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End of SEF: How to Renew Residence Permit

18 de December, 2023

End of SEF: How to Renew Residence Permit

Portugal now has a new immigration agency. But what changes in practice? How to renew the residence permit from now on?
mão com carimbo a Renovar Autorizacao de residencia
Reading: 5 min

Portugal now has a new immigration agency since October 2023. The SEF – Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras steps down, and the AIMA – Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum takes over. But what changes in practice? How to renew the residence permit from now on?

Only time will tell the real practical effects that the change will represent for the over 800 thousand foreigners currently residing in the country. We’ll address the rest of the questions in this article. Read below everything known to date about this alteration.

Lisboa cidade com maior quantidade de imigrantes que buscam renovação de autorização de residencia
Lisboa reúne a maior população de imigrantes do país: 65% do total.

SEF is gone?

Yes. Established in 1974, the SEF is being phased out. The Portuguese border control system is being restructured, redistributing the activities that were the responsibility of that institution. The former SEF employees will mostly transition to AIMA. Initially, the responsibilities are divided as follows:

PSP (Public Security Police), GNR (National Republican Guard), and PJ (Judicial Police): Police competencies, such as investigating crimes related to immigration and border control.

AIMA (Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum): Administrative functions related to foreign citizens, such as granting new residence permits, opinions on visa applications (including family reunification), expression of interest, as well as asylum and refugee settlement.

IRN (Institute of Registries and Notaries): Responsible for residence permit renewals and issuing Portuguese passports.

  • PSP (Public Security Police), GNR (National Republican Guard), and PJ (Judicial Police): Police competencies, such as investigating crimes related to immigration and border control.
  • Migrações e Asilo): Administrative functions related to foreign citizens, such as granting new residence permits, opinions on visa applications (including family reunification), expression of interest, as well as asylum and refugee settlement.
  • IRN (Institutos dos Registos e Notariado): Responsible for residence permit renewals and issuing Portuguese passports.

Why did the SEF end?

The SEF has been the subject of numerous complaints over the years, including delays in processes, communication problems, and a backlog of applications. It was not operating with the desired efficiency and, worse, the institution faced allegations of corruption and abuse of power in legalizing immigrants. The case of the death of Ihor Homenyuk, a Ukrainian immigrant in SEF custody, was a shocking event that contributed to the extinction of the SEF, with three inspectors facing charges of homicide and abuse of power.

Do you want to live in Europe?

Realizing your goal of living in Europe or obtaining European citizenship can be simpler than you think. We offer personalized support to make the immigration process more accessible and uncomplicated.

Who handles residence permits now?

The service for renewing Residence Permits is now under the responsibility of the IRN – Instituto de Registos e Notariado.

Administrative responsibilities regarding migration and asylum, such as granting Residence Permits, are now the responsibility of AIMA – Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum.

How to renew a residence permit in Portugal?

The procedure to renew the Residence Permit (RP) remains similar to before, carried out digitally, according to the law, through the AIMA Portal. This applies to titles that have expired or will expire by 31/12/2023. It is worth noting that the website is still in the process of being updated, so don’t be surprised if you still find references to SEF. To perform automatic renewal, click here and follow the steps.

The service for renewing RPs through IRN, although provided for in the law that abolished SEF, is not yet implemented in practice. The IRN stated that it doesn’t have the structure and training to address the huge demand generated, so the government chose to keep the former SEF’s online platform active, where, at least until the end of 2023, Residence Titles can be automatically renewed using the same methods as SEF in recent years.

How to request a new residence permit?

For those holding a visa in Portugal who need to request their first residence permit, the process remains the same, with an interview at AIMA, by prior appointment via phone: (+351) 217 115 000 or (+351) 965 903 700, available on weekdays from 8 AM to 8 PM. However, since the creation of AIMA, no new appointment slots have been made available.

I had an appointment scheduled with SEF. What should I do?

Regarding the issuance of Residence Permits by the new Agency, it should be clarified that appointments made by SEF remain in effect and the application procedure remains the same. It’s important to monitor your email as any changes will be communicated through the provided email address.

How the AIMA Portal works?

One of the main measures announced by AIMA is the development and release of the AIMA portal. The initial promise was for the page to be operational by the end of 2023, which is not the case at present.

This portal will be used for family reunification requests of long-term residents, avoiding telephone appointments. The aim is to make migration services faster and more digital.

What is a residence permit?

Informally referred to as an RP, the Residence Permit is a document that allows a foreigner to live and work legally in Portugal. For those entering the country with a residence visa, for example, it needs to be requested upon arrival. The same applies to those arriving without a visa and decide to stay, by making a statement of interest to obtain the RP.

This document also allows travel within the Schengen countries.

What is the difference between temporary and permanent residence permits?

As the name suggests, the temporary permit has an expiration date, usually ranging from 2 to 5 years, and needs to be renewed upon expiry.

The permanent permit is granted to those who have resided in the country for at least 5 years and decide to permanently live in Portugal. The rights granted by this permit have no expiration, but the document itself needs to be renewed.

The permanent permit is often an alternative to Portuguese citizenship for those determined to live in the country but who don’t want to undergo the Portuguese language proficiency exam.

Traveling with an appointment protocol for the RP: Is it possible?

Can I travel abroad only with an appointment confirmation for the residence permit, without a valid RP?

Although this question isn’t new, we decided to include it because it is quite common. And the answer is: no!

The appointment protocol for RP renewal is a provisional document and does not guarantee that you won’t encounter issues at the borders of the countries you intend to visit. Therefore, it’s always recommended to have a definitive document when leaving the country.

Portuguese Citizenship after 5 years

Those who have properly maintained their residence permits for 5 years may become eligible for Portuguese citizenship through naturalization. We’re referring to citizenship based on residency time. The applicant needs to have a clean criminal record and be able to speak Portuguese (level A2). Find more details by clicking here.

We’re monitoring updates

Our team is awaiting new information about the restructuring of migrant service provisions and will provide updates whenever available! If you’re an Atlantic Bridge client and still have queries, please reach out directly to your account manager for clarification!

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Silvia Resende

Author:

Silvia Resende

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