Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras


Brief History


Following the 1974 Revolution, once the Directorate-General for Security has been terminated, the same Decree-Law n. º 171/74 of 25 April establishing its termination gave simultaneously the Criminal Police control over foreign nationals in Portugal and the Fiscal Guard the surveillance and control of borders.

A period of organisation attempts of which this Security Service is a reflexion of, followed in Portugal.

Therefore, in November 1974, the Directorate for Foreign Nationals Service was born.

The Decree-Law n. º 215/74 of 22 May replaced the Criminal Police by the General Command of PSP in the control of foreign nationals in Portugal, the issuing of passports to foreign nationals and of reports on applications for visas to enter the country, while the Fiscal Guard continued to monitor and control borders.

PSP became aware of the enormous volume of work involved in the area of Internal Security, as well as the enormous volume of work inherited, which gradually arrived according to the needs arisen by documenting or updating documentation of foreign nationals.

Therefore, with the attributions well defined in the mentioned Decree-Law of 22 May, it became clear the necessity to inpidualise this Service within PSP.

This was how the Directorate for Foreign Nationals Service (Direção de Serviço de Estrangeiros – DSE) was born within the General Command of PSP by means of Decree-Law n. º 651/74 of 22 November.

Evolution and stabilisation

This Service was subject to a structure in such a way that, step by step, in June 1976 its administrative autonomy was recognised by Decree-Law n. º 494-A/76 of 23 June. It was then that a change of name occurred, and the service became known simply as Borders Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros – SE).

And it so remained as Borders Service for ten years.

Ten years during which, with the stabilisation of the institutions and with a certain establishment of the governmental policy for this area, the need for Law n.º 494-A/76, chapter I, article 2, subparagraph a) to be put into practice, of which SE was responsible for the control of the of foreign nationals “entry” into national territory, amongst other missions, was becoming more evident.

The solution found in 1974 of handing over to the Security Force already established in borders the control of persons in transit, revealed itself incomplete for this Service oriented to control foreign nationals in the Country.

This was indeed the opinion of successive Governments until, in 1986, Decree-Law n.º 440/86 of 31 December has restructured SE, which then became known as SEF – Immigration and Borders Service which, by its form meant that the letter of the law did in fact consider the service responsible for border control, though, in practice, at that time, human resources available were not prepared for doing so “in loco”.

Hence the cooperation between SEF and the Fiscal Guard which, never having ceased to function, became far more active as from 1986.

Gradually, from 1st August 1991, SEF was able to start replacing the Fiscal Guard at border posts.

Though still partners and cooperating with each other, as members of the Security Forces and Services provided in law on Internal Security, this particular phase of cooperation for fifteen years will go down in SEF’s “History”.

With the challenges of a new Europe, the Services were forced to renew themselves as well.

The SEF’s Board saw some intense activity in several sectors, without disregarding the renewal of legal support defining this Immigration and Borders Service of a country with an external EU border, guarantor of the compliance of commitments taken by our country as a Member State of that new space foreshadowed in the Schengen Agreement to which Portugal has joined in June 1991 and whose preparatory work for accession SEF have broadly participated in.

By renewing of legal supports, Diploma 120/93 of 16 April has made some changes to SEF’s organic law. However, the true global restructuring of the Service, in order to respond to the needs from its present dimension, both materially and human terms, and in new assumed responsibilities, started only with the publication of Decree-Law n. º 252/2000 of 16 October approving its new organic structure and defining its attributions.

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