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Amendments to the Immigration Law

The government recently announced significant changes to Regulatory Decree no. 84/2007, of 5 November, which regulates Law no. 23/2007, known as the “Foreigners’ Law” in Portugal. These changes were introduced by Regulatory Decree no. 1/2024, dated 17 January, to promote greater efficiency in the processing of requests related to the stay of foreign citizens in the country, while at the same time strengthening security standards.

This reform of the legal regime for “entry, stay, exit, and removal of foreigners from national territory” aims to speed up the analysis, approval, and issuing of residence permits covering various types of visas by reducing bureaucracy in procedures.

  • More than 50 articles have been redrafted to align the legislation with the restructuring of the former SEF and the transfer of its responsibilities to AIMA (Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum) and the other entities responsible for the administrative procedures regulated here.
  • With the aim of dematerializing processes, AIMA plans to create a single platform for carrying out various procedures, ranging from applying for a residence permit to renewing it, including reunifying family members, thus investing in digitalization and greater efficiency in procedures and human resources.
  • Also concerning visas granted abroad, when the application needs to be submitted at a Consular Post and/or Consular Section of the Embassy, it is planned to digitize the entire process by submitting a single form made available online and using biometric information and data if it has already been provided by the applicant during the process.
  • One of the most significant changes relates to the nomenclature of the documents needed to prove that the requirements have been met. The current law now includes expressions such as “identification and other relevant elements” or “information proving accommodation”. This change makes the law more comprehensive to simplify and streamline processes, allowing for greater flexibility and variety in the documentation to be submitted. In addition, AIMA will be able to carry out searches in various databases, thus relieving applicants of having to submit some documentation.
  • Security has also been reinforced through the application of stricter rules regarding the collection of residence permits, which will now only be carried out in person by applicants or their representatives at AIMA institutions, and also regarding signatures, which will be carried out using qualified technological mechanisms, with the implementation of tools that allow consultation of criminal record databases in third countries.
  • As for renewing residence permits, the procedures are evolving. Although renewal can still be done online via the old SEF portal, there is now also the option, in some cases, to carry out this process at the Notary Registration Institute (IRN).
  • In addition, the new rules allow third parties, such as employers for subordinate professionals and educational institutions for teachers, to make applications for residence, extension, or renewal, as long as there is an electronic signature.
  • Finally, concerning the granting of residence permits for investment activities, this regulatory decree also provides for the involvement of independent third parties to carry out a double check on compliance with the requirements.
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