How to apply for a residence permit for a startup in Portugal

The entire process, from submitting documents to obtaining ready residence permit cards, can be divided into two large steps to understand the whole process.
  • Approval of the startup project. Submitting the documents to IAPMEI, an organization that studies your startup and grants permission for further legalization.
  • Residence permit formalization. Submitting documents to SEF, an organization which deals directly with legalization and residence permits.

You can apply for the startup either in your own country or in Portugal itself. The procedure will be slightly different, so for convenience we will describe the list separately into two parts: filing in your country / filing in Portugal.
The approval stage of the startup project
This stage does not yet include the registration of the residence permit itself. It is necessary in order to get a document with which you can apply for a residence permit for a startup.
  • Gathering information and documents
    This is where you need to pull together all the information about your project and prepare scans of documents.
  • Filling out an application on the IAPMEI portal
    Registration on the IAPMEI portal and filling the first two pages of the application, there is general information about the project and each participant, as well as scans of documents, CV.
  • Sending applications to incubators
    It can be done on the third page of the application. You have to choose one or several incubators from a list (there are more than 100 in Portugal) and send them an application asking them to consider the project.
  • Approval of incubators
    The application must be approved by at least one incubator, the application will not be submitted to IAPMEI without it.
  • Sending an application for review
    Here you fill in the rest of the form fields on the fourth page (if you have not done it before), carefully check everything and send the application. Further editing of the application is impossible, if only to withdraw it, edit it and send it again.
  • Obtaining project approval
    The review of the project can last from 1 to 6-7 months. After that, you may receive an additional request for documents or a Favorable decision right away.
  • Signing a contract with an incubator
    You will need to choose an incubator from those that have placed an Interested status and sign a contract with them. Then ask the incubator to upload a scan of the contract to the IAPMEI portal.
  • Obtaining a digital declaration
    After downloading the contract from the incubator, the portal will allow you to download the declaration. It entitles you to apply for a residence permit.
The stage of issuing a residence permit
The next steps are aimed specifically at obtaining a residence permit. You need to make an appointment at the SEF, come to the appointment, submit the documents and wait for the cards to arrive in the mail.
  • Making an appointment at SEF
    The SEF is an organization that deals with the legalization of migrants in Portugal. To apply there, you have to make an appointment in advance. And here you can have options.

    If you apply NOT in Portugal, you have to go to the Portuguese consulate in the country where you live (it is assumed that you are either a citizen of that country or have a residence permit). Most likely, you will need to make an appointment there. You need to bring them the documents, they will review them and give you a type D visa. This visa entitles you to enter Portugal for further legalization. The visa is valid for 180 days. Along with this visa, you will have a appointment at SEF. However, you should keep in mind that the list of required documents includes a rental agreement for a year and an account in a Portuguese bank. It turns out that to apply to the consulate, you need to go to Portugal, open an account there, find a place to live, come back and go to the consulate. Therefore, we do not recommend applying to the consulate with a declaration. It is better to apply for a tourist Schengen visa and go to Portugal to apply for a residence permit.

    If applying in Portugal. For example, you entered the country on a Schengen visa. In that case, you can also get a startup residence permit with IAPMEI approval. Only you need to make an appointment with the SEF on your own. You have to call 217 115 000 to do it. It's not easy to make an appointment with SEF, but for startups the terms of the call and appointment are easier than the other legalization methods. And don't forget to record the legality of your entry into the country. If you are coming to Portugal by plane, it is enough to keep the tickets. If you enter by car through another Schengen country, you can check into a hotel in the first 3 days after arrival and ask the reception to register you with the SEF and ask for a printout of the registration.
  • Preparing documents for admission
    The list of documents to be submitted to the SEF is slightly different. For example, you need to provide a rental contract, which means that you have to find a place to live before you are accepted. The final list of documents to the SEF is as follows:
    • project participants' passports;
    • contract for a long-term rental housing (at least a year);
    • a recent certificate of no criminal record (old will not work; expiration date is 3 months);
    • declaration from IAPMEI:
    • incubator contract;
    • confirmation of money in a Portuguese bank account (not as in IAPMEI, here it is necessary to show the sum of at least 8,500 euros);
    • motivation letter;
    • proof of legal entry into the country;
    • health insurance policy.

    You must also prepare in advance money to the amount of 358 euros (158 euros fee for registration of residence permit and 200 euros for the lack of a national visa).
  • Receiving and submitting documents to the SEF
    Come to one of the SEF offices at the appointed time, hand in your documents and wait for your residence permit card. If any documents are missing, you will be asked to bring them. Then you pay the fee. At the end you will receive a document stating that you are waiting for a residence permit card.
  • Getting a residence permit card
    The long-awaited result of all these activities is the receipt of your residence permit cards. They will come to you by mail to the address you indicate as your residential address. It usually comes in the form of a letter, which is thrown directly into the mailbox.
  • Family Reunion
    This step is relevant for those who want to bring their relatives to Portugal or legalize those who are already in the country. To do this, you need to sign up again at the SEF, submit the documents and wait for the card. Only to sign up for reunification is much more difficult. First, you have to wait for an appointment to open, and they open it very rarely, about once every six months. Second, it is very difficult to get through to the SEF to sign up, given the number of people who want to sign up.