This measure aims to overcome the overload of in-person and telephone service at SEF.
The online renewal of stay permits for foreigners in Portugal is available again this week and now includes for the first time the “gold visas”.
The measure, which the government had already resorted to last year, aims to overcome congestion at the in-person and telephone service counters at the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF). In October, SEF registered a peak of 29 million call attempts in a 12-hour period, when the daily capacity of the staff does not exceed three thousand calls. The call centre could not withstand the pressure and stopped working.
Last year, thousands of immigrants, most of them Brazilians, were unable to leave Portugal and many were prevented from getting a job or opening a bank account because their residence permits had expired.
This time, the automatic renewal feature will be available in a first stage for the approximately 21,500 visas that expire between January 1 and March 31, according to SEF, “with a guarantee of compliance with security rules and mitigation of the consequences resulting from the health emergency” caused by the pandemic, and will then be extended in stages until the end of the year.
Citizens who can automatically renew expired residence permits are those whose biometric data has already been collected and whose documentation is already known to the SEF.
According to the decree-law that exceptionally extends this regime, this and other measures “stem from the fact that the pandemic has had a significant impact on public attendance, which has resulted in an increase in pendency regarding the granting and renewal of residence permits”.
Therefore, the Government is allowing expired documents relating to stay in national territory to continue to be considered valid until 31 December 2023 and even after that date, upon proof of scheduling for their renewal, provided that the expiry occurred from 15 December onwards.
Visas for family members of EU citizens are not subject to the so-called “automatic renewal”, as the authorities consider that they have other alternatives at their disposal. One of them is to apply for the revalidation of residence permits at SEF counters.