Is the HQA Visa An Alternative to Portugal’s Golden Visa?

The small print: Portugalist may generate a commission from mentioned products or services. This is at no additional cost to you and it does not affect our editorial standards in any way. All content, including comments, should be treated as informational and not advice of any kind, including legal or financial advice. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or damages arising from its display or use. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement. [Disclaimer Policy]

Written by: | Last updated on March 6, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

With the real estate option ending in Portugal’s golden visa, more and more people are looking at other residency visas such as the D7, digital nomad visa, and now, the HQA or highly qualified activity visa. Despite launching in 2019, the HQA visa has long been ignored, but more and more people are starting to consider it. 

Want more information about the HQA visa? Get in touch.

For most investors, the golden visa is still likely to be the route to residency of choice. Although you can no longer qualify by investing in property, you can qualify by investing €500,000 in a qualifying fund. There is an element of risk, as with all investments, but as it’s diversified it’s possible that it would be less risky than investing in the HQA visa where you’re investing a lot of capital in one idea.

Another reason people are looking at the HQA visa is the price. The typical entry cost of the golden visa is €500,000 excluding fees (although as little as €200,000 is possible if you’re willing to make a donation rather than an investment) while the cost of the HQA visa is €175,000 all-in (excluding any additional costs for family members). 

So is the HQA visa an alternative to the golden visa? There are some commonalities, and the HQA visa has come into the spotlight as the golden visa is expected to end, but ultimately the two visas are quite different.

The first commonality is the physical stay requirements. With the golden visa this is typically an average of 7 days per year and the HQA visa, similarly, doesn’t have a physical stay requirement, although most agents are recommending that you spend at least 7 days per year in Portugal.

Most other visas, like the D7 or digital nomad visa, require you to spend around six months of the year in Portugal. Because of this, the D7 and golden visa are best-suited to those that genuinely want to live in Portugal for the majority of the year whereas other visas like the HQA and golden visa are aimed at those that want to invest in Portugal but not necessarily live there. 

Another similarity is that, like the golden visa, the HQA visa is an investment visa. The golden visa does allow you to invest in scientific research or to start a company, however the reality is that most people choose to invest in something more straightforward like funds instead.

This is where the golden visa and the HQA visa start to differ. At the end of the golden visa, you’ll hopefully get your money back plus some growth if you invested in something like funds. At the end of the HQA visa, on the other hand, you will have a lot of research, perhaps intellectual property, and maybe even a revenue-generating company where the sky is often the limit.

And, of course, there are a lot of other benefits like being able to apply for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years, being able to access the Portuguese public health system, and live in Portugal, should you wish to, full-time. 

There’s obviously a huge amount of value in starting a company, which could be worth potentially more than any fund value growth, but an entrepreneurship or research visa isn’t right for everyone. For this reason, it’s called the HQA visa, implying that it’s aimed at those in highly qualified activities such as working as an entrepreneur, scientist, engineer, doctor, or other professionals. 

What about professionals such as doctors or scientists that operate in highly qualified fields but aren’t necessarily entrepreneurial? The HQA visa allows you to start and manage a business without necessarily being involved in the day-to-day running of it – those responsibilities can be delegated to a manager or someone else and there are companies out there that’ll help manage the running of your new business. 

So, in short, the HQA visa isn’t simply another, less politically volatile version of the golden visa. It isn’t aimed at anyone with cash, as the golden visa was, but those in specific high-level fields who want to invest in a project, startup, or research. If that’s you, this visa could be the perfect way to develop a business while obtaining Portuguese citizenship at the same time. If it’s not, you may want to look at other routes to residency like the digital nomad visa or the D7. A list discussing all the different visas and routes to residency can be found here.

Written by

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.