Nature, attributions and underlying principles for action
Nature and attributions
Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, abbreviated to SEF, is a security service organised vertically under the Ministry of Home Affairs. It has administrative autonomy and its fundamental objectives within the internal security policy include border control of persons, leave to stay and the activities of foreigners in Portugal, as well as the study, promotion, coordination and execution of measures and actions related to these activities and migratory flows.
As a criminal police body, in the terms of criminal procedural law, SEF acts in the process under the direction and operational dependence of the competent legal authority, implementing the measures determined by that authority and the acts delegated by the same authority.
The attributions of SEF are:
The surveillance and control of border posts, including the international zone in ports and airports, the movement of persons, with the ability to prevent passengers and crew from disembarking from ships and aircraft, when they are without documents or their situation is irregular;
Preventing passengers and crew disembarking from ships and aircraft coming from ports or airports that are a health risk, and without the prior consent of the competent health authorities;
Controlling the movement of persons at border posts, preventing the entry to or exit from Portugal of persons who do not meet the legal requirements demanded for the purpose;
Authorising and verifying the entry of persons on board ships and aircraft;
Controlling and inspecting the leave to stay and activities of foreigners throughout Portugal;
Carrying out mobile controls and joint operations with similar national and Spanish security services or forces;
Investigating crimes that aid illegal immigration, as well as investigating other associated crimes, without prejudice to the competency of other agencies;
Issuing reports on consular requests for visas;
Granting in Portugal visas, extensions of leave to stay, authorisation for residence, as well as travel documents, as laid down by law;
Recognising the right to family regrouping;
Collaborating as required with the agencies responsible for controlling compliance with the law regulating foreign labour;
Opening inquiries, examining and determining procedures for the administrative expulsion of foreigners from Portugal and executing administrative and judicial expulsion decisions, as well as activating, examining and deciding on procedures for readmission and ensuring that they are executed;
Escorting citizens who are the object of removal measures;
Deciding on approval of the analysis of applications for asylum and examining concession procedures, determined by the state responsible for the analysis of the respective applications and the transfer of applicants between the member states of the European Union;
Analysing and giving an opinion on granting Portuguese nationality by naturalisation;
Analysing and giving an opinion on applications for the status of equality submitted by foreign citizens covered by international conventions;
Ensuring the management and communication of data in the National System for Schengen Information (NSSI) and of other common information systems used by the member states of the European Union to control the movement of persons, as well as for data bases used in the issue of passports (BADEP);
Co-operating with the diplomatic and consular representations of other States, duly accredited in Portugal, namely in the repatriation of their nationals;
Ensuring that the attributions envisaged in legislation on the entry, stay, exit and removal of foreigners from Portugal are implemented;
Ensuring co-operation among all State agencies and services, particularly with all security services and forces, as well as with legally recognized non-governmental organizations;
Co-ordinating co-operation among national security forces and services and those of other countries in dealing with the movement of persons, control of foreigners and investigation into crimes aiding illegal immigration and other associated crimes.
At the Government’s decision, SEF may represent the Portuguese State in the European Union, namely within the Strategic Committee for Immigration, Borders and Asylum, and in the High Level Group for Asylum and Migration, in the Budapest Group and in other international organizations, and it may also participate in work groups for police co-operation that deal with matters related to SEF attributions;
At the Government’s decision, represent the Portuguese State in developing the Schengen Agreement within the European Union;
Ensure that commitments assumed within international co-operation are respected through the work of liaison officers in the terms legally envisaged;
Collaborate with similar foreign services, establishing forms of co-operation;
Principles underlying action
Criminal police authorities
For the purposes of criminal law the criminal police authorities are:
The deputy directors-general;
The directors of central management and the regional directors;
Higher inspectors and inspectors;
Principal deputy inspectors;
Deputy inspectors, when they act as the heads of organic units.
The authorities referred to in the previous number are competent to give the order to detain persons and to take other emergency measures, as laid down in the Criminal Procedural Code.
Deputy inspectors are considered to be agents with authority.
The staff mentioned in ness 1 and 3, may give the order to identify any person, as laid down by law.
Right of access
The staff mentioned in ness 1 and 3 of article 3, providing they are duly identified, have free access to all locations, namely public and private worksites, camping grounds, homes and places of entertainment and performances, hotels, pension houses, restaurants, bars, commercial and industrial establishments, offices, public attendance centres or services, prisons, stations, railway stations, loading and unloading docks, airports, vessels anchored in ports and aircraft.
When a service mission justifies this, the director-general may authorise staff working in the back-up areas of investigation and control and of surveillance and security, to be given the credentials for free access for the time and locations established in such credentials.
Duty to co-operate
Mutual co-operation in exercising their respective attributions will be maintained between SEF and other agents involved in prevention and criminal investigation.
Public services and enterprises should collaborate when requested so that SEF can conduct its duties.
Identification of persons
To establish or confirm the identity of foreigners or stateless persons, SEF may use means of civil identification, including photographs and fingerprints.
The criminal police authorities referred to in n° 1 of article 3 will have direct access to the information on civil and criminal identification in the information system of the Ministry of Justice, as well as information of criminal interest contained in the files of other agencies, through the protocol to be signed by the agencies in question, after the opinion has been heard of the National Commission for Data Protection and in conditions to be regulated by a joint ruling from the Ministers of Home Affairs and of Justice.
Duty to report in person
Any person, whenever duly notified or in any other way summoned by SEF, has the duty to appear on the day, at the time and in the place indicated, at the risk of being penalised as laid down in procedural law.
SEF service is permanent and obligatory and personnel may not be excused from the missions with which they are entrusted, beyond the normal working hours for the service.
Without prejudice to the ruling in the previous number, the normal working hours of the service will be defined in a joint ruling from the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Finance and the Minister for State Reform and Public Administration, which may take the form of shiftwork.
Service in SEF may be provided on an emergency and preventative basis in agreement with regulations to be approved jointly by the Minister of Home Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State Reform and Public Administration.
SEF personnel must at all times treat the information to which they have access in conducting their duties with the utmost secrecy.
The obligation to respect the professional secrecy referred to in the previous number, does not prevent the staff referred to in article 3 from promptly notifying the competent authorities of facts discovered in their work of investigation and control that suggest criminal activities.
Measures involved in prevention, criminal investigation, and those taken by the judicial authorities, are subject to the confidentiality of justice, as laid down by law.
Apart from what is allocated to SEF in the State Budget, the service also makes an income from:
Amounts charged for visas, extensions of leave to stay, the granting and renewal of authorisation for residence and residence permits and for travel documents, as laid down by law;
The charges and fees in force by law;
Monies from the sale of SEF's own printed forms;
A percentage of the monies from fines, as laid down by legislation in force;
Any other income that by law is, or comes to be, attributed to SEF.
The income referred to in the previous number is handed over to the State Treasury in forms sent by SEF and is used to offset expenses.
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