There are a few things I hate to share with people. Yeah, I can be a tad selfish…I don’t like sharing my lawyer or my doctor (and they’re both incredible), but seeing as this is a tough time for everyone, I asked my personal lawyer here in Lisbon if he could answer some questions that I and some of you have during this Coronavirus Pandemic.
I know, I know you’ve been asking me via email and comments:
- Who is the best lawyer in Lisbon?
- What lawyers work with expats in Portugal?
- What lawyer can I use to help me buy an apartment or house in Portugal?
…and the “granddaddy” request of them all. What lawyers speak english in Portugal? I got you my dear reader.
Here’s a little about João and his firm CVSP, so you can get to know him a little better.
João has a law degree from the Faculty of Law of the Lusiada University of Lisbon and postgraduation in taxation from the ISG – Instituto Superior de Gestão. In addition, he completed an LLM in International and European Tax Law at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
João has been a lawyer for around 20 years and has been advising international clients in tax matters (inbound/outbound). He has been my lawyer for 2 years now and I am very happy with his work.
CSVP, João’s firm specializes in Portuguese tax law, real estate law, corporate law, and mitigation. He and his team speak English and I can tell you from experience that they are well versed in how legal matters outside of Portugal translate to legalities here.
Legal Issues for Expats in Portugal During the Times of COVID-19
BV: What happens to those people whose temporary residence visas expire while the SEF is shut down?
JSP: Visas and documents related to the stay of foreign nationals in Portugal, which have expired after 24 February, remain valid until June 30.
BV: And regarding the visa applications?
JSP: The applicants may prove their regular status by showing documentary evidence of a scheduled appointment or by showing the receipt for an application already submitted to the SEF.
BV: For someone whose residency visa does not expire until say July, is there any way to get an appointment with the SEF for that time? What should they?
JSP: Currently, it is still uncertain and will depend on whether the state of emergency would be withdrawn or not. If it is maintained, I believe the Government will extend (once again) the visas and documents related to the stay of foreign nationals. On the contrary, if that does not happen most likely it would be possible to get again an appointment at the SEF. Even though, when the time comes it may not be that easy to schedule an appointment. I recall that all appointments planned up to March 27 will be rescheduled by the SEF, beginning on July 1, in compliance with the former chronological order.
BV: I need to get an Apostille taken care of. Is that something I can do in Portugal?
JSP: We have received some queries especially from US Citizens that need to sign certain documents such as a PoA. They would normally be able to get it notarized at the US consulate and not require an apostille, but the consulate is currently not providing notary services due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Therefore, they need to sign the document here in Portugal with a notary or a lawyer and then send it to the US for counter-signature. Because the notary is outside the US, an apostille is required. We, as any other lawyers, are able to notarize the document at stake and afterwards obtain the apostille.
In Portugal, the apostille is taken care of at the Prosecutor General’s Office Services but due to the current situation, you can only contact them remotely. In this regard, I highly recommend you to consult a lawyer before getting this service done.
BV: What about something like Power of Attorney? How does that work during the Coronavirus quarantine and can this be done between the two countries?
JSP: Depends on the purpose of the PoA. If the idea is to buy real estate in Portugal it would have to be notarized and then that may be an issue for the moment. Even though, there are some solutions foreseen by the legislator. For instance, someone namely a lawyer could buy the property as the “business manager” of the client. Subsequently, the purchase would have to be formally ratified by the client.
Conversely, if someone wants to buy real estate in the US the PoA would have to be notarized as mentioned in my answer below.
However, for some other cases if there are no specific formalities in the issuance of the PoA it may be a good solution as the interested party is not living in Portugal.
BV: I need to get my NIF, but the AT (Finanças) is closed. Is there another way to do this?
JSP: At the moment the only possible solution might be to schedule a meeting at a local tax office by previously contacting the tax authorities by phone.
BV: When do I need to file my Portuguese taxes? Is there an extension due to Coronavirus?
JSP: The deadline is June 30. There is no specific extension due to Coronavirus. Nevertheless, you can still extend if you have income from abroad and certain conditions are met.
BV: Portugal gave migrants the rights of citizens during the COVID Pandemic. What exactly does this mean to expats in Portugal?
JSP: The Portuguese Government decided that all immigrants with applications for a residence permit pending at the SEF have access to the same rights as all other citizens, including social support. In practice, migrants may access to the National Health Service or other health rights, access to other social benefits.
BV: I’m a property owner and my tenants can’t pay rent. What is my best course of action? How do I suspend my mortgage?
JSP: Before answering your question I would like to highlight that regarding the tenancy situation, it was approved an exceptional regime for situations of unpaid rent under the terms of housing and non-housing urban rental contracts giving the tenant the right to defer the rental payment if certain conditions are met. As an alternative, the same regime approved an alternative solution which is an interest-free loan granted by the Institute of Housing and Urban Rehabilitation, I.P. (IHRU, I. P.).
In what concerns a mortgage, in particular, the Law Decree no. 10-J/2020, of 26 March, approved a moratorium covering loans for permanent home available for residents in Portugal. This moratorium is allowed until September 30, 2020, foreseeing the payment of installments of capital and interest (or only capital, if the Client so wishes). In this case, the term of the contracts being extended for a period identical to the suspension.
The access conditions are the following:
On March 18, 2020, there was no delay in payment or default at least for the last 90 days, nor were they subject to enforcement action;
- you are not in a situation of insolvency or suspension of payments;
- have your contributory and tax regularized situation;
- you have fulfilled your tax obligations;
- and you are in a situation conditioned by the pandemic such as:
1. Situation of prophylactic isolation or illness decreed by a health official and other conditions prohibited by Law Decree No. 10-A / 2020, of 13 March.
2. Assistance to children or children under 12, as established in Decree-Law no. 10-A / 2020, of 13 March.
3. Reduction of the normal working period or suspension of the employment contract, due to a business crisis.
4. Unemployment situation registered at the Institute of Employment and Professional Training, I. P (IEFP).
5. Worker eligible for extraordinary support to reduce the economic activity of the self-employed person, under the terms of article 26 of Decree-Law no. 10-A / 2020.
6. Worker of an entity whose establishment or activity was the object of closure determined during the emergency period, under the terms of article 7 of Decree no. 2-A / 2020, of 20 March.
BV: In regards to mortgage postponement, if someone is a resident but does not have a social security number, can the bank deny the postponement service?
JSP: This would vary by case. Let us imagine a situation for someone who is neither employed or self-employed. In this case, you have to obtain a statement at the social security declaring you are not registered. Therefore, you can prove that there are no debts due to social security.
BV: I moved to Portugal for a job and I have just been let go. What happens to my visa now?
JSP: The answer may vary depending on the current case and situation. Assuming that there were previous social security contributions, the employee may benefit from certain social security supports and still maintain the visa. In any case, sooner or later the person has to find a job or try to see if there is any other type of visa that may fit.
BV: João, thank you for taking the time to answer all these questions from the community. If someone is interested in contacting you, has more questions, or is looking for an English-speaking lawyer in Portugal, what is the best way for them to reach out to you?
JSP: The best way is by email (jsp @ cvsp. pt) or via our firm’s website.