Download MIPEX III Portugal in Portuguese (pdf)


With the crisis, this major recent country of labour migration suffered job losses among all Portuguese residents, especially newcomers. Immigrants are seen as equal victims of the recession, not the scapegoats for it, unlike in several European countries. Austere economic and political choices have not reduced national consensus and support for integration.

Scoring few points below leading SE, Portugal made some of the greatest progress overall since MIPEX II (+5 points, +10 GR, +8 LU). It worked more than most to secure long-term residence (2007 Immigration Law) and target immigrants’ specific employment situations (Immigrant Integration Plans, Recognition of Qualifications). Requirements for residence kept up with the crisis and changes in society to avoid long-term exclusion. Portugal’s nationality law, based on 2006’s coherent reform, best promotes common citizenship of all 31 MIPEX countries. Residents would still benefit from more effective anti-discrimination laws, political opportunities and education policies, even if Portugal leads new immigration countries on these MIPEX strands. The country benefits from more integration researchers and evaluations in Portugal (e.g. Immigration Observatory), whose recommendations can improve policies, decisions and public awareness.

Timeline - What's Changed

+14 July 2007
Long Term Residence
Act 23/2007 New Immigration Law sends strong signal on secure long-term residence.
0 August 2007
Labour Market Mobility
Portaria 925/2007 National healthcare service promotes integration of foreign doctors.
+37 September 2007
Labour market mobility – targeted support
National Plan for Immigrant Integration tackles many areas, including jobs.
+17 October 2007
Labour market mobility – general support
Decree-Laws 341/2007 and 396/2007 of 31 December guarantee equal recognition of foreign qualifications.
+1 January 2009
Political participation
City Council for Interculturalism and Citizenship revived in Lisbon.
+2 July 2009
Family reunion
Ordinances during crisis reduce income requirements for Labour market permits.
0 July 2009
Escolhas (Choices) Programme renewed for 2010–2012.

Key Findings

  • Portugal leads new labour migration countries on labour market mobility, family reunion. 
  • Greatest recent progress on targeting immigrants’ specific employment situation. 
  • Conditions for residence keeping up with realities of recession. 
  • 2006 Nationality Law best for common citizenship of all 31 MIPEX countries. 
  • 2007 Immigration Law makes greatest improvements on long-term residence in Europe. 
  • 2007 Law to recognise foreign qualifications for all. 
  • Migrant education policies, political opportunities, anti-discrimination laws are the best of the new immigration countries. 
  • All pupils have favourable access to schools and intercultural education. 
  • Voting rights less effective, consultative bodies less proactive. 
  • Anti-discrimination laws, equality bodies harder to use than in leading MIPEX countries. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Women and children too

    With major immigration to Portugal barely a generation old, the Plan also commits the country to promote equal opportunities for immigrant youth, largely through equal access to work and training (see education strand). The Plan gives special attention to gender equality, recognising that female immigrants are not just doubly vulnerable, but also full of potential as entrepreneurs. Under these programmes, employers should be motivated to set up gender equality programmes to recruit and train immigrant workers. For similar programmes, see DK, FR, DE, NL, NO, SE.


    Putting an end to ‘brain waste’

    2007 laws guarantee all Portuguese and non-Portuguese residents easier and equal opportunities to get their foreign qualifications recognised. For example, foreign doctors will also have better access to the national healthcare service, building on a successful project since 2003 of the ministry, Gulbenkian Foundation and Jesuit Refugee Service. CA and LU also recently committed to equal recognition procedures for all foreign-trained workers, while the debate is emerging in DE and at EU level.

    Labour migration countries generally do well at making residents part of the labour market, whatever its strengths and weaknesses. In Portugal, workers and families, whatever their nationality, have equal legal opportunities to change jobs and careers, serve the public, or start a business (as in NL, ES, SE, US). They have equal general support to find jobs (ES, SE) and equal rights on the job (as with CA, DE, NL, RO, SE on this dimension). Immigrants can learn how to use their rights in cases of exploitation through the National Immigrant Support Centre’s Legal Aid for Immigrants Office.

    Portugal improved more than any country in addressing immigrants’ specific job situations. The country outranks Spain, scoring 2nd behind SE (100). New policies may help them after the crisis to find the better jobs that they are qualified for and aspire to. While most recent labour migration countries overlook the specific problems of foreign-born and -trained workers, Portugal had average policies in place before 2007.

    MIPEX finds that the 2007–2009 National Plan for Immigrant Integration put in place slightly favourable targeted measures, similar to well-established immigration countries (e.g. CA, DE, NL). According to the Plan, immigrants and nationals should face the same opportunities accessing work, free of discrimination and administrative malpractice. Immigrants may see these objectives in practice, thanks to many targeted measures (see box), especially from the High Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI). Despite the crisis, ACIDI’s budget has grown from 6.8 to 12.27 million euros between 2008 and 2010. In the future, the Portuguese economy may benefit from the untapped economic potential of vulnerable groups such as immigrant women and youth (see first box). Foreign-trained workers may also have better access to the careers that match their skills (see second). The Plan’s official evaluation found that 80 to 89% of its objectives were met on work, employment, training and education. A new plan is being developed. To speed up immigrants’ (re)integration into the post-crisis labour market; Portugal could follow top-scoring SE’s new plans to train and open up public employment services. 

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    Legal conditions based on general societal conditions

    According to Ordinance No.760/2009, family reunion sponsors are temporarily asked to prove lower levels of basic subsidence. The reason is that the crisis forces everyone in Portugal to get by with less. Government considered that disproportionate effects of unemployment and temporary work on immigrants did not justify keeping their families apart. This exceptional solution will be evaluated yearly. Migrants in BE, ES and SE also benefited from this approach to monitor policies so that they do not undermine family life in society.

    Leading alongside CA, ES and SE, Portugal recognises that living in a family is a starting point for integration in society, even during the recession. This objective is clearly stated in the 2007–2009 Plan. Many new immigration countries have laws – if not fully operational practices – to promote both labour market mobility and family reunion. Transposing EU law in most countries provided non-EU families’ basic security and rights. Portugal provided not only the 2nd most secure and equal status (after CA) but also a more inclusive definition of the family. Today, newcomers still go through that same legal procedure, but with legal conditions keeping up with the changing conditions in society (see box). 

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    Areas for improvement

    Portugal could set obligatory quality standards for Portuguese courses (8 MIPEX countries score 100 %) and teach more immigrant languages (e.g. Bilingual Cape Verdean and Mandarin schools). Nordic countries work better with migrant parents to get them involved and get their children in pre-school. Teachers benefit from required training on migrants’ needs in DK, NL and UK. Countries including DK, DE, NO, SE experiment to diversify schools and teaching staffs. FR and LU use centres of expertise to assess newcomer pupils’ prior learning and make proper placements.

    With slightly favourable policies, Portugal goes further than other new immigration countries to promote societal integration in education, though still a weakness in its and most countries’ integration policies. Best on access (with US) and 5th on ‘international education’ (after UK, NO, NL, SE), all pupils, regardless of status, access school and support for disadvantaged families, while learning to live together in diversity. Where Portugal falls halfway is targeting new opportunities and needs (see box) that migrants bring to schools. They are entitled to learn Portuguese and to some extra support. Besides many ACIDI projects, the national programme of reference is Escolhas which, in its 3rd edition, worked with 780 partners and 81,695 beneficiaries, particularly disadvantaged immigrant youth. 

  • Show Political Participation

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    Immigrant leaders

    That Portugal’s consultation score improved when Lisbon reactivated its consultative body exposes the flaws in these newer bodies’ structures (see also IE, ES, US). Older bodies in Europe have become sustainable and proactive because they are immigrant-organised and chaired, as in NO, NL (national) and BE (Flanders). Immigrant NGOs in Portugal have the capacity for such roles within their communities, thanks to ongoing private and public support. For example, GATAI worked with the Consultative Council for Immigration Affairs to recognise immigrant associations, build capacity and expand networks.

    Foreign residents of Portugal have the best political opportunities of new immigration countries but only 7th overall. 11 MIPEX countries score better on voting rights, 6 on consultative bodies. The current system of voting only at local level (7 also open higher levels) based on reciprocity (used by only 3 MIPEX countries) will always be less effective for integration of all residents, no matter how many treaties can be signed (e.g. ES). Any proposal (as in 2007) requires constitutional reform, which could follow the Nationality Law approach (see later), opening conditions once reserved for Lusophone countries’ citizens. Immigrants are structurally consulted at all levels, but the State often takes the leading role (see box). 

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    2007 Immigration Law

    The law aimed to establish a legal regime fostering legal immigration. To be eligible for long-term residence, non-EU residents can count half their time studying, which follows international trends (AT, BE, ES). Conditions and rights better reflect changes in society (see earlier income requirement) and improvements in integration (see earlier qualification recognition). Applicants, who must know some Portuguese, also following trends, are slightly well supported to succeed. Assessments and ‘Portuguese for Everyone’ courses are basic, professional and rather inexpensive (e.g. CZ, FR, NO).

    Settled residents are becoming more secure in their status, as in most European countries. With wide parliamentary approval, 2007’s Immigration Law used the opportunity of implementing EU law to make better legal and transparent procedures. Long-term residence, once a slight weakness in national policies, substantially improved (+14, see also BE). Newcomers will see better eligibility provisions, conditions and rights, which are average in Europe (see box). The law sends an especially strong signal that all long-term residents can put down permanent roots in Portugal as their home. Authorities (as in 10 other countries) now protect many from deportation because Portugal is the country where they were born, lived since childhood, or are raising their children. 

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    Naturalisation rates

    Application and acceptance rates are used as indicators of the Nationality Law reform’s impact on integration. Since the reform, 5 times as many residents applied from 2006 to 2008, with most able to pass. These new Portuguese citizens are still largely from the settled communities from Portuguese-speaking countries. More are coming from newer countries of immigration (e.g. Moldova). Overall, the mix of new Portuguese citizens better reflects the changing ethnic diversity in the country. For more, see http://eudo-citizenship.eu

    2006’s Nationality Law raised Portugal’s MIPEX II score and emerged on MIPEX III’s expanded indicators as the most effective for integration in the 31 countries. Parliament unanimously approved a coherent approach to reform; Favourable conditions once reserved for people from Portuguese-speaking countries were opened to all residents speaking basic Portuguese. Meeting the conditions proves residents’ effective links to the national community. This entitles them to citizenship (as in 9 other MIPEX countries) as secure as for most Portuguese (8). Portugal’s path to citizenship follow trends in established and reforming countries (recently GR and LU, debated in IT and ES): short residence requirements (6 years or less in 8 others); some birthright citizenship (14); dual nationality (17). 

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    Portuguese anti-discrimination laws are the strongest in Southern Europe but less effective than in other leading countries (e.g. CA, SE, US, UK). These countries are reorganising their equally high-scoring enforcement mechanisms and equality bodies to make them more coherent and publically accessible. Potential victims in Portugal have a harder time bringing cases and getting decisions and sanctions. Procedures are still complex and lengthy (as in 19 other MIPEX countries). They lack clear definitions of multiple discrimination (e.g. UK) and racial profiling (e.g. FR, NL, US). Equality bodies cannot represent victims in all proceedings, unlike in 12. According to the 2007-2009 Immigrants’ Integration Plan’s evaluation, Portugal scored least well on implementing objectives in areas like racism and discrimination.