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Exploring Portugal’s D3 Visa for Highly Qualified Individuals

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Last updated on March 12, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 7 minutes

Are you a highly skilled professional dreaming of moving to Portugal? The D3 visa might just be your golden ticket. This special residency visa is designed for non-EU/EEA/Swiss individuals who:

  1. Possess unique skills and
  2. Either have a job offer or already have an employment contract with a Portuguese employer.

Moving to Portugal under the D3 comes with a number of benefits. As a resident of Portugal, you’ll be able to:

  • Apply for Portuguese citizenship after five years (or less) through naturalisation.
  • Travel freely within the Schengen Area (which includes other countries like Germany, France, and Spain).
  • Access Portuguese public healthcare services.
  • Bring qualifying family members to Portugal to live with you through family reunification.
  • Obtain Portuguese citizenship for any children born in Portugal (if you have been resident in Portugal for at least 12 months by that point).

There are also some benefits that are specific to the D3 visa, such as:

  • After receiving your D3 Visa and assuming you maintain legal residency in Portugal for 18 months, you then qualify to apply for the EU Blue Card. Obtaining the EU Blue Card allows you, and your family, to relocate to any other EU Member State (excluding Ireland and Denmark) for the purposes of exercising a highly qualified activity.
  • The visa is prioritised and you should have a decision within 30-60 days (unlike other visas which can take several months or more).
  • Depending on your work, you may also be able to qualify for Portugal’s new NHR tax regime.

Let’s dive into what the D3 visa entails and how you can secure one for yourself.

What does “highly qualified activity” mean?

In Portugal, the term “highly qualified work” refers to jobs that require specialised technical skills or exceptional knowledge, or the right qualifications to perform the job well, as defined by the Portuguese Law on Foreigners.

The European Commission breaks down highly qualified activities into two main categories:

  1. Leadership Roles: This includes top-tier positions like executives, legislators, senior public administration officials, company directors, and managers in areas of administration, commerce, and services.
  2. Specialised Professionals: This group encompasses those with expertise in intellectual and scientific fields, such as engineers, scientists, educators, healthcare workers, business experts, ICT specialists, cultural professionals, and legal professionals.

Main Requirements – What You Need to Know

To apply for the D3 Visa, you need to meet specific criteria, including having a job offer and certain qualifications:

Experience and Skills

You’ll need to show that your job is considered highly qualified work in Portugal. This involves providing proof of the necessary qualifications or experience needed for the role. You’ll typically need to show that you’ve either earned a higher education degree or amassed 5-6 years of relevant work experience. This is to ensure that you’re indeed highly skilled in your field.

Employment Agreement

An essential requirement is having a valid employment contract or a promise of one, lasting at least one year (12 months). This contract should clearly mention your job position and the specialised field you’ll be working in.

Salary Requirements

Your expected salary must be at least 1.5 times the national average gross annual salary in Portugal or three times the value of the social support index (IAS). As of 2024, the minimum wage in Portugal is €820 per month.

Direct Residence Permit Option

If you meet all the necessary legal requirements and can prove your legal entry and stay in Portugal, you may directly apply for a Residence Permit for highly qualified activities. This permit grants you residency in Portugal without needing a separate visa.

Other requirements:

  • A clean criminal record: In practice, crimes with less than one year of prison time in Portugal do not exclude you from obtaining residency. However, it is recommended that you are upfront about these [source].

Stepping Stones to Your D3 Visa Application

Once you have secured a job offer, or the promise of a job offer, the next stage is to apply for the D3.

Applying for a D3 Visa involves a two-step process. Initially, you’ll need to apply at the Portuguese Consulate or Embassy in your home country. In some locations, applications go through VFS rather than a consulate or embassy. The second stage takes place at AIMA (previously known as SEF) in Portugal.

Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  1. First Stage: At this early phase, you must gather all required documents for the D3 Visa application. This includes completing various forms, declarations, and authorisations. These materials, along with your application, are submitted either to the Portuguese Consulate/Embassy or, in some cases, the VFS Office.
  2. Application Submission and Interview: After submitting your visa application online, you’ll book an appointment at the VFS for a personal interview. Once your application is reviewed and approved, your passport will be stamped with the visa.

This visa enables you to enter Portugal for up to 120 days and then attend an interview with AIMA, where you will be granted your residence permit.

The residence is permit or, as mentioned, can be exchange for the EU Blue Card. After five years of living in Portugal, it’s possible to apply for permanent residency or Portuguese citizenship.

Typical Documents Required

To apply for the Portugal D3 Visa, you’ll normally need the following documents:

  • Two identical passport photographs.
  • A valid passport (should be valid for at least three months beyond your planned stay).
  • Proof of travel and accommodation for you and your family, including a rental contract or an invitation letter from someone legally residing in Portugal.
  • Valid travel insurance.
  • A criminal record certificate from your country of origin.
  • A completed form allowing the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (AIMA) to access your criminal record certificate.
  • Proof of financial means to support yourself during your stay. This can be shown through a statement of responsibility signed by the entity hosting you.

Depending on how you qualify for the D3, you will also need one or more of the following:

  • An invitation letter from a professional training institution if you’re applying as a teacher or researcher.
  • A valid employment contract or promise of employment with an established company operating in Portugal.
  • For regulated professions, proof of professional qualifications that allow you to practice in Portugal.
  • For non-regulated professions, a professional certificate relevant to the activity or sector specified in your employment contract.

The D3 VS the D1

There are two main pros to the D3 over the D1:

  • The D3 Visa is often seen as having a smoother and quicker application process. It’s given higher priority by the Portuguese government, leading to faster approval times than many other visa types.
  • A major advantage of the D3 Visa is that it can pave the way to obtaining an EU Blue Card in Portugal. Holding an EU Blue Card allows you the flexibility to work and live across the EU, enhancing your career options and freedom to move within the bloc.

Final Thoughts

Securing a D3 visa is a significant step towards starting your new life in Portugal. It’s a pathway designed for individuals like you, bringing unique skills to the Portuguese workforce. Remember, the journey requires preparation, from proving your qualifications to demonstrating financial stability.

So, are you ready to embark on this exciting journey? With the right preparation and a clear understanding of the requirements, the D3 visa could be the start of an incredible new chapter in Portugal.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.