The Portuguese Government has decided to open up the health and welfare system for everyone in Portugal, regardless of residence status, at least for the duration of the Corona crisis. These measures are the “duty” of a “solidarity society in times of crisis,” Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita told PUBLICO.

In Portugal, more than 8,000 people have been infected with the Corona virus. All schools and shops have been closed and the immigration office (Servico de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) is also closed. For this reason the Portuguese government has decided that whoever lives in Portugal during the pandemic will have full access to the health and social system – regardless of residence status. This includes all forms of social support.

During Corona: Everyone gets the same rights in Portugal

Specifically, Portugal’s Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita published a decree on Friday that says: Anyone who has submitted an application to the Foreigners’ Office SEF (whether under asylum and national foreigners’ law, for a work permit or for highly qualified or cultural work) will receive a social security number. And this will give them the same rights as all other citizens in Portugal have.

All you need to do to access the health and social security system is confirm an application to the Foreigners’ Office. Access includes all social security benefits, as well as the possibility of signing service and rental contracts or opening an bank account.

“In a state of emergency, the defence of collective health and safety is the priority. In these moments, it becomes even more important to guarantee the rights of the weakest. These include migrants. Guaranteeing migrants’ access to health, social security and the stability of jobs and housing is a duty for a society based on solidarity in times of crisis. “

Immigration office is closed

The SEF immigration office is closed until the first of July. All scheduled appointments that should have taken place since March 17th will be processed in chronological order from July onwards. Visas for stays expiring after 24 February will be automatically extended until the 30th of June.

This measure was partly due to pressure from NGOs who feared for the safety of people without residence permits, especially considering a situation where labour migrants who were dismissed would have had no rights.

Migrants are net payers

There are over half a million people living in Portugal who are not Portuguese citizens. The latest data show that migrants have paid 746.9 million euros in taxes to the state. However, only 95.6 million euros in social benefits have gone to them. This gives a positive balance of 651 million euros.

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