Portugal: SEF replacement agency will start without reinforcement of professionals

The transition process from the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) to the Portuguese Agency for Minorities, Migration and Asylum (APMMA), the new person in charge of assisting immigrants in Portugal, will take place over the next six months. After a year and two months of delay since the publication of the legislation that determines the creation of the new body, the Portuguese government defined, this Thursday (6), how the agency will work in a practical way. The exchange from SEF to APMMA, however, will not be reinforced by new professionals.

The decision was confirmed to Agora Europa by the Minister responsible for Migration, Ana Catarina Mendes, after the meeting that defined the new agency’s guidelines: “At the moment we have no plans to increase the number of professionals to provide assistance”, he explained. The current SEF team, which will be reallocated to the new body, is approximately 680 workers.

The number, however, already considered insufficient by the government itself. In October 2022, the Minister of Internal Administration, José Luís Carneiro, told Agora Europa that “there are not enough human resources” to meet the demand of immigrants in Portugal. At the time, approximately 200,000 foreigners were waiting for a Residence Permit (AR) in the country. This year, as a way to speed up the issuance of the document, the government launched an automatic digital version of the AR, which can be requested while applicants wait to be called to receive the physical residence card.

The APMMA will have the function of “regularizing the entry and permanence of foreign citizens in the national territory, issuing opinions on visa applications, asylum and refugee installation”, according to the legislation. For example, when the new agency is definitively implemented, an immigrant arriving in the country will request documentation directly from the agency, and no longer from the SEF. At the same time, the current locations where the agency’s services operate will continue to host the new agency’s service posts. The details of how the work of the APMMA will be defined this Thursday and will be disclosed through the publication of a decree in the Diário da República (DRE).


Document renewals

The Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado (IRN), a public body that acts as notary offices throughout the country, will be responsible for renewing the documentation of immigrants who already live in Portugal. The institute will receive a boost from part of the current SEF staff. According to the holder of the folder, the unions of IRN professionals will decide, in the next three months, how many workers will be transferred to carry out the renewal of documents.

Currently, the service is carried out by the SEF online, but according to the minister, after the transition period, the activity will be carried out by the IRNs. The details of how the procedure will be carried out were not disclosed by Ana Catarina Mendes, but the minister emphasized that the objective is for assistance and services to be “faster and more digitized”.

The name of the agency included the word “minorities”, which, according to Mendes, occurred to cover the work of the High Commission for Migration (ACM). The body is focused on public policies in the area of ​​immigration.

During the transition period, there will be no changes for immigrants, such as the renewal of documents, according to the government. Agora Europa awaits confirmation from SEF on when new renewals will be opened, for documents that expired after April 1st. Normally, the procedure is released every quarter, but it has not yet been opened for request. At the same time, a decree valid until December 31 guarantees, in national territory, the validity of the documents. The immigrants, however, are unable to leave the country as the AR is expired.

The country is close to reaching the milestone of 800,000 immigrants with a Residence Permit (AR), after the creation of the AR of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP). With the new system for issuing the document, more than 50,000 ARs were requested in three days, in addition to the more than 730,000 foreigners who already have a Residence Permit, according to recent SEF data.


Source: Agora Europa



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