Portugal Red Tape Rant

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I had very much hoped to call this next post “Chilling Like a Resident.” Unfortunately, despite a tour of four different government offices yesterday, it was not to be – we still don’t have our residency.

The two major problems here, as I see them, are firstly that European law changes all the time and therefore the rules change, and secondly that Portuguese officials appear to all be individually free to interpret the law however they see fit.

Computer Says "No."
Computer Says "No."

Yesterday was truly soul destroying and included the “Loja De Cidade” (citizen shop,) the city council, the SEF (basically the borders and foreigners police,) and our local village hall, who really put the nail in the coffin of the day when they said we had to find two Portuguese voters from our own tiny village to sign one of our forms.

We don’t even know two Portuguese people in the village yet – we know plenty in Tavira, but, no, that won’t do. The best plan we came up with yesterday was to ask the nice ladies in the laundrette to vouch for us!

The really annoying thing though, is that I have extensively researched the process for residency on all the relevant sites, including that of the European Union itself, and the fact is that as EU citizens we have right of residency anyway. The problems are caused by the fact that officials here all seem to have their own way of doing things. For example the residency application form for EU citizens they have online wasn’t even the same as the one given to me by the city council!

Adding to the frustration, research on the expat forums shows that many people have managed to get their residency at different town halls with no problems at all and in very quick time – there is just no consistency.

When we were doing our initial research about our move to Portugal, everyone highlighted the red tape as one of the big negatives. Until you are in the situation, and negotiating it with highly questionable Portuguese language skills, it is hard to describe how stressed and helpless it makes you feel.

I deliberately waited over night before I typed this post as I didn’t want to get all ranty, but re-living the situation does make me angry again. The billions of pounds that have been poured into the EU seem to have not resulted in there being a coherent approach to people moving between countries – there are as many hurdles and hoops as there would be if we were trying to move somewhere outside the European “Union.” It already feels galling to need an accountant in both countries as the paperwork is too complicated for one mere mortal to get their head around.

Anyway, we have made a decision. Someone on a forum has recommended a document agency to us. We are basically going to pay someone to sort it all out for us. Days and nights of research have got us nowhere, so rather than relying on the “what you know,” we are going to try the “who you know.” It seems to be the way things work around here.

Some people may be interested to read my forum thread on this – it shows the wide range of theories and experiences people have!

Residency – Aaaargh! Link to Expats Portugal

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13 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. I still think that most of the problems only appeared due to language misunderstandings. Even I have understood, after reading your first post about this, that you were looking for something related with Finances and taxation.
    That thing with two “two Portuguese voters”, is the proof that someone have not understood your question. That is sometimes necessary even for us (Portuguese nationals), for example when someone moves to a new village and wants to put the kids in the local school, they ask for a proof of residence, and one way to get that proof is to give the declaration of two local residents.
    So, don’t give up, this type of things are part of the Portuguese charm….
    What you are looking for is just a card of residence (by the way it seems that this thing is going to disappear soon due to an EU directive.
    “All foreigners need a residence card ( autorização de residência) to live permanently in Portugal, including EU nationals. Applications must be made at the nearest Foreigners’ Department ( Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras/SEF) of the Portuguese Ministry of Internal Affairs (there are offices in most major cities).
    EU citizens: Certificate of Registration
    EU citizens whose stay in the national territory extending over a period exceeding three months must register to formalize the right of residence – Certificate of Registration – within 30 days after the first three months of entering the national territory.
    Required Documents:
    1.Identification Document (ID Card or Citizen Card) or valid passport;

    2.Declaration, under oath, that the applicant meets one of the following conditions:

    i) Engaged in a Portuguese territory or self employed professional activity;
    Sufficient resources for themselves and their families, and health insurance, since it is required in the Member State of nationality to Portuguese citizens;

    ii) Is enrolled in a public establishment or private, officially recognized, he gives evidence in a declaration or other proof of your choice, the possession of sufficient financial resources for themselves and their families and have a secure health, since it is required in the Member State of nationality to Portuguese citizens

    So, just for simple curiosity. Have you been in the SEF asking for this?

  2. Sorry I forgot to tell you:

    I hope you don’t get upset with me…

    is not “loja de cidade”, the correct name is “loja do cidadão”

    “cidade” means “City” and “cidadão” is the “citizen”, the inhabitant of a city.


  3. Hi,

    still searching for the “residência card” ? LOL

  4. An interesting site:


    just click and you will find everything….

  5. Hi there – yep, sadly we are – you will see from the post I am about to put up 🙂

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  6. Wonderful, thank you!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  7. Hello, I’ve visiting your blog for a while. I’m portuguese and just wanted to say, burocracy is one of the worse things this country has, alltogether with the high prices you have to pay to get something to yourself despite of the low salaries most of the people gain…Portugal has indeed all of the sources as you that come from outside pointed out so well to be an “almost” perfect country to live. But it’s this shame to complicate everything that is suppose to be easier…the time we spend to fill papers, to move to department to another to solve the issues…it can be frustating and perhaps disapointing for people who had such high expectatives as I think you had at the first period of time here…
    But one thing, I’m certain of, cause we are aware of how difficulties are, we are also known to be quite helpful to the ones who ask for help we do not turn our back to anyone.
    So, ask for help, you will find generosity among the locals and a free one without asking for rewards.
    Then please do not allow the bourucracy take advantage of you to become desilusional of your decision to live here, if you put at one side of the balance plate all of the good things you pointed out to be positive to live here and at the other side of the balance plate the burocracy…well the first one has more weight.
    Go for it, it can be very frustrated to you all of the troubles to get a legal residency here at first, but then I’m certain you will not be regreted at the end.
    I’m sorry, if I decided to just come here and decided to give my opinion without being asked…but well, I only did this, cause I trully hope you can get everything solved!

  8. Hi Fatima,

    Thank you for your comments and for reading. We know from speaking to Portuguese people here that the locals get just as frustrated with the red tape, which is reassuring in a way!

    Just last night my wife and I both agreed that how every many hurdles we have to jump we would still rather be here in Portugal.

    Best wishes


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  9. Yes, don’t lose hope so easily, enjoy all the rest you consider to be positive to live here.
    Well, hope to read soon that everything is solved out re: red tape.

  10. You should dig your heels in and tell them they are not conforming to the EU directive and say that you are going to write to the European Ombudsman: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/start.faces

  11. Hi Gabby,

    Welcome to my blog. We have managed to get slightly further now in that we HAVE residencia but for only 6 months as their doesn’t seem to be a process for people who live here but earn their money elsewhere. We have a plan though – involving a couple of forms being processed in England – I am going to put up a post explaining the whole saga once we reach the end of it!

    Best wishes, Ben

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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