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Work in Portugal as a Briton: overview for UK contractors

Not a million miles from fictional Willy Wonka’s sought-after “Golden Tickets” that were distributed all over the word, Portugal’s “Golden Visas” have had a global fanbase including UK IT contractors.

But all good things must come to an end.

In fact, last month, Portugal’s government announced the withdrawal of the Golden Visa or residence by investment programme, partly because it has apparently overheated the country’s residential property market.

Yet that’s not to say Portugal is by any means off-limits to Britons, writes Kevin Austin, managing director of contracting overseas advisory Access Financial.

Indeed, there are several other routes to work in Portugal, which are still available to qualifying individuals. But before I explore those, and just to reassure any Brits who feel bad for contributing to Portugal’s housing crisis, we suspect that most nomad workers did not opt to buy their residence through investment anyway. Instead, they likely preferred to enter Portugal via the other routes available:

1. D7 Visa 

The most popular option to work in Portugal is the D7 visa introduced in 2007, also known as the Retirement or Passive Income Visa. 

Any non-EU nationals, non-EEA nationals, or non-Swiss citizens (‘third-country nationals’) can apply for Portuguese residency, providing they have a reasonable and stable passive income and can sustain themselves during their stay in the country. 

Pensioners, entrepreneurs looking to live in Portugal, and other ex-pats living off a recognised stable income can apply, which includes movable property, real estate, intellectual property, pensions, or financial investments.

You will then be able to apply for the D7 Visa and, subsequently, a residence permit. To qualify for this residency visa, you must earn the minimum wage. 

You can renew the D7 visa after one year for two successive two-year periods. You may then qualify for a permanent residence permit. After five years of holding a residence permit under the D7 Visa scheme, you can also apply for Portuguese citizenship, provided that you fulfil the additional requirements set out under Portugal nationality law.  

First, you must apply in your home country for a temporary D7 Visa at your Portuguese Embassy or consulate. This temporary stay visa will last for four months.

Following this, you will need to attend an appointment with the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) in Portugal and show the temporary stay visa that you got at the Portuguese Embassy or consulate in your home country. The Portuguese Immigration and Borders service will then approve your residence permit.

2. Nomad visa 

Remote workers can apply for a one-year temporary stay visa or a residency permit renewable for up to five years. Applicants must earn at least €2,800 month – that equates to four times Portugal’s minimum wage. 

Also, you must have made at least four times Portugal’s minimum wage, €2,800 per month, three months before your application.

Applicable only to third-country nationals, a company must employ you outside Portugal or you must be self-employed. 

You can apply for this digital nomad visa at a Portuguese Consulate in your home country or at the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service, SEF.

3. Portugal self-employment visa 

 This route could be ideal for you if you are coming to work with Portuguese companies. We believe a contract or a written proposal with a Portuguese company might suffice for the application process. 

This type of Portugal work visa gives you the right to live and work in Portugal.  

This visa is issued for two years initially. You can continue it for three years when you renew it at the end of two years. You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence in Portugal at the end of five years. 

When you apply for a self-employment visa, you must also get a tax number in Portugal (‘NIF’ – Número de Identificação Fiscal), which is essential. When you become a full-time resident, your worldwide income is subject to tax.

4. Qualified worker visa – D3 visa

If you have technical skills or are exceptionally qualified, you may be eligible to apply for a D3 Visa in Portugal. The requirements are that you have the following:

  • You have a one-year employment contract or an employment offer.  
  • The annual salary of the role must be at least 1.5 times the national average.  
  • You hold high professional qualifications in regulated professions (such as being an expert in intellectual and scientific activities or management positions). 
  •  You hold high professional qualifications appropriate to the activity or sector, even if they are in non-regulated professions.  

 5. Portuguese residency visa for entrepreneurs – D2 Visa 

To get a Portuguese Startup Visa, you must have an innovative business concept, as the scheme exists to specifically attract innovators breaking new ground.

The conditions that apply are:

  1. You can prove that you have established a business that operates in Portugal or have the financial means to set one up.  
  2. You have sufficient funds to support yourself. 
  3. You have a credible business plan. 

6. Portuguese Tech Visa 

Companies with headquarters or permanent offices in Portugal might be eligible for certification, also known as Portugal Tech Visa.

If you have a talent and want to apply for a tech company with this certificate, you can be eligible for this type of Portuguese visa.

The requirements are as follows:

  1. You have a job offer from a certified tech company in Portugal 
  2. Your salary meets the criteria 

The usual rules apply regarding your employment structure while working in Portugal. Where a company engages you and sponsors your work visa, that company must employ you. They will attend to the income tax and social charges payable by employed persons. 

If, on the other hand, you are self-employed and you do not have a sponsoring employer, then you can be self-employed or even use a limited company. Another option is to use the services of a local umbrella company that may be able to employ you.

Final thought

Again, as usual, we’d like to caution against using a UK limited company in such circumstances. Utilising a PSC will increase the complexity of satisfying the Portuguese tax authorities and HMRC. With all the six visas and routes highlighted above but this one especially, you will almost certainly need expert help to navigate the process successfully.