The United Kingdom (UK) withdrawal agreement from the European Union (EU) was finally approved by the British Parliament on January 9th. Ratification in the European Parliament is scheduled for January 29th, two days before the official exit date.
The text of the agreement provides for a transitional period until 31 December 2020, during which the four European freedoms will prevail (free movement of goods, services, capital and workers), which will prevent a sudden breakdown in relations and an adaptation to the new rules that will be negotiated.
Aiming to prepare companies, the European Commission has made available a Checklist for preparing for Brexit for companies operating in the EU.
On this side, Portugal also prepared a Checklist, as well as implemented a set of measures that aim not only to support national companies, but also to guarantee the stability of British citizens in Portugal and to promote the relocation of British companies and their workers, administrators and owners, regardless of their nationality, to the national territory.
Thus, with regard to British citizens and their families (and subject to the verification of equivalent treatment by the British authorities towards Portuguese citizens residing in the United Kingdom) the following safeguards were determined:
• UK Nationals who have a residence established in Portugal continue, to be considered residents, without any interruption. If they have lived for less than 5 years, they must apply for a temporary residence card. If they have lived for 5 years or more, they can choose to apply for permanent residence card or for the long-term resident status. The request shall be made by 31/12/2020. Proving legal residence in Portugal for 5 years, they can apply for Portuguese nationality, proving their knowledge of the Portuguese language (level A2).
• Those who establish residence in Portugal until the date of the United Kingdom’s departure are granted the right of residence, regardless of whether or not there has been prior registration.
• For those enrolled in a Portuguese higher education institution or enrolled until 31/12/2020, European rules and benefits shall continue to be applicable, being excluded from the application of the international student status, until the end of the study cycle in which they enrolled or moved on.
• Recognition of the social security rights of persons who have completed periods of insurance in the UK, up to the date of UK departure from the European Union.
• UK nationals who hold an administrative authorization that allows them to pursue a professional activity for a specified period retain the right to pursue it after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, and the right to recognition of their professional qualifications for the exercise of that activity.
• UK nationals residing in Portugal at the date of the UK’s departure from the European Union continue to be
beneficiaries of the National Health Service (SNS).
• UK nationals and their families living in Portugal must exchange their driving licenses by 21/12/2020.
With regard to companies, it shall be highlight the implementation of specialized branches able to support United Kingdom companies that want to relocate their headquarters or open a branch in Portugal, with acceptance of documents in English and integrated treatment of the companies’ incorporation process.
On the other hand, regarding workers, administrators and owners of British companies, the possibility of resorting to the Special Regime for Relocation of Companies stands out, under which Portugal grants residence cards to the owners, managers or workers of companies headquartered or with main or secondary establishment in a European Economic Area (EEA) State, who decided to establish its headquarters or main or secondary establishment in Portugal. To benefit from this conversion of the residence permit, applicants must:
• Have a valid residence permit or card in the EEE State where the company’s main or secondary establishment
• Do not constitute a threat to public order or public security;
• Present an updated company registration certificate;
• Demonstrate the link with the relocated company;
• Submit proof of registration with the Portuguese social security (which has been following a simplified regime
since January); and the certificate of criminal record of the country of previous residence.
The beneficiaries of this measure can also request the reunification of their family members, in order to obtain the legal right of residence for them.
This set of measures, associated with the quality of life and security offered by Portugal, places the country as one of the most attractive destinations for the relocation of British citizens and companies, also allowing to reinforce the growing development in the areas as technology, real estate, tourism and pharmaceuticals, which are already at the forefront of British investments in Portugal.