How can you legally work in Portugal? This guide explains how to get a Portuguese work visa or Portuguese work permit, and which residence permit you need based on your work in Portugal.
If you’re moving for work, you must check if you need a Portuguese work visa before making arrangements. Circumstances vary depending on your nationality and the nature of your job in Portugal. As the Portuguese work permit is closely linked to your residence status, in most cases you cannot apply until a job in Portugal has been secured.
This guide explains who needs a Portuguese work visa or permit, how to apply for one, and the conditions for employees, highly skilled migrants, students, self-employed workers in Portugal, and those undertaking international training placements and internships.
Who needs a Portuguese work visa or permit?
Citizens from EU/EEA/Switzerland do not require any Portuguese work visa to live or work in Portugal. However, those who come to work in Portugal for longer than six months need a Residence Certificate (Certificado de Registo). See our guide to Portuguese immigration policy for EU nationals.
Most non-EU nationals will need a Portuguese work permit before they can undertake employment in Portugal. In the majority of cases, a Portuguese work permit is only granted to non-EU nationals if a secure job has been offered or if the individual is married to a Portuguese citizen. If approved, they can continue the process of obtaining a Portuguese work visa or residence permit.
Work in Portugal for non-EU citizens, however, has been affected by Portugal’s high unemployment in recent years. Portugal currently has quotas in place to limit the number of jobs that go to third-country nationals to improve employment opportunities for EU nationals. Most jobs need to be advertised to Portuguese and EU/EFTA citizens for 30 days before the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training in Portugal (IEFP) will classify them as jobs that can be freely filled by non-EU employees.
After five years of residence in Portugal, you can claim Portuguese permanent residence, and after six years Portuguese citizenship. In either case, you will not require a work permit but are free on the employment market.
Work permits in Portugal for non-EU citizens
Non-EU citizens will need to get hired first; search through our list of jobs in Portugal, or read our guide on how to find jobs in Portugal. Once you have found employment, your employer will apply for a Portuguese work permit (Autorização de Trabalho) to the Portuguese Labour Authorities, if the job is longer than three months.
Once a job contract or work permit is approved, non-EU nationals need to apply for:
- a Portuguese work visa, if their nationality requires a visa to enter Portugal or employment is less than six months.
- a residence permit, if they plan to work in Portugal for long-term. The type of residence permit you need will depend on the basis on your employment.
Portuguese work visas
Whether you need a Portuguese work visa depends on your nationality and the length of your employment. The following Portuguese work visas are available to non-EU nationals.
Short-term Portuguese work visa
This Portuguese work visa is required for short-term temporary contracts lasting less than six months. It is available to employees and self-employed workers subject to an evaluation by the labor authority (IEFP). The temporary-stay visa can be extended up to one year if you are engaged in scientific research, academic teaching, or highly qualified professional activities, or certain training and service provisions provided by members of World Trade Organisation countries.
If you are visiting Portugal on a short-stay for business purposes, you can apply for a Portuguese business visa rather than the employment visa.
Long-term Portuguese work visa
This Portuguese work visa is required by non-EU nationals who intend to work in Portugal longer than six months. As Portugal is in the Schengen Area, the work visa is in the form of a long-term Schengen Visa (type D), enabling the holder to travel across the 26 Schengen area countries. More information on the Schengen area is available in our guide to Portuguese visas.
Due to bilateral agreements, citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Israel can apply for this visa from within Portugal, within 90 days of arrival. All other non-EU nationals will need to apply in advance of traveling to Portugal.
Once the visa is secured, you need to start the process to obtain a Portuguese residence permit from within the country.
Residence permits to work in Portugal
Which residence permit you can apply for will depend on your employment situation.
This is the standard residence permit for most employees working in Portugal. The permit is valid for one year and can be renewed for up to five years, after which the holder can apply for permanent Portuguese residence. You will need to satisfy these conditions to be approved.
Permits for highly skilled migrants and researchers
This is a residence permit for scientific researchers, academic teachers, and workers in highly qualified professional activities. The permit is valid for one year and can be renewed up to five years, after which the holder can apply for permanent Portuguese residence. See the conditions and documents required.
EU Blue Card
The Blue Card scheme acts a Portuguese work visa and residency for highly qualified workers from non-EU countries. You can apply for an EU Blue Card if you have a higher qualification (eg. a university degree), are a paid employee with a work contract or binding job offer in an EU country for at least one year, and have a gross annual salary at least one and a half times the national average of the country. See the required documents here, plus minimum wage and average salary in Portugal.
EU Blue Cards are valid for between one and four years and allow non-EU nationals to work in 24 of 27 EU member states (excluding Denmark, Ireland, and the UK). A Blue Card holder who has been living in Portugal for 18 months can choose to apply for a residence permit for researchers or highly skilled migrants. More information on EU Blue Cards is available here.
Golden residence for business investors
This is a special Portuguese visa program designed to attract foreign investment into Portugal. The Portuguese golden visa program speeds up the process for investors from non-EU countries to obtain a Portuguese residence permit, based on real estate or investment in starting a business in Portugal.
Read more in our guide to Portuguese golden visas.
Self-employed workers in Portugal
Non-EU/EFTA residents wanting to set up a small business or pursue freelance work in Portugal go through the same process to get a Portuguese resident visa as employees. However, the residence permit you will be granted is specific to self-employed workers, requiring extra documentation related to your business activities and business or self-employment registration with the tax office.
Self-employed workers can undertake work with a third-party employer, however, they will need to get a residence permit for employees first.
If you are interested in starting up a business in Portugal, there is a project called Portugal Ventures (www.portugalventures.pt) that invests in start-up businesses with entrepreneurial ideas.
Training and volunteer work in Portugal
Upon completion of training, students are entitled to work in Portugal on an employment contract, subject to an application for a change in residence permit being authorized by the SEF.
A residence permit for volunteers is valid for one year, except for in circumstances where a volunteering program lasts longer than one year, and is not renewable. Not paid employment can be undertaken on this permit.
Students working in Portugal
Non-EU nationals generally require a Portuguese student permit but are permitted to work in Portugal subject to authorization from the SEF. They are also entitled to carry out research work in Portugal, teaching, or highly qualified professional activities if they meet the necessary criteria. Read more about Portuguese student visas.
Applying for a Portuguese work permit
EU/EFTA nationals only need to apply for a Residence Certificate from the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF) if they are working in Portugal for longer than three months.
Third-country nationals will need to apply for a Portuguese work visa at the embassy or consulate in their home country, once they have received confirmation that their employer’s application for a Portuguese work permit has been granted. A list of Portuguese embassies around the world can be found here. Once inside Por
Along with your Portuguese work visa application form, you will need to provide the following:
- Passport photo
- Passport and copies of your previous visas
- Flight reservation details (although not always)
- Medical insurance policy covering expenses up to EUR 30,000
- Proof of accommodation
- Employment contract between you and your employer
Your Portuguese work visa will be valid for the length of time you will be working in Portugal, or long enough to lodge your application for a Portuguese residence visa. Applications can take from two weeks to around two to three months in total.
Once you arrive in Portugal, you will also need to register for social security in Portugal and a Portuguese tax number. You can do this through the Portuguese Social Security Office. Proof of this registration is typically required when applying for your Portuguese residence permit.
Qualifications for skilled work in Portugal
Third-country nationals pursuing or wishing to pursue skilled professional employment in Portugal can contact the Portuguese National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) for information on getting foreign qualifications and certificates recognized and accepted in Portugal.
Useful contacts and links
- Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF): issues visas and residence permits
- Information on EU Blue Cards
- Find your local Portuguese immigration (SEF) office.
- Find the Portuguese embassy or consulate in your country.
- Schengen visa application form
- Permit application forms (Portuguese)
- General Secretariat of the Ministry of Education and Science: whose employers need to contact to get their initial work permit.