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About UsHistory and Background

Ministry of Interior


One of the newest test Immigration Services in the world, the Immigration Service of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (Serviço de Migração) was established in its current form in early 2003 as a Department of the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL). In August 2008, it assumed its current name and became a separate Service in its own right within the Ministry of Defense and Security with the promulgation of the Ministry’s organic structure decree law 31/2008.

The Service has over ninety three(93) staffs, and is responsible for civilian immigration control functions at all land border crossing points, airports and ports. The Service decides visas that may be granted on arrival at a border crossing, and processes applications for further visas that may be granted to people after arrival in Timor Leste in conjunction with the Consular Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Service is also responsible for administering other functions of the Immigration and Asylum Law of 2003 (LIA), including registration of foreigners and legislated enforcement powers according to its .

On the 19th of May 2017, a new law Migration and Asylum Law 11/2017, has been promulgated by the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste but the new law is not yet implemented until further notice. Information regarding the implementation of the new law will be disseminated to the relevant entities. Diplomatic Corps will be informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through diplomatic channel

Organizational Chart

Organizational Chart


UNTAET Regulation No. 2000/9 established the first border regime for Timor-Leste post-1999. The resultant Service administered both Customs and Immigration.

A subsequent review of this function resulted in a decision of Government to separate the Customs and Immigration functions. The result Decree Law (4/2002) published on 12 November 2002 transferred Immigration control inside the country, as well as the control of the movement of persons across the borders, to the PNTL. A Department of Immigration was created within the PNTL as a result.

immigration service team

The transfer of responsibility for Immigration functions to the PNTL was performed in 3 phases:

  1. 13/01/2003 (Dili International Airport )
  2. 21/01/2003 (Visas, Dili Seaport and Baucau Airport )
  3. 01/03/2003 (Land borders)

Between 13/01/2003 and 15/10/2003 immigration function was subject to a combination of 2 pieces of legislation (UNTAET Regulation 2000/9 and Decree Law 4/2002), until the promulgation of relevant statutes of the PNTL, and the Immigration and Asylum Law of 2003.


The Timor Leste National Police (PNTL) was assigned the following immigration goals, under the Article 2 number 2 of the Decree Law 8/2004 (Organic Law of the PNTL) :

“ (…)

(h) To guarantee the surveillance of the borders by controlling the movement of people and goods in consultation with other relevant agencies;

(i) To ensure compliance with the procedures for the entry, stay, exit and expulsion of foreigners from the national territory; ”

The Mission of the Department of Immigration at that time was defined in the Organic Law of the PNTL , in the Article 20:

“ The PNTL Immigration Department has the specific mission to control the entry and exit of people across land borders and airports and its tasks include:

(a) to control the entry, stay and exit of foreign citizens in the national territory;

(b) to grant visas in accordance with the law;

(c) to conduct processes of family reunification;

(d) to conduct processes of expulsion of foreign citizens;

(e) to perform any other tasks falling within the scope of its mission. ”

Immigration and Asylum Law of 2003 (LIA)

Immigration and Asylum Law of 2003 (LIA)
(Law 9/2003 of 15th October 2003)

On October 15th 2003, the National Parliament passed the Immigration and Asylum Law 2003 (LIA). This became the principal legislative framework to codify all immigration functions and powers.

Traditional Border Crossing Agreement

The Government of the Republic of Indonesia and Democratic Republic of Timor Leste signed an agreement of Traditional Border Crossings and Regulated Markets in Dili on 29th February 2000. Traditional Border Crossings and Regulated Markets Agreement.

Parliament resolution made on the 28th May 2009. Parliament Resolution No 21/2009.


The power to enforce the provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Law 2003 lies with the Timor Leste National Police (PNTL) under Article 133 of LIA.

However the same law distributed the majority of immigration powers to the then Migration Department of the PNTL, granting to the Department the following main objectives:

  • To control the movement of persons through the Frontier Posts;
  • To control the stay and activities of foreigners inside national territory;
  • To plan, coordinate, investigate, and report to Government on issues relating to the movement of people,
  • To investigate the immigration crimes, such as human smuggling and human trafficking
  • Responsibility for the Asylum process

The Immigration Service then became wholly or substantially responsible for the following areas of migration management:

  • Granting or refusing visa applications that may be made at border posts or extended after arrival;
  • Giving a binding opinion on other visa applications that are processed after arrival or by the Department of Consular Affairs;
  • Issues resident authorizations;
  • Inspection, investigation, prosecution and removal of foreigners in violation of immigration law as well as levying legislated fines including those against foreigners who have overstayed their visa.