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Starting an Immigrants Association for Your Local Municipality

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Has anyone thought about starting a non-profit association for immigrants in your municipality?

Think of the benefits of being able to communicate to everyone in your local community - whether in times of need or celebration, to solve problems together, share valuable information, to have a conduit for the Portuguese community and local government to interact with all immigrants and vice-versa, and to promote your rights for equal opportunities.

Think of the relief you would have felt if on the same day that you received your temporary residence permit, you would have also been provided a website and a phone number for an Association of Immigrants with the purpose of supporting your local needs and answering the many questions you had.

I'm in the middle of the process for the Municipality of Penela right now and it's actually not as difficult as you might think - as long as you have enough people willing to run it. 👍 

Here are roughly the steps I recommend:

First, speak to your local Camara to see how they could support you in terms of use of their facilities & resources for meetings. (They cannot give you any funding legally while you are in the process of building an association.)

Then, see if there is enough interest in your area. Start raising awareness as to what you're trying to do. (This is an on-going process.)

Send an email or call the ACM (High Commission for Migrants) - they will assign you a liaison to help you along the way. Don't rely only on information on the internet - trust me, it's not 100% correct. This is where the ACM can help you as they have also documented steps, will answer questions, and even provide sample statutes you can use for your internal regulations.

You'll need at least 13 people to run the 3 corporate bodies of the organisation - 15 is better according to ACM. (These numbers include 4 Substitute members that are only used if someone is absent.)

Choose a bylaws template from

Have a small group come together to choose a name, purpose of the association, and other items that need will need to be filled out in the bylaws template along with agreement on membership types and dues.

Hold a meeting with the larger group to gain consensus on the choices made in the bylaws. Take an informal vote and take minutes.

You will also need to document separate by-laws for the internal regulation of the association. The ACM has examples they can provide you and they will also review your by-laws and give you comments.

You can do the following to collect information & keep people informed for free:

-Use Google forms to collect information - email addresses, nominations, and surveys. 

-Use Google sites to build a simple website. Share all the documents on Google Drive.

Once you think you've reached the majority of immigrants and have enough nominations to fill all the positions, you can schedule the first General Assembly Meeting. Here, all the potential members will come, pay their dues, elect the board members, deliberate and vote on statutes. Official Minutes will be taken in a Minutes book. Terms of office begin immediately.

After the meeting, at least 2 of the elected members will take the minutes and statutes to the registration desk of the Associacao na Hora to complete the registration process. Once registered, they will need to notify the Finance office of the start of their activity.

The cost of registration is a one-time fee of 300 euros, which is the equivalent amount to charging 12 euros annually for just 25 members. However, you can choose what dues to charge.

Useful Links: (Use a Chrome browser to translate these sites automatically)

Once you're up & running, you can focus on local issues to help solve issues your local immigrant community is facing. As soon as you're official, you can start planning activities, fund-raising, and asking your local Camara for help with funding activities as well. After 2 years and 100 members, you can even apply to the ACM to be officially recognised and eligible for State funding.

If you're interested in starting an association and have a question, let me know and I'll see if I can answer or point you in the right direction... feel free to try and re-use some of what we've put on our website, but note that any documentation is a rough draft and has not been vetted -

Let me know what issues have been the most frustrating for you since living in Portugal that an Association in your area may have solved.

Hope this helps & wish me luck!,


(All information above is for general use only. I am no expert!)

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