SEF vs. AIMA: Understanding All Changes in Portugal

Nov 21, 2023

Everything You Need to Know About Changes Following the Dissolution of SEF in Portugal

Over the past two years, the termination of the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) has been a pivotal topic in Portugal, from its parliamentary approval to its official implementation on October 29th. Consequently, all its functions will be reassigned to other institutions. The newly established Agency for Integration, Migrations, and Asylum (AIMA) is one of these institutions and will be responsible for issuing residency permits for foreigners in Portugal. With the guidance of experts, let’s comprehend how these new institutions will function.

The restructuring of SEF was outlined by the previous government and endorsed by the Assembly of the Republic in November 2021, albeit postponed twice. Now, its dissolution is a reality.

Who will step in for SEF? AIMA is just one of several institutions that will share the responsibilities formerly attributed to SEF. The Public Security Police (PSP), the National Republican Guard (GNR), and the Judicial Police (PJ) will assume policing responsibilities, while administrative functions related to foreigners will be assigned to the Institute of Registries and Notaries (IRN) and AIMA. To oversee these services, the Border and Foreigners Coordination Unit (UCFE) was established within the Internal Security System (SSI), as indicated by experts.

The government formally announced that AIMA will undergo significant infrastructure investment and hire an additional 190 employees. In addition to the current 34 service counters, at least 10 new counters will be opened within a year. Specifically, these are the main measures announced by the Socialist Government:

  • AIMA Portal: to be launched by the end of the year, beginning with family reunification requests, eliminating the need for current phone scheduling.
  • Massive operation to clear the backlog of 347,000 pending cases: an operation involving municipalities, professional associations, and employees from Local Support Centers for Migrant Integration.

Who will be responsible for passports and the renewal of residency permits?

Foreigners seeking new residency permits should approach AIMA, responsible for administrative matters concerning foreigners in Portugal, including refugees and immigrant integration.  As part of the restructuring, 75 SEF employees were transferred to IRN to ensure in-person service and decision-making. IRN will now oversee the Portuguese electronic passport and the renewal of residency permits, except for specific cases like victims of human trafficking and investments, which will remain under AIMA’s purview.

Portuguese Electronic Passport:
including the regular passport, special, temporary, and passports for foreign citizens.

Renewal of Residency Permits:
registry offices offer appointments for assistance. Here, it will be possible to renew Temporary and Permanent Residence Permits for foreigners, except for cases involving victims of human trafficking and for investment purposes, which will be handled by AIMA.

UCFE, in turn, will coordinate services previously managed by SEF, now distributed among other entities. This unit will have various powers and responsibilities, such as border control, centralizing information on foreigners, managing police information, issuing security information, and managing databases.

These changes signify a new era in managing issues related to foreigners in Portugal, and the newly created institutions face the challenge of ensuring a smooth and efficient transition to these new responsibilities. The effective implementation of these changes will be crucial to ensuring the well-being and proper integration of foreigners in the country.

For further information regarding this change, the MB Consulting team is available to assist in addressing all inquiries.


Maria Bravo

+351 910 115 120

[email protected]