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Portugal – Work Permits and Working Legally

Working Legally in Portugal

Portugal, with its beautiful landscapes and vibrant culture, has become an appealing destination for expats seeking employment opportunities in Europe. However, before pursuing a career in Portugal, it’s crucial to understand the legal requirements for working in the country. One of the key aspects of working legally in Portugal is obtaining a work permit. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the necessity of work permits for expats, who must make the application, types of work permits, eligibility criteria, application procedures, required documents, costs involved, and sources of reliable information for expats.

Necessity of a Work Permit in Portugal

Yes, in most cases, expats are required to obtain a work permit to work legally in Portugal. Portugal, like many other countries, has specific regulations in place to ensure that foreign workers have the legal right to work within its borders. However, there are certain exemptions and categories of foreign workers who may not require a work permit to work legally in Portugal.

Who Applies for a Work Permit

In Portugal, the responsibility for applying for a work permit typically falls on the employer who intends to hire an expat worker. It is the employer who must initiate the application process and meet the necessary requirements to secure a work permit for their prospective employee. As an expat, you do not directly apply for your work permit; instead, your prospective employer should take care of this process on your behalf.

Employers in Portugal must demonstrate that they have a legitimate need for hiring a foreign worker and that they will provide fair treatment, compensation, and working conditions in accordance with local labor laws. They must also ensure that they comply with the legal requirements for employing foreign nationals.


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While most expat workers in Portugal will require a work permit to work legally, there are a few exemptions to this rule:

  • European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens do not need work permits to work in Portugal. They enjoy the freedom of movement within the EU/EEA and have the right to work in Portugal without restrictions.
  • Spouses and dependent family members of EU/EEA citizens may also work in Portugal without a work permit.
  • Highly skilled workers who meet certain criteria may be eligible for a Blue Card, which allows them to work in Portugal without a work permit.
  • Foreign nationals who have been granted asylum or refugee status in Portugal may also work without a work permit.

It’s important to note that even when exempt from obtaining a work permit, expats in Portugal must still meet other legal requirements, such as registering their residence with the appropriate authorities and obtaining any necessary residence permits.

Types of Work Permits for Expats in Portugal

Portugal offers different types of work permits for expats, each designed to cater to various categories of foreign workers. The type of permit you may be eligible for depends on your specific circumstances and the nature of your employment in Portugal. Here are the primary types of work permits:

Initial Work Permit

An Initial Work Permit is typically issued to expat workers who have secured employment in Portugal. To be eligible for this permit, the employer must apply on behalf of the employee and demonstrate the need for their skills and qualifications. The Initial Work Permit is generally valid for one year and can be renewed.

Temporary Work Permit

A Temporary Work Permit may be granted for shorter-term employment situations, such as seasonal work or specific projects. This permit is typically valid for a shorter duration than the Initial Work Permit and is subject to the specific terms and conditions of the employment contract.

Highly Qualified Activity Work Permit

Highly skilled and qualified professionals may apply for a Highly Qualified Activity Work Permit, commonly referred to as a “Blue Card.” This permit is aimed at attracting skilled workers to Portugal and allows them to work and reside in the country. To be eligible, applicants must meet specific education and income criteria.

Entrepreneurial Visa and Residence Permit

Entrepreneurs who wish to start their businesses in Portugal can apply for an Entrepreneurial Visa and Residence Permit. This permit allows individuals to work and manage their businesses while contributing to Portugal’s economic growth. Applicants must present a viable business plan to qualify.

Procedure to Apply for a Work Permit in Portugal and Processing Time

The process of applying for a work permit in Portugal involves several steps, and it’s essential for both the employer and the expat employee to be aware of these procedures. Here’s an overview of the typical steps involved:

  1. The employer initiates the work permit application process through the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF).
  2. The employer must provide necessary documents, including the employment contract, proof of the employee’s qualifications, and a statement explaining the need for hiring a foreign worker.
  3. SEF reviews the application and conducts a labor market test to ensure that there are no suitable Portuguese candidates available for the position.
  4. If the application is approved, SEF issues a work permit, and the expat employee can then apply for a residence permit.
  5. The processing time for a work permit application in Portugal may vary but generally takes several weeks to a few months.

It’s important to note that obtaining a work permit is just the first step. expat workers must also obtain a residence permit, which allows them to legally reside in Portugal while working for their employer.

Documents Required for a Work Permit Application in Portugal

When applying for a work permit in Portugal, both the employer and the expat employee must provide a set of documents to support the application. These documents are essential to demonstrate the legitimacy of the employment and the need for hiring a foreign worker. Here are some of the key documents typically required:

  • A copy of the employment contract between the employer and the expat employee, specifying terms and conditions of employment.
  • Proof of the expat employee’s qualifications and skills, such as diplomas, certificates, or professional licenses.
  • A copy of the expat employee’s valid passport with a minimum of six months validity.
  • Health insurance coverage for the duration of the employment contract.
  • Proof of payment for the work permit application fee.
  • Additional documents may be required depending on the specific type of work permit being applied for.

It’s essential to ensure that all required documents are complete and accurate, as incomplete or incorrect submissions can lead to delays or even the rejection of the application.

Costs Involved in Applying for a Work Permit in Portugal

Applying for a work permit in Portugal comes with certain costs, both for the employer and the expat employee. These costs can vary depending on the type of permit and other factors. Here are some of the typical expenses associated with obtaining a work permit:

  • Work permit application fee: The fee for submitting a work permit application varies depending on the type of permit and may range from several hundred to over a thousand euros (EUR).
  • Health insurance costs: Expats must have health insurance coverage for the duration of their employment in Portugal, and the associated costs are the responsibility of the employee.
  • Residence permit fees: Expats who require a residence permit must pay the associated fees at a Portuguese consulate or embassy in their home country.
  • Legalization and translation costs: Some documents may need to be legalized and translated into Portuguese, incurring additional expenses.

It’s essential for both the employer and the expat employee to budget for these expenses when planning to work legally in Portugal. Being aware of the costs involved can help avoid any financial surprises during the application process.

Reliable Information on Working Legally in Portugal

For expats considering employment in Portugal, accessing reliable information on the legal requirements and procedures is crucial. Here are some reliable sources and websites that provide valuable information on working legally in Portugal:

1. Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF): The official website of SEF offers comprehensive information on work permits, residence permits, and immigration procedures in Portugal. It provides guidance on the application process and required documents.

2. EURAXESS Portugal: EURAXESS is a European network that supports researchers and academics. The Portugal section provides information on working and living in Portugal, including details on residence and work permits.

3. Portal of the Portuguese Government: The official portal of the Portuguese government offers a wide range of information on various topics, including employment and immigration. It provides resources and documents related to work permits and legal requirements.

4. Portugal Golden Visa: For investors and entrepreneurs interested in Portugal’s Golden Visa program, this website provides details on the program’s requirements and benefits.

5. Expatica – Working in Portugal: Expatica offers a guide to working in Portugal, covering work permits, employment, and practical advice for expats.

These sources can serve as valuable references for expats seeking up-to-date and reliable information on working legally in Portugal. It’s essential to stay informed and consult official sources when navigating the legal requirements and procedures for employment in the country.