Resulting of the merger of part of the functions of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) and the High Commission for Migrations, the new agency came into operation at the end of October with great promises that, to date, have not yet been fulfilled.

The end of the government and the scheduling of elections in March has put the commitments of the socialist executive at risk, at a time when, every day, hundreds of requests for regularisation enter a system that still fails to provide a sufficient response.

By the end of the year, the executive had promised to resolve the tens of thousands of cases of overdue family reunification requests that are causing complaints, because it is something imposed by law.

Portugal is one of the few European countries that allows an irregular immigrant worker to apply for a visa at the national authorities and these are the cases that are clogging up the system.

All you need is an address, tax number and an employment contract to make the request, regardless of whether you entered as a tourist, a situation that has led to an exponential increase in requests.

The new agency inherited 350,000 pending cases in October, the last time the numbers were released.

Possible solutions?



To try to resolve the situation, the now outgoing government promised to invest in modernising the IT system, with a portal already open to requests for the granting and renewal of residence permits, one of the SEF’s problems, which was unable to respond to requests and presented several structural problems.

In parallel, in the first quarter of 2024, the executive said he would launch an operation in conjunction with municipalities and immigrant support offices, with AIMA resources in citizen stores, to meet pending requests.

The list of promises includes new programs teaching Portuguese to immigrants, a new quality telephone call center and a new multidisciplinary centre to manage international protection processes, accompanying refugees and asylum seekers from their entry to integration.

The creation of AIMA this year fulfilled an old promise from the PS, which defended the end of SEF.

SEF’s powers were transferred to six organizations, passing police functions to the PSPGNR and Judiciary Police.

Functions in administrative matters related to foreign citizens were transferred to the new agency and the Institute of Registries and Notaries (IRN), and the Borders and Foreigners Coordination Unit was also created, which operates under the authority of the secretary general of the Internal Security System.

Inspectors were transferred to the PJ and non-police employees to AIMA and IRN, with a “transitional functional assignment regime” in place, which allows SEF inspectors to perform duties for up to two years in the GNR and PSP at air and sea border posts.

AIMA, which also succeeded the High Commission for Migrations, was left with 590 workers from the SEF’s general and IT careers.

With a budget of 81 million euros, the new agency has 740 employees and provides for 190 new hires and in its statutes, the government states that “the governance model now determined implements a paradigm shift in the way Public Administration relates to foreign citizens, whether upon their entry and stay in national territory, or upon their reception and integration”.


This new model also aims to combat racism and integrate ethnic groups, “improving the quality of public services, with efficiency gains, and the resources allocated to them, maximising synergies and enhancing their results”.

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