Portugal’s Borders and Immigration Service (SEF) is once more issuing new appointments for the biometrics collection appointment, the final stage of the golden visa application process, according to PAIIR co-founder Vanessa Rodrigues Lima.
She also confirms that such appointments are being allotted in chronological order. “The appointments are for applications filed last year.”
Pedro Catão Pinheiro of Porto-based Next Lawers Gali Macedo points out the biometrics appointments currently open for booking are those that pertain to applications filed mostly in the first half of 2021: “Typically files from June or July last year,” he says.
Catão Pinheiro says he anticipates the biometrics backlog to be resolved in a relatively short period because of the (only recently resolved) halt in new applications, which lasted from January to June 15th this year. This means pending applications are fewer than they otherwise would have been. But that doesn’t mean the SEF can escape a hangover:
“The real backlog”, he says, “is still ahead of us. It will come when the wave of applications filed on June 15th passes the pre-approval stage.”
He describes frantic scenes from the office on that day, as attorneys across the country scrambled to file long-since prepared applications for their clients.
“We had everything ready to be submitted at a moment’s notice and were only waiting for the SEF’s platform to start accepting new applications,” says Catão Pinheiro. “Once they opened, on the 15th, my colleagues and I spent the whole day and most of the night in the office just uploading application after application.”
The urgency was occasioned by the SEF’s new biometrics appointment allotment system; appointments are now handed out according to when the original application was first filed.
“On June 15th, just a one-hour difference in filing time could mean a one-month difference in the biometrics appointment booking. We simply couldn’t wait. Every golden visa lawyer in Portugal was rushing to submit files on that day.”
His own firm alone submitted more than 100 new files in a single day. He says some of his larger industry peers took two or three days to finish submitting the applications they had on hand. Overall, he estimates the SEF must have received at least 1,000 applications on June 15th. This avalanche of applications, he indicates, will inevitably cause a bottleneck later in the year.
Renewals and rescheduling still problematic
The SEF has not been renewing golden visa-based residence permits since late last year. In an acknowledgment of the disruption this caused for foreigners in Portugal, the government issued one-year blanket extensions of residence permits. That is helpful for foreigners physically in Portugal but, because the residence card still displays the original expiry date, it offers little solace to third-country nationals hoping to travel within or re-enter Schengen.
“Along with the ongoing restructuring of Portugal’s immigration system, the job of renewals was supposed to be turned over to the Civil Registries,” explains Pinheiro. Since it’s still not clear when – and, indeed, if – the SEF will pass on this work to other public organs, the renewals seem not to be a priority for now.”
For those who had to cancel their biometrics appointments due to an inability to leave their home countries during the pandemic, such as Moroccans, few clear answer are available.
“Under the new chronological system,” explains Pinheiro, “those who canceled their original biometrics appointments, whatever their grounds, may have to move to the back of the line.”
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.