Number of staff and nature of the first instance authority


Country Report: Number of staff and nature of the first instance authority Last updated: 12/05/23


Portuguese Refugee Council Visit Website
Name in English Number of staff Ministry responsible Is there any political interference possible by the responsible Minister with the decision making in individual cases by the first instance authority?
Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), Asylum and Refugees Department (GAR) 24 Ministry of Home Affairs No

Source:  Information provided by SEF (April 2023).


In accordance with the Asylum Act and the internal regulation of the Immigration and Borders Service (SEF), the responsibility for examining applications for international protection and drafting first instance decisions lies with the Asylum and Refugees Department of SEF (SEF-GAR). Decisions granting, refusing (except in accelerated and admissibility procedures), ceasing, and withdrawing international protection are formally adopted by the Ministry of Home Affairs.[1] In practice, the latter adopts such decisions based on the assessment and recommendations of the determining authority, which thus remains the main entity responsible for the examination of asylum claims.

SEF-GAR is the specialised determining authority in the field of asylum. Its competencies are restricted to the following asylum-related tasks:[2]

  • to organise and process asylum applications;
  • to organise and process subsidiary protection applications;
  • to organise and process Dublin procedures and, where necessary, to issue laissez passer;
  • to issue reasoned opinions on submissions for refugee resettlement;
  • to issue reasoned opinions on applications for the renewal of refugee travel documents presented before the Portuguese Consulates;
  • to issue refugee identity cards and travel documents as well as residence permits provided for in the Asylum Act, and to renew and extend the validity of such documents;
  • to act as contact point of the EUAA; and
  • to provide for the strategic planning of EUAA-related activities.

In 2022, SEF-GAR was composed of 24 officials, including: (i) 11 caseworkers responsible for the examination of applications for international protection under all the applicable procedures (except the Dublin procedure), including 2 officials responsible for revising files and proposals and one official responsible for the final decision; (ii) 2 caseworkers responsible for Dublin procedures; and (iii) 8 administrative support officers. The Department was further composed by one head of Department, one head of the examination unit and one head of administrative personnel.

According to SEF, caseworkers conduct interviews, COI research, case analysis, and draft decision proposals. Such decisions are revised by supervisors who also investigate suspicions of fraud (cancellation procedures) and draft and supervise the implementation of procedural and eligibility guidelines. Administrative officers ensure the registration of applications and the screening/referral of cases.

Quality assurance

According to the information provided by SEF, quality is ensured through the following mechanisms: (i) the supervisors review each report drafted by the caseworkers; (ii) case law is constantly taken into account; (iii) caseworkers receive regular training within the European training curriculum of the EUAA.

As previously reported, in 2020, the Government announced its intention to conduct a structural reform of SEF. The main piece of legislation governing this reform was approved in November 2021.[3] It provides for the reallocation of SEF’s competencies to existing/new entities:

  • The National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR) will be in charge of surveillance and control of maritime and land borders, and will be responsible for executing expulsion decisions within its jurisdiction;[4]
  • The Public Security Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, PSP) will be in charge of surveillance and control of air borders, and will be responsible for executing expulsion decisions within its jurisdiction;[5]
  • The Criminal Police (Polícia Judiciária, PJ) will investigate crimes related to illegal migration and trafficking in human beings; [6]
  • The administrative competencies of SEF will be allocated to the Institute of Registries and Notary (Instituto dos Registos e Notariado, IRN) and to a entity to be created, the Portuguese Agency for Migration and Asylum (Agência Portuguesa para as Migrações e Asilo, APMA). The IRN will be responsible for foreigners with a residence permit and for the issuance of travel documents. APMA will be the entity in charge of the implementation of public policies related to migration and asylum and to issue opinions on requests for visas, applications for asylum and resettlement.[7]
  • Regular training on human rights, migration law and asylum law is to be provided to the officers of PSP, GNR, PJ and IRN.[8]

The entry into force of this law has been repeatedly postponed. In May 2022, it was postponed sine die, until the entry into force of the legal framework creating and governing the new Migrations and Asylum Agency.[9] In December 2022, the government publicly announced that the change would be in place until March 2023.[10] However, the creation of the new Agency was only approved by the Government in April 2023.[11] According to the information publicly available, minorities were also added to the mandate of the entity, and, as such, it will be called Agency for Minorities, Migration and Asylum (APMMA). It is expected to start its operations within six months.




[1] Article 29(1) Asylum Act; Article 17 Decree-Law 252/2000.

[2] Article 17(1) Decree-Law 252/2000.

[3] Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021 approving the restructure of the Portuguese system of border control, reshaping the regime of the forces and services responsible for internal security and establishing other rules for the redistribution of competences and resources of the Immigration and Borders Service, amended by Act n. 89/2021 of 16 December 2021, available at:

[4] Article 2 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[5] Article 2 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[6] Article 2 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[7] Article 3 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[8] Article 12 Act n. 73/2021 of 12 November 2021.

[9] Act n.11/2022, of 6 May 2022, availale at:

[10] See, for instance: Visão, MAI anuncia que reestruturação do SEF se vai concretizar até março de 2023, 20 December 2022, available at:

[11] Comunicado do Conselho de Ministros de 6 de abril de 2023, 6 April 2023, available at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation