Portugal: New agency for migration and asylum

The Ministry for Parliamentary Affairs in Portugal confirmed that the new establishment Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum would be complete by the end of 2022, replacing the administrative side of SEF.

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Any word on what this means for us?


As I’m not an expert in this area, I’ll give some insight into it below from one of our legal partners:

"The extinction of SEF was due to many complaints. Over the years, there have been several complaints about abuse of power and authority, and about corruption on the part of the SEF for the legalization of immigrants by illegal means.

Not to mention the delay in the progress of the legalization processes, the communication failures between the employees and the lack of standard of the required documents, leading to a deliberate waste of time for immigrants and unnecessary bureaucracy.

The objective of this change is to improve the organization, speed up response times, doing it through the division of administrative and police competences as well as the distribution of tasks among different public entities.

The Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum (APMA) will have the mission to implement public policies in migration and asylum matters, namely to regularize the entry and stay of foreign citizens in national territory, issue opinions on visa applications, asylum and refugee settlement, as well as participating in the implementation of the Portuguese State’s international cooperation policy in the field of migration and asylum.

In sum, the new agency will be responsible for the services most sought after by foreigners, which were previously requested from the SEF:

• Declaration of Arrival in Portugal;
• Issuance of visas for Portugal;
• General information on immigration and documentation;
• Expression of Interest;
• Request for extension of the tourist visa;
• Family Reunification;
• Application for Residence Permit.

As for the issuance of Portuguese passports and renewal of residence permits in Portugal, the body that will be responsible will be the Instituto dos Registos e Notariado, supporting the activities of the APMA and streamlining the processes to initiate improvements in the services.

The former SEF did not just do the administrative part of legalizations, having also police powers. With SEF extinction, police powers have now been redistributed between the National Republican Guard (GNR), the Public Security Police (PSP) and the Judiciary Police (PJ).

In this way, we believe that improvements will be implemented regarding the speed of response in the analysis of the Golden Visa processes."


Given my experience I don’t believe a word the Portuguese authorities say anymore. I suggest anyone looking at their golden visa with the objective of gaining access to the Schengen area look to another country’s GV. Despite the promises of a faster track to PM or citizenship and less time holding the qualifying investment it’s just marketing spin. The reality is anyone choosing the Portuguese golden visa will need to commit their funds indefinitely as the investment needs to be made before submitting the application and with some applicants reporting no progress after 18 months their looking at having their fund locked in for over 8 years and definitely not the 5 years suggested in the information provided. And that also means having to wait over 2 years before having the opportunity to reside in Portugal and being able to freely move around the Schengen area. When compared to the alternative GV’s on offer the Portuguese option looks far less attractive. Then it’s worth considering how much anyone can trust the Portuguese authorities in future given the misleading information provided in the past. As they’ve been prepared to ignore complaints of current and past applicants who’ve suffered serious consequences as a result of the failure to meet the self imposed deadlines, not to mention the complete failure to communicate with applicants or their legal representatives it’s clear that they can’t be trusted. If they can ignore the pleas of applicants who’ve been left with serious problems due to the unacceptable delays there’s no drain to believe they won’t do it again when it comes to renewals that are required after 2 years and the eventual transition to PM or citizenship. It’s clear that other nations offering GV’s are processing application promptly and don’t suffer for the extraordinary number of complaints see from Portugal. Speaking from experience I assure you it’s not worth starting the process and you’ll only regret it. There’s zero accountability or motivation to improve a broken system. Don’t believe the promotional material or the headline the authorities like to distribute to the media. The reality is very different and if Portugal were operating as a business they’d be closed down and prosecuted but they can do what want with no consequences other than potentially killing off the goose that laid the golden egg by ruining their reputation as a place that’s safe and trustworthy for investors.


You pretty much put my entire thought process into words here. Even though my wife and I have had our initial biometrics (in July), my minor son and mother on the same application have not and, of course, there is no word on when, or if they will get appointments. This of course will throw off the “renewal” calendar (if it will even be functioning by then) as well.

The good news is our investment IS doing well. So I’m happy with that but at then end of that seven year term I will not be renewing unless things have markedly improved. Time is money and this process is an enormous waste of time. Particularly since the biometric appointment is nothing more than a 10 minute signing, photo and digital fingerprint.

After I saw how simple the actual appointment was, my fears were confirmed that the government simply does not want to fulfill its obligation.

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Fully agree with everthing said. If the biometrics process is so simple why can applicants not simply go to the nearest Portoguese Consulate and have it done, instead of travelling from all over the world for a 10 min appointment. At the Consulate you do a biometric process for a Schengen visa anyhow. Just asking

Because that is how the law is written. It very specifically and clearly states that one of the requirements for submitting an application for residency is that the person must be physically present in the country in good legal standing. This is why people from non-visa-waiver countries have to get a visa first to travel there - they have to get into the country legally.

And no, pre-approval is NOT your application for residency, however it might seem. It’s “pre”. You formally apply for residency when you stand in front of the SEF clerk (legally) and hand them that huge wad of paper topped with a very specific SEF application form (in Portuguese) that you wet-sign that is NOT (at least not for me) part of the pre-approval paper stack. Pre-approval is just a “yeah this paperwork looks kinda right, it’s ok for you to come waste our time on a real appointment” as far as I can tell.

Biometrics for a visa fall under a different section of law entirely and do not carry that legally-in-country requirement, for obvious reasons.

It could be and might even make sense to allow applications from outside the country, but it would require legislation to change this rule, and there are probably other dependencies and issues that get in the way. I cannot speak to that.

Of course it is because of the law. However govt could disrespect their own law whenever they want i.e. issuing card with much longer than 90 days after biometric. Or they can easily add an exception whenever they want during an incredible short duration i.e. issuing residency to the ukrainians within a few days or a week only. The delay from PT government has nothing to do with the Covid and the Ukrainians. GV started in 2012 and in 2014 2015 people had to wait endlessly to renew their cards. Clips are still available on youtube.

Although there are some fears about the GV will be ended under pressure of EU, the truth is actually opposite. There are still more countries offering GV. Italy is an example. Italy has done some research about GV and especially GV in PT. Now Italy offers GV and the investors only pay after receiving the card. It means the investors lose nothing. It is the government’s task to deliver the product and services on time if they want to receive the money from the investors. You can find the comparison between these two GV programs online. But my point is that other countries have learnt from GV of PT. They try not making the same mistake and by doing so they will slowly attract more investors.

For what it’s worth, the CBI (and GV by association) were already on the ropes before the Ukraine conflict. This war is the final nail in the coffin. I don’t believe it is correct to say that more countries are offering GV. Instead, its a variation of RBI that doesn’t give a path to citizenship. The Italy GV does give a 10 year path to citizenship, but good luck ever achieving that.

Recently I read about a SEF official stating that they lack the sophistication to properly screen applicants from red listed countries. Now, a logical person would easy solve this by banning red list jurisdictions from the GV and D7 programs. But people don’t always think logically. So we are where we are now .