In an effort to align Portugal’s national immigration law with EU migration policy, several upcoming changes that will affect non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) and non-Swiss nationals are as follows: add a transit privilege for Schengen visitor visa holders; create an Entrepreneur/Investor Residence Permit; extend the validity of Temporary Stay visas; establish requirements to apply for the EU Blue Card and increased civil fines for employing illegal workers.

What’s Changed?

On August 9, 2012, Portugal’s Foreigners’ Department (Serviço Estrangeiros e Fronteiras or “SEF”) Internal Administration Ministry published several important amendments to the national immigration law.  As these amendments are undergoing implementation, the final regulations are not due to take effect until September 8, 2012. (Please note that specific documentation requirements and processing time estimates are not expected to be finalized until on or after October 8, 2012.)

A general summary of these changes are as follows:

Transit Privilege for Schengen Visa (Visto de Curta Duração)

In addition to business visitor and tourist activities, Portuguese immigration law will now permit all Schengen Type “C” visitor visas to transit Portugal as part of their onward travel to other destinations.

Entrepreneur/Investor Residence Permits (Autorização de Residencia para actividade de Investimento)

The Portuguese Government plans to introduce a new and streamlined temporary residence permit program for overseas investors who intend to either invest capital of at least €1MM or acquire at least €500,000 of real estate holdings in Portugal.  Also, overseas entrepreneurs who intend to establish a Portuguese business with job creation exceeding 30 jobs are eligible.

Extended Duration of Temporary Stay Visa (Visto de Estada Temporária)

The Temporary Stay Visa (“TSV”) is generally used for short-term assignments (i.e., a non-localized worker).

Under the new regulations, the TSV will have its duration of stay increased to 120 consecutive days from 90 consecutive days.  In addition, allowable activities will be broadened to permit stays of up to one year for professional training (unpaid), voluntary work or student exchange programs.

Total duration of stay will be calculated from date of first entry into Portugal.  Ability to extend TSV status will be granted on a highly discretionary basis. If permitted to extend status, a TSV may be extended twice up to a maximum stay of 28 consecutive months.   Please note that TSV holders are not required to obtain a residence permit.

Please also note that under the new regulation, accompanying family members will not be granted a dependent resident visa. Rather, family members who are visa nationals may obtain a Schengen “C” tourist visa or non-visa nationals may enter Portugal under a tourist status.  Tourist status may be valid for up to 90 cumulative days within a given 180-day period.

EU Blue Card (Cartão Azul)

Beginning September 8, 2012, the SEF will begin accepting applications for the EU Blue Card.  The Blue Card is designed to promote intra-EU migration of skilled workers and facilitate faster processing of work authorization in those EU-member states offering the card.

The general application requirements are as follows:

  • Applicants must possess a university degree;
  • Earn in excess of 1.5 times Portugal’s annual gross national salary (approximately €2,000 per month) or three times the monthly IAS (Social Support Index) value (currently estimated at €419.22/US$525 per month, paid over a 14-month schedule);
  • Must work in a clearly specialized-skill occupation.  (Applicants not having a university degree must evidence proposed employment in Portugal that requires highly-specialized skills and possess five years of directly experience as a high-level professional);
  • Have a Portuguese work contract valid for at least one year;
  • Possess international health insurance or be registered in the national health system;
  • Inclusion of salary in Portugal’s  Social Security System;
  • If the profession is not regulated in Portugal, a university degree or other documentation must be presented to prove the applicant’s professional qualification;
  • If the profession is regulated in Portugal, proof of the professional certification in Portugal must be presented (e.g., accounting, legal, medical).

Initial validity of the EU Blue Card will be valid for one year with application to renew for up to two years.  While EU regulations request all Blue Card applications be expedited for approval within 60 days of application, the SEF has not issued assurance of this processing time.

After five years of continued residence in Portugal, EU Blue Card holders may apply for Portuguese permanent residence.

In addition to the above, ability to register for a Residence Permit in this category will require the foreign national worker’s specific profession be recognized in Portuguese law as a specialized skill not readily available in Portugal. (“Specialized skill” is generally defined as a position requiring the equivalent of at least a bachelor’s degree or, in lieu of a degree, at least five years of professional experience directly relevant to the proposed specialized position.)

Also, EU Blue Card holders registered for Residence Permits as localized workers will be allowed to amend status to include working in freelance or assignment contract scenarios.

Increased Civil Fines for Employing Illegal Workers

Under the new regulations, civil fines for companies found to be employing illegal workers will range from €2,000 (approximately US$2,500) for a single worker to €90,000 (approximately US$112,000) for employing more than 50 illegal workers.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

The majority of the above changes are welcomed as a way for Portugal to more fully integrate its national immigration policy with EU common policy on freedom of movement and to attract more skilled migration.

Companies are advised to carefully review the general summary points above and confirm with their Portuguese immigration suppliers if the upcoming changes will directly affect any upcoming assignments to Portugal or existing assignments.  As these changes are not yet fully implemented and not expected to take force until September 8, 2012, changes to these requirements may occur with little to no advance public notice.

Article written by Carmo Hatton, Managing Partner of NAU Relocation and Glenn Faulk, Senior Manager, Knowledge Management of Pro-Link GLOBAL.