Portugal’s border agency criticized for delays in issuing biometric ID cards to UK citizens
Portugal’s Immigration and Border Service (SEF) has come under scrutiny this week because of prolonged delays in issuing biometric, post-Brexit ID cards to thousands of British citizens living on Portuguese soil.
The document is aimed at replacing EU residence permits in a post-Brexit world, but according to several news reports, not many of the over 42 thousand British nationals living in Portugal have received the biometric ID card.
Instead, many of them were given a temporary document and a QR code, which is reportedly not widely recognized by public and local administrations across the country and the Schengen region.
British in Portugal Co-president Tig James told Euronews the lack of biometric ID cards has caused many UK nationals to struggle when accessing healthcare, driving license permits, and job applications.
Some of them also have encountered difficulties when traveling out of the country, and others were allegedly unable to bring “third country” spouses into Portugal.
These claims were partially dismissed by SEF, however, which said in a statement that the temporary document and the QR code do guarantee access to health and social services.
James also claimed Portuguese authorities have been telling her that the new Withdrawal Agreement biometric cards (WABCs) would be arriving “soon” since July 2019.
Instead, SEF started issuing biometric ID cards for British citizens in Portugal only in February this year on the islands of Azores and Madeira. The border agency said it would start the process in the municipality of Cascais this month.
“SEF are consistent in saying the paperwork they have given is sufficient which it most certainly isn’t,” James tells Euronews.
“Without a WABC you can’t register for health care if you move address (people seriously ill, potentially terminally ill, cannot get treatment), doctors refusing treatment, appointments canceled.”
According to James, SEF are “wilfully, deliberately and systemically” not adhering to the Withdrawal Agreement, which is resulting in the “physical, emotional and financial suffering” of thousands of UK nationals in Portugal.
In related news, the Portuguese government announced in April that Brits in possession of passports and travel to Portugal should be able to use the biometric passport readers, rather than queue for manual checks and passport stamping.