The main objective of this article is to describe the key elements of the making of immigration control policies in Portugal until 2007. First, the main policy initiatives and measures concerning the admission of foreigners are presented. Second, the mechanisms and difficulties surrounding the issue of immigration control are discussed, and a tension is identified between the structural demand for foreign labour and the measures taken for control. Third, the positions of the main political parties and of the most relevant stakeholders are highlighted. The evidence indicates that despite continued attempts to control immigration, the stated policy objectives are at odds with the outcome, characterised by endemic irregular migration. The factors hindering regulation are both internal and external, encompassing the economic, social, institutional and legal domains. Given the limits to control, policy-makers have sought to achieve a compromise by enacting frequent regularization programmes while seeking to improve admission and control. In this process, the main political parties have exhibited a significant degree of consensus, which may be partially accounted for by the convergence among the other stakeholders (employers, trade unions, Catholic organisations and immigrants' associations) and by the increasing, albeit contradictory, acceptance of immigration by public opinion.