PORTUGAL – Alterations to Law for Short Term, Temporary Stay and Residence Visas, Introduction of Blue Card and Defined Sanctions for Non-Compliant Employers
The Portuguese authorities have published a new law (29/2012) on 9 August, due to come into force on 9 September, which amends Act 23/2007 of 4 July. The new law implements several EU directives and makes significant changes to immigration processes in Portugal. Among other things, the new law introduces the EU Blue Card, increases validity of the temporary stay visa, changes the scope of the residence visa for local hires and investors, and increases sanctions for employers found to be out of compliance with immigration legislation.
Temporary Stay Visas
The maximum initial validity of the Temporary Stay Visa (Visto Estada Temporária) will be increased to four months (previously, such visas were issued for an initial period of 90 days maximum). The Temporary Stay Visa can still be renewed within Portugal.
The scope of activities which fall under the Temporary Stay Visa has been broadened and will now be required in cases where the applicant will be in Portugal for up to 12 months for undertaking unpaid professional training, voluntary work or as part of a student exchange programme.
Residence Visas for Local Hires
Criteria for residence visas for local hires have been amended, and will include the following:
- Salary must be at least 1.5x the gross national average wage or three times the IAS (social security index) value, which was set at EUR419.22/month for 2012.
- Additionally, the position to be carried out in Portugal must meet the requirements to be classified as highly skilled work; i.e. must require at least a university degree or five years of technical professional experience.
- Under the new law, it will be possible for long term assignees to be granted residence visas and residence permits. Residence permit holders may also be able convert their status in order to take up freelance work.
Residence Permits for Investors
A new category has been created to specifically encourage investment. Investors who meet one of the following criteria may qualify for a simplified route into Portugal which allows for a residence permit to be obtained post arrival without the need to first apply for a residence visa at a Portuguese consulate or Embassy in the country of residence. The criteria are as follows:
- Either transfer at least €1 million of capital, OR
- Purchase property worth at least €500,000 OR
- Create at least 30 jobs.
The new law defines the minimum financial penalties for companies found to be employing illegal immigrants. Penalties will range from €2000 if the company is found to have one illegal employee to to €90,000 if there are 50 or more illegal workers.
The new law introduces the Blue Card. The EU Blue Card, brought in by Council Directive 2009/50/EC, is a measure brought in to attract highly skilled individuals into the EU. The Blue Card either has already been or will be implemented in all EU member states other than Denmark, the UK and Ireland (which have all opted out). Blue Cards offer some benefits over standard work authorisation applications. 1. Requested in Foreigners’ Department (Serviço Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF) Internal Administration Ministry
Blue Card Benefits
- Blue Cards for Portugal can be issued for an initial period of one year with renewals granted in increments of two years.
- After the first two years, the Blue Card holder may change employer within the original host country without needing to seek prior authorisation, and need only notify the authorities;
- Improved mobility across the EU – after a minimum period of 18 months in the first host country (the country which granted the Blue Card), Blue Card holders will have the right to work as highly skilled employees in another EU member state – subject to that state’s approval;
- The Blue Card will lead to permanent residency (EC long-term resident status) after five years, provided the Blue Card holder has spent the two years immediately prior to the application continuously residing in one EU member state (which would be the state where the permanent residency application would be submitted);
- Adult dependents (spouses) of a Blue Card holder should be granted work permission.
Blue Card Qualifying Criteria
Blue card applicants must meet certain qualifying criteria, as follows:
- The applicant must have a valid employment offer or contact for at least one year
- The applicant must hold a university degree or possess five years of high level professional, relevant work experience plus any specific qualifications needed for the specific profession;
- Salary must be at least 1.5x the annual gross average national salary (currently, around €2000)
- Applicant must have health insurance or be registered in the national health system;
- Applicant must be registered with the Portuguese Social Security System;
- If the profession is not regulated in Portugal, a diploma or other documentation must be presented to prove the professional qualification. If the profession is regulated in Portugal, proof of the professional certification must be presented.
Blue Card Notes
The Blue Card process for Portugal has not yet been regulated, so it remains to be seen how it will function in practice. The legal time frame for issuance of the Blue Card is 60 days.
- Note the introduction of the Blue Card route
- Note the broadening of scope of activities for which a Temporary Stay Visa is required
- Note new application requirements for Residence Visas
- Note new defined minimum penalties for non-compliant employers