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Portugal has taken a significant step towards modernising its immigration system with the establishment of the Agency for Integration, Migration, and Asylum (AIMA). This new agency replaces the SEF (Portuguese Borders and Immigration Service) and aims to improve the management of immigration and asylum services in a more streamlined and humane manner.

With the launch of AIMA, Portugal is demonstrating its commitment to creating a more efficient and welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees. Let’s take a closer look at what this means for the country and its diverse population.


The Transition from SEF to AIMA: What Changes and Why it Matters

The transition from SEF to AIMA brings about several important changes to Portugal’s immigration system. Firstly, AIMA aims to streamline the management of immigration and asylum services, making the process more efficient and effective. This means that individuals looking to relocate to Portugal or seek asylum will benefit from a more streamlined and user-friendly experience.

One of the key changes is to the D6 visa, which is specifically designed for expats and their families looking to relocate to Portugal. AIMA is focused on improving the family reunification process, ensuring that families are not unnecessarily separated and can be together in Portugal.

Another important change is the emphasis on a more humane approach to immigration. AIMA aims to treat immigrants and refugees with dignity and respect, providing them with the necessary support and resources to integrate into Portuguese society. This includes access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities, ensuring that newcomers have the tools they need to build a successful life in Portugal.

Overall, the transition from SEF to AIMA represents a positive step towards modernising Portugal’s immigration system. By simplifying processes, improving family reunification, and prioritising the well-being of immigrants, AIMA is creating a more welcoming environment for individuals from around the world to call Portugal their new home.


Addressing Ongoing SEF Cases

AIMA is faced with the daunting task of handling over 300,000 pending cases, predominantly concerning family reunification. To address this challenge, AIMA is set to undertake a large-scale operation in early 2024, with the aim of processing applications in a timely manner within 12 to 15 months.

This operation will entail cooperation with various entities, such as local authorities, professional bodies, and Local Support Centres for Migrants, taking inspiration from Portugal’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign model. Those who have been waiting for a year or more for their appointment are hopeful that AIMA will follow in Portugal’s footsteps and achieve similar success.

Luís Goes Pinheiro expressed his hope that AIMA will resolve the backlog of over 350,000 pending cases related to family reunification within 12 to 18 months. He acknowledged the challenges posed by the large number of pending cases, but also emphasised that the agency’s new structure would enable it to focus solely on current demands once the backlog has been dealt with.

This is a significant undertaking, but Goes Pinheiro is optimistic about AIMA’s ability to tackle this legacy issue and move forward.


How AIMA Transforms and Modernises The Immigration Process

AIMA brings significant transformations to Portugal’s immigration process, paving the way for a more modern and efficient system. One of the key ways in which AIMA accomplishes this is through the implementation of digital solutions. By digitising various processes and procedures, AIMA reduces paperwork, minimises delays, and increases accessibility for immigrants and refugees. This modernisation enables individuals to submit their applications online, track the progress of their cases, and receive timely updates.

In addition to digitalisation, AIMA focuses on enhancing collaboration and coordination among different government entities involved in the immigration process. This ensures that information flows seamlessly and that decisions are made more efficiently. By centralising the management of immigration and asylum services, AIMA avoids duplication of efforts and promotes a more streamlined approach.

AIMA also embraces a more comprehensive and holistic approach to immigration by prioritising integration initiatives. The agency recognises that successful integration goes beyond obtaining legal status and extends to helping immigrants and refugees fully participate in society. This involves providing language and cultural orientation courses, employment assistance, and support for accessing healthcare and education. By empowering newcomers with the necessary tools and resources, AIMA ensures that they can successfully integrate into Portuguese society.

Through these transformative measures, AIMA is modernising Portugal’s immigration process, making it more accessible, efficient, and supportive for immigrants and refugees. This forward-thinking approach reflects Portugal’s commitment to embracing diversity and creating an inclusive society that benefits both newcomers and the country as a whole.


Get help from the expert

For any families or individuals with ongoing cases from SEF, the team at RHJ Law can offer additional support to take the stress out of your hands. Leave us a message explaining your case, and we’ll be in touch with how we can help you.

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