Complaints against SEF triple

By Kim Schiffmann, in News · 06-03-2020 01:00:00 · 14 Comments

The Complaint Portal (Portal da Queixa) continues to see a significant increase in the number of complaints addressed to the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF).

The largest social network of consumers in Portugal, found that, at the beginning of 2020, complaints registered against SEF tripled compared to the same period last year.

According to the statistical analysis of the Portal da Queixa team, between 1 January and 29 February 2020, 126 complaints were sent to the platform about SEF, while in the same period of 2019, only 50 complaints were received. The average of the data reveals that, in the analysed period, at least two complaints were made against the SEF per day.

In 2019, there were a total of 707 complaints, an increase of 128 percent compared to 2018 (total of 310 complaints).
The delay in the delivery of documents and problems with scheduling continue to be the main reasons for complaints, and both are related to the process of expression of interest by foreigners to settle in the country.

According to the data analysed, only in 2020, of the 119 registered complaints, 63 are related to the issue of the intention to regularise. In 2019, there were only six complaints related to the same topic.

For Pedro Lourenço, CEO of Portal da Queixa: “The phenomenon of increased complaints against SEF can be seen as natural, since the number of foreigners in Portugal has increased. However, it also reveals that the Complaint Portal is accessible and intuitive, being the platform sought by foreign citizens to expose their questions, share experiences and see complaints made by other people.”

The SEF page on the Complaint Portal reflects the dissatisfaction of consumers looking for the service, since it has a Satisfaction Index of only 12.5 out of 100 and, in the last 12 months, has a response rate of 10.8 percent and a solution rate of 11.2 percent.

“Inevitably, the lack of response from SEF to complaints generates a negative reputation for the service, even with the Complaint Portal offering all its features free of charge to public entities, in order to promote trust in public services. Institutions like IMT and IEFP already use the Complaint Portal in this way”, stresses Pedro Lourenço.

It should be noted that the Portal da Queixa implemented a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project aimed at public management entities. The objective is to provide state agencies with free access to a set of services and special conditions through the platform, namely to improve the performance of bodies in managing complaints and communicating with consumers.


It was almost impossible to get the SEF representative over the phone as the information that I was looking for wasn't on their website. After 3 months of trying literally I finally managed to speak to someone, unfortunately, they gave me incomplete information and my travel from Lisbon to Guarda was for waste of time and money. Because of their incompliance and incompetence, I will have to miss a very important business opportunity.

By Aleks from Lisbon on 15-05-2021 05:47

I have tried dozens of times online and by phone to reach SEF to set up an appointment to extend my residence permit to a residence visa with absolutely no luck whatsoever. I went to the SEF office by Casa de Musica and, even though there was a woman there, she told me I could only make an appointment online or by phone. The phone rings and then drops the call. How do you ever reach these people? I have never encountered anything this bad in any country!

By Blonnie from Porto on 04-05-2021 10:50

I want to understand why sef offices would be opened online but then there will be no dates to book your appointment, it doesn’t make any sense and application had been accepted since may and till now no dates to book it ..

By Papi from Porto on 03-02-2021 01:39

People who have positive experiences are perhaps a bit insensitive to the fact that they are a very fortunate minority (good for you!) and therefore aren't adding much value with their lack of empathy or subjective comments like "people like to complain". Glad that your experience has been "perfect" but as the majority of comments made here would affirm, by and large, the lack of efficiency, responsiveness or accountability of SEF processes and leadtimes are clearly a problem for most people (like myself) who are often hardworking, taxpaying, and trying to build a foundation and life here in Portugal. My first experience with SEF was indeed positive and smooth. That was about 1.5yrs ago since which time I am still waiting for my residency to be processed. In this time, SEF has become unreachable by phone or email; the SAPA system has had scheduling issues for months; filing a complaint through the available channel is virtually impossible and a complete waste of time; and the cited "increase in foreigners" is simply no longer true since the breakout of COVID-19.

By Solonia Teodros from Lisbon on 09-09-2020 02:32

I cannot even make a complaint on this site, because the form for registratuon only works in you have a Facebook account. I don't. I tried to register with the "alternative", with my email address, and it doesn't work. Like so much at SEF. Nobody bothered to test it. They must have monkeys working in their IT department. Or maybe pondlife.

By Judith Carol Irwin from Beiras on 06-09-2020 04:33

Moved house 7 months ago and need to change address on driving license which will happen automatically when address on residency card is changed.
Email sent to SEF,got automated reply 2 months ago and still waiting for a human response.

By Peter Shepherd from Lisbon on 21-08-2020 08:55

First of all, is SEF working now or not ??
I heard a lot of rumors that SEF will be closed for couple of months for summer vacation.
Is this true ??? Appreciate if you have quick response... we are waiting for many months for residence card please do needful

By Priya from Porto on 20-07-2020 11:15

I am losing it, I am trying to make a appointment, called many many times send e several time emails!!!

iam working and living in Portugal, iam without my partner for 6 months now!!!
iam working full-time i pay taxes!!

but cant stay without my partner!!
i am
considering to leave this country!!!

this is is not making any sense!!!!

By Mohamed Bartoutouh from Lisbon on 14-07-2020 01:43

Service almost non existent even if go to SEF Office they insist you call or email to make appointment, which is never answered nor addressed. Actually worse than some third world countries I’ve been in.

By Kai from Madeira on 12-06-2020 04:11

Bom dia,

Can you tell me which SEF location has the most complaints? I do not want to register with the slowest SEF office all over again...They never even looked at my files for 5 months in The Azores. I look forward to hearing back from you.


By Rogerio Barone from Other on 11-03-2020 04:06

Took SEF 11 months to renew my Visa residence card. First they needed 4 separate appointments for my family (not allowed to group appointments any more) on separate days. Applied end-January, received end-December. Kept saying they didn't have all the documents even though my lawyer sent it to them multiple times. Probably a stalling tactic. Eventually he sent it registered mail rather than using the electronic system. Waste of time & energy.

By Joe from Lisbon on 08-03-2020 09:47

I am the sufferer by SEF as well. Since i entered in Portugal with valid schengen visa.I am having valid job offer and my employer paying social taxes every month.Everything is according to the law to get temporary residence permit but still i am waiting the terrible time consuming period is the worst and frustrating for me.

I am almost waitng 14 months and waiting for my finger print then it will take almost 16 months . Thats the most horrible situation in my life.

By Johan from Lisbon on 06-03-2020 05:10

I hate to complain. But it took SEF 18 months to approve my initial residence visa, though there was nothing unusual about my case. More recently, they were proud that it was "only" taking four months to renew residence visas, during which time of course my identity card expired, and I had a choice of re-entering Portugal as a tourist if I traveled. As they predicted, renewal took four months. Compare this to any Asian country I've lived in, where residency visas are renewed in 10-14 days. SEF had nothing to be proud of.

By Lan from Other on 06-03-2020 01:20

People like to complain. My experiences with SEF have been perfect. It was easy to schedule my initial residency appointment, I was seen in a timely manner that day, and received my card in a couple of weeks. The online scheduling for my renewal was easy, and I do not anticipate any problems getting through it.

By Colleen from Other on 06-03-2020 07:44
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