Understand AIMA, the new Portuguese Immigration and Borders Agency

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Published on 30 January, 2024 • Last updated on 30 January, 2024

By Portugal Homes

Understand AIMA, the new Portuguese Immigration and Borders Agency

In a significant move to rebuild Portugal's immigration control landscape, the government launched in October 2023 a new Immigration and Borders agency replacing the previous Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (Foreigners and Borders Service), shortened to SEF. The new agency, Agência para a Integração, Migrações e Asilo (Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum), shortened to AIMA, promises a new era in the handling of immigration processes. One of the many challenges AIMA will face in 2024 is the substantial backlog of pending cases inherited from SEF, with more than 347,000 processes still waiting to be analysed.

AIMA Anticipates 18-Month Timeline for Clearing Pending Cases from SEF

The agency first announced it expected to handle the backlog within the first quarter of 2024. Now, AIMA has revised the timeline, extending it up to 18 months. With this adjustment, the agency expects to fully complete the backlog by mid-2025.

AIMA acknowledges the task’s complexity, emphasising it as the major focus for the coming year and a half. With several pending Residency and Citizenship processes, the AIMA intends to reduce the waiting time for applicants, including for Portugal Golden Visa and D2 Visa investors.

To complete this enormous task, AIMA is launching a mega-operation, also involving Portuguese authorities and the Centros Locais de Apoio à Integração de Migrantes, also known as Rede CLAIM (Local Support Centres for the Integration of Migrants Network).

AIMA plans to expand its physical presence in Portugal

AIMA plans to establish a dedicated Centre of Contact for immigrants and explore partnerships with municipalities, universities, and other entities to expand its physical presence. A digital portal for online residence permit applications is also expected to be launched soon. The Portuguese government's commitment to enhancing security measures in document verification is evident with the creation of a permanent audit team focused on internal procedures and fraud prevention. AIMA's operational budget of 81 million euros highlights the significance of these reforms, supporting the opening of 34 service desks nationwide with plans to add at least 10 more in 2024.

AIMA began its journey with 740 employees by the end of 2023. Now, it anticipates hiring an additional 190 in the coming years with the overarching goal to improve the quality and efficiency of immigration services. This transformative project signifies a clear separation of administrative and policing functions, enabling the introduction of new measures and policies to improve user access, process security, and public trust in the system.

Family of immigrants in Portugal.

AIMA New Portal will Help Immigrants and Reduce Bureaucracy

With an estimated 340,000 renewal processes in the pipeline for 2024 and 2025, including Golden Visa applications, the end of the exceptional automatic renewal regime in 2024 adds urgency to the need for streamlined and efficient processes. AIMA is set to harness technological advancements to address challenges efficiently. The new portal will be focused on long-term residents' requests for family reunification, eliminating the need for telephone scheduling. The family reunification portal will initially target children aged 5 to 10 residing irregularly in Portugal.

AIMA is also introducing measures to mitigate the challenges faced by immigrants during the Residency authorisation process. These changes are part of a broader digital transformation agenda, bringing higher efficiency to the immigration landscape in Portugal. As AIMA strives to modernise and simplify administrative procedures, it acknowledges the importance of cooperation with civil society. The success of these reforms highlights a continued collaboration and commitment to the principles of efficiency, and inclusivity.

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