• Rank: 2 out of 38
  • MIPEX Score: 75
  • HEALTH 43

Key Findings

Changes in context

  • Economic crisis disproportionately affects overall employment rate, dropping over 7 points from 2008 to 2013 but improving in 2014, with continued investment in active labour market programmes
  • Recent destination country since 1990s: mostly emigration since the crisis (2/3 to EU countries, 1/3 mostly to non-EU PT-speaking countries) and sharp decline in immigration (mostly still from non-EU PT-speaking countries)
  • PT remains a country of integration with 3% non-EU citizens and large numbers of family reunions and naturalisations
  • Immigrant population is increasingly high-educated (25% of non-EU citizen population in 2013)
  • Shift in government from left-wing majority between 2007-2010 to right-wing majority since 2012
  • Highly positive attitudes towards immigrants both before and during economic crisis, with no extreme-right party in national elections

Key Common Statistics

Country of net migration since:% Non-EU citizens% Foreign-born% Non-EU of foreign-born% Non-EU university-educated % from low or medium-developed (HDI) country
UN 2010 data in 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013

Changes in policy

Despite the crisis and austerity, PT maintained its investment in integration and even worked to increase its reach and effectiveness. PT continues to climb ahead on MIPEX: +1 point from 2007 to 2010 during the start of the crisis; immigrants benefited from more realistic family reunion requirements and more targeted support to pursue jobs, training and recognition procedures. PT rose another +1 point from 2010 to 2014; more immigrants can access protections against domestic violence and expanded targeted employment programmes, e.g. Mentoring for Immigrants Programme. 

Moreover, PT's integration policies have been given a new overall focus after the crisis. The new mobility and social realities reconfirmed that PT is a country of emigration (both for PT and non-EU citizens now working abroad) and a country of integration (both for non-EU families settling long-term and PT citizens living in a more diverse society). As a result, the High Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue (ACIDI) was transformed into the High Commissioner for Migration (ACM). This shift adds new goals on the mobility, return and integration of PT citizens working abroad to its well-established work on integration and dialogue in PT with immigrant residents and youth and increasingly with local communities.

Conclusions and recommendations

Immigrant residents in PT still benefit from the 2nd most favourable integration policies in the developed world, ahead of most Nordics and traditional countries of immigration and leading the new destinations (far ahead of ES and IT). 

Its 'family friendly' immigration policies and its 2006 model for citizenship reform have clearly helped more immigrants to reunite with their family and become PT citizens, even during the crisis. The effects of PT's integration policies on outcomes in other areas are less clear, as data is missing for robust experiments and causal evaluations (see Northern Europe, Bilgili 2015). The available data, monitoring reports and qualitative evaluations suggest that many of PT’s targeted programmes (CNAI/CLAI, Escolhas) are reaching large numbers of immigrants in need. These programmes are then well-appreciated by beneficiaries, well-reviewed by EU institutions and even replicated by other countries. Moreover, the need is still strong for these integration policies. Former labour migrants have settled long-term with their newcomer family members and children, all with their own specific employment, education, family, health and local needs. 

More effective targeted, general and local policies may be needed for PT’s national policies to identify and reach the many potential beneficiaries in need, especially in disadvantaged areas. Integration stakeholders in PT are discussing these possibilities through their typically collaborative process of policymaking, now around the renewed national Integration Plan and new municipal plans. More accessible and responsive policies will likely require more resources e.g. for employment, education, health, equality policies and local services.

Policy Recommendations from the Centre for Geographical Studies, University of Lisbon

  • Invest in the intercultural competencies of public service providers, in particular educators, to improve access to and quality of services
  • Improve access to early years education for immigrant and low income families (focusing on bettering quality, language training and development services)
  • Promote dialogue with and participation of families in education with the goal of reinforcing cultural diversity teaching in schools, improving parental support, and increasing the social inclusion of families
  • Increase opportunities and the uptake of adult education and training with particular emphasis on providing work experience and professional placements for all skill levels, recovering and improving some good experiences from the past
  • Sensitize health service providers to improve responsiveness to the specific health and access needs of migrants


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Labour Market Mobility

Key Findings

Despite the crisis' economic setbacks, PT's immigration and integration policies provided a solid foundation for labour market integration over time; Both non-EU and PT citizens are guaranteed equal treatment and targeted support, though many may encounter problems to access the most effective policies

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants could be employed?

28% of working-age non-EU citizens were estimated not to be in employment, education and training during the crisis period (latest comparable data from 2011/2). This rate in PT was slightly lower than on average in Europe (1/3, e.g. IE, IT, SI) or in other countries disproportionately affected by the crisis (around 40% in ES, GR, LV). Among low vs. high-educated men and women, this rate was disproportionately higher among high-educated women (around 40%).

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

PT and other European countries are currently facing similar challenges to help immigrants get into employment, education and training. In response, PT does more than most countries to promote labour market integration over time, ranking 2nd after SE and improving +7 points since the start of the crisis. Non-EU citizens are an integrated part of the labour market, with all its strengths and weaknesses. Policies guarantee that PT and non-EU citizens are treated equally in jobs, education and training and that those with foreign degrees and work experience get targeted support to use their skills and start businesses in PT. Immigrants can benefit from targeted services and programmes, like its EU-award-winning National Immigrant Support Offices (the 'one-stop-shop model' for several other countries), 'Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship' (PEI), 'Mentors Program for Immigrants' (PMI, expanded in 2014) and an equal right to recognition of foreign degrees under Decree-Laws 341/2007 and 396/2007.

Dimension 1: Access to labour market

  • Workers and their families, whatever their nationality, have equal legal opportunities to change jobs and careers, serve the public, or start a business
  • PT is ranked 1st on equal access, alongside ES, FI, US and near-equal access in 9 others

Dimension 2: Access to general support

  • Workers and their families enjoy near-equal access to general support to activate, recognise and develop their skills in PT, ranked 6th like ES, CA, DE
  • All can access government services to help the unemployed find jobs in PT, as in most countries
  • Equal access to vocational education and training is guaranteed for long-term residents and family members and, after a short period, for temporary workers (similar policies in most countries) 
  • Equal access to study grants is guaranteed all immigrants from countries granting reciprocal treatment for the PT abroad (equal access also granted in GR/IT/ES, NO/SE, TU)
  • 2007 laws made it more easy and equitable for all PT and non-PT residents to get their foreign qualifications recognised (leading to +8 points on general support)
  • Specific obstacles can still emerge for non-EU citizens to recognise their foreign skills or qualifications in regulated professions (see other facilitated procedures in AU, CA and Northern Europe)

Dimension 3: Targeted support

  • Over the past decade, PT has developed targeted support for the foreign-skilled or -trained (+20 since 2007)
  • This support is ranked as 6th and more advanced than other recent destination countries (see box and equally favourable support in NZ and Northern Europe)
  • Other leading countries provide systematic diversity training for public sector and targeted work placement/subsidy programmes for high or low-skilled (see Nordics, DE, AU/CA/NZ)

Dimension 4: Workers' rights

  • PT and non-EU citizens should enjoy equal working conditions and equal rights as workers
  • Workers in need are generally guaranteed equal rights and benefits (e.g. income and housing support)
  • Equal rights are also the norm in 6 other leading countries (CA and Northern Europe) and, with just a few gaps, in 6 others

Policy Box

The National and Local Immigrant Support Centres (CNAI and CLAI) individually inform immigrants about their rights and opportunities and orients them to general and targeted services (with many in-house at CNAI). PT's One-Stop-Shop model has been copied across Europe and repeatedly recognised by the European Commission. Successful pilot projects have been expanded into more accessible programmes: Technical language and bridging courses in several sectors, Immigrant Job Centres Networks cooperating with local employment services, 'Promotion of Immigrant Entrepreneurship' (PEI) and, since 2014, the expanded 'Mentors Program for Immigrants' (PMI). For these programmes, PT's Integration Plans gave special attention to gender equality and immigrant youth in employment (see similar focus in Northern Europe). Overall, despite the economic crisis, funding for these targeted policies have been largely maintained through EU funds.

Real beneficiaries

Are immigrants acquiring new skills?

General and targeted employment policies had difficulties to reach non-EU citizens in need during the crisis period (2011/2 estimates). Working-age non-EU citizens rarely participate in adult education or training in PT. Uptake was estimated at 14% in 2011/2. This level rose to around 1/4 for high-educated men. These levels are slightly lower than on average in Europe but higher than in most Southern European countries (similar in ES, lower in IT, GR). Moreover, unemployment benefits are rarely available in PT or on average in Europe for unemployed non-EU citizen men and especially women. Only around 1/3 of working-age non-EU citizens reported receiving any unemployment benefit when unemployed in the previous year.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?

  • Declining employment rates and GDP growth in PT and most other Southern European countries
  • Relatively rigid employment protection legislation in PT and other Southern European countries 
  • Before crisis, majority of recent migrants coming with temporary work permits in PT as across Southern Europe 
  • Large numbers coming from PT-speaking countries

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants employed in qualified and well-paid jobs?

Despite PT's current economic difficulties, the country's immigration and integration policies provided a solid foundation for labour market integration over time. Even during the crisis in 2011/2, the majority of working-age people were working in PT (both high vs. low-educated, men vs. women, PT-born vs. long-settled non-EU-born i.e. 10+ years' stay). Long-settled non-EU immigrants had generally the same chances to be employed as the PT-born. Employment rates were similar for high-educated non-EU and PT-born (around 4/5) and for low-educated non-EU and PT-born (around 2/3). Only among low-educated men were the long-settled non-EU-born 10% less likely to be employed than low-educated PT-born men. 

Differences in the quality of employment is the long-term challenge for labour market integration in PT, though less so than on average in Europe. Among the long-settled non-EU-born, the high-educated workers are slightly more likely to work in jobs below the level of their qualifications. Though these levels are only 33% higher for the long-settled non-EU-born in PT, as opposed to 2 times higher on average in Europe. Low-educated non-EU workers are twice as likely to experience in-work poverty, with wages and benefits below the level of their social needs. This affects an estimated 27% of the long-settled non-EU-born. These gaps and levels are average in Europe. 

Evidence base

What do we learn from robust studies?

To tackle employment quality, international research suggests that the most effective policies are the formal recognition of foreign degree, obtaining a new domestic degree and/or work placements/subsidies and needs-based benefits.

Family Reunion

Key Findings

Many non-EU families were able to reunite together, despite the crisis, and treated equally as PT families under the most 'family-friendly' policies among developed countries

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants are potentially living in transnational couples?

4.5% of non-EU adult citizens are likely living in internationally separated couples and thus potential sponsors for family reunion, according to 2011/2 estimates. They are married/partnered but not living in the same household with their partner. Transnational couples are one of the main potential beneficiaries for family reunion, but they are rarely identified through statistics and assisted to reunite. This estimate of the number of separated couples in PT is similar to several other recent countries of labour migration (e.g. GR, IE, IT). 

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants reunite with family?

PT and ES rank as the most 'family-friendly' countries for their residents to reunite with spouses and children separated abroad. Much like the traditional countries of immigration (AU, CA, NZ), PT recognised that living in a family is a starting point for integration in society, even during the recession. This objective was clearly stated in government integration strategies. Equal treatment is guaranteed for PT and non-EU families. Reuniting families are provided not only with equal rights and the 2nd most secure status, but also with the inclusive definition of the family that applies in PT society. Although the costs of the procedure have become high by PT standards, families were not unnecessarily kept apart by the income requirement as it kept up with the changing labour market and social conditions. Since 2012, PT law also guaranteed a more secure status for vulnerable non-EU families in PT.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Most 'family-friendly' definitions in IT (also favourable in 6 others i.e. ES)
  • Temporary residents can reunite with their close family, reflecting the inclusive definitions of the family in PT law and society
  • PT slightly delays family's reunion and integration, with a 1-year waiting period for most sponsors to apply (as in 10 countries vs. none in 14 i.e. IT)
  • Sponsors demonstrating a basic legal income and housing can reunite with their spouse or partner, minor children and any dependent adult children or parents/grandparents

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Sponsors must have legal requirements that reflect the general societal conditions, higher fees may be disproportionate for low-income families 
  • Since Ordinance No.760/2009, the level of basic subsistence required has been lowered to reflect the fact that the crisis forces everyone in PT to get by with less; Government considered that disproportionate effects of unemployment and temporary work on immigrants did not justify keeping their families apart.  
  • Even so, permits have become potentially costly, depending on their duration (up to nearly 300€ by 2014 as opposed to 25€ in ES or MT)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Reuniting families can be secure about making PT their future home, with PT ranked 2nd after ES
  • Families' permits are as long and renewable as their sponsor's in PT and 18 other countries
  • Families only face rejections and withdrawals in cases of public security threats, proven fraud or family breakup under certain circumstances
  • Their personal and family circumstances will play in their favour, as required by EU law

Dimension 4: Rights associated

  • Reunited family members enjoy the same rights as their sponsor to participate in society, with PT top-ranked among CA, NO and ES
  • As in the majority of countries, adult family members in PT have equal access to work and social benefits, such as education/training, social security and housing
  • Adult family members enjoy a relatively clear path to become autonomous residents themselves, with specific protections in case of divorce, widowhood or death
  • Victims of domestic violence are better protected within reunited families, following Law 29/2012

Real beneficiaries

Are families reuniting?

7,821 family members were able to reunite with their non-EU sponsor in PT in 2013. With the onset of the crisis, many non-EU families chose to reunite with their non-EU sponsor (often former labour migrants) in PT, with similar trends observed in other former countries of labour migration in Southern Europe (ES, IT, GR). Over the years, the numbers slowly declined from 17,000 in 2008 down to 11-12,000 in 2009-2011. Today, non-EU family reunion only accounts for 1 in 4 newly arrived immigrants to PT in the year 2013. Newcomer families come from all over the globe, representing PT's major countries of immigration. In PT as in most Southern European countries, the majority of arriving family members are children, followed by spouses/partners (mostly women). (esp. BE, CZ, EE, FI and Southern European countries). Other family members, including the elderly over 65+, are also able to reunite in small but significant numbers in PT.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants reunite with family?

  • Many newcomers recently settling down with family in Nordics and Southern Europe
  • Most with eligible temporary permits to sponsor
  • Most from developing countries and thus more likely to reunite

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants reunite with family?

Non-EU families were slightly more likely to reunite in PT than on average in Western Europe with rates around 3.1-3.5 from 2009-2011. In 2012 and 2013, non-EU family reunion rates in PT were slightly below the average for Western Europe. These reuniting families are generally representative of the PT's non-EU population. Overall, non-EU families, regardless of nationality, have been more likely to reunite in countries with inclusive family reunion policies, such as PT, IT, ES and the Nordic and Benelux countries.


Key Findings

Slightly ahead in its approach to immigrant pupils, PT's challenge is to reach all pupils in need, effectively address any underlying obstacles, and use school as a vehicle for societal integration involving parents and pupils from all communities and neighbourhoods 

Potential Beneficiaries

How many pupils have immigrant parents?

As family reunion continues, a growing number of pupils in PT are 1st generation born abroad (3.6%) or 2nd generation born in PT (3.5%), according to the 2012 OECD PISA survey of 15-year-olds. This share is on par with IT and slightly below other large new destinations, such as IE and ES. Around 3/4 of 1st/2nd generation speak PT at home with their parents.

Policy Indicators

Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?

Across the globe, education systems are relatively slow and weak at adapting to the needs and opportunities of immigrant pupils. Ranking 6th, PT is slightly ahead in its approach to access, intercultural education and targeting specific needs in school (PLNM and ACIDI cooperation with Schools/Ministry) and outside school (Escolhas). This basic support is not enough to turn this weakness into a strength for PT's 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 that migrants bring to schools. The challenge now is to reach all pupils in need across all types of schools, effectively address any underlying obstacles for disadvantaged pupils, and use school as a vehicle for societal integration involving parents and pupils from all communities/neighbourhoods.

Dimension 1: Access

  • Ranking 3rd on access, PT is one of the few countries developing basic support to help immigrant pupils to access pre-primary, vocational and higher education or to prevent them from dropping out (see also US, Nordics)
  • Newcomer pupils' knowledge and abilities are assessed by schools and head teachers (see use of outside experts in FR and LU)
  • Pupils arriving as children with undocumented parents still face obstacles to access and complete vocational and work-based learning (see FR, GR, NL, ES)
  • Stronger support to complete compulsory education, e.g. through Escolhas (now in 5th generation) and ACM Programmes, such as 'award of intercultural school'
  • Support is more ad hoc in vocational and higher education

Dimension 2: Targeting needs

  • PT schools can receive a slightly favourable range of support to target immigrant pupils' specific learning needs
  • Intercultural mediators and support staff are available to inform and orient newcomer parents about schools
  • These pupils are entitled to learn Portuguese and to some extra support for pupils in disadvantaged areas through the national programme of reference is Escolhas, now in closer cooperation with schools
  • 'PT as a 2nd language' (PLNM) is supposed to take pupils' individual characteristics into account, but schools set their own quality standards for this curriculum (see more binding guidance in 12 other countries)
  • Teachers can find some training and materials on immigrant pupils' needs

Dimension 3: New opportunities

  • Schools are recommended to support initiatives to teach immigrants their mother tongues, e.g. in school after normal day or on the weekend
  • Pupils are recommended to learn about immigrants' cultures during Citizenship Education
  • Ad hoc projects to involve immigrant parents in school (see also Nordics)
  • While 2012 TEIP3 programme requires the monitoring of immigrant pupils' segregation into different schools, no large-scale measures to promote mixed schools, classrooms and teaching staff (a few promising initiatives in AU/CA/NZ, Nordics, BE/NL, DE/CH)

Dimension 4: Intercultural education

  • Schools receive slightly favourable support to implement intercultural education in PT, ranked 8th below AU, NZ and Northern European countries
  • Young people should be able to learn both inside and outside school about how to live and work together in a diverse society
  • The appreciation of cultural diversity is a priority across the curriculum for the Education Ministry and outside school for ACM, each with a mandate to guide and monitor this process in their respective area
  • Schools and teachers decide whether or not to adapt the curriculum and school day to local diversity or to attend available short-term trainings on intercultural education

Real beneficiaries

Are pupils with limited literacy getting remedial courses?

According to one indicator, targeted support may be reaching the large majority of low-literacy pupils, regardless of their background. 2/3 of low-literacy 15-year-olds, both with and without an immigrant background, are enrolled in extra out-of-school literacy support in PT, according to the 2012 PISA study. These high levels of support are the most equitable among OECD countries and one of the highest, alongside FI and SE. Low-literacy immigrant pupils are more likely to benefit in countries such as PT, where these courses are generally available for all pupils and where their targeted education policies are strong for migrants.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?

  • Few pupils with low-educated mothers are concentrated in disadvantaged schools in PT
  • Around 3/4 of 1st/2nd generation speak PT at home
  • 1/4 of foreign-born pupils arrive after age 12 in PT (2012 PISA data)
  • Student-teacher ratios relatively low in PT 

Outcome indicators

How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?

Both 1st and 2nd generation pupils with low-educated mothers are significantly more likely to be math low-achievers on PISA tests than PT pupils with low-educated mothers. While these numbers were relatively high among PT pupils with low-educated mothers (30%), they were 2 times higher among both the 1st generation (62%) and 2nd generation (48%) with low-educated mothers (62%). While PT makes similar progress as most countries from one generation to the next, the gaps between 2nd generation and PT pupils remains large in PT as well as GR, IT, ES and most other Western European countries. The language spoken at home is not a major factor determining these gaps in a country like PT. These gaps may be due to other individual and social factors, the general structure of the PT education system or weaknesses within PT's current approach to targeted education policies.


Key Findings

Migrant health – a new area of investigation in MIPEX – has become a major area of weakness for PT. Following the economic crisis, migrant patients can encounter more administrative obstacles to exercising their entitlements and less responsive health services

Policy Indicators

Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?

Health – a new area of investigation in MIPEX – has become an area of weakness for PT's integration policies as a result of austerity policies. PT's migrant health policies are only halfway favourable to properly treat all types of migrant patients. Its traditionally inclusive entitlements and exemptions in law have been undermined by problems of documentation and discretion. While eligible migrant patients receive some support to access services, health services and policies are slow to adapt to address any of their specific health/access needs in PT, similar to other recent destination countries facing economic challenges.

Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE. 

Dimension 1: Entitlements

  • Problems with documentation and discretion since the economic crisis mean that especially undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers have rather weak healthcare entitlements in PT, ranked 33rd out of 38 countries
  • All at-risk groups are supposed to be guaranteed equal access (e.g. babies and young children, pregnant women, trafficking victims, incapacitated and cases of vaccination and infectious diseases)
  • All legal migrants with a residence permit and health card enjoy equal access to same healthcare coverage after residing in PT for 90 days
  • Asylum seekers must satisfy certain criteria to access most health services 
  • Under 2001 law, undocumented migrants can access 'urgent and life-saving health care' once they can prove 90 day's residence in PT and their 'social exclusion or financial need'
  • These entitlements in law have been undermined by new administrative requirements adopted during the austerity period
  • Documentation may be complicated for all migrant patients at health centres as well as for undocumented patients to obtain proof of ‘economic insufficiency’
  • Discretion allows administrators to decide whether asylum-seekers and undocumented patients have to pay for the costs themselves and whether the undocumented need 'urgent and life-saving health care'

Dimension 2: Access policies

  • Migrant patients able to use their entitlements can expect some targeted support to access health services, with PT's policies ranked 10th
  • Multiple methods and languages are used to inform all categories of migrants about entitlements and the use of health services through the ACM/CNAI/CLAI and refugee NGOs
  • Cultural mediators are available in a few public services, but no longer in health centres and hospitals (see continued support in 18 other countries)
  • Notwithstanding administrative obstacles for undocumented patients, they should not be reported by healthcare professionals or lead to sanctions for providers (similar in e.g. FR, IT, ES, CH, NL, US)

Dimension 3: Responsive services

  • During the crisis, health policymakers and practitioners ended several recent targeted policies to make services more responsive to migrant patients
  • For years, immigrants doctors and nurses were able to benefit from professional integration programmes 
  • Migrants used to be involved in services on an ad hoc basis through the cultural mediators programme, cultural sensitivity training, and consultation with the former High Commissariat for Health 
  • Support for more responsive services is now limited in PT, ranked 21st, alongside other recent destinations facing economic challenges (e.g. ES, CZ, RO)
  • Today, staff can still use free telephone-based interpretation and ad hoc trainings  
  • No specific standards exist on cultural and linguistic competence in the healthcare system

Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change

  • Migrant health is weakly addressed on an ad hoc basis in PT, with basic policies close to what is average in Western Europe (see stronger approach to mainstreaming migrant health in NO, EN-speaking countries and, to some extent, IT and ES)
  • Policy-relevant research exists in PT on migrants' healthcare access and needs mostly through academics and funded by the National Science Foundation, EU and private funds 
  • Equitable healthcare for migrant patients is a specific topic in integration plans and strategies, but not a priority for health policy or a specific obligation for all departments and service-providers

Political Participation

Key Findings

PT is promoting non-EU immigrants' political participation in policy and practice 

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?

Ranked 4th, PT is promoting non-EU immigrants' political participation through innovative support and local/national consultative bodies. These policies have helped to build immigrant civil society in this relatively recent destination country. Although local voting rights remain uneven and consultative bodies state-led.

Dimension 1: Electoral rights

  • PT's current system of voting rights is only halfway favourable given its diversity of non-EU residents
  • 8 other countries have more expansive voting rights than PT (e.g. IE, NZ, Nordics)
  • Only PT and ES base non-EU voting rights on reciprocity 
  • Generally all non-EU citizens with long-term residence or a few years' stay are eligible to vote in local elections (a slight majority) and sometimes at regional level (9 countries)
  • Any proposal (as in 2007) requires constitutional reform, which could follow the approach of the 2006 Nationality Law by opening conditions once reserved for certain nationalities

Dimension 2: Political liberties

  • All residents in PT can exercise their basic political liberties in PT as in the vast majority of countries

Dimension 3: Consultative bodies

  • Immigrants are structurally consulted by authorities at all levels, but the State often takes the leading role 
  • COCAI at national level and bodies at local level, e.g. Lisbon Council of Immigrant Communities and Ethnic Minorities
  • As in PT, bodies in recent countries of immigration tend to be government-led and -appointed limited in independence, as opposed to stronger bodies in DK, FI, BE (VL)

Dimension 4: Implementation policies

  • PT strongly informs and supports immigrants to participate politically through favourable implementation policies, similar to NZ, SE, KR (and generally favourable in 13 others)
  • Immigrant NGOs in PT have the capacity for such roles within their communities, thanks to ongoing private and public support. GATAI works with the Consultative Council for Immigration Affairs to recognise immigrant associations, build capacity, expand their networks and provide small-scale grants

Real beneficiaries

How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?

As immigrants naturalise, PT is becoming one of the most inclusive democracies among countries of immigration. By 2012, nearly 2/3 of non-EU-born adults had become citizens in PT, a high level for a new country of immigration. The levels of democratic inclusion are more uneven among non-EU citizens. By 2011, 15,656 non-EU citizens had registered to vote or 12.9% of non-EU adults (aged 20+), according to national data sources. Voter registration rates were higher among citizens of CV (36%), AR (15%) and NO (14%) and lower among citizens of BR (5%). 

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become politically active?

  • Low numbers of university-educated among PT and non-EU citizens 
  • Most non-EU immigrants from PT-speaking countries
  • Generally lower levels of civic engagement in Southern Europe
  • Most relative newcomers in PT, as across Southern Europe
  • Increasing naturalisation rates likely to boost political participation in various ways

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants participating in political life?

PT is promoting the political participation of non-EU immigrants, whose participation rates are even sometimes higher than for the PT-born. Data collected over the 2000s suggests whether people in PT take part in a political party, association, petition, demonstration or contacting a politician. While 15% of PT-born are politically active in some way, that rate rises to 25% of the long-settled non-EU-born (10+ years' stay). Political participation rates were low and similar among the low-educated, whether PT-born or long-settled non-EU-born. 

Permanent Residence

Key Findings

Many long-settled non-EU citizens quickly move on to become PT citizens rather than become or remain long-term residents; A clearer and better known path to EU long-term residence could improve the integration and mobility opportunities for immigrants unable or uninterested to naturalise as dual citizens

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become long-term residents?

Despite PT's reputation as a 'new' country of immigration, an estimated 3/4 of non-EU citizens have lived there the 5+ years to qualify for long-term residence, according to 2011/2 estimates. By now, most non-EU citizens are settled in Europe's 'new' countries of immigration (e.g. GR, IE, PT, ES), as is common across Europe. Men are slightly more likely to qualify in PT, as the majority of reuniting spouses are women.

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?

The path to become long-term residents in PT is slightly clear for temporary residents and ranked 8th out of 38, closer to the European average. Long-term residence, once a slight weakness in national policies, substantially improved under the 2007 Immigration Law. With wide parliamentary approval, the law used the opportunity of implementing EU law to make better legal and transparent procedures, with the aim to establish a legal regime fostering legal immigration. This law introduced average eligibility rules and conditions compared to other European countries. During the crisis, the income requirement was made more flexible to reflect the economic text, but fees were also raised.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Since 2007, temporary residents enjoy average eligibility rules to become long-term residents, based on EU law
  • Most temporary residents have the right to become permanent residents after 5 years (slightly sooner under a few national schemes in a few other countries e.g. HU, Nordics)
  • Non-EU residents can count half their time studying, which follows international trends (e.g. AT, BE, ES)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Since 2007, immigrants face conditions to become long-term residents that better reflect the changes in society, although the costs are becoming high by PT standards 
  • Applicants, who must know A2-level Portuguese, also following trends, are slightly well supported to succeed through ‘Portuguese for Everyone’ (PTT) free courses and assessments at basic costs (e.g. CZ, FR, IT, NO), although more vulnerable groups could be exempt (see Nordics)
  • Immigrants could meet a more flexible income requirement under Decree 760/2009, due to immigrants' exceptional circumstances of involuntary unemployment
  • However fees were then raised in PT, as in other countries facing austerity (e.g. CZ, ES)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Immigrants becoming long-term residents are slightly secure in their status in PT, ranking 5th similar to IT and ES
  • Long-term residents enjoy a permanent status, renewable every 5 years, with the right to live/work abroad for long periods
  • The 2007 law sent a strong signal that all long-term residents can put down permanent roots in PT as their home; Authorities (as in a dozen MIPEX countries) now protect many from deportation because PT is the country where they were born, lived since childhood or are raising their children
  • Law 29/2012 strengthened the grounds for refusal and withdrawal for non-EU citizens convicted to >1 year's imprisonment even when it is suspended

Dimension 4: Rights Associated

  • Long-term residents can work, study and live in the country with the same social and economic rights as citizens in PT, as in 29 other countries

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are long-term residents?

56,315 were long-term residents in PT in 2013, according to national statistics. For example, 2,432 men and 845 women obtained EU long-term residence in 2013.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become long-term residents?

  • Large majority of non-EU citizens in PT for 5+ years
  • Most residents with eligible permits
  • Workers reuniting with family are unlikely to return
  • Long-term residence is an alternative for immigrants unable or uninterested to become dual citizens in PT, given its facilitated path to citizenship

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become long-term residents?

While most non-EU citizens are potentially eligible to become long-term residents, only a reported 18% were national or EU long-term residents in 2013, according to data reported to Eurostat. Several explanations are possible for this gap. Most importantly, long-term and temporary residents can easily naturalise as PT citizens since 2006. A similar trend is observed in other countries facilitating permanent residence and naturalisation (BE, LU, SE). An additional possible reason is that the opportunities for EU long-term residence may not be clear or known by temporary residents in PT (e.g. family members with dependent or independent status, former international students, workers, beneficiaries of international protection). Becoming long-term residents is a viable alternative for the integration of immigrants unable or unwilling to naturalise as dual citizens (e.g. CN or IN citizens).

Access to Nationality

Key Findings

2006 Nationality Law is model for citizenship reform boosting naturalisation and integration outcomes

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become a citizen?

Over an estimated 2/3 of the non-EU citizens in PT have lived there long enough to be eligible to apply for PT citizenship, according to 2011/2 data. This share of potential citizens is comparable to other European countries, including new destinations like GR and IT.

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become citizens?

2006’s Nationality Law raised PT's MIPEX score and emerged as the most effective for integration in all 38 countries. Parliament approved without votes against, but with some abstentions, a coherent model for citizenship in today's world of mobility; the favourable conditions once reserved for people from PT-speaking countries were opened to all residents speaking basic Portuguese. PT's path to citizenship follows the trends in established and reforming countries (recently LU, CZ, DK and debated in IT and GR): short residence requirements, citizenship entitlements for children, A2-language skills and dual nationality.  

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Immigrants are eligible for citizenship under favourable rules in PT, similar to those in AU, CA, FR, DE, IE and UK
  • The path to citizenship begins after 6 years for ordinary immigrants and 3 years for spouses of citizens, which is relatively flexible and average for European countries
  • Several entitlements for children guarantee that those born or raised in PT are not excluded (see box)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Ordinary immigrants are encouraged and able to meet the clear legal requirements
  • Immigrants must respect the law and speak basic Portuguese level (A2-level, most common in Europe), which the state encourages through free courses and, until 2014, free tests
  • They must also pay a 250€ fee, high by PT standards, unless they know to apply for means-tested fee waivers

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Since 2006, immigrants experience a short (4 months) and objective procedure based a conditional right to PT citizenship
  • Before, applicants could be rejected by authorities for vague reasons; Under the 2006 law, immigrants prove their effective links to the Portuguese community by meeting the legal requirements
  • They are entitled to a citizenship as secure as for all other PT citizens

Dimension 4: Dual nationality

  • Dual nationality is embraced in PT and in a majority of destinations in Europe and abroad (24 other MIPEX countries, recently CZ, DK, PL)

Policy Box

Children born in PT are entitled to its citizenship at birth if their parents were living there legally for 5 years (i.e. the second generation) or born in PT (i.e. the third generation). Others gain this right after their first cycle of compulsory education. Foreign-born children must naturalise with or after their parents. 

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

10,851 non-EU citizens naturalised in 2012. Since the reform, the total number of naturalisations has risen from 2,000-4,000 per year before 2006 to 21,000-24,000 per year since 2007. These new PT citizens are still largely from the settled communities from PT-speaking countries. More are coming from more recent countries of origin (e.g. MD). Overall, the mix of new PT citizens better reflects the changing ethnic diversity of the country.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?

  • Pre-crisis immigrants now long-settled and eligible for citizenship
  • Most from less developed countries and likely to naturalise
  • Majority from PT-speaking countries
  • 80% from countries allowing dual nationality

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become citizens?

PT's favourable citizenship policies are the strongest factor determining its strong naturalisation outcomes. Since the reform, PT has enjoyed above-average naturalisation rates for non-EU citizen men and women, similar to several North-western European countries and far above the rates in IT, FR or ES. By 2012, nearly 2/3 of non-EU-born adults had become citizens in PT, a high level for a new country of immigration. Naturalising immigrants are rather representative of the non-EU community in terms of their age, gender and origins. Naturalisation is an equitable and normal part of immigrants' integration in PT.  Rates are slightly below average for non-EU elderly over 65 compared to other European countries.


Key Findings

Time for enforcement: Non-reporting of discrimination cases is the norm across Europe; PT's favourable laws, enforcement mechanisms and equality policies, ranked 4th internationally, need to reach out to the small but important number of potential victims in order to inform and support them to take the 1st steps in the long path to justice

Potential Beneficiaries

Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?

Comparable 2012 data suggests that 2.8% of people in PT felt that last year they had been discriminated against or harassed based on their ethnic (2.2%) or religious (0.7%) background. This estimate of the number of potential victims is relatively small but significant for PT's anti-discrimination and integration policies.

Policy Indicators

Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?

PT's anti-discrimination laws, enforcement mechanisms and equality policies are the strongest in Southern Europe and internationally, ranking 4th. Other leading countries (e.g. CA, SE, US, UK) have been reorganising their equally high-scoring enforcement mechanisms and equality bodies to make them more coherent and accessible to the public. In comparison, PT's relatively recent laws and policies may be too poorly known or resourced to get potential victims to regularly report discrimination. 

Dimension 1: Definitions

  • The public can better understand and report discrimination through PT's strong legal definitions, ranked 5th alongside countries like FI/SE
  • Wide range of actors cannot discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality (similar grounds in 20 other countries)
  • Victims lack clear definitions of multiple discrimination (e.g. AT, CA, DE, UK, US) and racial profiling (e.g. FR, NL, US)

Dimension 2: Fields of application

  • Everyone is generally protected against ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination in all areas of life in PT and 15 other countries across the globe

Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms

  • The mechanisms to enforce the law are generally strong but newer than in other top-scoring countries (more like BG/HU/RO than like NL/US)
  • Victims bringing forward a case can benefit from sharing the burden of proof, financial aid and interpreters and the support of equality NGOs as well as class actions and actio popularis
  • Potential victims in PT can still have a hard time bringing cases and getting decisions and sanctions, as procedures can be complex and lengthy, which is a problem in the majority of countries
  • Situation testing and better statistics could be used as supporting evidence in court (see 13 other countries)

Dimension 4: Equality policies

  • The public can turn to the 2nd strongest equality bodies and policies for information, advice and action on discrimination and equal treatment 
  • Equality bodies (CEARD, High Commission, UAVIDRE) have many powers to support victims, except to represent them in proceedings, unlike in around a dozen countries 
  • Public bodies are supposed to inform the public, promote equality through the work and coordinate together through regular Integration and Equality Plans

Real beneficiaries

How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?

Discrimination cases and reporting is not registered and compiled into statistics in PT, which makes it difficult to evaluate potential victims' access to justice. For example, data from PT was incomplete on the number of ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination received every year by PT's equality bodies.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases

  • <1/3 of general public know their rights as discrimination victims in PT, also low across Southern Europe with low-scoring laws and access to justice (AT, DE, LU, EE/LV, mostly Central and Southern Europe)
  • Generally lower levels of trust in police and justice system in Southern Europe
  • Mostly newcomers in new country of immigration, though increasing numbers of naturalised citizens who are more likely to report discrimination incidents

Outcome indicators

How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?

Few complaints are made compared to the large number of people reportedly experiencing incidents of racial/ethnic or religious discrimination. This seems especially true in countries with strong but relatively new and poorly resourced anti-discrimination laws and bodies. Better data for more countries will confirm whether potential victims are more likely to report discrimination in the countries with stronger anti-discrimination laws, equality policies and bodies. What is clear is that most countries have not even taken the first steps to properly enforce and resource their anti-discrimination laws in order to guarantee the same access to justice for potential discrimination victims as they do for victims of other crimes and illegal acts.