Are you going to SEF in Lisbon?
As one of these Brits, I chose to go up to Lisbon from the Algarve to fill in the forms and hand over my biometric data to SEF. I could have waited to be emailed with the chance to have an appointment in the Algarve, but instead quite fancied a trip to the capital and was also eager to get the ball rolling on a process that has been stalling for the past nearly two years.
Basically, with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, my good old residency was no longer valid, as this is a piece of paper that only citizens from member states can have. SEF did allow us all to go online and print off a piece of paper with a QR code that was a temporary substitute for a new residency card, and while this was a legal document, it turns out that nobody apart from the Brits seemed to have a clue what this was – or that it was legal.
I can’t count how many people have told me about problems they have had for the past nearly two years in living everyday life in Portugal without a proper residency card - from not being able to access loans, difficulties in registering to vote, and problems in taking driving tests – nobody was happy to accept our pitiful little QR code. So when the email finally came through from SEF to let me book an appointment, a trip to Lisbon seemed a small price to pay to finally be able to move on from all of this.
Getting to the office
I usually drive to Lisbon but with petrol and tolls this is not exactly economical, so we hopped on a bus from Lagoa, which cost €16 return, and we booked online. Our bus was almost full and about a third of those on board were all heading to SEF too. This bus had stops in the Algarve in Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa, Silves, and Messines and then went straight up to Lisbon stopping only in Almada and then on to Sete Rios station, next to the zoo.
As the weather was good we then chose to do the half hour's walk to the SEF office, but we could have equally taken a bus or a Metro, as the Parque station is just across the road from the office. An Uber from the bus station to SEF only cost us €4 on the way back.
The walk was very simple and once you are on the main drag you have a good few places along the way to stop for a bite to eat or a drink. There is also an enormous El Corte Inglés department store on this road for those who fancy a shop before or after.
We arrived 20 minutes early for our appointment and were asked by the security guard on the door to show him the email from SEF regarding the appointment on our phone, he then led us into the reception area and took us to the front of the queue where you pick up your ticket with your number on it. This felt a little strange to jump ahead of everyone else but this also appeared to happen for everyone else who had a prior booked appointment.
At the desk, the lady, who spoke great English, gave us a form to fill in and a ticket number. (A top tip here is to make sure you bring a pen with you as there was no offer of being given one!). The form asked us to complete mother and father's full names, NIF, NISS, health number, Portuguese phone number, and address – so make sure you have all of these with you.
We then waited about half an hour before being called into a specific desk where I was met by a lovely lady who also spoke perfect English. Here you hand in your ticket, completed form, and your passport – the only actual piece of documentation you have to take with you.
I was asked to confirm my place of birth and also my marital status as she inserted all of the details on the completed form into the computer.
Once this was done I was asked to stand in front of a machine that took a photo of my face, then asked to provide my fingerprints and my signature digitally.
I was finally told that I was to log back on to the SEF portal after 48 hours to be able to receive the payment information and that once the payment was made then the card would be posted to the address I had provided.
The entire data collection process itself took around five minutes.
Questions and doubts
While I was comfortable with the process, I did see that a number of people were asking questions about logging into the system online and also general issues about residency, these questions were all answered quickly and professionally at the door by the security guard and then also while providing the data.
So there we have it – one step closer to being able to be a resident in Portugal (again!).
For those who have their appointments scheduled for the Lisbon SEF office, full contact details are below (map):