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Portugal gives migrants and asylum-seekers full citizenship rights during COVID-19 outbreak

7immigration citizenThe Government has determined that all immigrants with pending residence permit applications with the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) are for now to be given access to the same rights as all other citizens, including social benefits. The new measure also covers asylum-seekers.

The order, published last Friday night, states that a SEF scheduling document or the receipt of a letter notifying one of the order serves as temporary citizenship proof, as well as the so-called expressions of interest or requests issued by the service’s online platforms. These documents “are considered valid for all public services, namely to obtain access to the National Health Service or other health care rights, access to social support benefits, signing of lease contracts, signing of employment contracts, opening bank accounts, and utilising essential public services ”. It was on later on Friday that the SEF later clarified that this will only function as a temporary authorization, with the expiry date yet to be declared.

The SEF order was first published by national newspaper Diário da República, asserting that the goal of the new measure was to “unequivocally guarantee the rights of all foreign citizens with processes pending.”

Speaking to the PÚBLICO news agency, the Minister of Internal Administration, Eduardo Cabrita, who oversees the SEF, said: “In a State of Emergency, the priority is the defence of collective health and safety. It is in these moments that it becomes even more important to guarantee the rights of the most fragile, as is the case of migrants. Ensuring the access of migrant citizens to health, social security and job and housing stability is a duty of a solidary society in times of crisis”.

The SEF has not yet provided the number of immigrants with pending applications. But, Mr. Cabrita clarified that current pending citizenship application through this service will resume from July 1st in chronological order. In other words, citizenship requests made to SEF haven’t simply been thrown out, they will resume when services return to normal. Applicants will have to wait for some form of contact from the SEF to receive their rescheduled appointments, the press office said.

According to a recent government directive, permanent visas for living in Portugal whose validity period expired after 24 February have also been extended, and are now valid until the 30th of June.

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