Connecticut, US

Oct 04 2018

Online Filing System, Other Improvements Significantly Reduce Residence Permit Appointment Wait Times


At a Glance

A process change at the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service should reduce in-country residence permit appointment waiting times by eight months. Additionally, foreign nationals can now file visa applications online and can file in-country residence permit applications in regions other than their region of residence, which should also significantly streamline the overall immigration process.

The situation

The Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF) has published a set of streamlined immigration process rules.

A closer look

The below key changes, although they are likely to reduce the administrative burden on applicants, do not affect work start dates since these processes occur after the applicant starts working:

  • Automatic scheduling of in-country appointments. SEF now automatically books in-country appointments for foreign workers when approving their residence visa applications.
    • Impact. Foreign nationals face an eight-month wait to book in-country appointments. This change could therefore expedite the application process by eight months.
    • Additionally, this change could reduce travel restrictions in the Schengen area for foreign nationals who previously faced long in-country waiting and processing periods.

  • Filing applications outside the region of residence. Foreign nationals can now file an initial or renewal residence permit application in a region other than their region of residence.
    • Impact. Applicants can select a region with short appointment waiting times, which can further reduce appointment waiting times by several weeks to several months.

  • Online visa and residence permit filing. Portuguese authorities have made the online visa application platform available to all consulates, where only some were able to utilize it in the past. SEF will also develop an online platform to file initial and renewal residence permit applications electronically.
    • Impact.
      • Online filing should make the visa application process faster and easier.
      • Once the new platform is available for residence permits, applicants may still be required to visit immigration offices in person to submit fingerprints, passport photos and original documents.

  • Resubmitting documents no longer required. SEF will reuse valid documents for subsequent initial and renewal applications. As a result, foreign nationals no longer need to resubmit documents such as passport copies multiple times.
    • Impact. This change should reduce the administrative burden on applicants and should streamline the application process by reducing paperwork.



Applicants in Portugal have faced lengthy appointment delays for several years.

Looking ahead

  • European online application systems. Portugal is one of many European countries that have implemented an electronic filing system, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the European Commission has encouraged countries to develop digitized application systems to streamline and coordinate application processes across the European Union.

  • Worldwide online application system trend. Online filing is intended to reduce administrative burdens during the work permit and visa application process for the applicant and in some cases the employer, and the global trend in this arena is to implement such systems. Key examples worldwide include Vietnam’s work permit filing system, launched in 2017 and Nigeria’s work permit application system, implemented in 2018.

  • Streamlined processes make Portugal attractive destination.
    • Though it remains to be seen whether and how immigration authorities will put Portugal’s electronic application system into practice, the expected reduction in administrative burdens would make Portugal a more attractive location for foreign workers.
    • Since foreign workers based in Portugal can now more easily travel to Schengen countries for short business trips, employers should consider this mobility advantage in their business plans for upcoming years.


This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].