Portugal: Government Amends Immigration Policies to Implement EU Blue Card and Directives

Portugal: Government Amends Immigration Policies to Implement EU Blue Card and DirectivesA new law taking effect October 9 will implement several European Union directives and make significant changes to Portugal’s immigration policies, including the introduction of the EU Blue Card, longer validity periods for temporary stay visas, and more stringent salary and educational requirements for local hires performing highly skilled activities.

Amendments to the Portuguese Immigration Law taking effect October 9, 2012 will make significant changes to Portugal’s immigration system and implement several European Union directives that seek to better harmonize visa policies throughout the region. The amendments will introduce the EU Blue Card, extend validity periods for temporary stay visas, impose more stringent eligibility requirements on foreign local hires performing highly skilled activities, create a new residence program for foreign investors, and introduce criminal penalties for businesses that employ unauthorized foreign workers.

EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card will allow highly skilled non-EU nationals to live and work in Portugal and ultimately acquire long-term EU residence rights. The Portuguese government is expected to begin accepting Blue Card applications when the amendments take effect on October 9, but specific implementing regulations have yet to be published.

To be eligible for a Blue Card, a non-EU national must have a confirmed job offer or valid work contract with a sponsoring employer in Portugal and hold a university degree or at least five years of professional work experience. The applicant’s degree must be relevant to the proposed occupation in Portugal. The applicant must also possess health insurance coverage or be registered in Portugal’s national health system, and must be registered for Portuguese Social Security.

Eligible non-EU nationals will be able to apply for the Blue Card on their own behalf or through an employer. Blue Card applications are expected to be adjudicated within 60 days of submission. Once granted, Blue Cards will be valid for one year initially, and will be renewable for an additional two years.

Non-EU nationals who have resided in another EU country with a Blue Card for 18 months will be able to enter Portugal visa-free and apply for a Portuguese Blue Card after entry.

Increased Maximum Stay and Expanded Uses for Temporary Stay Visas

The maximum initial authorized stay for holders of the temporary stay visa (Visto Estada Temporária) will be increased to four months, up from the current maximum of 90 days. Temporary stay visa holders will be authorized to participate in unpaid professional training or student exchange programs, or perform volunteer work, for up to one year.

Increased Salary and Educational Requirements for Local Hires Doing Highly Skilled Work

Beginning October 9, foreign nationals seeking residence visas to perform highly skilled activities as local hires for Portuguese employers must earn at least 1.5 times the gross national average wage, or three times the Portuguese social security index value, which is currently set at €419.22 per month. The proposed position in Portugal must require at least a university degree or five years of professional technical experience.

New Residence Program for Foreign Investors

A new residence permit intended to spur investment in Portugal will be available to foreign nationals willing to transfer at least €1 million in capital, purchase property with a value of at least €500,000, or create at least 30 jobs in the country. Prospective investors may travel to Portugal as visitors with a valid Schengen Visa and obtain the new permit in-country. They will not be required to obtain residence visas from Portuguese consular posts prior to travel.

Criminal Penalties for Employment of Unauthorized Foreign Workers

Individuals found to have employed, or facilitated the employment of, unauthorized foreign workers will face prison sentences from one to six years. Businesses found to be employing unauthorized foreign workers will be subject to fines ranging from €2,000 to €90,000, depending on the number of unauthorized workers.

Fragomen worked closely with Frederica Campos de Carvalho and Filipa Figueiredo, Senior Lawyers (Lisbon) to prepare this alert. It is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen Global or send an email to emea@fragomen.com.

Source: Fragomen