In general, a foreign applicant (the “employee”) assigned to work in another country must evidence a degree of proprietary knowledge, specialised skills, or managerial/executive-level skills that are not readily available in the destination country’s domestic labour market.
A foreign national employee cannot convert his/her immigration status from a Visitor status to Work status while remaining in Portugal. According to Portuguese immigration law, an employee can be physically present in Portugal once the employee’s (and family member’s) work/residence visa applications are filed with a Portuguese consular post; however, the employee is not allowed to perform any employment-related duties until the employee receives his or her Work & Residence Visa.
Types of Work Permits/Visas
The main types of Portuguese employment visa categories are:
• Independent Visa: The employee is generally paid his or her entire salary outside of Portugal and is considered as a seconded employee to the Portuguese company. This is the preferable and the usual visa category for most intra-company transfers, as there is not a pre-requisite to recruit for the employee’s proposed position in the Portuguese labor market nor receive prior approval of a work permit from the Portuguese Labour Office. Given this, the employee can apply for his/her Work & Residence visa directly at a Portuguese consular post;
• Dependent Visa: Should an employee be paid from the Portuguese company’s payroll, the employee is considered as a “local” hire. This will require that the employee is subject to a Labour Contract. Prior to filing the application for the visa at the Portuguese Consulate, a formal work permit application must be approved by the Labour Office (the “IDICT”). The process to obtain IDICT approval may take at least two to three months, in addition to additional time to file and receive approval of the work and residence.
To qualify as a sponsor of a Work & Residence Visa, the basic requirements for the Portuguese company and the assignee are as follows:
• The Portuguese employer must prove that there does not exist a readily available Portuguese or alien workforce resident in Portugal qualified to perform the employee’s proposed position;
• The Portuguese employer must prove that the proposed position is of such special character that a Work & Residence visa can be recommended;
• The Portuguese employer must prove that all salary and employment conditions corresponds to Portuguese labour standards, and, in the case of a Dependent Visa, that a promissory employment agreement has been drafted between the employee and the Portuguese company;
• In certain cases, the Labour Office may require prior approval from a relevant branch organisation or a labour union certifying that there are no qualified Portuguese workers to perform the proposed position.
Process & Procedure
An employee (and accompanying family members) must submit an application for a Work & Residence Visa if applying for either a Dependent or Independent status.
Once the Consulate accepts the visa application the Consulate must send the entire visa application to the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for prior approval. Once the visa application is approved, the employee and family members must present their original passports to have their Work & Residence Visa stamp affixed.
Note: Family members who are included in the Work & Residence Visa application can file their Dependent Visa applications at the same time as the employee. However, Portuguese migrations authorities may approve the employee’s visa application in advance of approving the family member’s applications. If this is the case, the family members may be delayed in obtaining their visas for upwards of several weeks.
Once the Portuguese Consulate receives the approval to issue the Work and Residence visas, the employee (and if approved at the same time, the family members) can travel to Portugal.
Documentation Required (Employee & Family)
In order to apply for a Work & Residence Visa, the employee and family members must file their visa applications, in person, with a Portuguese consular post.
The general documents requested by the Portuguese Consulates are:
• Original passports from the employee and each family member, with at least two blank visa pages and valid for at least one year from the date of application;
• Visa application form from the employee and each family member;
• Three passport-style photographs from the employee and each family member;
• Notarized, original Letter of Employment from the employee’s sending company, with a certified Portuguese translation;
• Certified copy of the Marriage Certificate with Apostille, with a certified Portuguese translation;
• Certified copies of each child’s birth certificate, evidencing both parent’s names, with Apostilles affixed to each birth certificate and accompanied by certified Portuguese translation;
• Health Certificate certifying the employee’s and each family member’s overall good health, affixed with an Apostille and a certified Portuguese translation;
• Police Certificate from the employee’s and each family member age 18 and over for the current and previous residence (residences of more than six months during the past five years), each with an Apostille affixed and with a certified Portuguese translation.
• Applicable filing fee;
• Proof of the employee’s Health insurance;
• Proof of subsistence means existence (such as a Letter of Employment or a Labour Contract).
Note: Each Consulate may have slightly or widely different document requirements. It is best to check these application requirements with the Consulate once the Consulate has confirmed receipt to issue the work visa.
The normal time to assemble the corporate and employee’s personal documentation is approximately four to five weeks.
Once the Work & Residence visa application is filed with the Portuguese Consulate, the Consulate may elect to issue a Work & Residence visa immediately. Alternatively, if the Consulate elects to refer the application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, processing of the visa can take at least six to eight weeks.
Additionally, accompanying family members must be aware that the Portuguese Consulate may not issue their accompanying Resident Visas straightaway. Therefore, the Family Reunification Visa process may take upwards of two to three months.
Validity of Work Permit
In both a Dependent and Independent Visa category, the visa will be valid for a maximum one year period subject to renewal for a maximum of two years, provided that the individual is still professionally active.
Post-Arrival Requirements: Registration, Residence Permit & Tax Card
Once the employee (and family members) arrive in Portugal, each must register for a Residence Permit with the local Aliens Authorities. As it may take months to receive the final Residence Permit, the Aliens Authorities will issue a Protocolo Card ( a provisional residence card) until the Residence Permit is available.
The employee and family members also must register with the National Insurance Office (for social security reasons) and the National Tax Office (for a tax identification number).
The registration for the residence permit, insurance card and tax number must take place within 30 days of the employee’s and each family member’s arrival into Portugal.
Family & Dependents
Spouse and Children
The accompanying spouse and children should be named on the application of the employee’s Work & Residence Visa application, as the Consulate and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may approve the employee and family members together.
Once the employee’s Work & Residence Visa is granted by the Consulate, the family’s visa applications may not be approved simultaneously. The family’s visas may be issued at a much later date.
Unmarried partners are eligible for spousal status after review by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Proof of extended co-habitation is required in such cases. Approval of these types of visas, called a Family Reunification Visa, occur on a highly discretionary basis, and may take several months to process.
Work Authorisation for Family Members
Spouses, dependents and unmarried partners are not granted immediate work authorization as a derivative status of the employee. Spouses, dependents and unmarried partners must obtain their own work visas in order to secure employment in Portugal. However, since spouses, dependents and unmarried partners have already a social link in Portugal, they may have priority in obtaining their work visas.