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Foreign-born population – 2016

0.9 million, 53% women

9% of the population

Evolution since 2007: +20%

Main countries of birth:

Angola (18%), Brazil (16%), France (11%)

In 2017, Portugal received 40 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 20.6% more than in 2016. This figure comprises 39.5% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 19.2% labour migrants, 35.4% family members (including accompanying family) and 1.3% humanitarian migrants.

Around 4 100 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 600 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 23 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2017, an increase of 25% compared to 2016. These posted workers were generally on short-term contracts.

Brazil, Italy and France were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2017. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Brazil registered the strongest increase (4 500) and China the largest decrease (-200) in flows to Portugal compared to the previous year.

In 2018, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 22.2% to reach around 1 200. The majority of applicants come from Angola (200), Ukraine (100) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (100). The largest increase since 2017 concerned nationals of Angola (100) and the largest decrease, nationals of Congo (-45). Of the 1 000 decisions taken in 2018, 59.8% were positive.

Emigration of Portuguese nationals to OECD countries decreased by 1.4% to 64 000. Approximately one in four (23.5%) of this group migrated to the United Kingdom, 14.5% to Switzerland and 14.0% to Germany.

The changes made to Portuguese immigration law in 2017 came into effect in October 2018, following the publication of decree DR 9/2018. The amendments to the law transposed the EU directives on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for seasonal work (2014/36/EU), intra-company transfers (2014/66/EU), and for research, education, training, volunteering and au pair purposes (directive (EU) 2016/801). Another important change to the immigration law concerned the regularisation process for undocumented migrants. Migrants in employment and who had made social security contributions for at least one year may apply to be regularised on humanitarian grounds even if they are unable to show proof of legal entry into the country, which was previously a requirement.

The implementation of these legal amendments has led to a simplified procedure for obtaining and renewing visas and residence permits, especially for highly-skilled migrants, entrepreneurs, researchers and international students. For example, higher education international students from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries no longer need to go to an interview at the Portuguese consulate of the country of origin to obtain a visa. More digital procedures have been introduced, as well as a more efficient treatment of documents submitted (for example, documents already submitted once to the border service no longer need to be resubmitted when applying for the renewal of a permit); this should decrease processing times.

The Nationality Law was amended by Law 2/2018 in order to broaden access to citizenship for children born in Portugal to non-Portuguese parents and to foreigners living in Portugal. Children born in Portugal to foreign parents automatically receive Portuguese citizenship if at least one of the parents has been legally living in Portugal for the two years preceding the birth, instead of five years as previously required. Furthermore, foreigners may now apply for Portuguese citizenship after five, instead of six, years living in the country.

In January 2019, Portugal’s parliament voted on proposed changes to the “Golden Visa”, which grants residence with limited physical presence requirements in exchange for an investment in property or other Portuguese assets. A new category of Golden Visa grants Portuguese residency to foreigners who invest a minimum of EUR 500 000 in organic agriculture, ecotourism, renewable energy and other environmental projects.

Portugal created a Tech Visa, available from 2019, to accelerate visa procedures for highly qualified employees of established firms which are certified as offering innovative technology. Firms are certified by IAPMEI (Institute to Support Small and Medium-sized Enterprises).

The last participants in the EU emergency schemes, relocated from Italy and Greece and resettled from Turkey, arrived in Portugal in April 2018. These schemes are now closed to new participants. Portugal has committed to receiving 1 010 resettled refugees in 2018/19 under the new EU resettlement programme.

Portugal continued its efforts to attract returning Portuguese emigrants. A new measure was announced according to which emigrants who have lived abroad for at least three years and who return to Portugal between January 2019 and December 2020 will benefit from a 50% income tax cut until 2023.

For further information:

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Key figures on immigration and emigration - Portugal
Key figures on immigration and emigration - Portugal

Notes and sources are at the end of the chapter.


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