Goodbye SEF, hello AIMA: find out everything that changes in this guide


Several institutions will take over SEF’s police and administrative functions, such as the recently created AIMA.

The extinction of the Foreign and Borders Service (SEF) has been the talk of the town for the last two years since the end of the service was approved in Parliament. And now it’s official. SEF was abolished on October 29 and all its police and administrative functions will now be carried out by other institutions.

One of them is the recently created Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum (AIMA), which will be responsible for applications for residence permits from foreign citizens arriving in Portugal (and beyond). Find out how the institutions replacing SEF will work with the help of experts.

Has SEF been abolished?

Yes, the Foreign and Borders Service (SEF) was abolished on October 29th at 00:00. The restructuring of SEF was decided by the previous government and approved by Parliament in November 2021, having been postponed twice.


Who will replace the SEF?

At the same time as SEF was abolished, the new Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum (AIMA), which many think will replace SEF, came into being. But this is just one of several institutions that will have powers in the areas hitherto under SEF’s tutelage, explains Lamares, Capela & Associados* in this article prepared for Idealista/news.

Police responsibilities will be redistributed between the Public Security Police (PSP), the National Republican Guard (GNR), and the Judicial Police (PJ). The administrative functions related to foreign citizens will fall under the competence of the Institute for Registration and Notary Affairs (IRN) and the newly created Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum (AIMA).

To coordinate and coordinate all these services, the Unit for the Coordination of Borders and Foreigners (UCFE) has been created, which will be allocated to the Internal Security System (SSI), experts point out.


Who is responsible for passports and renewing residence permits?

With the restructuring, 75 SEF workers will move to the Institute of Registration and Notary Affairs (IRN), to ensure face-to-face service, as well as the decision-making center. In particular, the IRN inherits two important responsibilities:

  • Electronic Portuguese Passport: namely the ordinary passport, the special passport, the temporary passport, and the passport for foreign citizens
  • Renewal of Residence Permits: the registry offices offer appointments. Here it will be possible to renew the Residence Permit for temporary and permanent foreigners, except the cases of victims of human trafficking and for investment purposes, which are handled by AIMA.

Online booking for the renewal of residence permits will be available through the SIGA booking portal and the sigaApp application. There will be more service points, namely at 34 registry offices and the “Lojas do Cidadão” mentioned here.


Where do foreigners who want to apply for new residence permits have to go?

They have to go to the Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum (AIMA). “This agency is responsible for administrative matters relating to foreign citizens in Portugal, namely residence permits and refugees. It inherits from the High Commission for Migration (ACM) the issues of reception and integration of immigrants in Portugal,” Lamares, Capela & Associados explain. The information will be available on AIMA’s new website, which has no content yet.

The government has formally announced that AIMA will invest heavily in digital infrastructure and hire 190 more employees. Additionally to the 34 current service desks, it will open at least 10 new desks within a year. In concrete terms, these are the main measures announced by the Socialist Executive:

  • AIMA Portal: to be launched by the end of the year. It will start with applications for family reunification, dispensing with the current telephone scheduling;
  • Mega operation to recover the 347,000 pending cases: operation involving local authorities, professional associations, and employees of the Local Support Centers for the Integration of Migrants.

When will the 347,000 backlogged migrant legalization applications be resolved?

We don’t know for sure yet. The idea is to prioritize these legalization processes in a mega-operation carried out by AIMA. “We’re going to launch a mega-operation to recover backlogs by the end of March, the aim is to clear the backlog” of migrant residence applications, said Ana Catarina Mendes, Deputy Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, who will also be responsible for AIMA, quoted by Público.

However, according to the known data, there are expected to be 600,000 pending applications for legalization or renewal of temporary permits by March 2024. This is because there are 347,000 backlogged migrant legalization applications, which should be added to the 199,000 one-year temporary visa renewals given to migrants from the CPLP and a further 53,000 temporary visas given to Ukrainian citizens, says the same newspaper.

On the other hand, Luís Góis Pinheiro, president of AIMA, said that the agency’s goal is to be able to respond to the almost 350,000 pending immigrant legalization cases inherited by SEF within a year and a half, writes TSF.


What will the new Border and Immigration Coordination Unit do?

The Unit for the Coordination of Borders and Foreigners (UCFE) will therefore be coordinating all the services previously provided by SEF that were distributed to other entities – some people are already calling it a “Mini-SEF”. But in reality, the UCFE will have various powers and responsibilities, as the experts at Lamares, Capela & Associados point out:

  • Border control: its mission is to ensure uniform compliance with technical standards and procedures when controlling the entry, stay, and exit of people at borders;
  • Centralization of information: collecting information on the entry, stay, and exit of people on national territory, trafficking in human beings, aiding illegal immigration, and other crimes linked to irregular immigration;
  • Police information management: will record and update police and criminal information relating to foreigners, as well as disseminating information on foreigners in an irregular situation;
  • Issuing security information: it will issue security information and opinions for granting, and renewing documents, recognizing rights, granting nationality to foreigners, and granting passports. This information helps assess threats to internal security, public order, public safety, and the prevention of illegal immigration and related crimes;
  • Database management: he will be responsible for managing police databases and information systems, including the Single Point of Contact (SCO), which includes Interpol and Europol, as well as all the databases that used to belong to SEF.


This article was written by our co-founder Ana Sofia Lamares and published at Idealista News – original link here.

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