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Organic Law

Decree-Law n.º 252/2000 de 16 October

Nature, attributions and underlying principles for action
     Section I
     Nature and attributions
     Section II
     Principles underlying action

Bodies, services and their competencies
     Section I
     General organisation
     Section II
     Directorate general
     Section III
     Administrative Council
     Section IV
     Central services
     Section V
     Decentralised services

Personnel regime (135,191,218)
     Section I
     General provisions
     Section II
     Management staff and supervisors

Final and transitional provisions

Decree-Law n.º 440/86, of 31 December, that restructures the Foreign Nationals Service and changes its name to "Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras" - SEF (Foreign Nationals and Borders Service), continues to attribute to SEF control of documents on the entry and exit of Portuguese nationals and foreigners at land, sea and air border control posts. It also adds the responsibility of providing a correct immigration policy and guaranteeing that it is put into practice effectively.
To this end, the same law adopted and developed the principle of centralising, within SEF, all information on foreign nationals so that the Minister of Home Affairs (Ministro da Administration Interna) could be provided with the information essential for allowing the Government to establish the major guidelines for immigration policy.

However, the improvement aimed at with Decree-Law n.º 440/86, of 31 December, was not achieved due to the absence of the qualified research and control staff who were to be given the skills to investigate and control foreign nationals in Portugal and, in particular, control borders.

In addition to this shortage of staff, throughout the nineties SEF also had to cope with other difficulties:

Added to the difficulties and restrictions described were the new attributions being assumed as result of national legislative measures – Decree-Laws ness 59/93 and 60/93, both of 3 March, 120/93, of 14 April, 244/98, of 8 August, 250/98, of 11 August, and Laws ness 70/93, of 29 September and 15/98, of 26 March, and international commitments, such as the Schengen Agreement and the respective Application Convention, the Dublin Agreement and Police Co-operation Agreements and, recently, the Treaty of Amsterdam that lays down the Community approach to policies on the free movement of persons.
With all of these developments, SEF, right now, has the competencies that are listed below, and which go far beyond those enshrined in Decree-Law n.º 440/86, of 31 December, its current organic law:

In addition, when dealing with international commitments:

From the range of attributions currently pursued by SEF listed above, and in view of the stipulations of Decree-Law n° 440/86, of 31 December, it is easy to conclude that the organic structure envisaged in this law is totally inadequate to implement these attributions.

It is a fact that from the initial enquiry to obtaining an entry visa to Portugal, including questions related to legislation on entry and leave to stay of foreign nationals, on their removal from Portugal and on asylum, up to obtaining Portuguese nationality by naturalisation, all of these migration issues are dealt with by a single service – the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras - SEF.

Add to this the growing complexity arising from the simple fact that Portugal today is, quite frankly, a true “country of immigration”, that has absolutely nothing to do, in this particular case, with the country that existed in 1986. The foreign population legally resident in Portugal exceeds the 200,000 mark, the majority continuing to be nationals from third countries, mainly from the Portuguese speaking countries.

In short, implementing all the tasks that, as explained above, have over the years been added to the service, means that the national and international sectors need a legislative framework to “create” an immigration and borders service able to respond quickly and effectively to implementing the immigration policy defined by the Government, as well as the structural and changing demands of the migratory phenomenon.

Such a legislative framework means modernising SEF, planned in the Government's Programme as one of the instruments required to meet the demands of co-operation among the member States of the European Union in terms of security, while making this compatible with free movement, strengthening co-operation among the Portuguese speaking countries and controlling all external borders, namely sea borders.

Therefore this law “creates” a service for foreign nationals and borders prepared to meet these objectives and to accompany the development of mechanisms for international co-operation, the gradual adjustment of immigration policies between host countries and countries of origin, as well preventing and combating trafficking in immigrants, by implementing the following:

The procedures arising from Law n° 23/98, of 26 May, were observed.
The National Commission for Data Protection was heard.
In using the legislative authorisation granted in article 1 of Law n° 24/2000, of 23 August, and in the terms of sub-paragraph b) of n° 1 of article 198 of the Constitution, the Government decrees the following: