Visas and Work Permits 12 min

Work permits and visas in Portugal: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
November 27, 2023
Sally Flaxman

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Employers looking to organize work permits and visas for their employees in Portugal must ensure they're fully aware of the correct visa requirements and work permit procedures. There can be significant fines for non-compliance, so it's important to get this process right the first time around.

Portugal's government protects employees through local labor and taxation laws. So, if your business isn't compliant, it could suffer financial penalties, harmful brand publicity, and even loss of intellectual property.

Employers will be able to use this article as a guide when navigating compliance in key situations, such as:

  • Hiring in Portugal without an owned entity

  • Relocating existing employees to Portugal

  • Hiring non-citizens of Portugal

  • Allowing digital nomads to work in Portugal

So, let’s dive in.

Why is immigration compliance important in Portugal?

The Portuguese government requires employees to obtain the appropriate work visa and work permit, even if they want to live and work for a short period in the country. If the employee is working in Portugal without the right permits, it can lead to steep fines and other legal penalties for your company.

In cases where employers have intentionally broken ‌local labor laws and visa requirements, there may be a criminal investigation. Your company and even your home country can be subject to taxation penalties and fines. 

Employees may be able to obtain a tourist visa to extend their stay in Portugal, but governments are starting to restrict work access for tourist visas. The increase in digital nomads and remote workers is causing foreign governments to become stricter with immigration laws and prohibit work on a tourist visa.

Who needs a work authorization check in Portugal?

Employers are responsible for performing a work authorization check for any international employee they want to hire or transfer to Portugal

A work authorization check is a screening process for each candidate or employee to verify their permission to work in Portugal. Verifying worker authorization shields employers from unknowingly hiring someone who can’t legally work in the country. This protects against violations of local labor and tax laws, ultimately ensuring compliance.

If your company is hiring local citizens of Portugal, you won't need to perform a work authorization check. There are three main categories of non-citizen employees that you’ll have to perform a work authorization check for: 

  • Work permit holders

  • Temporary residents

  • Permanent residents

If your business plans on going ahead with these checks and processes on your own, many documents and steps will be required for compliance. For starters, your company must confirm the validity of the candidate's visa and passport status with the immigration authorities. 

Then, you must confirm their right to work by assessing the details of the individual's visa and Portugal's work permit and checking them against Portuguese labor and tax laws.

Performing these checks can take a significant amount of time and resources. The best option for employers is to work with an employer of record (EOR) like Remote, who can simplify and accelerate the employment process. 

An EOR takes on the legal responsibility of hiring for you and handles everything in the process — onboarding, taxes, benefits, payroll, compliance, and immigration checks.

Remote is familiar with local labor laws and taxation laws in Portugal and can quickly confirm whether a visa or work permit is valid. In case they aren't valid or not in place, Remote can help expedite obtaining a work permit and visa in Portugal.

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Criteria for getting a Portuguese work visa 

Portugal prefers EU nationals over non-EU nationals when it comes to granting work visas. However, there are some conditions that non-EU citizens can meet to be eligible. 

A Portuguese work visa applicant should: 

  • Have a work permit from their employer 

  • Have no criminal record 

  • Have a university degree or credentials related to the job they’re applying for 

  • Have the required experience to perform their job duties

  • Be earning a salary above the national minimum wage

  • Be allowed to enter Portuguese territory 

  • Be clear of any admission restrictions listed in the Schengen Information System

Note: some of these criteria may or may not be required, depending upon the type of visa the applicant is applying for. 

Do non-citizens need a work visa or work permit in Portugal?

Portugal is part of the EU/EEA/Switzerland agreement that allows any citizen within this group of countries to live and work in Portugal without a visa. This means that a candidate or employee doesn't need to be a citizen of Portugal to work and live in the country. Some of the other countries that are part of this pact include:

  • Austria

  • Bulgaria

  • Croatia

  • Italy

  • Germany

  • France

  • Denmark

  • Netherlands

  • Spain

  • Sweden

You can find the full list here

However, citizens of these countries, plus the other countries not listed here, will have to obtain a Portuguese residence certificate if they intend to stay in the country longer than six months.

All citizens of countries outside the EU and EFTA will need to obtain a work permit before being eligible to work while living in Portugal. In general, work visas and permits for non-EU citizens are allowed only if the candidate already has a job offer or is married to a Portuguese citizen. 

How is the Schengen visa applicable?

The Schengen visa allows any potential candidates or employees within the Schengen area to work for your company without acquiring additional visas or work permits. The Schengen area includes Portugal, so your company will be able to hire and work with employees who have a Schengen visa and are a citizen of one of the participating countries.

However, if the employee intends to stay in Portugal for longer than 90 days with the Schengen visa, they're still required to apply for a national visa in Portugal.

How is the European Union Blue Card applicable?

Employees who want to move or relocate to Portugal permanently will want to look into the European Union Blue Card. The card is essentially the EU's version of the US Green Card.

The Blue Card offers non-EU citizens the opportunity to work and live in EU member states and provides socio-economic rights and a path to permanent residency. Individuals must apply for this card before entering Portugal. The application typically requires an employer sponsor as well as evidence of qualifications, language skills, and a valid job offer from the company.

The card is only valid in 25 of the 27 EU countries — Denmark and Ireland don't participate. Certain EU countries can be rather restrictive when awarding a European Blue Card and may set limits on the number of non-EU citizens who qualify.

The card allows holders to work for a period between one and four years. Employees may renew the card for the same time period as long as they still meet all the requirements.

Types of short-term visas 

Portugal offers temporary work visas for short-term employment. These allow foreign nationals to come to work on fixed-term contracts or seasonal jobs when sponsored by a Portuguese employer. 

Applicants must meet certain criteria, like having a valid work offer and a clear background check, to qualify for a short-term work visa.

Here are the different types of short-term visas in Portugal:

Temporary stay visa 

A temporary stay visa is applicable when it comes to hiring employees for seasonal work. It's available for sectors like agriculture, forestry, hospitality, construction, land transport, and the food industry.

For this, the employee needs a promise or contract of employment for seasonal work purposes. They also need to submit a formal petition application and proof of means of subsistence. 

A temporary stay visa in Portugal is valid for up to one year. 

Working holiday visa 

Portugal offers a working holiday visa program that allows young people from countries like Argentina, Australia, and Chile aged 18–30 to live and work in Portugal temporarily for up to one year. 

This program provides an opportunity for foreign workers to experience Portuguese culture while financing their travels with short-term employment. However, it doesn’t allow for dependents or family members. 

A working holiday visa is valid for 12 months maximum and is non-renewable.

Research visa 

​​A research visa allows researchers, professors, trainees, and other academics to come to Portugal to conduct scientific research, training, or educational activities at accredited institutions.

It provides temporary residence rights for up to one year and is renewable if the timeline for the research program exceeds that maximum. Applicants need a hosting agreement from a Portuguese institution and must meet standard eligibility requirements.

What are the eligibility requirements for a work visa in Portugal?

For your business to employ a non-EU citizen in Portugal, the employee must meet the visa eligibility requirements and gather all the necessary documents. As an employer, you're responsible for filing a work permit application for the employee, so unless you partner with an EOR like Remote who completes the process on your behalf, you'll need to gather the following documents:

  • A colorized, passport-sized photo

  • Proof of health insurance and accident insurance

  • A valid passport with a minimum of two blank pages

  • Biometric data, including fingerprints and digital photos for facial recognition

  • Proof of accommodation, such as the address of a residence or a hotel reservation

On top of gathering documents for the visa process, all non-EU citizens must also obtain a work permit to work in Portugal.

​​What are the long-stay visa types in Portugal?

The long-stay visa in Portugal is also known as the residency visa and is appropriate for employees who want to stay in the country longer than one year. The visa requires an additional application for a Portuguese residency permit from Portugal Immigration Service.

Specific countries have established bilateral agreements with Portugal that allow a long-stay visa to be applied for within 90 days of arrival. These countries include:

  • USA

  • Canada

  • New Zealand

  • Japan

  • Australia

  • Israel

All other non-EU nationals must apply for a long-stay visa before traveling to Portugal.

There are several types of long-stay visas in Portugal an employee may apply for. The relevant long-stay visas to work in the country are briefly explained below.

Work visa

Employees who intend to make a long-term move or establish a permanent work placement in Portugal will need to obtain a work visa. This type of visa allows individuals to stay in Portugal longer than one year, but does require additional documentation.

The work visa is considered a long-term Schengen visa (type D), allowing workers to travel and work within the entire Schengen area.

Golden visa scheme

It's unlikely that ‌employees can qualify for the Golden Visa scheme, but you can consider it if an employee invests in your company. 

The Golden Visa program may accelerate the Portuguese residence permit process for foreign investors from non-EU countries. The investors need to either buy Portuguese real estate or invest up to a certain amount into a business.

If you have an employee who is an integral part of your business and has invested in its growth, you may consider the Golden Visa scheme for their long-term residence in Portugal.

D7 visa 

A D7 visa grants non-EU citizens temporary residence in Portugal. Also called a passive income visa, it’s a good option for those who earn passive income (like freelancers). 

This visa is valid for up to two years and renewable for up to three years. 

Tech visa 

Portugal’s tech visa is aimed at attracting skilled tech professionals in fields like IT and engineering — especially those from ‌third-world countries. Applicants must have a job offer from a registered Portuguese company in the tech space. 

This visa offers one year of temporary residence and is renewable for up to five years. 

D2 visa 

The Portuguese D2 or entrepreneur visa allows entrepreneurs to start businesses in Portugal. The Portuguese government encourages entrepreneurs to develop businesses specifically related to Portuguese technology, economy, and culture. 

Individuals are eligible if they are:

  • Creating a new business 

  • Expanding an existing business 

  • Investing in a Portuguese company

What are Portuguese residence permits? 

In Portugal, securing residency involves obtaining a residency visa and permit. 

The residency visa grants initial entry for applying for a residency permit. It’s valid for four months and doesn’t authorize long-term stays. 

The residency permit granted by Portugal’s Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) offers long-term residency authorization. It’s valid for a year and is renewable. Different permit types exist based on the purpose of the residency (work, investment, etc.), and each has unique requirements and application processes. 

How do you get a work visa for Portugal?

The first step for employees to receive a work visa in Portugal is to apply for a work permit. You as the employer will be responsible for filing for a work visa on the employee's behalf.

Once the employee receives a work permit, they can apply for a work visa. To apply, workers need to go to the embassy or consulate in their home country before arriving in Portugal. Note that certain countries have arrangements with the Portuguese government, allowing workers to apply for a visa within 90 days after arriving there.

Employees will need a work visa application form as well as the following:

  • Passport photo

  • Flight reservation details

  • Passport and copies of previous visas

  • Proof of accommodation

  • Medical insurance policy up to €30,000 in expenses

  • Employment contract

The entire application process can take anywhere from two to three months. The visa is valid for either the total duration of employment or long enough to apply for a Portuguese residence visa. 

Once your employee moves to Portugal, they'll be responsible for registering for a social security number and Portuguese tax number. Both of these can be obtained from the Portuguese Social Security Office.

Relocating an employee to Portugal requires in-depth knowledge of the local labor, taxation, and immigration laws. 

Unless your team has the time and staff to dedicate to learning the complexities of Portuguese law, it's more efficient to work with an EOR. Remote handles all legal compliance for you and even offers relocation services for employees moving to foreign countries. Your company won't have to worry about any liabilities or legal repercussions.

What is the process for employee work visa sponsorship in Portugal?

To sponsor an employee’s work visa, you’ll have to first apply for a work permit from the Portuguese Labor Authorities on their behalf. Once the authorities grant the employee a permit, the employee can apply for a work visa with your business as the sponsor.

The Mobility Team from Remote uses legal experts in Portuguese law to fast-track the process of relocating an employee. They can offer guidance and advice on: 

  • Visa guidance and sponsorship

  • Local immigration and tax guidance

  • Relocation and settling-in assistance

  • Insurance

  • Cross-cultural training

What are the visa requirements for digital nomads in Portugal?

Portugal does offer a Portugal digital nomad visa (D8) for remote workers who want to live and work in the country while working for employers based abroad. The two primary digital nomad visas are the 12-month digital nomad visa and the two-year digital nomad visa. 

What is Portugal's 12-month digital nomad visa?

The 12-month digital nomad visa (temporary stay visa) allows remote workers to legally live and work in Portugal as self-employed business owners or independent contractors. The visa is valid for up to 12 months, with an option to renew the visa for up to six months.

What is Portugal's 2-year digital nomad visa?

The Portugal 2-year digital nomad visa (residency visa) is initially valid for four months and allows up to two entries into Portuguese territory. Visa holders can then convert it into a temporary residency permit that's valid for up to two years. This permit can be renewed for an additional three years as long as certain requirements are met.

Why use an employer of record to hire in Portugal?

Establishing your presence abroad is a cumbersome process. Even if employees are authorized to work in Portugal, you’ll have to make sure you’re hiring them via your own legal entity in the country. You need time and resources to set up HR processes, as well as a thorough understanding of local laws to remain compliant with employment legislation.

The easiest and most convenient way to hire in Portugal is to use an EOR. Remote's reliable EOR services can help you handle onboarding, benefits, taxes, payroll, work permits, and compliance, quickly and efficiently — giving you back time and resources to focus on business growth. Learn more about how you can use an EOR to hire in Portugal in our detailed guide below.

link to How to use an Employer of Record in Portugal
14 min

How to use an Employer of Record in Portugal

Learn how to use an EOR in Portugal and find out how an employer of record platform like Remote can make it easy to hire globally with full compliance.

Navigating the legal landscape of Portuguese law and remaining compliant every step of the way can be stressful even for well-established organizations. From understanding taxation laws and permanent establishment risks to keeping up with evolving immigration laws — employers can face fines, penalties, or legal issues if they’re not careful.

Remote's relocation services make the process of relocating employees to Portugal, or anywhere in the world, fast, convenient, and easy. Our team of experts can manage the complexities of local immigration and labor laws for you, leaving you free to focus on growing your business. Our Mobility team can help you:

  • Perform work authorization checks, apply for work permits, sponsor work visas, and offer guidance on every aspect of the relocation process

  • Gather, review, and submit all the relevant paperwork required as part of the immigration process 

  • Automatically renew or extend visas and work permits as required

  • Maintain ongoing compliance with Portuguese labor rules and tax practices 

Download our handy Relocation Guide for expert guidance on how you can relocate team members to Portugal quickly and easily. Or book a consultation with one of our mobility gurus, who can get the relocation process started right away!

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