Entering Portugal after pre-approval

Hi, could anyone comment please on how one enters PT, having gotten pre-approval. i.e. withOUT using a Schengen.

  1. what documentation is necessary for border control.

  2. any trouble at borders with this? It is I’m sure something that they don’t see too often

  3. particularly any trouble on the departing side - e.g. boarding plane?

Thank you.


I could be wrong but I don’t think it’s any different than how you would enter Portugal before pre-approval i.e. you have to show that you’re allowed to enter Portugal using Schengen.

You will have to wait until you have your residence card in your possession to be able to travel freely.

The problem with that would be that your Schengen is stamped, and so you would overstay on it. I.e. if one then had to leave Portugal and had to go to another Schengen country.


Your pre-approval would entitle you to stay in Portugal past the expiration of your Schengen visa, but you would not be permitted to travel within Schengen after expiration.

When you are leaving, if you have overstayed, fly to/through non-Schengen country like GB, US, Canada, etc. This way you can show your proof of pre-approval at the time you are exiting and/or entering and you would only have to convince Portuguese border control of your eligibility.

You might also want to have your lawyer to write you a letter of explanation of your status.


Thanks for that.

But it still seems flawed. One then has a passport with two Schengen stamps, that shows you have overstayed.

So if you fly to UK, you may exit fine as you say. But then need to visit France for a day, you are unable to, as could be (very!) in violation of 90 in 180 days rule and France won’t care about pre-approval details.

It would also seem that any encounter at any Shengen border later in life (until your passport doesn’t expire) could draw trouble, as they would see an overstay at some point in the past…?


I think the issue here is that the decree-law regularlizing people with pre-approval was about creating a band-aid for people already in country. It’s going to have lots of edge cases that make no sense. It’s unclear that it was meant to be used to let you in.

The thing is, if you want to be approved for a GV, you need to enter on a Schengen visa. This is hard-coded in the law. Maybe there are cases where it’s slid, but the actual text of the law is crystal clear. At the time of the appointment for biometrics (which is the actual true application, when you hand over the wet-signed paperwork), you have to be standing there in possession of a valid Schengen visa. Part of why they photocopy all pages of your passport, no doubt. If you somehow get into the country on a pre-approval, you still have to exit the country and come back in on the Schengen visa before the appointment in order to meet the letter of the law.

I understand the concern about the stamp. There are ways to address this but they’re all going to be workarounds. You could go to a SEF desk at the airport and explain your situation. You could leave - but if you don’t have your permit then you will have the same issues with getting back in, perhaps - if you are non-schengen-waiver country then just get your schengen visa as multi-entry for > 3mo. If you are schengen-waiver, then just day-trip it to reset the stamp.

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These are all valid points - it is a grey-shaded area. If you are in the UK and overstayed your Schengen visa, I wouldn’t try to take an Eurostar to Paris. You might have easier time driving from Proto through San Sebastian and then through Bordeaux (a long drive, but fun), and hope that you wouldn’t be stopped.

And so, I can’t say what other countries would think about your visa stay violation, but my lawyer assured me that she was willing to provide me supporting documentation to let me back into Portugal.

Also, though it is possible, I have never had a border agent in Europe going through my passport looking for the last stamp - they were mostly looking only for the empty pages to slap a new one. Hopefully none will buck the trend…

(As a full disclosure, I have a U.S. passport. Others might have different experiences)


I have. Last time I left through Frankfurt, in fact, I handed the agent an un-stamped passport. He flipped through the passport twice. I asked him “are you looking for the stamp?” He said yes. I said “oh oops I’m new at this” or something like that and handed him my permit, after which he waved me through without comment. (I entered on the permit so there was no stamp.)

Don’t discount the skill of someone who is scanning through passports all day every day to be able to read stamps without seeming like they are.


OK, I stand corrected!.. :slight_smile:

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I agree. Almost all of my entry and exit stamps are on the same page. I think they are looking for the entry stamp when you leave to stamp the same page.

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Just checked with my friend, his passport was stamped every time when he entered and exited via LIS or FRA with ARI card.

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Thanks everyone, appreciate all your insights.

As is so often in this whole enterprise, it seems there are gray areas, and people have directly conflicting experiences. Specifically here some needing to stamp, others not.

The area that seems very clear is the law needing you to be in on a Shengen, at biometrics time.

Of course, if biometrics was a few months after pre-approval, it wouldn’t really be an issue. But with it being an unknown amount of time, probably at least 6 months, but potentially 12, it really does create a problem.

I would be totally happy to leave PT to re-enter on a stamped Shengen, when the biometrics appointment comes up.

But it seems that if you enter PT, do get stamped, 3 months later you are effectively locked out of Europe. You would have overstayed. So you may exit PT fine, but now you have stamps showing an overstay, which creates problems. Even if you spent 3 months outside Shengen, to let it “recharge”.

So the whole idea of “you may stay in PT after pre-approval” should have this important rider “but only if you are happy to not go anywhere else in Shengen, for an unknown amount of time”. Or said differently, “if you care about travelling anywhere in Shengen before your card arrives, you might as well ignore pre-approval, it’s not conferring any additional benefits”.

Appreciate if anyone can correct any mistakes I’m making here. Thanks so much.


That seems about right. And the DL regularizing folks with applications pending AFAIK only really applies to a certain subset of those people, namely the ones caught there during the pandemic closures. You don’t count. So I don’t think you can enter just based on pre-approval alone anyway. Whether you can stay after approval, I don’t know.

Well, I am taking my chances. My wife and I are moving to Portugal on GV pre-approval in ten days. We do intend to travel, mostly by car - we’ll be buying one there. The first three months should be no issue, but then we’ll have to see.

I am relying on my lawyer’s word to help with supporting documents substantiating our pending residency status to allow us to overstay in Portugal and exit to/re-enter from a non-Schengen country.

I’ll keep you posted, from a border detention centre if necessary… :slight_smile:



From your specific plans, I can’t see a problem though. Within PT once you’re in, no problem. And going to non-Shengen, the same of course.

Trouble comes if going to a different Shengen country it would seem…

It is still a problem because if you want to go to non-Schengen, you have to exit the Schengen first. I am sure that there is an immigration control to exit Schengen no matter where you exit and how you exit (by boat/car/or plane). The custom officers at the exit point will stamp the an exit stamp on your passport. If he is careful and looks for the your entry date, he will find out that you are overstayed. I did not dare to try it and I remained in PT for 7 months to receive the card in hand. But now my family members are having the same situation and they’re stuck inside PT to wait for cards. Very awkward and stupid situation and it is sad that no one could answer or give a clear solution.

More specifically, one of my family members has got an appointment with SEF (very recently) about the same issue. We all went to SEF appointment with our lawyer. We wanted to have an official document from SEF that enable us to travel in/out PT. The result is:

  • SEF did not issue any paper stating that we are allowed to travel within Schengen.
  • The boss of this particular SEF office came out and said that since our GV application is being considered, we are allowed to remain in PT but not allowed to travel out of PT. (Except me since I already have the card :rofl:). I would love to have his words in paper, but I did not dare to ask him. The conversation was in portuguese between him and my lawyer.
  • He could not say how long it will take to book the biometric for other members or how long it takes to get the cards in hand. He only said we need to wait.

That’s the outcome of the appointment with SEF. Very clueless I must say. No ending point. Just wait and wait.

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Wow! This is quite a different take on what my lawyer told me. I guess I would need to investigate this once I am there since I was planning to come back to the U.S. in four months - past the automatic 90 day limit… :frowning:

May I ask which SEF office you were attending?

That’s about it.

Schengen travel is implemented through the Schengen Borders Code, which governs what is and isn’t allowed. That law is pretty damn specific about “thou shalt have X or Y type permit issued in Z format, registered in the EU-wide SIS/VIS so that all the other countries can look it up.” (Literally, there is a regulation on what the permit has to look like and data it has to contain, with samples.) To issue that permit, there are specific requirements to be met. If you don’t have one of those permits/visas, no other Schengen country has any obligation whatsoever to do anything for you, any more than they would if you showed up on a boat.

Any given country retains sovereignty over their territory and as such can let whoever they want remain on their soil. So PT can decide to let you or Gandhi or Hitler enter into or stay in Portugal. That is within the control of a PT official. However, a PT official simply can’t give you permission to wander around Schengen - they have no legal standing to do so. For that SEF official to give you such a letter would be the equivalent of a Mexican border officer giving you a piece of paper saying “it’s ok to wander around the US because we said so”. The response of a Spanish border officer would be the same as that of the US CBP official who sees that letter - a hearty laugh before they deport you. The only way that SEF official can give you the right to Schengen travel is to issue you a permit or a Schengen visa. Which means they have to go through the process they’re already going through. You can castigate them for taking too long to do it - that’s a whole separate matter - but that’s all they can do.

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This all makes perfect sense.

But what I find unpalatable is being forced to enter PT on Schengen, but then having an unknown, likely 6/9/12/18 month wait until card, thus forcing a Schengen overstay on passport.

So the claim is one can enter and remain in PT. Other countries don’t honour it, and that’s fine, so just remain in PT. This is true, except…

Should you ever desire to use Shengen again, you might have trouble. In other words, only visit PT for the biometrics appointment. Then you have to leave again until the card is ready. Anything other than this approach risks overstay and not being able to visit other Shengen countries again, ever, as even when you have your card, you will still have an overstay in your passport that could theoretically cause trouble. Am I wrong?

If all the bureaucracy happened in less than 3 months, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But it’s nothing like 3.



You might be able to arrange a day-hop to somewhere like morocco to exit Schengen, if you can convince someone to give you a letter of authorization to get back in to PT and you’re willing to take the chance at the border on return. Have your lawyer make arrangements ahead of time. Before you leave, stop at the SEF office in the airport and show them the letter and ask if they’ll let you back in using that, as a safety measure. That might be more doable than attempting to stay on the pre-approval. But that’s just pure speculation. I think the whole thing is a grey area, legally. The only difference is that it’s a grey area within the realm of what SEF has authority over.

I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be like this. It’s just happened that way.

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