled.
It has frequently been suggested that UK citizens swap their licences for Portuguese ones in order to be fully protected by the legislation.
The driving licence office refused to accept any applications without the WA biometric card, thus one UK citizen submitted her application seven times.
Even if a UK citizen has a driving license, the tax office won’t alter addresses without one, thus if they move, the driving licence will be issued to the incorrect address.
“Banks won’t alter addresses without the tax office’s approval, so credit and debit cards are delivered to incorrect addresses, vehicles can’t be matriculated, costing UK citizens thousands in import duties on vehicles that should be free to import, and mechanics won’t work on cars,” the report reads.
The QR codes people have been handed are not being recognised at many EU borders, and those who have them are frequently faced with deportation or threatened with having their entry into the nation denied.
Due to expired residency paperwork, two people were recently held in Germany.
The Portuguese Border and Immigration Service has stated that the QR code covers any residency documents possessed by a UK citizen.
No other EU country is in similar predicament, and many border guards reject expired identification, leading to entrance rejection or detention.
“The two persons in Germany had to buy new return tickets after learning they couldn’t travel back through Germany, which cost them about 4,200 GBP.”
They had to hire a German immigration lawyer even though they complied with all legal instructions and are currently waiting to see if and when they have a court date in Germany.
Portuguese institutions or companies, she continued, “just refuse to do business with or offer a service for UK citizens.”
Family allowance payments have been suspended by the Portuguese social security office until a WA biometric card can be produced and a child’s birth cannot be registered.
“Only a WA biometric card is acceptable for businesses hiring new employees, with the consequences being that UK nationals cannot obtain employment, move jobs, or, if they are employed but unable to register for health care and are subsequently ill, obtain a sick note covering their period of illness.
‘EU employers outside of Portugal require a WA biometric card before contracts can be signed and reject the QR code and the pre-Brexit residency documentation held by UK citizens.
The family reunification rules do not permit UK citizens to bring their spouses who are citizens of third countries to Portugal until they have the biometric identification cards.
For one couple, the wait has been three years, and for another two and a half, they have been unable to even begin the procedure.
In the Azores and Madeira, a pilot programme to issue the long-awaited WABCs to British expats started in February of this year, but nothing has been done on the mainland of Portugal, and experts estimate that there are still 60,000 UK citizens residing in Portugal who are waiting for them.
Three years after she and her husband moved abroad, British citizen Nicola Franks told the Portuguese TV station SIC of her concerns while on a flight to Amsterdam in June: We made sure to arrive early, complete all of our papers, and not wait until the last minute because we were aware of the deadline.
“In June, I was stopped after arriving in Amsterdam and informed that I had overstayed my visa while attempting to enter Holland.
The border control agent examined these papers, which he had evidently never seen before, and determined that they were not valid and that they were, in fact, just applications for residency.
He sent me back to Portugal in an effort to condense a lengthy and terrifying tale.
He said that everyone in the UK possesses a residency card. I informed him that Portugal had not yet issued them, and he kind of smiled and said, “You should be listening while I’m talking,” which was the end of his listening.
I don’t visit the neighbourhood clinic, which has excellent doctors and kind staff, she continued. They said, “You’re not a resident, you need to pay,” when I displayed my QR code to them.
“Nicola’s story is not an isolated one,” Tig James remarked.
I am aware of individuals who reside in Portugal and are nevertheless attempting to work in the Schengen region.
“I am aware of individuals who have been stopped at borders in every single European nation.”
They have had their papers removed from them and thrown to the ground because they are clearly not the biometric cards required by the withdrawal agreement, which the Portuguese Border and Immigration Service is refusing to provide even though they are required to do so by the withdrawal agreement.
My own residency expired last year, she claimed. I shall have to show border officials my expired residency documents if I travel outside of Portugal because the Portuguese Border and Immigration Service SEF would not renew them.
“I can’t take the chance of being detained,” you say.
A British national who wished to remain anonymous said: “There are hundreds of British individuals with husbands, wives, and children who are almost landlocked in Portugal since there is no way ahead.”
The present residency documents of British residents residing in Portugal are still accepted, according to a SEF official.
‘The document with the QR can be used whenever they travel, as proof of their residence in Portugal, guaranteeing also access to public health services and social security benefits,’ he said, despite the issues British nationals claim they are having with the temporary documents and QR codes they have been issued.
This document, which included the QR code, “was disclosed in a timely manner to the appropriate European authorities, ensuring the holders all rights contained in the Withdrawal Agreement,” according to the statement.
A spokesperson for the UK government issued the following statement: “We continue to urge the Portuguese government to expeditiously finish the process of issuing biometric residency cards to UK nationals living legally in Portugal.”
In order to provide UK citizens with the security they require, Portugal “must quickly and completely implement the separation agreement commitments it signed up to in 2018.”