Portugal has made significant changes in its approach to immigration services by dissolving the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF), the agency responsible for managing foreign documents, and introducing the Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum (AIMA).
With the transition set in motion on October 29, 2023, the move aims to streamline immigration services and address longstanding backlogs.
In this article, we’ll explore the implications of this shift, including AIMA’s role, how to apply for residence permits or passport renewals, and the fate of SEF facilities.
From SEF to AIMA: All You Need to Know
Was SEF Really Extinct?
Yes. The Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) was abolished on October 29th. The dissolution of SEF marks a significant change in Portugal’s immigration landscape. Established in 2007, SEF was responsible for handling foreign nationals’ administrative procedures, including document issuance, residence permits, and visa extensions. The decision to extinguish SEF is part of the government’s broader efforts to enhance the efficiency of its immigration services.
When was it decided to close SEF?
The end of SEF was approved by the Assembly of the Republic on October 22, 2021.
Who Will Replace SEF?
The powers of the SEF have been transferred to seven bodies: the Public Security Police (PSP), the Republican National Guard (GNR), and the Judiciary Police (PJ). Institute of Registration and Notary (IRN) and the Integration, Migration and Asylum (AIMA).
This is part of the PS government’s plan of dividing police tasks and responsibilities for approving immigrant documents to make procedures more “efficient.”
What is AIMA?
Taking SEF’s place is AIMA, the Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum. With a budget of €81 million and 740 employees, AIMA has ambitious plans to address the backlog of approximately 347,000 pending immigration cases and 340,000 visa renewals by the end of the year.
This transition is set to create a more streamlined and efficient system for both residents and foreign nationals seeking services.
AIMA is tasked with managing all matters concerning foreign documents, residence permits, and visa renewals in Portugal. The agency’s core mission is to facilitate integration, migration, and asylum processes in the country. AIMA aims to establish a mega-operation to resolve pending cases promptly and enhance security associated with document issuance.
Additionally, a permanent audit team will be in place to ensure internal procedures are conducted with the highest standards and to combat and prevent fraud.
Please note that AIMA is just one of several institutions that will have competencies in the areas now supervised by the SEF.
How to Apply for a Residence Permit or Passport Renewal Now?
Foreign nationals residing in Portugal who need to apply for new residence permits or must go to AIMA. This is the agency responsible for administrative functions related to foreign citizens in Portugal, namely residence permits and refugees.
The issuance of the Portuguese electronic passport (namely the regular passport, the special passport, the temporary passport, and the passport for foreign citizens) will be done by the Instituto de Registo e Notariado (IRN).
The IRN will also be responsible for the renewal of residence permits, both temporary and permanent, apart from cases of victims of human trafficking and for investment purposes, which are handled by AIMA.
75 non-police workers from the SEF will go to the IRN.
Where Do Foreigners Who Want to Apply for New Residence Permits Have to Go?
Foreigners seeking to apply for new residence permits or engage in immigration-related administrative procedures should now direct their inquiries and applications to AIMA. As the new agency takes over the responsibilities previously held by SEF, it will serve as the primary point of contact for foreign nationals in Portugal.
The Government formally announced that AIMA will make a strong investment in digital infrastructure and the hiring of an additional 190 employees. In addition to the current 34 service counters, at least ten new branches will open within a year.
Specifically, these are the main measures announced by the socialist Executive:
- AIMA Portal: will be launched by the end of the year. It will begin with requests for family reunification, dispensing with the current telephone scheduling.
- A mega operation to recover the 347 thousand pending cases: operation with the involvement of local authorities, professional orders, and employees of the Local Support Centers for the Integration of Migrants.
The agency’s headquarters will be located on Avenida António Augusto de Aguiar in Lisbon, a nine-story building that ensures both efficient operation and proximity to migrants, as it is centrally located in Lisbon.
What will the GNR do?
The Republican National Guard will oversee monitoring, inspecting, and controlling maritime and land borders, including cruise terminals. The GNR Coastal Control Unit will be renamed the GNR Coastal and Border Control Unit.
What will the Public Security Police (PSP) do?
The Public Security Police (PSP) monitors, inspects and controls airport borders and manages temporary facilities at airports. Within PSP, the Organic Airport Security and Border Control Unit was created. This unit oversees overseeing people entering and leaving the country by air and ensuring airport security.
What skills are transferred to the Judiciary Police (PJ)?
The PJ is responsible for investigating illegal immigration and human trafficking.
What will the Borders and Foreigners Coordination Unit do?
Also known as “mini-SEF,” the Borders and Foreigners Coordination Unit will operate under the leadership of the secretary general of the Internal Security System, Paulo Vizeu Pinheiro.
This unit will be responsible for coordinating actions between different police forces and the IRN and AIMA, ensuring cooperation and coordination regarding people’s movement, return, and border control.
Borders and Foreigners Coordination Uni will also manage police databases and information systems in matters of borders and foreign and international police cooperation.
What Will Happen to the SEF Facilities?
With SEF no longer operational, the facilities once dedicated to this agency will undergo transformation, with the offices across the country being transferred to the new responsible services.
However, the specific details regarding the future of the SEF headquarters in Porto Salvo (Oeiras municipality, Lisbon district) have not been disclosed, but it is likely that they will be repurposed or integrated into other government operations.
In conclusion, Portugal’s dissolution of SEF and the introduction of AIMA represent a substantial shift in the country’s approach to immigration services. AIMA’s ambitious plans and focus on streamlining processes are aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of immigration services for both residents and foreign nationals.
However, during this transitional period, some delays may be expected, so applicants should be prepared for potential adjustments as AIMA takes on its new responsibilities.
Frequently Asked Questions about AIMA taking over SEF
Is SEF Portugal disbanded?
Yes. As of October 29, 2023, Portugal dissolved the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) on Sunday. All matters concerning foreign documents will be handled by the newly created Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum (AIMA).
What is happening to SEF in Portugal?
Portugal dissolved the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF). The powers of this security service will be transferred to seven bodies. The change aims to streamline immigration services and address longstanding backlogs.
Who will replace SEF?
The government of Portugal will replace SEF with the Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum (AIMA). AIMA will handle administrative tasks concerning foreign citizens in Portugal, including residence permits and refugee matters.
Is the SEF changing?
SEF was abolished on October 29, 2023, and replaced by the new Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum (AIMA)
What is AIMA in Portugal?
The Agency for Integration, Migrations and Asylum (AIMA) was created to replace SEF and the High Commission for Migrations, which was also abolished.
AIMA is responsible for administrative tasks related to foreign citizens in Portugal, namely residence permits and refugee matters.