There is now a system in place in which they have a website and you can book an appointment in advance. Wow! That's progress. Only, it doesn't really work that way.
First of all I went to the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras - Service for Foreigners and Borders) in late March or early April to renew as I was on Easter break and had the time to do it. When I went to the office I was issued a number and stood in line to ask a question. I was told that I needed to book an appointment and I could only book one month in advance. I was told that I could do this online and was also given a phone number to call. Only it wasn't as easy as I was led to believe, but then again nothing is. . .
After several attempts to book online, I had to ask Luís to phone for me. My residence card was going to expire on June 16 and on May 22 I was finally able to book an appointment.The first appointment available was July 24 and I was instructed to arrive at 8:30 for my appointment. Only this was misleading because I showed up at 8:15 thinking that I had an 8:30 appointment but I didn't. The office opens at 8:30 and I was told to go to the back of the line to get a number. I would then wait for my number to be called and a person would check my documents and then send me to another line to wait to speak with someone else. WTH. To make a very long story short, I was at the SEF for just a little more than 5 hours. I was in 3 different lines: 1) for a person to check my docs and give me a number to stand in a line, 2) the agent approved my paperwork and gave me a number to stand in a line to pay the fee, and 3) the line where I paid my fee. One of the issues was that it is summer and 8 employees were on vacation which was definitely causing a problem. I waited about an hour to pay my fee (only 15€), as the clerk went out to lunch and there was no one to replace him and they never bothered to inform the people in the waiting room. I would like to mention here that there was no water fountain or vending machines in this building and not enough chairs for the people waiting.
Anyway, I would like to once again remind you that it doesn't surprise me that the world is a mess because the people who are running the show are totally clueless.