New Law Might Help Thousands of Immigrants in Portugal

It has been all over the news. The Portuguese government has successfully passed a new immigration law that could help thousands of stranded people. The law which was proposed by Bloco Esquerda (Left Party) and PCP (Communist Party) and approved by the parliament was published on the Portuguese Republic’s site on July, 31 and it was effective starting August.

What is Lei n.º 59/2017?

The changes in immigration law aim to grant residency permits to those who have a promised employment. This could ease the process for thousands of people who have been waiting for years to acquire a residency card. The changes to the "legal regime of entry, stay, departure and removal of foreigners from the national territory" removed the exceptional nature of the procedure for granting residence permits to immigrants, for independent or professional activity in Portugal. In other words, it will become possible (always and not as an exception subject to authorization by the SEF) to obtain a residence permit on the basis of a promise of an employment contract.

New Requirements

New conditions were also established (article 88 and 89) and those are:
  1. Having an employment contract or promise of employment contract, or having a labor relationship proven by a union, representative of migrant communities with seat in the Council for Migration or Authority for Working Condition (ACT).
  2. Entered legally into national territory
  3. Registered in Social Security, except in the case of a promised work contract.

Limit of Expulsion Updated

Article 135, which defines the "limits to expulsion", has also been changed. Now, people who have minor children who were born and reside in Portuguese territory, cannot be expelled. For obvious reasons, the law doesn’t apply in case of well-founded suspicion of the practice of terrorist crimes, sabotage or violation of national security or conviction of such crimes."

No one is illegal!. Photo:

Reasons Behind This Change

"Until now the law gave SEF unrestricted power to regularize the people who come to Portugal to work as subordinate or independent workers...what SEF is supposed to do is verify that the legal requirements are met...the law of 2007 assumed that those who came under these conditions had their work situation regularized in is normal for people to come to Portugal and seek employment, trying to legalize their situation later." , says Deputy José Manuel Pureza.

Anti-immigration Folks are Not Happy

The sentiment from the center-right and the media hasn’t been a positive one. The headlines are written as if they were meant to terrorize people from immigrants. “Four thousand visa applications in just one week”, one newspaper writes. “In seven days the new SEF platform received 491 residency applications”, writes another. Finally, “New law sets off visa applications: more than 4,000 in a week”. There’s an evident concern about the number and not the cause.

Anti-immigration folks claim that there are possible security risks for the country, José Manuel Pureza responds saying, "when we think of security, it belongs to all people and that includes people who come to Portugal looking for a job...we have a very large number of individuals, who are not identified, who live in situations of illegality and maximum insecurity and are subject to all types of arbitration. "

Allegations that new immigration law will allow illegal networks to take advantage of Portugal are nothing, but "an exaggeration", says Deputy Pureza. Because "criminal police has a way of verifying such situations.”

The Portuguese Canadian Case

Portuguese immigrants in Toronto, 1957. Photo:

Portuguese immigration to Canada increased after 1953. Between 1951-1957, 8115 people immigrated; between 1958-1962, 16,731; between 1963-1967, 32,473; between 1968-1973, 54,199; and in 1984, 869. Portuguese have immigrated to Canada for economic opportunity, underemployment at home and a desire to escape political oppression. By 2006 the number of Portuguese in Canada was estimated to be a total of 410,850. In fact, you can’t image Canada without its Luso-Canadian citizens because they make up a huge part of Canadian history, culture, and society today.

If someone actually studied Portugal’s history and Portuguese migration, they would know better than to be anti-immigration. To think that immigrants would steal jobs, commit crimes and take advantage of social security is flat-out ignorance. People who use this propaganda have never met an immigrant. And/or they are completely uninformed about the difficulty, amount of work, time and money immigrants spend to have a chance to come and work in Portugal.

Some of these immigrants have Portuguese children and/or are from ex-Portuguese colonies. It’s not fair to treat them like criminals because they want what the Portuguese-Canadian wanted when they escaped the misery of the Salazarismo. Critics need show an example of a Portuguese worker who gets fired from his/her job in order for the company to hire an immigrant. Based on the anti-immigration logic, let’s get rid of the top non-Portuguese football players - they are foreign workers too. Or anti-immigration doesn’t include sports?

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