Portugal HQA Visa: Your Guide to Cost-Effective Residency

The Portugal HQA Visa is for highly qualified professionals seeking fast-track residency in Portugal.
June 2, 2024
Ana Fankhauser
June 2, 2024

The Portugal HQA Visa is for highly qualified professionals seeking fast-track residency in Portugal. This visa offers significant tax incentives and a pathway to EU citizenship. In this guide, we cover its benefits, who is eligible, and how to apply.

Key Takeaways

  • The Portugal HQA Visa Program is designed for investors, entrepreneurs, and senior executives, offering fast-tracked priority residency, flexibility in in-country stay requirements, and significant tax incentives on foreign-sourced income.
  • Eligibility for the HQA Visa includes having a recognized diploma, a minimum one-year employment contract, and meeting income thresholds. The application process requires meticulous document preparation, an assessment meeting, and submission to the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service.
  • The HQA Visa requires a minimum investment of €170,000, includes a 3-year business incubation period with a focus on R&D projects in collaboration with Portuguese universities, and provides pathways to permanent residency and citizenship after five years.

Overview of the Portugal HQA Visa Program

The Portugal HQA Visa program, which stands for Highly Qualified Activities, is designed to attract investors, entrepreneurs, and senior executives from around the world. The main focus of the program is to offer fast-tracked priority residency in Portugal. Exceptions to in-country stay requirements are also considered. This offers flexibility in balancing your business and personal life in Portugal.

The HQA Visa program offers the following benefits for experienced business professionals:

  • A real link to creating a pathway to EU citizenship
  • Flexible time requirements
  • Expedited application processing
  • Freedom in roles

These advantages make it one of the most underrated alternatives on the market compared to the Golden Visa, especially when considering the golden visa program.

Key Benefits of the HQA Visa

Key Benefits of the HQA Visa

There are numerous benefits associated with the HQA Visa program. One of the most significant is its tax incentives. The program has been carefully structured to offer significant tax efficiencies to its holders, offering benefits on foreign-sourced income. This makes it an attractive option for professionals and entrepreneurs looking to optimize their global tax positions.

Moreover, the HQA Visa boasts the following benefits:

  • Swift processing time
  • Faster than the Golden Visa, allowing for quicker residency
  • Flexibility in its physical presence requirements
  • Excellent choice for those who require the flexibility to travel or live outside Portugal while still maintaining their resident status.

Eligibility Criteria for the Portugal HQA Visa

Eligibility Criteria for the Portugal HQA Visa

There are specific eligibility criteria set for the Portugal HQA Visa program that applicants need to fulfill. Professions eligible for the HQA Visa are those that are recognized for their significant contributions to the country’s economy, technology, and culture. This visa is intended to attract and retain skilled professionals who can make a meaningful impact in these areas. Typically, these roles are found in STEM fields and creative and cultural professions, where a high level of expertise and education is needed.

Applicants must:

  • Have a proven track record in business and the ability to provide strategic direction while meeting business performance requirements
  • Have a diploma from a recognized educational institution
  • Have a one-year employment contract or a promise of a work contract for 12+ months

The income threshold is three times the value of the IAS (Social Support Index). To qualify for the HQA Visa, applicants must earn at least 1.5 times the average gross salary in Portugal or three times the social support index. These requirements are set to ensure financial stability for visa holders.

The Application Process

Applying for the Portugal HQA Visa necessitates thorough preparation, making sure all steps are meticulously followed in the Portugal HQA Visa immigration process. The journey begins with the compilation of documents proving your qualifications and financial stability. These documents establish your eligibility for the visa and create a strong foundation for your application.

After the preparation of the necessary documents, the next step is submitting them to the Portuguese consulate or visa application center. This step brings you one step closer to your goal of obtaining the Portugal HQA Visa.

Document Preparation

Ensuring all documents are adequately prepared is vital for a seamless HQA Visa application process. Among the required documents is proof of residence, which can be established through a rental agreement. This document shows that you have a place to stay while in Portugal and is a crucial part of your application.

In addition to proof of residence, other necessary documents include a current CV and proof of professional qualifications. These documents effectively showcase your professional background and skills, highlighting why you are an ideal candidate for the HQA Visa.

Scheduling an Assessment Meeting

After preparing your documents, you should then schedule an assessment meeting. Empowered Startups is in charge of running and controlling this online meeting, which assesses your eligibility. This meeting is a crucial step in the visa application process, as it allows the authorities to understand your qualifications and the value you could bring to Portugal.

During this meeting, there will also be a discussion of the proposed R&D project, which is a key component of the HQA Visa application. The assessment meeting ensures that applicants meet the necessary criteria and have a viable R&D project, which supports the success of their application.

Submitting Your Application

Concluding the application process involves submitting your application. To do this, you must first schedule and attend an appointment with the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF) to file your required documents. This formal submission of your application is a crucial step in obtaining your HQA Visa.

After your meeting with the SEF, the processing of your HQA Visa begins. The processing time is approximately 30 days after your appointment. This period of waiting may feel long, but it brings you one step closer to becoming a legal resident of Portugal.

Investment Requirements

Investment Requirements

Applicants of the Portugal HQA Visa Program must make a financial commitment. The minimum investment required for the HQA Visa is €170,000. This amount may seem substantial, but it covers a range of costs and contributions that are essential to the visa program.

The total cost to apply for the HQA Visa in Portugal ranges from €170,000 to €175,000. While additional costs are involved in the HQA Program, specific details are not provided. However, these costs are considered a worthy investment for the opportunity to live, work, and establish a business in Portugal.

Partnering with Portuguese Universities

An integral part of the HQA Visa Program is the contractual agreement with a Portuguese university for research and development activities. This partnership is a symbiotic relationship where visa applicants get to work on innovative projects while contributing to the academic and research community in Portugal.

Empowered Startups Ltd, the organization administering the HQA Visa selection, has relationships with more than 15 universities and polytechnics in Portugal. While specific universities are not named, a variety of Portuguese institutions participate in the HQA Visa Program. These partnerships offer applicants the opportunity to tap into the rich academic resources and research facilities in Portugal.

Residency and Citizenship Pathway

Besides providing an opportunity to work or do business in Portugal, the HQA Visa Program also paves the way to residency and, potentially, citizenship. After five consecutive years of being a legal resident in Portugal, the HQA Visa holder may be eligible for permanent residency or citizenship. This offers an opportunity to fully integrate into the Portuguese community and enjoy all the rights and privileges of a citizen.

After completing the 3-year second residence period, HQA Visa holders become eligible for permanent residency and EU residency, offering an opportunity to establish a lifelong connection with Portugal and the wider European Union.

Initial Residency Permit

Obtaining an initial Portugal residence permit marks the beginning of the journey towards permanent residency. The initial residency permit for HQA Visa holders is issued for two years. It typically takes 2 to 12 weeks for residence permits to be processed, and once granted, it marks the beginning of your official residency in Portugal.

The residency permit can be renewed for up to three years after the initial two-year period. This allows individuals to extend their stay in the country. This process aligns with the in-country stay requirement exemption that HQA Visa Program participants enjoy, similar to Golden Visa holders. This flexibility allows HQA Visa holders to maintain their residency status while still having the freedom to travel or live outside Portugal, making the process of obtaining residency permits more convenient.

Permanent Residency or Citizenship

Following the initial residency period, the door to permanent residency or citizenship comes into view. After five years of temporary residency, HQA Visa holders can apply for permanent residency. This step is a significant milestone, as it allows you to become a permanent part of the Portuguese community.

In addition to permanent residency, HQA Visa holders also have the option to apply for Portuguese citizenship after five years of temporary residency. This offers an opportunity to fully integrate into Portuguese society and enjoy all the rights and privileges of a citizen. From here, the entire European Union opens up with the potential for visa-free travel and more.

Tax Advantages

Tax Advantages

Tax advantages stand as one of the significant benefits offered by the HQA Visa Program. The program is tax-advantageous for its holders, offering significant tax incentives. These incentives make the HQA Visa an attractive option for professionals and entrepreneurs looking to optimize their global tax positions.

These tax incentives are particularly beneficial for immigrants involved in science, technology, and entrepreneurship. The tax incentives, coupled with the opportunity for residency and the potential for citizenship, make the HQA Visa Program an attractive option for professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world.

Business Incubation Process

The HQA Visa Program also promotes innovation and entrepreneurship via its business incubation process. The incubation process involves a 3-year incubation period, during which there is a strong focus on business model validation. This period is about laying a strong foundation for your business and ensuring its viability and scalability.

The development of R&D projects is also a key focus throughout the incubation period. These projects, often in collaboration with Portuguese universities and research institutions, offer a unique opportunity to advance innovative projects and contribute to Portugal’s economy, technology, or culture.

Incubation Period

For the HQA Visa program, the incubation period spans three years. During this time, there is a strong emphasis on validating the business model to ensure its viability and scalability. This validation process involves meeting specific milestones and benchmarks to track the progress and success of the R&D project.

R&D project development is a critical component of the incubation period. This involves direct collaboration with Portuguese universities and research institutions to advance innovative projects. These projects not only contribute to your business’s growth but also contribute to the academic and research community in Portugal.

Post-Incubation Options

Upon completion of the 3-year incubation period, several options await HQA Visa holders. One option is to continue growing the business that was started during the incubation period, aiming for significant growth. This allows you to leverage the established relationships and resources in Portugal to further expand your business.

Alternatively, you can apply for residency without making additional investments. This takes advantage of the residency pathway established during the incubation period. It is important to carefully evaluate the options and decide on the most beneficial path forward, whether it is continuing the business or transitioning to a stable residency status through a fast and confident path.

Comparing HQA Visa to Golden Visa

Both the HQA Visa and the Portugal Golden Visa serve as great options for securing residency in Portugal, albeit for different demographics. The HQA Visa targets high qualifications, while the Golden Visa is available to a wider group making financial investments.

The HQA Visa is especially advantageous for highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and senior executives. It offers a faster and more efficient pathway to Portuguese residency and provides significant tax benefits. On the other hand, the Golden Visa is more accessible to a broader group of people and requires a financial investment in Portugal.

Real-World Success Stories

The Portugal HQA Visa Program boasts numerous success stories. For example, Politécnico da Guarda, a Portuguese university, has welcomed several startups to its business incubator as part of the HQA Visa Program. These include ‘AG-Transformer’, which assists small and medium-sized farmers with ecological and sustainable production methods.

Another success story is Lee Berlin from Formwerkz Architects in Singapore. He signed a contract with the University of Algarve to develop AI-enhanced public space creation methods known as placemaking. These are just a couple of examples of the many opportunities and successes that the HQA Visa Program has brought to entrepreneurs and professionals from around the world.


In conclusion, the Portugal HQA Visa Program offers a fantastic opportunity for highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and senior executives. It provides fast-tracked residency, significant tax benefits, and a straightforward pathway to permanent residency or citizenship. The program also fosters innovation and entrepreneurship through its business incubation process and partnerships with Portuguese universities for R&D projects.

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur looking to expand your business into Europe or a highly skilled professional seeking new opportunities, the HQA Visa Program is an excellent option. It offers a gateway to Portugal and the wider European Union, providing countless opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for the HQA Visa?

Highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and senior executives who can add significant value to Portugal's economy, technology, or culture are eligible for the HQA Visa.

What are the key benefits of the HQA Visa?

The HQA Visa offers fast-tracked residency, significant tax incentives, and flexibility in physical presence requirements, making it an attractive option for qualified individuals.

What is the application process for the HQA Visa?

The application process for the HQA Visa involves document preparation, scheduling an assessment meeting, and submitting the application to the Portuguese consulate or visa application center.

How long does the business incubation period last?

The business incubation period typically lasts for three years, focusing on business model validation and R&D project development.

What are the post-incubation options?

After the incubation period, you can consider continuing business growth, applying for residency without further investments, or transitioning to a stable residency status. These options offer different paths for the next phase of your business.

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