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Portugal: More than 356 000 immigrants provisionally legalised during COVID-19 pandemic (Unofficial translation)

More than 356 000 immigrants with ongoing regularisation processes at the Foreigners and Borders Office (SEF) in Portugal were provisionally legalised in 2020, under two decrees published following the outbreak of COVID-19.

The first decree - published on 27 March 2020 - allowed approximately 260 000 immigrants with processes ongoing at SEF to be temporarily granted settled status. The Government then ordered the extension of this process through a second decree on 8 November 2020, allowing the temporary settlement of 116 700 more immigrants who had submitted their requests between 18 March and 15 October 2020.

In total, these two orders resulted in the temporary regularisation of 356 700 immigrants. The regularisation enabled their access to all public services (namely to obtain the number of users), to the National Health Service, to other healthcare rights and to social support benefits, and allowed them to sign lease contracts, draft employment contracts, open bank accounts and contract essential public services.

However, the Ombudsman for Justice received complaints from immigrants about the practical application of these decrees in the area of health, in terms of difficulty with access and the high number of users of the National Health Service (SNS), as well as in such situations as having a driving license replaced.

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