Our son, Harry, was 10-years old when we arrived permanently in June 2016. He was just finished his Primary 6 year in the Christ the Redeemer School in Belfast, and would have been due to start his last year of primary school in September 2016.
We began the process of registering Harry in the local Portuguese school in May 2016. We naively thought it would be straightforward, but it was anything but! It was early September 2016 before we got the final go-ahead that Harry could start school later that month. The people we encountered were helpful and did their best to help but it was clear that the process for registering is quite cumbersome. This is a guide on how we did it, to save you the many wasted trips and hours that we endured / enjoyed 😉
(Note, this is not a definitive guide and is based on registering in the EB2,3 Dr. Francisco Cabrita school in Albufeira. We have no doubt that different schools and regions have varying practices, but hopefully this is fairly consistent at a high level).
To our surprise everyone in Portugal needs a fiscal number, including children. Step 1 is therefore to get your child, or children, a fiscal number as none of the steps that follow can be completed without it.
A Portuguese fiscal number can be obtained from the Repartição de Finanças de Albufeira. The address is 184, R. das Telecomunicações 2, 8200 Albufeira which is just past the Modelo shopping centre on the way into the Old Town.
The Finanças, as it is known by locals, is open 9.30am to 12.30pm and officially 2-5pm. It actually accepts the last queries before 3.30pm and the doors are closed. Queries are dealt with on a ticket system (as are nearly all Portuguese services). To complicate it a little there are tickets for 5 separate services in the one office. You need to pick a ticket for queue B.
The staff speak some English, but are not fluent so do be patient with them. The service is slow on account of the forms needed for everything in Portugal (!) but ultimately it is an effective service.
Fiscal numbers can also be obtained by using a local fiscal representative to do so on your behalf; this would cost around €200 but is a good investment. This is a good option if you aren’t or can’t be in the country. A Portuguese address is also not necessary, and foreign addresses can be added to the fiscal certificate. There is a fee of around €10 per fiscal number required if you are registering yourself in person.
Armed with your fiscal numbers you can now apply for temporary residency, which is mandatory for being granted a place in a Portuguese school.
As EU residents this process was fairly straightforward. We are not sure of the conditions for non EU residents and recommend speaking to the authorities directly.
In typical Portuguese style you can’t get residency in the same office as the fiscal numbers and instead need to visit the Câmara Municipal de Albufeira which is handily just across the street from the Finanças.
You will need the passport for all members of the family, your fiscal numbers and a proof of address (an electric or water bill will suffice). EU residents can get a 5 year temporary residency certificate for a fee of €15 each.
All children must provide childhood immunisation certificates before the school will accept them. They must also be registered with a local doctor and the doctor must provide a letter verifying they have seen the immunisations records and assessed the child is fit and healthy to attend. In Albufeira, you need to visit the Centro de Saúde de Albufeira, located in Urbanização Alto dos Caliços, 8200 Albufeira. This is found on the road to the right of the Globe roundabout as you head into the Old Town.
However, before you can be registered with a doctor you need to…, that’s right, queue to meet the administrative manager who completes the registrations! She ended up being a lovely lady who spoke no English but we got there in the end and now had our third essential certificate!
The doctor registration is essential for the school but we were tipped off that the schools do accept the initial letter from the International Health Centre which is more accessible. We paid a fee of €20 to get the letter we needed from the Health Centre at the bottom of the Strip in Albufeira.
Previous School Report
The Portuguese schools will accept children into the applicable matching year of the school system the child has attended before. In our case, as Harry was due to start Primary 7 in Belfast, we identified that he needed to be in Year 6 in Portugal.
The school therefore required a report stating he had successfully completed the standard of their equivalent Year 5 before accepting him. We produced the school report on our first visit but were told that we needed to do a few extra steps. In summary these were:
- the report had to be verified and stamped by a solicitor in Belfast;
- it then needed to be sent to the UK Legalisation Office to be legalised;
- the legalised document then needed to translated into Portuguese; and, finally,
- the translated report was to be notarised by a Portuguese solicitor.
This was the longest delay in getting the registration to the school completed. We ended up getting two years reports legalised, translated and notarised as the time taken for the 1st report meant it was out of date by the time we presented it!
You will pay around £15 for the Uk solicitor to stamp the document and £40 approximately for the Legalisation Office. We found a translator in Albufeira on Google who charged based on the length of the document (approximately €70 including the notary fee).
School Administrative Department
Another quirk to be aware of here. We assumed, naively, that we needed to register Harry in the actual school. In fact his school is part of a Group of 5 schools, so we needed to visit the Administrative Department for all 5 schools.
It is worth contacting this department as they have small windows of opening hours for the public, and don’t open Friday afternoons. (We know that as we visited on a Friday afternoon and hadn’t checked!).
If you have all the documents noted above, and the parents bring passports, proof of address and proof of residency, you will now be able to get registration. You will also be told which school the child will have to attend, based on location of your address and the age of the child.
Visit the actual school
We had, thankfully, been able to get Harry registered before the start of the school year, which in Portugal is mid-September. We were advised to visit the school a week before and the actual start dates, class and timetable would be available for review in the school noticeboards.
After 3 trips the list was indeed presented! This is normal and the schools seem to decide the specific start and registration dates very late in the summer break indeed.
As I noted above, this is not intended to be a definitive guide. We don’t know for certain this is the same requirements that all schools will need and it is obviously worth making enquiries directly. However, we do hope it helps you avoid the many wasted trips we endured trying to find the answers to how to get these documents.
The end result has been worth it. Harry is really enjoying his school and has settled well. It was our number one concern to get him settled and educated well and we are delighted that is now happening.