The Portugal Highly Qualified Activities (HQA) Visa allows highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors to join Portugal’s vibrant community.

As part of the European Union’s initiative to welcome global talent, the HQA Visa provides many benefits for foreign nationals, such as the opportunity to work and live in Portugal, and a pathway to EU citizenship after five years.

This guide provides a complete understanding of the Portugal HQA Visa, highlighting its advantages, application process, and eligibility requirements.

What is the Portugal HQA Visa?

The Portugal HQA Visa is a D-category and priority residency visa, specifically designed to attract highly skilled professionals to Portuguese companies. The objective of the HQA Visa is to utilize experienced individuals to grow the local economy but also provide non-EU citizens the opportunity to benefit from living and working in a European country.

Benefits of the HQA Visa

portugal passport golden visa updatesThe Portugal HQA Visa offers an exciting opportunity for anyone looking to take advantage of the country’s accessibility laws for citizenship and benefits, such as:

  • Access to the European Union: As a resident of Portugal, you can embrace the freedom to explore other Schengen Area countries, visa-free.
  • Access to Portugal healthcare: Portugal boasts an efficient, high-quality healthcare system for both public and private healthcare
  • Family reunification opportunities: An applicants’ family and dependent children are eligible to join visa holder in Portugal.
  • Pathway to Portuguese citizenship: After five years of living and working in Portugal on your HQA visa, you’re eligible to apply for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship.
  • Thriving business environment: The country is also known for its supportive business ecosystem, most notably in the tech industry.
  • High quality of life: Enjoy Portugal’s stunning landscapes, pleasant climate, and rich cultural heritage.

Eligibility for Portugal HQA Visa

  • To qualify for the Portugal HQA Visa, the following criteria should be met:Be a citizen of a third country and not reside permanently in the European Union
  • Have regularized tax and social security contributions, when applicable
  • Have no criminal record
  • Be at least 18 years old

Applicants must also be able to perform their specified, highly qualified activity by fulfilling one of the following requirements:

  • Possess a minimum qualification level of Level 6, according to ISCED – 2011;
  • In the case of workers with a qualification Level 5, higher technical professional course, according to ISCED – 2011, they must demonstrate that they have specialized technical skills of an exceptional nature, obtained through a minimum experience of five years.

Prior to applying, you must have proof of the below criteria:

  • Have an employment contract or promise of employment contract with a minimum duration of 12 months
  • Have a minimum salary equivalent to 2.5 times the Social Support Index
  • Possess proficiency in Portuguese, English, French, or Spanish, appropriate to the functions to be performed.

What line of work qualifies for the HQA Visa?

According to Portuguese Law on Foreigners, highly qualified work is “the exercise of an activity that requires specialized technical skills of an exceptional nature or an adequate qualification for the respective exercise of the function.”

The European Commission defines a highly qualified activity as that exercised by professionals falling into either of these two categories, namely: management and leadership positions or specialists in intellectual and scientific activities.

Management and leadership positions

Executive directors (CEO)

Qualified individuals that hold the necessary qualifications and experience in this field. Examples of responsibilities include overseeing the overall operations of the company, setting strategic goals, making high-level decisions, managing senior executives, and ensuring company policies and procedures align with the company’s vision and mission.

Chief financial officer (CFO)

Applicants must have qualifications or a relevant degree in finance and accounting. Previous responsibilities should include managing the company’s financial actions, including tracking cash flow, financial planning, analyzing financial strengths and weaknesses, and making recommendations for improvement.

Chief operating officer (COO)

Proven experience as a COO or in other managerial positions, understanding of business functions such as HR, finance, and marketing. Examples of experience include managing operational functions of the company, implementing business strategies, plans, and procedures, and setting comprehensive goals for performance and growth.

Project managers

Experience in project management, certification (e.g., PMP), and a relevant degree in management or a specific field related to the project. Applicants must have proven experience of planning, initiating, and overseeing projects. Ensuring that projects are completed on time, within scope, and within budget. Coordinating with team members and stakeholders.

Specialists in intellectual and scientific activities

Academic researchers

Individuals working in higher education institutions or research organizations, such as:

  • University professors, lecturers, and academic researchers.
  • Scientists conducting advanced research in various fields, including natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Technology experts

Professionals with advanced skills and qualifications in information technology and related fields. This includes:

  • Software developers, IT project managers, and systems analysts.
  • Cybersecurity experts, data scientists, and AI specialists.

Creative professionals

Individuals with relevant qualifications and experience in innovative and intellectual property creation.

  • Authors, journalists, and media specialists
  • Designers, architects, and professionals in the creative arts.

Specialists in scientific activities

To accommodate the broad scope of scientific activities, you can find a more thorough breakdown below:

Scientific researchers who hold the qualifications necessary for professionals engaged in scientific investigations and experiments. This includes:

  • Biologists, chemists, physicists, and other natural scientists.
  • Medical researchers and healthcare scientists who are working on clinical trials and healthcare innovations.

Engineers and technologists that have the qualifications and expertise in engineering and technological development. These positions include:

  • Civil, mechanical, electrical, and aerospace engineers.
  • Professionals working on cutting-edge technological projects and developments.

Health and medical professionals that are specialists in high-level positions within medical and healthcare sectors, including:

  • Doctors, surgeons, and medical specialists engaged in advanced medical practices.
  • Healthcare professionals that are involved in public health, epidemiology, and medical research.

In addition to the HQA Visa, another option within this category is the D3 Tech Visa. We’ll explain more about the requirements for this visa below.

What is the D3 Tech Visa?

The D3 Tech Visa makes it easier for Portuguese businesses to hire highly qualified or experienced professionals in specialized fields from outside of the EU. To qualify for the D3 Tech Visa, the company that you’re applying to must be accredited and registered with the IAPMEI

What is IAPMEI?

The IAPMEI is the government body responsible for verifying companies’ eligibility to hire non-EU citizens for the D3 Tech Visa. 

IAPMEI company requirements for the D3 Tech Visa includes:

  • Must be a legally constituted company in Portugal
  • History of paying wages on time to current employees
  • Conducting business that operates in the global market
  • Proof of positive equity for companies operating for more than three years
  • Having headquarters or an office branch within Portugal
  • No debts with Social Security and Tax
  • IAPMEI certification valid for five years

Portugal HQA Visa Required Documents

Before you apply, it’s important to ensure that all your documents are correct and up to date. This allows for a smoother and faster application process. Here are the required documents for your HQA application:

  • Two identical passport photos
  • Valid employment contract from the Portuguese company that is valid for a minimum of 12 months
  • Valid passport with at minimum three months validity beyond the intended stay duration. 
  • Proof of travel such as flight tickets issued in the name of the visa holder
  • Proof of accommodation for the applicant and their family 
  • Valid travel insurance and health insurance
  • A clean criminal record issued from your country of origin 
  • Completed form allowing AIMA to access your criminal record certificate
  • Marriage and children’s birth certificates if applicable

Depending on the Portuguese company, institution or university that you’ve been recruited by some additional documents may be required that are relevant to your circumstances: 

  • Invitation letter from professional training institution if applying for researcher or teacher position.
  • Proof of qualifications for your area of expertise and contractual obligations
  • Credentials for regulated professions to practice in Portugal

Portugal HQA Visa Application Process

The application process for your D3 HQA Visa is largely dependent on the country and Portuguese Consulate that you’re applying from and your Highly Qualified Activity. Below are general guidelines for the HQA Visa application process.

But here’s an overview of the application process.

Step 1: Prepare documents and submit your application form

Having all your required documents ready is key to ensuring a smoother application process. Applying from outside of the EU offers two routes:

  • E-Visa Portal at your local Portuguese Consulate
  • VFS Global.

Step 2: Scheduling your visa interview

All applicants must have an interview at the application center or Portuguese Consulate. This is to verify your plans to move to Portugal, credentials and other relevant information related to your immigration.

Ensure you have all the relevant documents with you for your interview.

Step 3: Receive your visa

The D3 Visa is considered a priority, therefore if your application is successful, you will be issued your visa within 30 days (about 4 and a half weeks).

Step 4: Arriving in Portugal

Your initial visa is valid for 120 days (four months). Within that period, you must apply for legal residency status at AIMA.

Leading up to your visa expiry date, if you’re required to stay longer as per your employment contract, you must renew your residence permit associated with your HQA visa. Each renewal can be extended for two years and up to a maximum of five years.

After five years, you are eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit and Portuguese citizenship.

How long must I stay in Portugal to keep my HQA Visa?

HQA Visa holders need to live in Portugal for at least 183 days per year to maintain their residence status.

HQA Visa Processing Time

The HQA Visa is considered a priority visa.  Provided that you meet all the eligibility requirements, have a successful application interview and receive approval, your visa is issued within 30 days (about four and a half weeks) of applying.

HQA Visa Fees and Costs

You can expect to pay about €90 for your HQA visa

When applying for the HQA Visa, there are several additional costs that you need to consider:

  • Portuguese Consulate processing fees: This cost varies as it’s relevant to your home country that you’re applying from.
  • Health insurance: As a prerequisite for your visa, this cost is dependent on your preferred service provider and your home country that you’re applying from.
  • Living or moving expenses: The HQA Visa can be issued within 30 days. Therefore, it’s important to have the finances to pay for your flights and accommodation for when you arrive in Portugal.

How does the Portugal HQA Visa differ from other visas in Portugal?

The Portugal D3 Visa (HQA) is specifically for highly qualified professionals who want to engage in services related to their qualifications. If you do not meet the certifications or experience requirements for the D3 Visa, there are other visa options available for people looking to immigrate to Portugal, namely:

  • Portugal Golden Visa – An investment visa that requires applicants to invest in an existing or new Portuguese business or research program.
  • D2 Visa – Designed for entrepreneurs and independent service providers of any qualification level looking to start or expand a business in Portugal.
  • D7 Visa – This visa is for retirees or individuals with a passive income, such as real estate or other investments.
  • D8 Visa – The Digital Nomad visa requires applicants to have an independent income of €3,280 per month.

Frequently Asked Questions for Portugal HQA Visa

How do I apply for a Highly Qualified Activity Visa in Portugal?

To qualify for the HQA Visa, you must have tertiary qualifications or work experience that falls within these categories: Management and leadership positions or specialists in intellectual and scientific activities. If you have the necessary qualifications, you’ll need an employment contract for a position that pertains to your expertise before applying for your HQA Visa.

What is the minimum investment required for the Portugal HQA Visa?

The HQA Visa is not an investment visa. Applicants need to prove that they are highly qualified to fulfill employment roles for Portuguese companies and have a contract or promise of work from a company before applying.

Can the Portugal HQA Visa lead to permanent residency or citizenship?

Yes. After obtaining the Portugal HQA Visa, individuals can eventually qualify for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship. Once you have held a temporary residency permit for five years, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship.

What are the differences between the HQA Visa and the Portugal Golden Visa program?

The HQA Visa and the Portugal Golden Visa cater to different audiences and have some distinct differences:

The HQA Visa is designed for highly skilled professionals looking to be employed in high-level positions for Portuguese companies, universities or healthcare facilities. The Golden Visa is a citizenship by investment visa, that requires applicants to make an investment into a program as stipulated by the Portuguese government.

What types of professions qualify for the Portugal Highly Qualified Activity Visa?

The HQA Visa aims to enhance Portugal’s economic growth and innovation by attracting talent from diverse fields. Professions that qualify for the Portugal Highly Qualified Activity Visa typically include the following:

– Technology and Innovation: Software developers, data scientists, and tech entrepreneurs.

– Research and Academia: University professors, researchers, and scientists.

– Healthcare: Doctors, specialists, and healthcare executives.

– Finance and Business: Financial analysts, business consultants, and senior executives.

– Creative Industries: Artists, designers, and cultural managers.

What is Portugal's HQA Visa?

The Portugal HQA Visa, also called the Highly Qualified Activity Visa, is a residency program designed to attract exceptionally skilled entrepreneurs, researchers, and professionals to Portugal. It facilitates establishing and advancing innovative businesses and research initiatives in the country, providing a seamless path to residency for individuals with outstanding capabilities. It offers entry to Portugal’s vibrant business landscape and robust support networks for startups and innovation, presenting a valuable opportunity for ambitious, forward-thinking individuals.

Do Americans need a Visa for Portugal?

Americans can stay in Portugal for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without needing a visa. However, for longer stays involving residency, work, or study, US citizens must apply for an appropriate visa, such as the Portugal HQA Visa if they qualify. The HQA Visa offers a structured pathway for Americans looking to live and work in Portugal through highly qualified expertise.