Portugal HQA Visa: The Flexible Startup Visa for Highly Qualified Activities2022-01-15T17:56:06+00:00

Portugal HQA Visa 2022: The Flexible Startup Visa for Highly Qualified Activities

✓ €175,000 ALL INCLUSIVE.

✓ Full Golden Visa Flexibility (Low Minimum Stay Requirement)

Minimize your opportunity costs

✓ Fully refundable if application is rejected.

✓ Restricted country applications accepted.

✓ Preferred authorized agent.

✓ Lowest program pricing – guaranteed.

The Portugal D7 Visa offers a path to Portuguese residency - without investment.

If you’re ready to actually up sticks and settle in Portugal, the D7 Visa is just the option for you. But what if you’re not ready to move yet? What if you’re still actively involved in running a business overseas?

You could opt for the Portuguese Golden Visa by making a property investment of 350,000+, excluding professional service fees, government processing fees, municipal transfer duties and associated maintenance costs…

Or, until the end of 2021, you could opt instead for a fund-based investment of 350,000 (500,000 from January 2022) – yet a fund-based investment carries a range of potential risks that will require extensive, time-consuming due diligence to assess.

And even for those who could afford to invest around 500,000, the opportunity costs and a maximum anticipated return on investment of around 3.5% (pre-costs and taxes) simply doesn’t make sense.

Imagine, for example, that you’re a seasoned crypto investor:

Bitcoin has been growing at an average of 200% per year for the past decade. For the purposes of this example, let’s assume that it continues to grow at that rate for another 5 years.

All other things being equal…

If you could passively invest 175,000, ALL-IN, in Portugal to get a residency with the flexibility of a Golden Visa (aka no / low minimum stay requirements), and you could invest an additional 175,000 in crypto for a minimum of 5 years, your total investment wouldn’t have any negative carry – and your upside potential would be significant.

 The good news is that a 175,000 Portuguese residency option with Golden Visa flexibility exists – in the form of the Portugal Highly Qualified Activity (HQA) Visa.

The HQA is essentially a Portuguese hybrid startup visa combining company formation and the funding of an R&D project in collaboration with a government-supported research facility and a leading Portuguese startup incubator.

You can learn more about the legal basis for the HQA Visa Program here.

Let’s get into the details below…

What are the advantages of the HQA Visa?

Discover why more prospective Golden Visa applicants are choosing this Portugal Startup Visa in 2021…



Gain Portuguese residency for just €175,000 ALL-IN – that’s only around 30% of the total capital layout for a regular Golden Visa, leaving you with an additional €175,000 to invest in higher-yield opportunities.


Gain the advantages of a “paper residency” as part of your Plan B. While the D7 Visa requires you to spend 6 months+ per year in Portugal, the HQA Visa offers the same low / no minimum stay requirements as the Golden Visa.


While Golden Visa processing, in 2021, is taking 12-15 months to complete, and the D7 up to 6 months+, HQA Visa processing is a priority for Portugal. Expect visa approvals in 30 days, and residency permits issued in 90 days.


Your spouse, children under 18, and parents over 65 can also obtain legal residency in Portugal (provided that the are financially dependent on you). In addition, your spouse can apply to work locally as well.


Become eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship and a passport after holding residency for 5 years. Also, you’ll be building real world ties with the country in the process of developing your startup.


Unlike with most other EU startup visa programs, the HQA has no business performance, job creation, asset value or revenue targets. There are also no onerous quarterly government reports to file.


Determine your own level of involvement in the development of your startup. Run the business fully hands-on, or leave the day-to-day management of your research project and enterprise to us.


In the unlikely event that your visa application is rejected, your startup investment, which is safely held in escrow until approval, is fully refundable. You can therefore apply with full peace of mind.

Who should consider the Portugal HQA Visa?

If you’re looking for a startup or “Business Golden Visa”, then the HQA could be an excellent solution for you…


If you’re considering a Golden Visa via real estate or a fund-based investment, the HQA Visa may be an attractive alternative with a total capital layout of only around 30% of a regular Golden Visa.


If you’ve already established yourself as a technology entrepreneur or startup founder overseas, the HQA Visa could serve as an excellent platform for replicating your successes in Portugal.


If you already run an enterprise outside of Portugal, and would like to test the EU market via a Portuguese branch, then the HQA Visa can serve as an effective launchpad for European expansion.


If you’ve already built a career as a senior organizational player in product development, technology, science or R&D, then the HQA can serve as the springboard to develop your own startup in Portugal.

HQA Program FAQs

What benefits does the HQA Visa Program offer?2021-09-29T09:20:44+00:00

Outside of offering a streamlined process and fast-track approvals, participation in the HQA Visa Program delivers a strategic business asset: Over the course of the program, your business establishes a footprint and track record as an EU headquartered enterprise, with a financial and credit record with a recognised Portuguese financial institution, a demonstrable track record of tax filings and EU generated intellectual property, which can be patented, if required. 

In the case of applicants being established foreign business owners, arms-length business transactions can also be conducted between the new Portuguese startup business and said offshore businesses. 

In addition, the activities and relationships resulting from the 3-year incubation program can serve as compelling evidence of real world ties to Portugal when it comes to applying for either permanent residency status or citizenship. 

In contrast, these real world ties would not be generated as the result of either a Golden Visa property or fund investment, making the HQA a compelling option for residency applicants who are serious about naturalizing in Portugal.

What does the HQA incubation process look like?2021-09-29T09:18:24+00:00

In accordance with Portuguese legislation, HQA Visa approvals must be either granted or denied within 30 days of an application being submitted. From the first meeting with the startup incubator until the issuance of your residency cards in Portugal, the process takes between 3 and 5 months in total:

Application phase 1: The visa applicant accepts an invitation to join the HQA incubator program. Within 2 to to 6 weeks, a strategic plan is finalised, and an R&D project is identified and negotiated with a Portuguese public research institution (typically a rural Portuguese university)

Application phase 2: The applicant attends a visa appointment at their local Portuguese consulate or embassy. Within 30 days, a decision is issued by the Portuguese immigration authorities.

Application phase 3: Once the applicant’s visa application has been approved, you’ll receive an entry stamp type visa with which you can travel to Portugal for their SEF appointment. (The applicant has a 4 month window in which to visit Portugal for their residency appointment.) Residency cards are delivered by mail within 60 days of this appointment date.

What startup methodology does the HQA Visa incubator use?2021-09-29T09:15:52+00:00

The HQA incubation program employs the LEAN startup methodology in combination with a proprietary digital incubation platform. The latter allows the founder, startup mentors as well as advisors, service providers and collaborators to work on and review the project from anywhere, at any time, in an asynchronous fashion. The incubation platform also offers access to introductory LEAN startup learning materials, collaboration spaces and validation tools.

While some founders opt to become very hands-on in the daily operations the projects from inception onwards, others prefer to to take a more hands-off approach. Such founders allow the business to grow organically under the guidance of the startup incubation team, and receive quarterly updates on the project’s progress.

For the first 12 to 18 months, the incubation process focuses mainly on nurturing the research or development project, along with validating the business model through iterative testing.

What are the reporting requirements for the HQA Visa?2021-09-29T09:14:13+00:00

The company must submit regular filings, including tax, on an annual basis, however this is taken care of by the startup incubator. Outside of this, there is no progress reporting required, whatsoever.

What happens after the 3 year HQA Incubation period?2021-09-29T09:11:36+00:00

As mentioned, no further investment is required after the 3 year incubation period in order to qualify the applicant for permanent residency or citizenship. The HQA Program’s structure allows the startup business to grow risk-free, taken care of by the incubator partner in accordance with the strategic direction provided by the program participant. 

Upon graduation, applicants have the option of growing the business further, or selling it, along with the IP generated during the incubation period. Alternatively, they can apply for permanent residency or citizenship without investing more time or effort into the startup business.

Is the HQA Visa tax advantageous?2021-09-29T09:09:08+00:00

The HQA Visa Program offers applicants the ability to significantly optimize their global tax obligations. 

Program participants’ personal income derived from their Portuguese startup activities is taxed at a standard rate of 21%, however this could be lowered to 20%, depending on the nature of the startup.

The HQA startup business can also be eligible for a number of government grants, tax incentives and subsidies, either on the basis of its startup status and research and development (R&D) focus, or as a rurally-headquartered company and/or small business.

In addition, all intellectual property (IP) developed within the startup enterprise can be patented in Portugal, which in turn would qualify it for patent box tax legislation. Consequently, any revenue derived from said IP can be subject to highly favorable tax rates.

In addition, as new Portuguese residents, participants are eligible to apply for the Portuguese Non-Habitual Tax Residency Program (NHR). Under this program, program participants can benefit from a 0% tax rate on foreign sourced income for a period of 10 years.

Do I need a fully developed business or startup idea to apply for the HQA Visa Program?2021-09-29T09:07:27+00:00

No. Applicants are not required to have a fully developed startup or business idea to join the HQA Incubator Program, nor is a business plan required upfront. Admission to the program relies more on the quality of the applicant (skills, experience and qualifications) than on the quality of the business or startup idea.

Applicants are evaluated on the depth and breadth of their industry experience, and on their ability to provide relevant, effective strategic direction to the startup project beyond the initial research phase. 

Projects typically have a technology or innovation focused slant, with the potential for significant growth (and ideally hypergrowth). Whether the business idea was conceived by the applicant, or co-developed in partnership with the HQA startup incubator, it will be developed during the course of the incubation period. 

The idea and resulting research project will be subjected to iterative testing and refinement, resulting in a validated business model by the end of the incubation program.

Does the HQA Visa Program have any business performance requirements?2021-09-29T09:04:46+00:00

No. Beyond the formation of a company, joining the incubator program and funding a suitable research project, there are no revenue performance, asset growth or job creation requirements under the HQA Visa Program

In fact, the startup business is not even required to take a product or service to market upon graduating from the incubation program.

What are the additional costs for the HQA Program?2021-10-30T05:42:16+00:00

There are none; the inclusive cost of obtaining the HQA Visa (Visa Category D3: Highly Qualified Activity) is €175,000, all-in. 

This includes the cost of company formation and capitalization, the funding of an eligible research project, visa renewals after two years, as well as comprehensive back-office support, incubation fees and startup management services for the 3-year incubation period. 

Does the HQA Visa lead to Portuguese citizenship?2021-09-29T08:59:52+00:00

As with the Golden Visa, the HQA Visa can lead to either permanent residency or citizenship in Portugal after 5 years. The HQA Visa, however, offers the ability for applicants to create real world ties in Portugal during the 3-year incubation period, which can greatly improve their chances of meeting the Portuguese authorities’ “real world ties” requirement.

Moreover, the endorsement obtained from the Portuguese university conducting the project research serves as a powerful vote of confidence in this regard. HQA applicants wishing to apply for permanent residency or citizenship will nonetheless be able to either pass a basic Portuguese language exam, or provide proof that they completed a basic Portuguese language course with a recognised learning institution

The level of Portuguese proficiency required to apply for citizenship is A2 Level (Basic Proficiency), and is also referred to as CIPLE level Portuguese.

Do I need a tertiary degree to apply for the HQA Visa Program?2021-09-29T08:57:09+00:00

While some of our applicants only boast skills and experience garnered while working in a specific field, many of them hold tertiary degrees related to the research project they wish to pursue under the HQA Visa Program. 

While holding a relevant degree is certainly advantageous, demonstrable industry experience can suffice as well. In both instances, the startup incubator will assist in identifying a suitable research area and project which will form the basis for the visa application.

What kinds of industry players apply for the HQA Visa?2021-09-29T08:53:58+00:00

While HQA Visa applicants hail from a very diverse range of sectors and industries, applicants frequently either work for or own business in areas such as fintech, martech, regtech, healthcare and medical technology, science, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology or nanotechnology, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), industrial processing, IT, agritech, seateach, blockchain, DeFi, crypto, SAAS, as well as ecommerce and mcommerce.

Which Portuguese Universities participate in the HQA Visa Program?2021-09-20T08:23:11+00:00

As of September 2021, the following universities accept research projects under the HQA Visa Program:

  1. UAlg (Universidade do Algarve)

  2. Universidade de Evora

  3. Politecnica de Leiria

  4. Instituto Politecnico de Bragança


What is the legal basis for the HQA Visa?2021-09-20T08:09:10+00:00

Article 61 of REPSAE, Portugal’s Immigration Act, serves as the legal basis upon which the Portuguese HQA Visa is issued. In order to meet the visa’s requirements, applicants need to establish a Portuguese corporation and make an eligible investment in R&D or a technology focused research project sponsored by a Portuguese university or public research facility.

What makes the HQA Startup Visa unique?

The HQA Visa combines some of the best characteristics of the D7 Visa and the Golden Visa. It offers a compelling Portuguese residency track well suited to entrepreneurs and professionals seeking flexibility, affordability and a Plan B in Portugal. Check out some of the program’s key differentiating features below…

Minimum Investment Required €350,000+ €175,000 ALL-IN €0
Process Timeline 9 – 12 months 3 months 6 months+
Family Eligible  Yes  Yes Yes
Path to Permanent Residency & Citizenship Yes  Yes Yes
Minimum In-Country Stay Requirement Per Year 1 Week Fully flexible  6 Months
Portuguese Language Proficiency Required No No No
Non-Habitual Residency Program Eligibility Yes Yes Yes
Professional Services Fees  €25,000+ None/Included From €2,495 
Recurring Income Required No No Yes
Medical Insurance Required Yes Yes Yes
Portuguese Tax Number (NIF) Required Yes Yes Yes

Which industries suit the program?

While the program requirements are very flexible and fairly industry agnostic, a focus on product development and/or technology is fairly essential. Applicants hailing from the following sectors and industries typically comprise the bulk of our clients under this program:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning startups

  • Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology startups

  • Energy generation, carbon offsetting and renewables, in particular

  • Healthcare and medical technology, including mobile healthcare services (MHealth)

  • eCommerce and mCommerce startups

  • Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)

  • Digital communication and media startups

  • Electronics, microchip and hardware technologies

  • Industrial processing and process optimization

  • Marketing Technology (MarTech; MAAS).

  • Information Technology (IT)

  • AgriTech and SeaTech / BlueTech Startups

  • Blockchain and crypto technology startups.

  • Software As A Service (SAAS) enterprises

Key startup program requirements

  1. Establish a Portuguese enterprise and invest €175,000 in a Portuguese Startup incubator (€25,000 company capitalization included).

  2. Gain the support of one of the incubator’s affiliate public research institutions in Portugal and fund a high-value research project with a rural Portuguese university.

  3. Participate in a guided, light-touch business incubation process for 36 months. You have the option of being as operationally involved – or not – as you choose.

  4. A clean criminal record is non-negotiable.

  5. You have to renew your residency after 24 months, and then again after 36 months.

The visa application process

  1. Compile and submit your initial documentation, along with your CV, a copy of your valid passport, and a summary of your business and/or research concept.

  2. Attend a virtual call with the Portuguese startup incubator.

  3. Sign the incubator’s Standard Term Sheet.

  4. Submit all remaining required documentation, and wire your investment fee into a secured Escrow Account.

  5. Your residency application is submitted to the Portuguese immigration authorities.

  6. Attend your consular interview approximately three weeks later.

  7. Visit Portugal within 3 months to meet with local authorities and apply for your Residency Permit.

  8. Attend a meeting with the startup incubator and government-approved research facility to establish your business and conduct strategic planning for your startup.

Why choose to work with us?

✓ A track record of success – 13 successful applications completed since 2019.

✓ Comprehensive support from a seasoned European startup incubator.

✓ Highly competitive program pricing and maximum flexibility.

✓ Pioneer and market leader – our partners co-created the HQA Visa along with Portuguese immigration authorities.

✓ Application fee includes application management, business incubation, full back-office support,Portuguese bank account opening, tax numbers, etc.

✓ A deep understanding of application challenges – and how to overcome them.

Gain flexible Portuguese residency in 3 months for only €175,000 ALL-IN. Contact us today.

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