COVID-19: the measures adopted in the scope of Immigration
1) What measures have been adopted in the context of immigration?
With regard to border control, at this time, the border with Spain is closed to people travelling for the purposes of tourism and leisure. Maritime and inland waterway connections for the same purposes have also been suspended.
In terms of air traffic, all flights to and from Portugal that are to and from any countries outside of the EU have been suspended, with the exception of:
- Countries in the Schengen area (Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland);
- Portuguese speaking countries; from Brazil, however, only flights from and to São Paulo and from and to Rio de Janeiro are permitted;
- The United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Canada and South Africa, given the strong presence of Portuguese communities.
This suspension of flights does not apply to the following situations:
- Flights to repatriate Portuguese nationals or holders of residence permits;
- Flights to repatriate foreign citizens who are in Portugal, provided such flights are arranged by the authorities of those countries, requested and agreed to in advance, and based on the principle of reciprocity;
- Flights of aircraft used by the government and the armed forces;
- Flights to exclusively carry cargo, mail and humanitarian aid, emergency medical service flights and technical stops for non-commercial purposes.
If not extended, the suspension of flights will be lifted on 17 April 2020.
2) If able to enter Portugal, am I obligated to comply with the quarantine period?
Passengers authorised to enter national territory will be obligated to comply with the guidelines issued by the Portuguese health authorities. In turn, the Directorate General of Health stated in a press conference that the general indication is for anyone who enters Portugal to stay in prophylactic isolation for 14 days.
Health authorities are discussing whether to implement a compulsory quarantine in these cases and in certain regions of the country.
3) With this exceptional measure, what changes have been implemented concerning the operation of the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service, registry offices, among other public authorities?
On a public authority’s decision based on the COVID-19 contagion risk, these departments can either close or suspend face-to-face services.
In the event these departments are closed or suspend face-to-face services, on a public authority’s decision based on the COVID-19 contagion risk, the deadlines for carrying out any procedural acts shall be suspended from the day the department is closed or face-to-face services are suspended.
Suspension ends when the public authority issues a statement declaring the reopening of the departments and will apply to citizens, their representatives or agents who reside or work in the municipalities where the departments were closed or face-to-face services suspended, irrespective of whether procedural acts and steps are to be carried out in a different municipality.
4) With this exceptional measure, what happens when a citizen, for example, is in isolation and has appointments or deadlines for the submission of documents to these authorities?
In this case, we recommend that you submit a statement issued by the Portuguese health authority that states the need for a period of isolation due to a possible COVID-19 contagion risk to claim justifiable constraint to carrying out acts that must be performed face-to-face.
5) With this exceptional measure, what happens to documents that are about to expire?
For all legal purposes, the public authorities accept documents that need to be renewed and which expire from 14 March 2020 or in the 15 days immediately prior.
National citizen cards, certificates issued by registry offices, drivers licences and documents and visas relating to residence in national territory that expire from 14 March 2020 will also be accepted until 30 June 2020.
6) What happens if the holder of a residence permit needs to renew their permit and is unable to travel to Portugal?
Under the general framework of the Alien’s Act (Law 23/2007 of 4 July, as amended), residence permits may also be renewed in the 6 months following the expiration thereof.
However, should the residence permit expire after 14 March 2020, the 6-month deadline to submit an application for renewal will only start from 30 June 2020. As such, applicants should make an appointment to submit the application for renewal as soon as possible.
7) What happens to those who have entry visas for Portugal but have had their flight suspended because of the pandemic?
In this case, despite expiring from 14 March 2020, the visas will also be accepted until 30 June 2020.
8) With regard to the Residence Permit for Investment programme (ARI – Golden Visa), are there any special considerations to take into account?
No. The aforementioned rules also apply in these cases.
However, there are some situations that deserve special attention from investors and their families, namely compliance with the minimum residence periods. If applicants and their families are unable to enter Portugal to comply with residence requirements, they must include a statement issued by the health authority that states the need for a period of isolation due to a possible COVID-19 contagion risk to claim a justifiable constraint.
9) What happens to Golden Visa (ARI) applications that have been submitted and are under review?
Applications submitted via the ARI Portal will continue to be analysed. Once accepted, the collection of biometric data will be scheduled according to the department’s current situation.
If Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) facilities are closed or have their face-to-face services suspended, appointments can be scheduled as soon as they are declared open.
10) Given that I do not want/cannot return to my country of origin due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can I await approval of my process and possibly schedule the collection of biometric data in Portugal?
Foreign nationals who submitted an application under the Alien’s Act (Law 23/2007, of 4 July, as amended) and the Asylum Act (Law 27/2008, of 30 June, as amended) with processes pending at the Portuguese Immigration and Border Services (SEF) on 18 March, when the National State of Emergency was declared, shall be deemed to be legally entitled to remain in national territory.
Documents attesting to the status of citizens in this situation are:
- For applications submitted under Articles 88, 89 and 90-A of the legal framework for the entry, stay, exit and expulsion of foreigners from national territory, by means of an expression of interest document or application issued by the registration platforms in use by SEF;
- For other processes pending at SEF, namely for the granting or renewal of residence permits, either under the general scheme or exceptional arrangements, by means of a document certifying the appointment with SEF or proof of receipt of the application submitted.
11) In this sense, and given that I am in Portugal legally, what are my rights?
The documents referred to in the preceding paragraph shall be deemed valid for all public services, in particular for obtaining a healthcare user number, accessing the National Healthcare Service or other healthcare rights, accessing welfare benefits, entering into lease contracts, entering into employment contracts, opening a bank account and acquiring essential public services.