Couple complains of neglect and lack of access to national health system. Undocumented immigrants say Coimbra unit is the worst in the country
The Portuguese government promises to launch a website today for the automatic renewal of residence permits. But not all Brazilians are among those who can benefit from the measure, whose limited scope in the first phase excludes thousands of foreigners.
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Lívia and Flaubert Rocha are among those excluded. They arrived in Portugal in 2018 and had an appointment and interview at the Serviço de Estrangeiro e Fronteiras de Portugal (SEF) in Coimbra in September 2022. Although they promised to deliver the documents in 90 days, 180 days have already passed.
– They told us that the deadline for the residence permit would be 90 days, but six months have already passed,” complains Flaubert.
Thousands of Brazilians face SEF bureaucracy every day in several cities, with the Coimbra unit being one of the most problematic in recent weeks. The couple says they have been treated with disrespect, especially because they have a 14-year-old son who needs access to the National Health System (SNS).
– When he turned 120, we decided to go to the SEF in Coimbra to ask about the process. We were treated with indifference and asked to wait at home. At that moment we felt great anxiety, because for them it is a simple card, but for us it means the health of our son, who needs family reunification to have access to health and special treatments,” said Flaubert.
In addition to access to the NHS, Flaubert lists the obstacles she faces without a residence permit:
– I can’t change my Portuguese driving license. We have a business and four families depending on us not to close our doors. We cannot buy a house. We have the conditions, but the lack of a residence permit prevents us.
On social networks, Brazilians reveal that identical requests take longer at the SEF in Coimbra than in other cities. They say and publish on the networks that the unit is the worst in the country.
This is the case of Luís Santos, a Brazilian student. Three months have passed since he was interviewed for a temporary residence permit.
– On March 7, three months after I arrived in Coimbra, they did not meet the deadline for delivery (…), which is 90 days. A friend of mine entered the SEF in Porto in mid-January and has already received his card – said Santos.
According to him, several of his friends have enrolled in different units and have the document.
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In response from the SEF, Santos received a terse email informing him only that his request was “awaiting a higher level of dispatch.
The Brazilian, who is enrolled in a two-year master’s program at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto, has been in Portugal for six months, but was only able to get a job with the SEF in December.
– When will he get his residence permit? At the end of the course? Isn’t it enough that it takes so long to get a job and then so long to get the card? It doesn’t make sense to take so long if my stay here is provisional – Santos explained.
His application falls under Article 91 of the Aliens Act, a residence permit for students in higher education that is valid for three years.
– I feel exposed because I don’t even have my NHS user number,” he said.
Santos says he left Brazil with the Certificate of Entitlement to Medical Assistance. This document guarantees emergency care, for example, but does not cover a family doctor for regular consultations.
In posts on social networks, Brazilians say they’ve applied in Coimbra before Santos, in November, August and July, for example, and still haven’t received authorization.
The problem is not limited to Brazilians. An Angolan published that he has been waiting for almost 247 working days.
The SEF did not respond.