Ombudsman, Maria Lúcia Amaral, reported that she had sent "an alert" to the top managers of the Social Security Institute (ISS) and the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) after "having received several complaints from foreign citizens" who were denied access to a social benefit or lost the right to receive it based on the argument that they were in Portugal irregularly.
In the letter, two examples are given, first relating to a foreign woman who submitted the application to receive prenatal allowance on February 26, 2022 and presented the receipt of the expression of interest on March 1, 2020, but who saw the request refused by the ISS on the grounds that the receipt was only valid for one year.
Expression of interest is an administrative procedure carried out with SEF by any foreign citizen who has legally entered Portugal, is registered, is in good standing with Social Security and has a proven employment relationship.
The other situation concerns a foreign citizen who received the Social Insertion Income (RSI) and who had the benefit suspended because the ISS considered that he was at the "limit of the Residence Authorization Title" whose date was November 9 of 2021.
"According to the then current version of Decree-Law No. 10-A/2020, that title had seen its validity extended until March 31, 2022, with no basis for that suspension", says the Ombudsman.
She adds that it was also suggested to foreign citizens to make an online appointment with SEF when the "regularity of stay in the national territory was ensured by virtue of the exceptional regime in force".
Maria Lúcia Amaral also gives this case as an example of the lack of knowledge of the proper procedures, taking into account that the appointment with SEF is done by phone and not over the internet.
In view of these and other cases, which the Ombudsman does not quantify, Maria Lúcia Amaral argues that "a review of the procedures adopted by the services is imperative, with a view to avoiding the suspension of social benefits or their rejection, without prior investigation of the possible applicability of safeguard rules regarding the regularity of the permanence of citizens in national territory".