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Migrant Integration Governance in Portugal

Portugal became a country of immigration in the 1980s. Citizens of former colonies arrived first. They were followed by Asians and Eastern Europeans in the 2000s. Although the 2008 economic crisis induced a decrease of arrivals, this trend was reversed in 2016.


Foreign population in Portugal

On 1 January 2017, 279 561 Third Country Nationals (TCNs) were legally residing in Portugal. They represented 3% of the total population, according to the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service’s 2016 RIFA Report. 139 500 had permanent residency and 140 061 were temporary residents.

Brazilian and Cape Verdean are by far the most prevalent foreign nationalities, with a stock of respectively 81 251 and 36 578 individuals. The other nationality to complete the top 3 is Ukrainian (34 490).

Besides the foreign population, hundreds of thousands of Portuguese citizens have a third country background. 29 776 acquired citizenship and 21 017 obtained nationality by territory of birth (attribution) in 2016, as specified by the Observatory for Migration.

Integration Strategy

To integrate or foster the social inclusion of these populations, Portugal published its first Plan for Immigrant Integration in 2007. The document, covered 3 years and was organised around 7 key principles and 5 transversal axes: legislation, service provision, research, public opinion and empowerment of communities. The Plan was updated in 2010 to remain applicable until 2013. It increased the prominence of good relations between migrant communities and the majority population.

Since 2015, integration priorities are included in the general Strategic Plan for Migration which covers a 5-year period. It puts emphasis on strengthening the quality of services provided to foreigners, foresees to respond to integration challenges in a transversal manner and to implement 106 measures which will be assessed through 201 indicators.

Integration Programme

The national Strategic Plan promotes voluntary Introductory Courses which are generally implemented by governmental bodies all over the country. At the national level, there are linguistic support programmes Portuguese for All and Portuguese as Foreign Language but also project targeting young people (Choices Programme) and adults (Promoting Immigrant Entrepreneurship), mentoring Immigrants or promoting Intercultural Mediation.

They mainly focus on:

☑ language courses

☑ civic education

vocational training

There are also several activities organised at the local or regional levels. These are set on the basis of the National Integration Plans or result from independent initiatives implemented by public or private social actors. They promote a wide range of objectives: from social interaction and intercultural dialogue to health issues awareness and labour orientation.

Attendance to all is free of charge and voluntary. However, passing a language test – Level A2 – (or presenting a certificate of basic Portuguese language proficiency issued by one of the certified institutions) is required for those applying for citizenship or permanent residence.


The official assessment of the of the 2007-2009 Plan for Integration shows an implementation of 81% of planned actions and a 16% non-compliance level while the assessment report on the 2010-2013 Plan revealed a 79% implementation rate. Out of the 408 set goals, 290 were fully reached, 64 were partial reached and 54 were not reached at all.

As for the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan for Migration, a Technical Follow-up Group monitors its implementation. A political coordination group, made of a variety of state actors, also meets once a year (and when necessary) to assess compliance and promote appropriate changes. In 2017, they published a mid-term evaluation that concludes a 76% execution rate in 2015 and 74% in 2016.

In addition, the Observatory for Migration publishes data on indicators of immigrant integration, going beyond recommendations from the European Commission of 4 dimensions and 16 Zaragoza indicators. It looks at 15 dimensions and more than 200 indicators, analysing data from 28 statistical and administrative national sources and 14 international statistical sources. Its annual report on indicators of immigrant integration is the most important publication of official data on immigration in Portugal.


☑   Foreigners Law

The Portuguese Aliens Act of 2007 regulates the legal framework of entry, stay and exit of foreigners in and out of the national territory. The latest of 5 amendmens - Law 102/2017 - dates from 2017. It transposes some European Directives on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing. It also introduces new conditions for the granting of the residence permit for investment (ARIs), creates a system of exception for the granting of a residence permit for activity by immigrant IT entrepreneurs.

☑   Asylum Law

The Asylum Law of March 1998 establishes the legal framework for asylum. Amendments of June May 2014 are the republication of changes approved in 2008. They include new conditions and procedures for the granting of asylum and subsidiary protection, and clarifications on the status of asylum seeker, refugee and beneficiary of subsidiary protection. They also transpose several EU Directives.

☑   Integration Law

All 3 strategic documents for integration set up by the Portuguese government are approved by resolutions of the council of ministers: 12-B/2015, 74/2010, 63-A/2007.

☑   Nationality Law

Portugal has EU’s second highest naturalisation rate (5.2%), after Sweden (6.7%). Its first Nationality Law dates back to 1981. Major and praised changes were made in 2006, strengthening jus solis (nationality obtained by territory of birth) and reducing period of legal residence to apply for citizenship for instance. In 2015, the Organic Law 8/2015 established new grounds for naturalisation and the Organic Law 9/2015 extended Portuguese nationality to grandchildren of Portuguese born abroad.

☑   Anti-discrimination

The Portuguese Criminal Code of 1982 addresses anti-discrimination. It was recently complemented by Law no. 94/2017 which establishes the legal framework for the prevention, prohibition and combating of discrimination on the basis of racial and ethnic origin, skin colour, nationality, ancestry and territory of origin.

Public authorities

In Portugal, the High Commission for Migration is the primary institution responsible for the integration of immigrants and ethnic groups – Roma communities in particular, as established by the Decree-Law 31/2014. It is in charge of determining, executing and assessing transversal and sectorial policies, under the direct supervision of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The latter designs all integration strategies which are in turn implemented by the 13 ministries, various entities of the national and local administrations, as well as civil society organisations.

The High Commission for Migration represents Portugal at the European Integration Network and supervises:

  • CNAIM - National Migrant Support Centre, created in 2004
  • CLAIM - Local Migrant Support Centres, created in 2003
  • GAEI - Specialised Support Offices for Immigrants, launched in 2004
  • GAEM - Office for Entrepreneurship Support for Migrants in Portugal
  • OM - Observatory for Migration
  • CICDR - Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination

Local authorities also play a key role in promoting and implementing integration policies. They set up facilities, implement reception measures, finance micro projects and provide services such as education, housing, social support, legal assistance, job orientation, training, intercultural mediation, language courses, etc. They also launch information or awareness-raising campaigns and take action to combat discrimination and segregation. Local authorities are to create their own Municipal Plans for the Integration of Migrants by 2020.

Civil society

The Council for Migration established in September 2014 (reformulating the previous Consultative Council for Immigration Affairs created in 1999) is the consultative body for migration issues, including integration. It participates in the decision-making process of the Council of Ministers, ensuring cooperation with public and private entities in the definition and implementation of migration policies. In addition to state actors and the association of Portuguese municipalities, Council’s members include representatives of migrant communities and non-profit organisations dealing with migrant issues as well as 2 citizens.

Furthermore, the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan for Migration was submitted to public consultation during which the civil society could voice its comments and proposals.


Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds. EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is the most important one in terms of budget. Coordinated jointly by the High Commission for Migration and the Immigration and Borders Service, the national allocation for Portugal under AMIF is € 29 973 687. According to a AMIF review,  20 % is dedicated to Asylum and 58% to Integration. National integration priorities for the fund reflect the Integration Policy and mainly aim at preventing the social exclusion of TCNs, facilitating and streamlining the interaction between TCNs, the society and public administrations, fostering the exercise of citizenship and civic participation, as well as deepening the empowerment of the descendants of TCN communities. Portuguese AMIF programme

In addition, national public and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

Public funding Private funding


Other stakeholders

☑  Providing integration services

☑  Implementing Integration Programme

☑  Campaigning

  • Civil Society Associations

☑  Publishing statistics