Portugal HQA Visa 2024 (Fast Track Residency For Just €175K)

This is our comprehensive guide to the Portugal HQA Visa, an investment-based route designed for highly qualified individuals to access fast-track residency in Portugal. Read on for full details of the program’s benefits, requirements, and how to apply.

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What is the HQA Visa?

The Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) Visa is a Portuguese residency permit designed for highly skilled non-EU professionals wishing to start a business venture in Portugal.

You need three basic requirements to be suitable for the program:

  1. A high level of industry or academic experience in a particular field
  2. An interest in supporting a research-driven startup
  3. €175,000 to invest (these funds can be expensed from your existing company)

If Portuguese citizenship is your eventual goal, this is the fastest way to get your residence permit issued and start the five-year timeline.

The HQA’s 30-day approval window (as defined in law) makes it much faster than any other Portugal residency permit (here’s the official law governing this residency route).

Plus, if you already have a business outside Portugal, you can claim the full €175,000 as a business expense.

Key Benefits

Lower Overall Investment

Invest just €175,000 to get residency – that’s less than 50% of the Golden Visa threshold.

Easy Program Requirements

No need to meet performance targets, create any jobs, or complete reams of tedious government paperwork.

Claim as Business Expense

Already have an overseas company? You can claim the entire program investment as a valid business expense (whereas the Golden Visa must come from personal funds).

Greater Flexibility

No minimum stay requirements.

Faster Application Processing

Under Portuguese legislation, HQA visa applications are priority permits. They must be approved within a 30 to 60-day window – avoiding unnecessary delays.

Create Your Own IP in Europe

Get a foothold in Europe by building valuable intellectual property – an excellent investment for the future of you, your family, and your business.

Bring Your Family

Your investment covers your spouse/legal partner, children under 18, and parents over 65.

Choice of Active or Passive Involvement

Want to be directly involved with the daily operations of your startup? Or would you prefer to take a more hands-off approach? With the HQA program, the choice is yours.

Clear Path to Citizenship

Fast start and easy renewals bring you to citizenship without delays or hassles. Creating your own startup also proves strong ties to Portugal.

Explore your HQA visa options with our specialist team

Who is Eligible?

The HQA program is open to most non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss citizens (except citizens of Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Syria).

Who is the HQA route an ideal fit for?

For example, you could be:

  • An academic looking for a change of pace
  • An entrepreneur with an exciting startup idea but lacking time/resources to make it happen
  • A senior manager at a tech company seeking a new challenge

The opportunity to commercialize your academic research is another advantage – so it’s also a good fit if you have an academic background.

The visa is particularly compelling for any one of these profiles who has a specific ambition to enter the European market and build intellectual property in Europe.

But it’s not essential to have a tech, senior management, or academic background to get into the HQA program. You can even enter the program without a fully fleshed-out business idea.

You’ll spend the first three years of the HQA visa program in an incubator environment, where business professionals will help you develop your idea and bring it to market.

Explore your HQA visa options with our specialist team

Example Projects

Artem Galimov – CEO & Co-Founder, Keyword Tool

Born and raised in Ukraine, Artem Galimov founded Keyword Tool in 2014. Today, Keyword Tool is a profitable business and one of the world’s top tools for keyword research and digital marketing.

In his role as part of the HQA program, Artem is currently developing the next generation of digital marketing tools in a project together with Portugal’s University of Evora.

Youssef Akila, Head of Design, Azizi Developments

Youssef Akila has almost two decades of experience in designing and managing residential, commercial, hospitality, and large-scale master plan development projects. Currently head of design at Azizi Developments, Youssef wanted to bring this expertise to Portugal.

The HQA program offered Youssef the perfect opportunity to combine getting residency in Europe with launching a project in partnership with the University of Algarve.

Wenjie Jiang – CEO & Founder, WJ Apparel Group

Originally from China, Wenjie Jiang is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and global citizen who has lived in many countries around the world, including the United States, the Cayman Islands, Dubai, and now, Portugal.

Wenjie is currently partnering with the University of Algarve and the HQA program business incubator to launch a research and development project that leverages artificial intelligence.

Application Requirements

Here’s an overview of the basic requirements for applying to the program:

  • You must be aged over 18
  • You’ll need to have €175,000 ready to invest
  • You must provide your CV/resume – which must show some form of relevant experience
  • You must prove you have no criminal record in your country of citizenship and any countries where you’ve held long-term residency
  • You must undergo AML (anti-money laundering) checks on your source of funds
  • You must be prepared to participate in the incubation program for at least three years

Bringing Your Family

You can also apply for residency for your family members.

That means they get access to the same benefits as you, including the same citizenship timeline.

Eligible family members include:

  • Your spouse or long-term partner (you must show proof of living together for at least two years)
  • Your children under 18
  • Your children over 18 and under 35 (they must be unmarried and financially dependent on you)
  • Your parents aged over 65
  • Your parents aged under 65, if they’re financially dependent on you

Program Costs

First, an investment of €175,000 is mandatory to enter the HQA program.

If you want to bring your dependents, there’s an additional fee of around €2,500 for each person.

Your investment will cover funding for your new Portuguese company, plus incubator costs, and legal costs for three years.

Explore your HQA visa options with our specialist team

The Application Process: Step-by-Step

  1. Sign a service agreement with the business incubator.
  2. Deposit the investment funds into your Portuguese bank account.
  3. Get matched with a Portuguese research institute that’s ready to take on your proposed research project.
  4. Get an endorsement letter from the research institute, necessary to apply for the HQA visa.
  5. Within 30 days, get your visa approved and collect your residency permit
  6. Begin your research project with a three-year business incubation period.
  7. Renew your residency permit after the first two years.
  8. Continue work on the research project until you reach the five-year mark.
  9. At the five-year mark, submit your application for Portuguese citizenship (you’ll need to pass the CIPLE A2 language exam).

Renewing Your Residency Permit

Your residency permit can be renewed based on two justifications:

  1. Renewal #1 – based on the R&D project 
  2. Renewal #2 – based on business continuation

For the first three years, the concierge team will handle your residency permit renewals as part of the initial fee.

After three years, you can either engage the same team for your renewals, hire your own lawyer, or do the renewal yourself. All renewals are submitted online.

Once you’ve been resident for five years, you can apply for either permanent residency or Portuguese citizenship.

Documents for renewal #1 (based on the R&D project)

  • Two recent, identical photographs, in color with a blank background, and easily identifiable (only for appointments at Odivelas, Aveiro or Braga SEF bureau)
  • Residence Title valid, or expired in the previous 6 months
  • A passport or any other valid travel document
  • Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence, as per the provisions of Order Number 1563/2007, of 11/12
  • Evidence that the applicant has adequate accommodation
  • Permission for SEF to check Portuguese criminal record
  • Document proving the applicant’s tax situation
  • Evidence of the regular situation within social security (self-employed persons/service providers, when exempted, must also present a certificate proving the exemption)
  • Contract for services; OR
  • Declaration of the research center, teaching or vocational training institution, or other public or private entity, confirming the continuity of services rendered

Source: SEF

Documents for renewal #2 (based on business continuation)

  • Two recent, identical photographs, in color with a blank background, and easily identifiable (only for appointments at Odivelas, Aveiro or Braga SEF bureau)
  • Residence Title valid, or expired in the previous 6 months
  • A passport or any other valid travel document
  • Evidence of sufficient means of subsistence, as per the provisions of Order number 1563/2007, of 11/12, usually by the submission of the income statement/IRS notice statement
  • Evidence that the applicant has adequate accommodation
  • Permission for SEF to check Portuguese criminal record
  • Document proving the applicant’s tax situation
  • Evidence of the regular situation within Social Security
  • For employed workers: Declaration issued by the employer confirming the existence of an employment relationship or new labor contract
  • For self-employed workers: Income statement, service rendering contract, or signed form for checking the Income Tax Declaration with the Inland Revenue Authorities, to produce evidence of business continuation

Source: AIMA

Alternative Residency Options

#1. HQA vs D7 Visa 

The D7 visa is an excellent fit for anyone who wants to move full-time to Portugal.

For many, especially retirees, relocating to Portugal is an easy decision. Plus, the D7 visa’s low passive income requirements make it accessible to a wide range of people.

Because you’re living in full-time in Portugal, maintaining residency status with the D7 visa requires you to become a Portugal tax resident. 

That means you must declare your worldwide income each year to Portugal. But you may be eligible for Portugal’s non-habitual residency (NHR) scheme, meaning you don’t necessarily need to pay full Portuguese taxes. 

Maintaining tax residency also means spending a significant number of days per year in Portugal.

Lawyers advise D7 residents to avoid being out of the country for more than six months consecutively, or eight months non-consecutively. For those wishing to make Portugal their main home, this shouldn’t be a problem.

But if you need more flexibility, the D7 visa may not suit you. The HQA route offers far more flexibility than the D7, with minimum stay requirements of just 7 days per year. 

If you haven’t yet decided whether to relocate to Portugal, but still want to start the clock toward citizenship, then the HQA visa allows you to get your foot in the door fast and decide later. 

#2. HQA vs Golden Visa 

The Portugal Golden Visa offers maximum flexibility, in return for an investment of €500,000.

With the Golden Visa, you only need to spend a minimum of seven days per year physically in Portugal.

You can also choose whether or not to become a tax resident, allowing you to access NHR tax benefits (note: the NHR scheme is likely to close in 2024).

Getting your Golden Visa by investing in a Portuguese fund is a smooth and hands-off option. Your investment will be managed by professional fund managers, allowing you to “set and forget” your five-year citizenship clock.

The biggest downside to getting residency via the Portugal Golden Visa program is the high minimum threshold involved.

The HQA beats the Golden Visa on costs. It’s a one-time fee of €175,000, with the potential to make returns on your investment through building a successful startup. Costs for bringing your family members are lower as well.

Explore your options with our specialist team

The HQA Route vs Other Portugal Residency Pathways

HQA VisaGolden VisaD7 VisaDigital Nomad VisaD2 VisaStartup Visa
Who is eligible?Entrepreneurs or industry experts creating a startup in PortugalInvestors who can invest in Portuguese funds, cultural production projects, or create 10 jobs in PortugalApplicants with passive income from overseas, who can relocate to PortugalApplicants with a remote job based overseas, who can relocate to PortugalApplicants who wish to set up a new business in Portugal, or open a branch of an existing oneApplicants launching an innovative startup (project must be IAPMEI approved)
Minimum financial requirements€175,000€500,000 €860 per month in passive income, plus proof of savings €3,040 per month in salary, plus proof of savingsSufficient funds to operate the business, plus savings Sufficient funds to live in Portugal for one year
NIF & bank account required?YesYesYesYesYesYes
Other requirementsPartnership with a Portuguese university None 12-month rental contract registered with the tax authority12-month rental contract registered with the tax authority12-month rental contract registered with the tax authority12-month rental contract registered with the tax authority
Time in-countryNo minimum7-14 days per year183 days per year 183 days per year 183 days per year 183 days per year
Timeline to residency permit30-60 days Over 9 months 3-4 months3-4 months3-4 months3-4 months
Time to citizenship5 years5 years5 years5 years5 years5 years

FAQs

Is the HQA visa a pathway to Portuguese citizenship?

Yes, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship after being resident in Portugal for five years with the HQA visa.

Do I need to become a Portugal tax resident?

No, you don’t. Becoming a tax resident of Portugal means living there full-time. That’s not necessary for maintaining your residency status with the HQA Visa.

Do I need a PhD?

No, you don’t need a PhD to get the HQA visa. You just need some form of relevant entrepreneurial or industry experience.

Does the business need to succeed?

No, business performance is not a requirement to maintain your HQA residency status. Whether the business succeeds and brings a return on your investment is entirely up to you.

How do I renew my residency status?

Residency renewals are handled as part of the initial fee for the first three years. For the remaining two years, you can either engage a lawyer or concierge service to assist you or handle the renewal yourself.

Can I bring my family to Portugal with this route?

Yes, your family members can be included. You can bring your spouse or long-term partner, dependent children, and parents (as long as they are financially dependent and/or over 65 years of age).

Can I get the HQA Visa in Madeira?

Yes, it’s possible to get the visa in Madeira. The research project can be based at any university, but you could choose to incorporate the company in Madeira to access the tax benefits of the special economic zone (subject to meeting specific requirements). Once you have residency, you can choose to live in Madeira if you wish.

Can I take a business idea and develop it using the HQA, or does Portugal decide what business gets the investment?

You can bring an existing business idea or product to Portugal and further develop it using the program, but there needs to be some element of new research and development happening in Portugal as well. The key is having the flexibility to incorporate innovative R&D into your overall business plan while leveraging your established commercial activities.

Would this visa route give me access to university resources?

Yes.

We’re two founders, can we both get the visa?

No, this program is for solo founders only.

Do I need Portuguese clients or employees to participate in the program?

No, the focus is purely on R&D activities.

Do I need a physical office in Portugal?

The startup incubator will provide access to office space.

Is the research just one pathway or is it required?

The research component is an essential requirement of the HQA visa program.

Do you facilitate connections between investors and suitable research projects?

Yes, arranging these connections is a core service as part of the incubator program.

Do I have to live in Portugal to run the business?

No, the program allows the investor to live outside Portugal.

What is the minimum requirement to stay in the country per year?

There’s no minimum stay requirement under the HQA visa program.

Does citizenship have a language requirement under this route?

Yes, all residents must prove language skills at A2 level to apply for citizenship.

Are there any changes to this program coming, as with the Golden Visa?

No. The HQA program is stable and viewed positively by the Portuguese government.

If I fund an R&D project through the program, what would my involvement be?

The incubator can manage all aspects of this on your behalf. You can choose the level of your involvement.

Can I invest in installments?

No, the full investment of €175,000 must be made upfront.

Next Steps

The HQA program is a compelling way to start your journey to Portuguese citizenship.

It offers the same flexibility as the Golden Visa at a much lower investment threshold – with a speedy decision window on your application.

But achieving returns on your investment depends on your efforts to create a successful business.

In contrast, the Golden Visa investment funds route offers an easy way to “set and forget” your investment – while counting down the five years before applying for Portuguese citizenship.

Ready to explore your HQA options?

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4 thoughts on “Portugal HQA Visa 2024 (Fast Track Residency For Just €175K)”

  1. The minimum stay requirements are only to maintain the residency visa and not in order to secure citizenship, which would still require a majority of the year physical presence for 5 years prior to applying for citizenship, whereas the golden visa 7 days per year covers even the eventual citizenship application. Of course, if someone just wants residence in the EU then the HQA physical stay requirements are low: correct

  2. Once someone gets accepted into the HQA program, then they aren’t required to fulfil any minimum stay requirements during the five year period before applying for citizenship in Portugal. Everyone in the HQA program is a business professional, entrepreneur, and SME, and there’s an exemption for this type of activity. In that sense, the HQA is better than the Golden Visa, due to the latter having a 7 day per calendar year stay requirement.

  3. Can you provide a reference to the SEF website? I search it and could not find any information on HQA visa.

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