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Portugal D2 Visa: A Path to Citizenship for Entrepreneurs

Here at Digital Émigré, we get a lot of enquiries about Portugal’s D7 passive income visa and Golden Visa options. Both are excellent routes into Portugal and will allow you to gain eventual Portuguese/EU citizenship. But they aren’t always the right fit for everyone. 

Recently, people have been dropping into my inbox asking about another kind of residency route: the Portugal D2 visa. It’s not as well-known as the other options, but we think it deserves a lot more attention. 

The enquiry that brought the D2 visa to my attention came from a Brit running a branch of a successful UK-based wellness business here in Madeira.  He was still a resident in the UK and, since Brexit, was hampered by the 90/180 day rule. He wanted the ability to spend more than 90 days in Portugal.  Neither the Golden Visa nor the D7 fitted his situation, but the D2 looked more promising.  

In short, the D2 visa is an interesting choice for those looking to open a business in Portugal.  In this guide, I’ll explain exactly what the Portugal D2 visa is, who it’s for, and how you can get it.  

What is the Portugal D2 visa? 

Like Portugal’s other visa pathways, the D2 visa is aimed at third country nationals from outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland.  In contrast, EU citizens can move to Portugal freely without a visa, under EU freedom of movement rights.

The D2 visa is designed for people who want to open a new business in Portugal, set up a Portuguese branch of an existing business, or move to Portugal to run a business that’s already here.  In light of that, the D2 is also known as the Entrepreneur Visa.

Unlike the Golden Visa, you won’t need to make a hefty investment in Portugal to get the D2 visa. And unlike the D7 visa, you don’t need to prove a source of regular passive income.  

Instead, getting Portugal’s D2 visa mainly depends on having a viable business (or business idea) that you can run in Portugal. The business can be anything from a coffee shop to a wellness retreat to a real estate agency – there are no restrictions.  

Portugal D2 visa categories 

There are two different types of D2 visa. Let’s take a look at what each one involves. 

Entrepreneur route 

This is a good fit for those who either want to open an entirely new business, or open a Portuguese branch of an existing business.  

Key requirements: 

  • NIF (tax number in Portugal) 
  • Business bank account at a Portuguese bank
  • Setting up a Portuguese limited company (LDA) 
  • An accountant who understands the Portuguese tax system 

You’ll also need to show evidence of having sufficient financial means to set up and run the company.  As you’re incorporating a company in Portugal, you’ll need to pay corporation tax every year, along with social security contributions. 

Independent service provider route 

This option is a good fit for those who wish to provide services to domestic or international clients.  It has fewer requirements compared to the entrepreneur route. You don’t have to incorporate a Portuguese company, nor do you need an accountant. 

Key requirements: 

  • NIF (tax number in Portugal) 
  • Bank account at a Portuguese bank
  • Proof of relevant experience or qualifications in your field (e.g., academic degree, CV) 
  • Proof of having a contract with one or more clients  

If you work remotely to deliver services to clients outside of Portugal, then the D7 ‘passive income’ visa could also be a good option for you. This visa includes remote work in its definition of passive income.  

What are the benefits of the D2 visa? 

  • No need to prove passive income 
  • No need to make a large investment in Portugal  
  • Pathway to citizenship after 5 years  
  • Great fit for entrepreneurs and existing business owners 

How to get the D2 visa 

Being successful with the D2 visa primarily rests on showing a business plan that’s likely to succeed in Portugal.  The Portuguese authorities want to know that your business or service activities will generate enough income to support you while you live in Portugal.  

That income could come either from a locally incorporated company (for the entrepreneur route) or from contracts with clients (for the independent service provider route). 

When applying, you’ll also have to show “proof of means of subsistence.” Typically, this means you should have enough savings in the bank for at least 12 months, equivalent to Portuguese minimum wage. That’s currently set at €665 per month as of 2021. So you’ll need to show savings of just under €8,000 for one applicant.  

But do bear in mind that this amount will barely cover your monthly rent in a popular city like Lisbon, Porto or Funchal. We recommend that D2 or D7 applicants have a minimum of €1000 per month for one person, which is a more realistic level. 

Here’s the full list of documents required for your D2 application. We’ll take a deeper look at the ones that people ask about most often.  

Criminal record check from previous countries of residency

This is an important part of the application, but one that can often cause headaches for people.  

You’ll normally need to get a criminal record check from any country where you’ve lived for more than 12 months.  The immigration authorities will want the document to be less than three months old, so it’s important to get the timing right in relation to the rest of your application. 

Many people ask us if previous criminal convictions can jeopardize the application. Our lawyers say that you will still be eligible for the visa with a crime on your record, as long as it’s one that’s punishable by less than one year of imprisonment in Portugal.  

For example, possession of marijuana is punishable by jail time in the US, but not in Portugal. So having this offence on your record would not jeopardize your D2 or D7 application. 

Proof of accommodation in Portugal

You’ll also need proof of having suitable accommodation in Portugal. For this you can use a rental contract, deeds to the property, or a letter from a friend or relative who is already a legal resident of Portugal, inviting you to stay with them.

Travel insurance for at least six months

This is to cover the four months of your initial D2 visa, the period in which you’re waiting to register as a resident with SEF.  

We recommend at least six months of insurance to make sure you’re still protected if your residency appointment is delayed. Once you get your residence permit, you’ll be entitled to Portuguese state healthcare.  

Make sure your insurance policy includes the following: 

  • Coverage for medical emergencies 
  • Repatriation of the body in case of death 

The D2 visa application process 

The D2 application process happens in two stages.  

1) The first stage happens at the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in your home country. This is where you submit the bulk of the documents, including the business plan. Once your visa is approved, the embassy will invite you for an interview. If this is successful, you’ll be issued with your D2 visa. This visa is valid for four months. Its purpose is to allow you to travel to Portugal on the D2 status and apply for residency.  

2) The second stage is with the immigration authorities (SEF) within Portugal. Once you land in Portugal, you should aim to schedule your SEF appointment right away, even if the only available dates are beyond the four month visa duration. When many people are applying, it can take a long time to get an appointment. But as long as you’ve booked one, you’ll still be legal in Portugal even after the four month visa period is over. 

Using the Portugal D2 visa with NHR 

Portugal’s NHR (‘non-habitual residency’) is a special tax status primarily designed for those with income from outside of Portugal. 

NHR is a tax status, not an immigration route, so you can apply for it no matter which residency pathway you choose (D2, D7, Golden Visa etc). It’s open to both EU and non-EU citizens. But you’ll need to be a Portugal tax resident to get NHR status. 

NHR also offers preferential tax treatment for those with income sourced from within Portugal, provided their area of work is included on Portugal’s list of high added value activities. As a D2 visa holder, this may apply to you depending on your area of business. If you’re on the D2 independent service provider route and delivering a high value activity, it’s certainly worth applying for NHR. 

You can also use NHR status to get special tax benefits on other forms of income from abroad, such as dividends or investment income. NHR status is valid for 10 years. That means you’ll get preferential tax treatment on most sources of income, all the way to Portuguese citizenship and beyond.  

Becoming a Portuguese citizen doesn’t prevent you from having NHR. In fact, Portuguese nationals can apply for NHR, provided they’ve lived outside Portugal for the previous five years. 

Important: You must apply for NHR status before March 31 of the year AFTER you become a Portuguese tax resident (typically the date when you link your NIF to a Portuguese address).  

If you become tax resident on December 1, 2020, you’ll have until March 31, 2021 to submit your NHR application. If you become a tax resident on January 1, 2021, you’ll have until March 31, 2022 to apply – a much longer timeframe.  

Either way, it’s best to submit your NHR application as soon as possible to avoid any risk of missing the deadline. 

Watch out for this!!

Many people get caught out and miss the NHR deadline. Once you miss it, it’s impossible to get NHR unless you leave the country for five years then return. I know several people who’ve missed the deadline, one of whom has given up on her Portugal plans altogether. So don’t miss out!

The D2 visa and Portuguese citizenship 

To become eligible for Portuguese (and EU) citizenship, you need to spend a minimum of five years as a legal resident of the country. The D2 visa allows you to achieve this, making it another excellent choice for those with citizenship as their main objective.  

It’s important to maintain your residency status for the entire five years. Portugal needs to be your primary home and country of tax residency, so you’ll need to spend at least six months physically in-country (183 days in each year).  

The same rule applies if you become resident in Portugal with the D7 visa. But Golden Visa holders have more flexibility than other visa options, in terms of physical stay requirements. They can maintain their immigration status without ever becoming Portugal tax resident, but simply by spending two weeks per year in Portugal. 

Getting Portuguese citizenship also requires you to have a minimal command of the language. Portugal currently asks for an A2 level of Portuguese, which is lower than most other EU countries (which typically require B1/B2). 

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