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One-stop-shop / National Immigrant Support centres (CNAI)

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Type of Information

  • Project or programme
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  • Evaluation
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CNAI – ACIDI (High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue)

Contact Person

Catarina Reis Oliveira (Login to send email)

Contact Person Function

Head of the Unit of Research and International Relations

Project Start


Ongoing Project



The idea behind the One-Stop-Shops is to make available a wide range of Government and support services to immigrants under one roof,  independently of their legal status. In the same building, immigrants can find the Border Control Service, the Labour Inspectorate, the Social Security office, Regional Health Administration, the Regional Directorate of Education and the Central Registry Office. Moreover, there are other innovative support services to meet the concrete needs of immigrants, such as support offices for family reunification, legal advice and employment. The participation of socio-cultural mediators who speak several languages establishes a cultural and linguistic proximity to the immigrants.

Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption

The most relevant issue addressed is the management of integration and service provision for immigrants. In a context of a growing immigrant population and dispersal of services, one of the most serious and challenging responsibilities facing Portugal and among the most often cited problems are the range of institutions involved in the process, the lack of cooperation between government services and their dispersed locations, the diversity of procedures, complex bureaucracy and communication difficulties. Thus, following the Common Agenda for Integration, Portugal set up a “one-stop-shop” model service where foreign citizens can find a set of services responding to their concrete needs in terms of regularization, legal advice, employment, family reunification, all in the same building. The goal is to facilitate the integration of immigrants in Portugal starting with legal issues and documentation and the “one-stop-shops” have a shared data management system when attending the public. The assumption is that these facilities will reduce the number of undocumented immigrants living in Portugal and simultaneously reinforce their integration.

How does it work

One of the actions is service provision for immigrants at one particular physical point covering domains relevant for this population (documentation, education, health, labour, etc.). These services are coordinated in time and content and made available in several languages. Besides the civil servants working in the public agencies, there are also cultural mediators to smooth communication and build trust.
Another action is the telephone hotline for translation (SOS Imigrante). Cultural mediators speaking 9 different languages (Portuguese, French, English, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Belorussian and Cape Verdean Creole) provide information on immigration law, rights and duties in access to the labour market, housing, health, education and Portuguese citizenship.


From March 2004 to December 2009 a total of over 1,979,727 cases were attended to at the One-Stop-Shops  (Lisboa, Porto and Faro). Currently those One-Stop-Shops have a daily average of 1,192 service-users. Hence it is clear that they brought added value to the immigrants lives, particularly in relation to the: resolution of problems that involve various Government agencies; facilitation of access to various institutions, response to a large number of questions (legalisation; Health; Education; Nationality; Employment; Family Reunification; Social Support), personalised service (guaranteed also with fundamental support of immigrants). Furthermore the CNAIs prove to guarantee important benefits for Government Agencies, namely: interaction between agencies allows a greater speed in the resolution of processes, optimization of the processes and mutual support between agencies, circulation of information between agencies is facilitated – increased security, sharing of worries and the creation of more efficient processes and, no less important, a common working atmosphere.

The One-Stop-Shop approach represents an essential tool in successfully managing integration to realise the full benefits of immigration, specifically in relation to service provision to immigrants. The One-Stop Shop is a contribution to ensuring that integration is a two-way process, where the receiving society actively engages in adaptation. The One-Stop-Shop approach is presented as an ambitious and yet realistic proposal for providing services to immigrants, improving integration and providing more and better information on the rights and duties of immigrants. Furthermore, the One-Stop-Shop service is a policy that approaches integration from the perspective of the adaptation of the receiving society and the services that it provides, combined with a consultative and cooperative process working with immigrants, to further the integration of both immigrants and the receiving society. It thereby meets the two-way challenge of integration in a sensible and flexible way. Finally by reducing contradictory and insufficient information, the OSS plays an important role in increasing immigrants’ trust in public administration services, narrowing the gap between the two. The OSS approach it was been also fundamental to achieved the principles of joined-up Government.

In 2011 ACIDI received first prize for the One-Stop-Shop in the European Public Sector Award  - EPSA 2011 under the theme ‘Opening Up the Public Sector Through Collaborative Governance’.


The first level evaluated of the project measured its implementation against the original project plan. On this level of evaluation, the evaluators concluded that the project as a whole and the partners in particular, have lived up to the expectations of the original plan.

The second level of evaluation took the broader context into account and asked questions about the relevance of the exercise and outcomes.

In conclusion, yes, the OSS-format is an ideal type of service provision, particularly geared to early reception of newcomers, if the political and structural conditions are fulfilled.



Who will benefit?

All immigrants (both those who have a legal or an illegal status and new-arrivals and immigrants who are applying for citizenship) and/or persons who have to deal with immigration issues.

Source of funding and Resources used

In Portugal the implementation of the National Immigrant Support Centres in 2004 represented a commitment of €1.4 million by the High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities. In 2007, the majority of ACIDI, I.P.’s annual budget of €5.51 million came from the Ministry for Labour and Social Solidarity. Just 20.9% of this budget was spent on staff costs (essentially cultural mediators). €1.88 million, or 34.1% of the budget, was spent on various integration services, including the National and Local Immigrant Support Centres network.

At the EU level, the main source of funding was the INTI.

Workers: 65 cultural mediators, 19 civil servants and 5 security guards (2009 date)