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Expats Working in Portugal

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: August 2015

Permission to Work

How easy it is to obtain a Portuguese work permit depends on which country you are immigrating from. EEA and Swiss citizens do not require a work permit to work in Portugal, though after if they are working for more than three months, they will require a residence card.

Residents of all other countries who want to work for more than three months in Portugal need to obtain a work permit (autorização de trabalho) and a residence card. Your future employer can apply for this on your behalf once you have accepted their job offer.

There is a high rate of unemployment in Portugal, so few vacancies are available. Furthermore, obtaining a work permit is difficult because the sponsor (your prospective employer) has to prove that the position is of a special nature and could not be filled by a Portuguese resident. This means you will need to have specific skills or knowledge that are rare in Portugal, or otherwise be married to a Portuguese citizen.

You may also need to be proficient in Portuguese to qualify for a work permit. The application will be submitted to the relevant Portuguese labour authority. Bureaucracy is bad in Portugal and processing of your work permit application may take up to eight months. Work permits are normally valid for one year and are then renewable every two years.

If you have entered Portugal as a visitor, you are not permitted to change this status to ‘worker’. This means that if you want to make speculative job applications in Portugal, you will need to leave the country, gain a work permit and then return.

Once you have a work permit approved, you may apply for a visa. There are two types of visa you will need to obtain before you can enter Portugal to work. Those seconded from a non-Portuguese company require an Independent visa. Most people, those who want to work in Portugal for a local company, will need a Dependent visa.

This page gives details on the working conditions plus the work permits and other immigration procedures you need to complete before you will be able to work in Portugal. For more information on finding a job and other work-related topics, see Employment and Business.


The legal maximum working day and week are 8 hours and 40 hours respectively. Individual employees may choose to waive this restriction and work up to 12 hours a day and 60 hours a week. Many do so, especially in some service and industrial sectors. Working hours are generally from 9:00 to 1:00 and 3:00 to 7:00. Some companies work on Saturdays, while working on Sunday is at a minimum. After one year, employees are entitled to 22 days annual leave. There are 13 mandatory public holidays in Portugal, plus two optional ones.

The gender gap is still quite sharp in Portugal: many women feel they are asked to work too many hours and do not feel safe when walking home from work at night.

The EU bailout of the Portuguese economy led to cuts in already low levels of pay (mostly due to the withdrawal of the two annual monthly bonuses in June and December.) Substandard working conditions, poor management and unsatisfactory relations with colleagues have also contributed to worker dissatisfaction.

These factors, together with high unemployment, especially among the young, have led to a significant amount of discontent, with many Portuguese taking to the streets. Of course, most working expats will not experience any of these problems, though they are worth bearing in mind.




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