Heading to Portugal? Remember to get your passport stamped says Foreign Office

May 25, 2022

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The U.K. Foreign Office (FCDO) has reminded Brits travelling to Portugal to get their passports stamped, or risk being refused entry on their next visit.

The warning comes weeks after Portugal became the first E.U. nation to let U.K. travellers use the fast-track e-gate system at customs.

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However, the move has sparked confusion, leaving some travellers unclear as to whether they need to get their passports stamped or not.

But today, the FCDO sought to clear up the issue in new advice published on its website.

“If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport or visible to a border officer on the computer system, a border officer may presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit,” it says.

Related: British travellers to get fast-tracked entry to Portugal — what you need to know

It says e-gates will give you a “virtual stamp”, but a frontier guard may also ask to stamp your passport “for operational reasons”.

It adds that if you pass through a physical passport booth, it is important that you ensure the guard has given you a stamp.

What are the e-gates for?

When Britain officially dropped out of the E.U. in January 2020, it lost certain privileges such as the use of electronic gates, meaning passports had to be verified physically by frontier guards.

But at the end of April, Portugal announced that British visitors will now be able to whisk through customs via special e-gates rather than wait in lengthy queues to have their identities checked manually, as per the EU’s post-Brexit directive.

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However, that does not mean they don’t need a stamp to prove when they arrived and exited the country though using an e-gate will provide you with a digital stamp.

The FCDO update reads: “E-gates are in operation at Lisbon, Faro, Porto and Funchal (Madeira) airports for use by British and some other non-EU passport holders. These e-gates are separate to the e-gates for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens.

“On arrival or departure, check you are eligible to use the e-gates and that you are in the right queue. When using an e-gate, your entry/exit is recorded on the computer system. A border officer may also stamp your passport after you have passed through the e-gate; this is for airport operational reasons.”

Why do I need a stamp?

Since Brexit, another privilege Britain lost was the ability to stay indefinitely in the EU without a visa. Now, like some other non-EU countries, Brits are only entitled to a maximum of 90 days inside an EU country without requiring a visa for work or study and so on.

A stamp, therefore, tells Portugal’s gatekeepers that you haven’t overstayed your welcome. If you don’t get the relevant exit stamp you could be refused entry if you return to the country on a future visit as it appears as if you have stayed longer than the allotted 90 days. Likewise, not getting the necessary entry stamp could mean you face issues upon leaving the country as it suggests you could have stayed longer than allowed.

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“Border guards use passport stamps and e-gate records to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area,” says the FCDO.

What if I don’t have a stamp?

The FCDO explains: “If you are missing entry/exit stamps, you can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area and ask the border officer to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.”

Can I still go through manned immigration booths?

Yes, but the FCDO says don’t forget to get stamped.

The update continues: “If you use a manned booth, check that your passport is stamped by the border officer when you enter or exit as a visitor.

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“Check your passport is stamped by the border officer when you enter and exit Portugal as a visitor.

“You can use the manned staffed immigration booths or, if you are aged 18 and over, the e-gates designated for U.K. and some other non-EU nationals. Hand your passport for stamping to the border officer after you have passed through the e-gate.”

What if I don’t get a stamp?

The Foreign Office explains: “If you are missing entry/exit stamps, you can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area and ask the border officer to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.”

Featured image by Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG / Getty Images.

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