Find out all about starting a business in Portugal. Visa requirements, the Portuguese market’s reality, and much more!

Last Updated on October 4, 2022 by Maryam Siddiqui

Have you thought about starting a business in Portugal but still have questions about where to start? Would you like to have access to more information related to obligations and costs to develop your project?

Have you considered that despite looking promising, your business may not be well received by Portuguese consumers?

Or maybe you’re looking for more information about the procedure for applying for a Business Visa in Portugal.

Well then. This article was created to address the main concerns related to foreign entrepreneurs and provide accurate information about developing a business in Portugal.

Therefore, we will analyze the following topics in this guide:

Table of Contents

Starting a business in Portugal

Here’s everything you should know about starting a business in Portugal: 

Situation in Portugal

Portugal is undoubtedly one of the European countries that have stood out the most in the area of entrepreneurship these days.

Many giant companies like Google, Vodafone, and Volkswagen, or even Startups like DefinedCrowd, Sword Health, and Jscrambler, are already operating in Portugal.

The reasons for choosing Portugal as a destination are many, but we can highlight the following:

  • Safe environment
  • Excellent infrastructure to develop a business
  • Incentive policies for business development
  • It is a European Union member
  • Low cost of living
  • High-quality public health system

Therefore we can classify Portugal as a small country with a developed entrepreneurial structure.

Open a cafe in Portugal

Regarding structure, we can emphasize, for example, the quality of the internet in Portugal, one of the fastest in the world.

In 2022, Portugal currently has one of the best broadband speeds, 162.55 Mbps, and it’s all due to urbanization and the development of new businesses. 

Beyond the internet, essential for the successful development of an enterprise these days, Portuguese cities have been developing spaces for establishing new companies. According to a report by PEGN magazine:

In addition to bringing together, diverse communities of startups, innovation centers, and coworking offices played an essential role in the revitalization of urban spaces in the city (Lisbon). This is the case with projects such as Beta-i and Lacs, dedicated to digital businesses and entrepreneurs of the creative economy (…)

As highlighted by the StartupHub Portal, in 2022, Portugal has housed 2,236 registered Startups, 165 incubators and accelerators, and 59 investor companies. Not bad for a country of just over 90,000 km².

In other words, Portugal has excellent conditions for residence in addition to an outstanding structure for business development at a reduced cost.

Opportunities in Portugal

As you can see in another article, Lisbon and Porto are the best cities to start a business in Portugal.

This whole structure was recently implemented, with Portugal starting its modernization process and encouraging the creation of companies in the last 10 years.

For this reason, we can consider that we are experiencing a period of growth in Portugal’s business structure. What does this mean? Opportunities.

Business opportunities in Portugal

As Portugal is developing, entrepreneurs can still explore many areas, and consumers are interested in trying new experiences.

This picture is even more appealing when we consider the few competitors in many areas.

See below some companies that took advantage of this window of opportunity and ended up starting a business in Portugal.

  • Hive: Electric scooter rental
  • IndiGo!: Fast food Indian snack bar
  • Laser Game Pro: Laser Shot style games
  • Fitness Hut: Compact fitness center
  • Açaí Fusion: Açaí chain in a shopping mall
  • Sushimore: Fast food Japanese snack bar

Whether to develop a greenfield business or open a consolidated franchise, Portugal has excellent conditions for the entrepreneur.

Areas of activities

Commerce

In addition to companies focused on the technology field, there are other branches of activity that are developing at a fast pace, among which we can highlight the commerce sector.

Portugal’s consumer market has grown like never before in the last 5 years. This boom resulted from numerous factors, among them:

  • The arrival of immigrants (new consumers) attracted by the Portuguese living conditions.
  • The increase in the number of tourists, mainly in the regions of Porto, Lisbon, and Algarve.
  • The improvement in the economic conditions of the country and its inhabitants.
  • The ease of importing and exporting products as a result of its integration with the European Union.

These are some of the factors that contributed to the increase in local trade, whether in the food sector, through the creation of new bars, cafes, and restaurants, but also in the consumption of manufactured products, especially in the textile and footwear, among so many others.

It is essential to highlight that the resale of imported products also assumes an important role in the trade sector, with physical or virtual establishments frequently selling Brazilian, Chinese, American, and French products, among others.

Services

Services also grew in the same proportion. For example, activities aimed at advising entrepreneurs have never been more demanding.

Viv Europe itself was one of the companies that emerged to advise entrepreneurs to establish themselves regularly in Portugal.

In this sense, by gathering professionals with experience in the sector of development and regulation of companies, this company started its activities to assist foreign citizens and companies in settling in Portugal.

In addition to advisory services, other areas have also followed this growth in Portuguese consumer power, notably personal care (manicure, hairdressing, and aesthetics) and entertainment (festivals, parks, and cinema).

Entrepreneurs in Portugal

Finally, we saw increased demand for services related to business activities, including accounting, legal and administrative advice.

The COVID impact

Has the Covid-19 crisis in Portugal changed this picture? Sure, in good and bad ways.

Portugal’s business structure is still standing, although COVID interrupted most business plans due to the uncertainty that comes along with the crisis.

It was one of the first countries to have the highest rate of vaccinated population in the world. Which led to a better environment, a safe place for digital nomads, and more opportunities for foreigners. 

Business attraction policies

In order to take advantage of the great situation in Portugal, the government of this country has implemented policies to encourage entrepreneurs. Starting a business in Portugal is getting easier, thanks to them.

Behind these policies, we see the interest in promoting Portugal and leveraging it as a destination for business development. Among the implemented policies, we can highlight the following:

Non-habitual resident regime

The government established the Non-Habitual Resident Regime to, among other reasons, encourage the arrival of skilled professionals to reside in Portugal by granting tax benefits.

Professionals who fall into the categories listed in the law will be able to develop their activities under special conditions in Portugal.

Viv Europe has a Complete Guide on the Non-Habitual Tax Resident regime that you should definitely take a look at.

Behind these measures is the interest in bringing specialist professionals from certain areas to work in companies located in Portugal and contribute to the country’s growth.

D2 Visa

This is a visa that allows entrepreneurs to reside in Portugal, as long as they develop their business in this country.

After the approval of the business plan by the Portuguese government and upon carrying out activities aimed at developing the business in Portugal, the entrepreneur may reside in Portugal for a certain period.

It is worth mentioning that if you, as the entrepreneur, remain in Portugal on a regular condition for 5 years, you may even apply for Portuguese nationality.

Startup Visa

Like the D2 Visa, the Startup Visa seeks to attract companies to develop business in Portugal.

This visa, unlike D2 Visa, is intended exclusively for Startup companies, mainly focused on technological activities.

In addition, a Portuguese incubator needs to support the development of these companies.

For more information about the Startup Visa, click here.

Portuguese market

Establishing a company in Portugal seeks a financial return that justifies the partners’ investment.

In this way, the company expects citizens residing in Portugal to consume their products or services in exchange for income.

Know the Portuguese market in advance

The more heated the consumer market is, the greater the probability of a financial return, as more sales are expected to be achieved.

Of course, in addition to the heating up of the market, other aspects can influence the consumer’s purchase decision, among them:

  • Consumer purchasing power
  • Price of the products
  • Cultural aspects
  • Degree of essentiality of the product or service
  • Climatic conditions (depending on the product)

However, as a general rule, the more heated the market, the greater the consumption.

In this sense, since 2017, Portugal has maintained an upward curve in consumption, with a slight reduction in the pace in mid-2016.

Also, as a result of the global crisis resulting from COVID-19, we saw an expected reduction in consumption.

Exportation

The larger the consumer market, the greater the entrepreneur’s chances of success.

In this sense, as Portugal is a member of the European Union, this country can trade with the other countries that make up this economic block without imposing additional taxes or fees.

All trade between members of the European Union takes place smoothly, as the economic bloc has removed trade barriers that previously existed in favor of integration.

In this sense, we can see that the total value of products exported by Portugal has been increasing annually.

This good phase in terms of production in Portugal can be an opportunity for expats.

Export products from Portugal

According to the National Statistics Institute, below are the products most exported by Portugal:

  • 4,217 million euros: Wood, plastic, rubber, paper, cardboard, cork, synthetic fibers, optical, and precision instruments.
  • 2,192 million euros: Textiles, footwear, and hats.
  • 2,012 million euros: Passenger cars materials
  • 1,454 million euros: Construction material and parts of cast iron, tools, appliances, and electrical materials.
  • 1,098 million euros: Fresh wines and grapes, fish, vegetables, and fruits in general.
  • 1,004 million euros: Petroleum or bituminous mineral oils, natural gas in a gaseous state

Now, let’s analyze the D2 Visa, which is aimed at citizens who intend to develop a business activity in Portugal.

Obtaining a D2 Visa to Portugal

General Features

Before we start the analysis of the D2 Visa, which makes it possible to obtain the Residence Permit in Portugal, we will pass on some information that often raises questions to those interested in residing in Portugal. They are as follows:

In Portugal, there are several types of Visas.

The best known are the following:

  • Schengen Visa – For short stays up to 90 days. You can get it for tourism, family visits, business, seasonal work, transit, and more.
  • Temporary Stay Visa – Intended for stays in Portugal for a period of up to one year.
  • Residence Visa – Intended for stays of more than one year.

The period for issuing visas may vary according to the Portuguese Consulate in the applicant’s country of residence.

After the issuance of the Residence Visa (in any of the modalities), the applicant must arrive in Portugal to comply with the second stage of the process.

At this second stage, the applicant can remain in Portuguese territory for up to 4 months (with the possibility of two entries) until the interview at SEF.

Having a Residence Permit for a period of 5 years allows its holder to obtain a Permanent Residence Permit and Portuguese Nationality.

In this case, the new Portuguese citizen can take advantage of all the benefits of being a member of the European Union.

D2 Visa Features

The D2 Visa, also known as Business Visa, consists of authorization granted by Portugal so that the applicant can develop a business activity in this country.

We will carry out a detailed analysis of this visa.

Requirements

In this item, we will analyze the most important requirements for applying for the D2 Visa.

According to the specifics of the business and the applicant, you may have to present other requirements, which is why we suggest the assistance of a lawyer to carry out this process.

As a general rule, the main requirements for applying for the D2 Visa are as follows:

Proof of means of subsistence

You can prove your livelihood by submitting documents proving your financial status. They must be enough for you to be able to reside in Portugal during the period of the Residence Permit.

Currently, it is necessary to present documents proving the amount of at least:

  • €7,980 for the first adult
  • €3,990 for the second adult
  • €2,294 per child

You must deposit this amount in a bank account of a Portuguese bank.

Thus, before applying for the D2 Visa, the applicant must have a bank account in Portugal with the mentioned amount deposited. 

Incorporation of the company in Portugal

The applicant has to prove the opening of a company in Portugal.

You must also perform this procedure before applying for a D2 Visa.

If you, as an entrepreneur, cannot come to Portugal in person, then you must authorize a lawyer to provide this task remotely.

It is important to mention that before the opening of the company, you must obtain your Tax Number (NIF), as it is a required document for the creation of a company.

Finally, many people do not pay much attention to the costs related to the development of the business before the start of the activity.

As a requirement for opening the company, the applicant must provide the following information:

  • Qualification of members
  • Social object
  • Share capital
  • Distribution of quotas
  • Appointment of the manager
  • Appointment of accountant

Depending on the business structure, you’ll need to insert different information in the Social Pact.

Usually, starting a business takes about 4 days and costs between €160 and €360.

Business plan

We can certainly consider the Business Plan as one of the most important documents for applying for the D2 Visa.

Set your business plan

Through this document, you can provide important information related to the business you will develop in Portugal, considering, among other characteristics:

  • The business object
  • The business structure
  • The qualification of entrepreneurs
  • The location of the establishment
  • The initial investment
  • The target audience
  • The expectation of income

This is just some of the information that you must include in the Business Plan.

Entrepreneurs themselves will also be subject to analysis to issue the D2 Visa. The higher the qualification in terms of knowledge and experience in the field, the better.

On the same line, the more structured, researched, and informative the document, the greater the chances of obtaining a Visa.

For this reason, although it is not mandatory, many entrepreneurs prefer to carry out market research in Portugal before preparing the Business Plan.

There are companies in Portugal that assist the entrepreneur in preparing the Business Plan. Viv Europe is one of them. We have experts to guide you and help you prepare the best Business Plan with ease.

Proof of accommodation

At this stage, to get on with the plan of starting a business in Portugal, you’ll need to present proof of accommodation. The document shows the place where you intend to reside in Portugal, as soon as you enter the country.

Depending on your country of origin, you may present different documents in order to apply for the visa. Among the most common documents, we can highlight the following:

  • Lease agreement
  • Deed of Property
  • Invitation letter signed by a person residing in Portugal
  • Proof of hotel reservation for at least one week

International Medical Insurance

International Medical Insurance must be valid throughout the territory and cover the entire duration of the intended stay.

This insurance must cover the expenses resulting from repatriation for medical reasons, urgent medical assistance, and urgent hospital care, and the amount covered must be at least €30,000.

The biggest challenges of starting a business in Portugal

There’s one thing we can tell you; the D2 Visa is not a simple visa to be obtained.

Portugal needs to make sure that the business the applicant will develop has the potential to be successful.

Thus, the visa application will be denied if the business does not have the minimum requirements to be operational.

Also, you must prove that you have financial conditions to support the costs related to the creation and development of the business.

For these reasons, having a financial reserve is essential for the company’s development.

Biggest challenges of starting a business in Portugal

Among the most significant difficulties seen by the entrepreneur who thinks about starting a business in Portugal, we can highlight the following:

  • Finding accurate information about Portuguese consumer habits
  • Carrying out a safe budget plan for business development in Portugal
  • Choosing the location of the business establishment
  • Provisioning the amount for expenses related to the business
  • Understanding the labor obligations and costs in Portugal

These are just a few of the many questions that may arise for the foreign entrepreneur.

Making a move to a new country is already a big challenge, let alone starting a business at the same time.

Thus, although we have gone through the main guidelines for the entrepreneur who is considering starting a business in Portugal, each case must be analyzed, taking into account its particularities.

In this way, the pre-operational stage is undoubtedly the most important to create the basis for business success.

Seeking professional advice at this stage can be crucial to the success of the business.

Franchises

Another business model widely used to obtain a D2 Visa is the franchise.

In short, the franchise model is very advantageous for the following reasons:

  • Business model already tested and approved
  • Operational structure ready to be implemented
  • Suppliers, employees, and company guidelines already established by the franchisor
  • Marketing activities of the business developed by the franchisor
  • Existence of consumers who already know and trust the brand
  • Quality control carried out by the franchisor

It is obvious that the implementation of the franchise has many advantages.

The simple fact of having a Business Plan for a successful enterprise can make it easier to obtain the D2 visa.

It turns out that this type of business also presents, as a counterpoint, some additional obligations. Amongst them:

  1. Business supervision by the franchisee
  2. Lack of freedom in the business promotion strategy
  3. Need to pay franchise royalties

Thus, in addition to the percentage of revenue that must be transferred to the franchisor, the costs of advertising and promoting the business will also be charged to the franchisee.

Comparison of Visas for Entrepreneurs

Although the D2 Visa is aimed at entrepreneurs, other visa types also connect with business activity. Which are:

  • Golden Visa for investment in companies
  • Startup Visa

We will summarize the main characteristics of these visas so that the reader can choose the one that best matches his preferences:

Eligibility

  • D2 Visa: People who are interested in starting a new business or opening a franchise in Portugal.
  • Golden Visa: People who want to invest financially in a company that is already operational in Portugal.
  • Startup Visa: People who want to develop their Startup company in Portugal.

Main obligations

  • D2 Visa: Create a business plan and develop the company according to the guidelines of this document in Portugal.
  • Golden Visa: Make the investment of at least €350,000 in operating companies in Portugal.
  • Startup Visa: Apply for the Startup selection process through IAPMEI and create or transfer the business to Portugal.

Characteristics of the target audience

  • D2 Visa: People who have an interest and financial conditions to develop a new company or franchise in Portugal.
  • Golden Visa: People who have the financial conditions to invest and have no interest in participating in the development and operational process of the business.
  • Startup Visa: People who already have a Startup company or are planning to develop one and would like support to implement the business in Portugal.

By analyzing the information, we can see that each type of visa has its requirements and is intended for a diverse audience.

If you want more details about the Golden Visa procedure, make sure to check out Viv Europe’s Complete Guide to Golden Visa in Portugal.

Operational expenses

We will now analyze the costs related to the exercise of business activity. You must consider such expenses to develop any type of business activity in Portugal.

Among the main expenses, we can list the following:

Employees

Employee costs (payroll) usually reflect the company’s main disbursements. However, they are extremely important for the development of your activity.

In Portugal, the employee receives a total of 14 salaries per year.

In addition to the salary, the company must pay a share of the worker’s Social Security payment, in the amount of 23%, and the worker must pay the remaining 11%.

Payment by the employer of occupational accident insurance is mandatory and falls on 1% of the employee’s salary.

Thus, considering an employee who receives a gross monthly salary of €1,200, his annual salary will correspond to €22,409, and his effective monthly cost to the company will be €1,867.

To calculate the costs of the employee for the company, just click here.

Other expenses regarding starting a business in Portugal

Obviously, in addition to employee expenses, the employer must bear the company costs for the development of the activity to be carried out, which must be included in the Business Plan.

Among them, we can highlight the following:

  • Acquisition of raw material
  • Logistics
  • Acquisition or lease of property
  • Hiring an accounting service
  • Hiring service providers
  • Payment of registration fees
  • Purchase of machinery
  • Marketing activities

Tax Burden

Depending on the type of activity to be developed by the entrepreneur, different taxes may be levied on the activity.

We will deal with this topic with taxes that must be paid considering all businesses, without exception.

Corporate Income Tax (IRC)

IRC is the main tax levied on income resulting from the exercise of a business activity, which applies to the taxable amount of the organization.

Taxes for businesses in Portugal

It corresponds, quite simply, to the difference between the total income and the company’s total expenses in a given period.

IRC rates apply to the taxable amount.

For most companies, the rate of 21% is considered.

Also, in most municipalities, the municipal surcharge of 1.5% is levied as taxable profit.

The calculation of the company tax must be performed by a qualified accounting professional, given the complexity and responsibilities arising from this function.

Starting a business in Portugal: Conclusion

We hope that this article was useful for the decision to undertake in Portugal.

Portugal is going through a special moment in terms of opportunities, and the development of a business will certainly be successful if some precautions are taken.

Let us take the opportunity to recommend the reading of the Complete Guide to Live in Portugal, so that you will have access to important information for your final move to Portugal.

If you have any questions or want to have access to updated information about Portugal, then join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. We are a community of over 8,000 enthusiasts ready to change our lives for the better!

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