Foreigners Law

Author:Mr Rogério Ferreira

Originally Published 16th December 2008

The legal regime applicable to the entry and exit of foreign

citizens into and out of national territory is disciplined, in

Portugal, by Law No. 23/2007 from July 4, which regulates the

conditions and procedures of entry, stay, exit and removal of

foreign citizens into and out of national territory1,

considering, for legal purposes, foreign citizen any national of a

country not belonging to the European Economic Area2

and, furthermore, not a contracting party to the Application


The enactment of the new legislation, streamlined by ideas of

promotion of legal immigration and the inherent discouraging of

illegal immigration, allied to the goal of desbureaucratization and

use of new technologies, has implied significant changes in the

labor market opportunities, as well to procedures aiming to ease

the access and circulation of highly skilled human resources,

investors, inter alia.

Particularly, concerning the entry of foreign citizens into

Portuguese territory, except for certain cases expressly foreseen

in the aforementioned legislation3, the foreign citizens

shall, in the first place, hold a travelling document deemed valid,

usually with a validity exceeding the duration of their stay (e.g.

passport, safe-conduct); in second place, hold a valid visa,

adequate to the purpose of their visit; and, finally, possess

sufficient subsistence means for the period of the stay and/or the

return trip to the country in which their admission is


In matter of visas, there should be a distinction according to

their type and the place in which they are granted. In effect,

whenever they are granted abroad, they may be i) stopover

visas (their purpose is to allow their holder, in case of an

international connection, the passage through an airport/port of a

State which is party to the Application Convention, granting only

access to the international area of the airport or maritime port),

ii) transit visas (their purpose is to allow the entry in

national territory of persons from a third State heading to a third

country in which their entry is guaranteed4), iii)

short stay visas (visa to be granted on a residual basis, to

the extent it is designed to allow entry into national territory to

its holder for purposes other than the ones justifying the

concession of another type of visa – e.g. tourism,

visiting or accompanying relatives holding a residency visa), iv)

temporary stay visas ( their purpose is to allow their

holder to enter in Portuguese territory for, among other

purposes5, scientific investigation in investigation

centers, teaching in a higher education institution or the exercise

of a highly qualified activity for a time period of less than one

year, exercise in national territory of a professional activity

either dependent or independent, of a temporary nature whose

duration does not exceed, as a rule six months6, etc)

and, finally, v) residency visas (they aim to allow their

holder the entrance in Portuguese territory for the purpose of

applying to a residency permit, being valid for two entries and for

a period of 4 months). On the other hand, if the visa is granted on

border posts, only transit visas, short term visas or a special

visa (granted to foreign nationals that do not fulfill the

necessary requirements in the grounds of humanitarian or national

interest), may be granted.

As mentioned above, the new legal regime has implied significant

modifications to specific groups, namely investors, highly

qualified professionals, as well as employees and liberal

professionals. Indeed, in the particular cases of economic agents

willing to invest in Portugal, a residency visa will be granted

upon verification of one of the following conditions: i)

performance of investment operations; or ii) proof of possession of

available financial means in Portugal, including those stemming

from financing obtained by recourse to a financial institution in

Portugal, and demonstration, by any means, of the intention to

carry out an investment operation in Portugal. The Regulation

Decree No. 84/20077 does not require any amount, only

referring to its nature, worth and duration. However, the

motivation behind the investment should always be subject to a

balance of interests, namely as to its economic, social,


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