Work Permits for Employees in Portugal: A Complete Guide for Employers


May 23, 2023

If you’re hiring in Portugal or expanding your company’s operations into the country, you need to ensure your employees are authorized to work in Portugal. Employing workers without work authorization is illegal, and violating the law could incur fines, imprisonment, and other issues.

So, before you hire, read this guide, which outlines valuable information on who needs work permits, the application process, and frequently asked questions.

What is a work permit in Portugal?

Work permits (or work visas) are issued by the Portuguese government to allow foreign nationals to legally work in the country.

The common work permit for employers based outside Portugal is the General Work Visa (known as the Visto de Trabalho para Exercício de Atividade Profisional Subordinada in Portuguese). When the visa is due to expire, the employee must renew it or return to their home country.

In Portugal, residence visas can be difficult to obtain for foreign nationals. They must have a job offer for a vacancy that could not be filled by Portuguese nationals, members of other EU states, nations of countries with which Portugal has signed free movement agreements, and nationals who are legally Portuguese residents. To get a residence visa, workers need a labor contract or promised employment contract, and they must have adequate qualifications for the job.

Who needs a work visa in Portugal?

Only those who are non-European Union, non-European Economic Area, and non-Swiss citizens must get work visas. (The only exception is when an EU citizen stays longer than six months, in which case they need a Residence Certificate.)

However, there are some exceptions when foreign nationals don’t need work visas. For example, students in the country on student visas are allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week during school terms and full-time during school holidays. (EU and EFTA nationals are allowed to work unlimited hours.) Students should inform the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF), the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service, before starting their employment.

When you send an offer letter to a new hire in Portugal, it should include a clause about the offer being contingent on their eligibility to work in Portugal legally.

How long does it take to get a work permit in Portugal?

Depending on the type of visa being requested, it may take between 30 and 60 days to process. Temporary stay visas (which allow stays for less than one year) take 30 days, whereas residency visas (for stays over a year) take about 60 days.

Types of work visas in Portugal

There are two main types of work permits in Portugal:

  • Temporary stay. This allows short stays in the country for specific types of work. This includes subordinate seasonal work (for those working more than 90 days), independent work, highly qualified activity (such as professorships), remote work and digital nomads, amateur sports, and investigation (such as scientific research).
  • Residency visa. With a residence permit comes the ability to stay and work in Portugal for up to two years. The visa can then be renewed for three years. Those who have lived in Portugal for five years can apply for permanent residency. The most common types of residence permits are for employed workers, for highly qualified activity, and tech visas for highly qualified activity in certified companies (more on that below).

EU Blue Cards are equivalent to Green Cards in the US. This is for non-EU citizens who are highly educated or have desirable professional experience and have an employment contract or binding employment offer from a Portuguese business. The minimum salary, as written in the employment contract, must be at least 1.5 times the average for the profession in Portugal. These are valid for one year, at which point they can be renewed for successive periods of two years. Blue Card holders may apply for residency permits for highly skilled workers after they’ve lived in Portugal for 18 months.

Portugal has a tech visa program for specialized activity in certified companies. This program allows innovative companies to recruit highly qualified immigrants. Businesses must be certified by IAPMEI, which is the Portuguese Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation. This permit is valid for two years and can be renewed for successive three-year periods.

Each type of work permit will have stipulations and conditions.

Application process for Portugal work visas

Here are the steps to obtain a temporary work visa:

  • Issue a job offer. This detailed job offer letter should include information about the role, salary, working location, and other relevant details.
  • The worker applies for the visa. This will require them to gather required documents including passports, proof of qualifications, and any other materials.

Employees must obtain a visa to travel to Portugal. Then, once there, they have four months to convert that into a residence permit and then obtain an additional permit to work there legally.

After working for at least one year with a temporary work permit, the worker can apply for a permanent work permit.

Though visa requirements may vary by visa program and the application’s circumstances, all work visas require the following:

  • Valid passport
  • Passport-size pictures
  • Proof of funds
  • Permission to the SEF to check Portuguese criminal records from the country of residence and other places where the applicant has lived for more than one year
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of accommodation in Portugal
  • Work contract
  • For those already in Portugal, proof of legal entry into Portuguese territory, such as a visa
  • For those applying from a country other than their home country. proof of legal stay there, such as a residence permit or a visa

Rippling can connect you with immigration services to help you sponsor work visas around the world. Talk to our team.

Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in Portugal

Do US citizens need a work permit to work in Portugal?

Yes. Because US citizens are not members of the EU or EEA and are not typically holders of Portuguese citizenship, they will need a work permit.

Do EU citizens need a work permit to work in Portugal?

No, because Portugal is an EU member and citizens of the EU member states may freely work in Portugal without a permit or visa. However, EU citizens do need to apply for a residence card within six months of moving to Portugal for work.

What documents are required to apply for a Portuguese work permit?

After a worker has entered the country on a visa, they can then apply to convert that to a residency permit and then obtain their work permit. When applying for a Portuguese work permit, a worker will need:

  • Completed visa application forms
  • Passport and passport-size pictures
  • Proof of funds
  • Criminal records
  • Permission to the SEF to check your Portuguese criminal records
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of accommodation in Portugal
  • Employment contract
  • For those already in Portugal, proof of legal entry into Portuguese territory, such as a visa
  • For those applying from a country other than their home country. proof of legal stay there, such as a residence permit or a visa
  • Proof of Social Security registration

Biometric data, such as fingerprints, may also be gathered as part of this process.

What is the application process like for a work visa in Portugal?

Step one: The employee must submit an application through their country’s Portuguese Consulate and provide the necessary documents. This visa grants entrance into Portugal. The processing time is two to three months.

Step two: Once the visa is issued, the employee can apply for a work permit. This can be submitted by either the employee or employer. For those applying from outside of the EU, their chances of having a work permit granted will be best if they have highly specialized skills.

Step three: The regional directorate or the Delegation of the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) will process the work permit application. The processing time is up to 60 days.

Step four: Got the visa and work permit? Now, the employee can travel to Portugal and begin to work. They will also need to register with Social Security, receive a tax number from the Director-General of Taxes, and obtain their Residency Card from the SEF.

What do employers have to do for their employees to be granted work visas in Portugal?

The Portuguese government wants to ensure that the job cannot be filled by Portuguese citizens, members of other EU states, or nations of countries with which Portugal has signed free movement agreements. All job openings must be advertised to EU/EFTA citizens for a minimum of 30 days. If the job remains open, the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training in Portugal (IEFP) will allow employers to fill the position with someone who is not an EU citizen.

What’s the fastest way to get a work permit in Portugal?

There's no way to rush the process. The best way to reduce processing time is by ensuring that all of your documents are in order and properly submitted. However, tech visas do tend to be approved faster than other types of work visas. (Note: This is subject to change and may depend on the individual applying.)

How much does it cost to get a Portuguese work permit?

Fees below are listed in euros (EUR).

Application type

Application fee

Entry visa issued by the Portuguese Embassy

Approximately €90, depending on the country of origin

Application for a residence permit for work through the SEF


Receive residence permit for work through the SEF


Are family members included in work visa applications in Portugal?

Typically, Portuguese work visas allow employees to bring their families on a family visa. Spouses must apply at the SEF before legally working. Family visas usually take 60 days to process but, in some cases, may take longer. The family visa is valid for the duration of the sponsor’s residence permit.

Valid family members include married partners or registered partners, children (including adoptees and those under the care or custody of the applicant), and first-degree relatives who are also dependents.

How long is my work visa valid in Portugal?

Work visas in Portugal are generally valid for two years before they must be renewed. This may vary depending on the visa type.

How do you renew your Portuguese work permit?

If an employee’s work permit is set to expire or they need to change the conditions of their permit, they can submit a new work permit application through the SEF. However, they must still be employed or have a valid offer of employment.

Is a Portuguese work permit a pathway to residency?

Yes, it can be. Those who have lived in Portugal for five years with a work permit can apply for permanent residency.

What is a Schengen Visa?

The Schengen Area covers most EU countries, including Portugal. This short-stay visa allows one to travel to any member of the Schengen Area for up to 90 days for tourism or business. However, this is not a way around getting a work visa. Those planning to work or live in a Schengen country for more than 90 days must apply for a national visa for that specific European country.

Hire and set up employees in Portugal with Rippling

Whether you’re a Portuguese employer or based overseas, Rippling can help you hire, onboard, and set up employees in Portugal within minutes.

  • Onboard employees and contractors in 90 seconds.
  • Sponsor work visas in Portugal with Rippling’s immigration services, backed by top-tier legal advisers.
  • Manage HR, IT, and Finance in one unified system.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: May 11, 2024

The Author

The Rippling Team

Global HR, IT, and Finance know-how directly from the Rippling team.