Breaking it Down: How to Opening a Business in Portugal as a Foreigner

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Breaking it Down: How to Opening a Business in Portugal as a Foreigner

by | Wednesday, 20 March 2024 | Investment

opening a business in Portugal

Are you opening a business in Portugal? Portugal is a prime destination for business-oriented individuals seeking to open a company in Portugal. With its welcoming environment for investors and foreigners, the allure is magnified by the Golden Visa program, which offers avenues for investment, including opening a business in Portugal. Key sectors show promise for investment, from tourism and wine production to advanced industries like technology and renewable energy, earning Portugal a reputation for diversity in its business landscape.

Moreover, the strategic incentives like tax benefits in the Azores and Madeira’s free eMadeira’sones, coupled with government support through initiatives like Startup Portugal, create a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs. These measures are designed to attract foreign talent and investors interested in exploring Portugal’s vibrant economy with the intent to establish or expand their business presence. This guide aims to navigate the essential steps for foreigners to successfully start a business in Portugal, fostering growth and innovation within this dynamic European nation.

Understanding Portugal’s Business Landscape

Portugal’s key sectors are tourism, renewable energy, technology, and agriculture, underpin its robust business landscape. With a population of approximately 10.3 million and a member of the European Union using the euro currency, Portugal presents a stable and attractive environment for foreign investors. The government’s fostering of growth in these areas is evident through initiatives aimed at enhancing the country’s competitiveness on a global scale. Furthermore, the economy’s post-pandemic growth, with a 6.8% GDP increase in 2022 and an expected growth of 2.7% in 2023, signifies a resilient and thriving economic climate.

  • Key Industries:
    • Tourism
    • Renewable Energy
    • Technology
    • Agriculture
  • Economic Growth:
    • 6.8% GDP increase in 2022
    • Expected 2.7% growth in 2023

Portugal’s appeaPortugal’s foreign direct investment (FDI) is underscored by the significant number of projects registered in 2021, with 30% originating from international sources. The United States is the largest source of FDI, highlighting the global confidence in Portugal’s business opportunities. This confidence is further bolstered by Portugal’s strategy of becoming the fourth-largest export market for the U.S., emphasizing the strong trade relationships established.

Lastly, the government’s support of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through tax incentives and the Startup Visa program plays a pivotal role in attracting foreign talent and investment. This, combined with Portugal’s ease of doing business and the streamlined company registration process, makes it an ideal destination for entrepreneurs looking to open a company in Portugal.

Choosing the Right Business Structure

Choosing the proper business structure is pivotal when planning to open a company in Portugal. The choice significantly impacts various aspects of the business, including liability, taxation, and the ability to attract investment. Here’s a breakdown of the primary business structures available in Portugal:

  • Sole Proprietorship:
    • Simple and inexpensive to set up, offering complete control over the business operations.
    • Ideal for small businesses, it does not require significant investment but comes with personal liability for debts and obligations.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC):
    • A popular choice for small and medium-sized businesses, providing limited liability protection for owners.
    • It presents a more formal structure than a sole proprietorship and is more likely to attract investors or obtain financing.

When selecting the appropriate structure, entrepreneurs must weigh factors like capital/cost, legal liabilities, and operational needs. This decision influences the company’s flexibility and potential for growth within Portugal’s dynamic environment.

Necessary Documentation and Registration Process

To successfully open a company in Portugal as a foreigner, the following documentation and registration process must be meticulously followed:

  1. Initial Steps and Documentation:
    • Choose your business type and ensure your company name is available in the Portuguese Registry of Business Names.
    • Obtain a fiscal number (NIF) and a social security number (NISS).
    • Open a bank account in Portugal to facilitate financial transactions.
    • Required documents include the company deed, articles of association, proof of fiscal identification and address, bank statement, shareholder IDs and tax numbers, and a declaration of acceptance of office [8].
  2. Registration Process:
    • Register your company’s name (Certificado de Admissibilidade) for a fee.
    • The registration process costs around €360, with additional fees for businesses owning properties. For a branch office, the cost is €200.
    • Registration can be performed at any registry office or the Business Formalities Centre relevant to the Portuguese Trade Register.
  3. Finalizing the Registration:
    • Apply for licensing and permits through the Directorate-General for Economic Activities (DGAE) via the Balcão do Empreendedor (BDE).
    • For freelancers, registration can be done online via the Portal das Finanças or at a local finance office. For other business structures, the Empresa Online service is recommended.
    • The entire registration process, including obtaining necessary licenses and permits, typically spans a few days to several weeks.

Financial Considerations

Understanding the financial landscape is crucial when planning to open a company in Portugal. Here’s a breakdoHere’skey financial considerations:

  • Taxation:
    • Corporate Income Tax (IRC): Levied at 21% in mainland Portugal and reduced rates of 14.7% in the Azores and Madeira.
    • Value-Added Tax (VAT/IVA): Standard rate of 23%, with preferential rates for certain goods and services.
    • Social Security Contributions: Portuguese legal entities contribute 23.75%.
    • Dividend and Capital Gains Tax: Both are taxed at 28% for residents.
    • Property Tax: Ranges from 0.3% to 0.8%, depending on the region.
  • Mandatory Insurance and Liabilities:
    • Workplace Accident Insurance: Required for all companies.
    • Director/Manager Liability: Joint and several liability for losses caused in performing duties.
    • Parent Company Liability: For debts/liabilities and annual losses of subsidiaries under specific conditions.
  • Golden Visa and Tax Incentives:
    • Golden Visa Program: Offers residence permits through business investment, including a minimum investment of €500,000 in a Portuguese company, creating or maintaining at least five jobs.
    • Non-Habitual Resident Status: Provides a flat rate of 20% on business income for ten years, with no taxation on global income.

This overview provides a foundation for financial planning and highlights the importance of considering taxation, insurance, and potential incentives when establishing a business in Portugal.

Navigating Legal Requirements

Navigating the complex legal landscape is crucial for entrepreneurs opening a business in Portugal. Understanding and complying with local laws ensure the smooth operation of your business. Here are vital legal requirements and considerations:

  • Compliance with Portuguese Laws: Online businesses must adhere to several laws, including the Price Law, Consumer Law, Data Protection Law, Copyright Law, Publicity Law, and E-commerce Law. This comprehensive legal framework safeguards businesses and consumers, ensuring fair practices and data privacy.
  • Employment and Insurance:
    • Mandatory workplace accident insurance is required for all companies, protecting employees in case of work-related injuries.
    • Employing staff involves registering with Social Security, submitting monthly remuneration statements, and adhering to public inspection measures. Companies can partner with recruitment agencies or directly contact the Instituto do Emprego e Formação Profissional for recruitment.
    • Probation periods, ranging from 30 to 90 days, must be paid, emphasizing the need for clear employment contracts.
  • Visa and Residency Requirements:
    • EU citizens have a relatively straightforward process for setting up a business. In contrast, non-EU citizens must obtain a Portuguese visa and residency permit.
    • The Golden Visa program offers a path to residency through business investment, requiring a minimum investment of €500,000 in a business creating at least five jobs or opening a company that makes at least ten jobs.

These legal prerequisites underscore the importance of thorough preparation and compliance to start and run a successful business in Portugal.


Throughout this exploration, we’ve delved into the essentials of opening a company in Portugal for foreigners, highlighting the Portuguese market’s vibrant markets across various sectors such as tourism, technology, renewable energy, and agriculture. The strategic advantages of governmental policies, including attractive tax benefits and supportive initiatives like Startup Portugal, further enhance Portugal’s status as a stimulating destination for entrepreneurs globally. These, combined with a robust economic forecast and strong international ties, particularly in foreign direct investment, lay a fertile ground for business ventures to flourish.

Choosing the proper business structure, understanding legal and financial requirements, and navigating the bureaucratic landscape are pivotal steps toward establishing a successful enterprise. The insightful guidelines demystify the process, encouraging informed decisions that pave the way for growth and innovation within this dynamic European nation. As we conclude, let these reflections serve not just as a roadmap for potential investors and entrepreneurs but also as an invitation to contribute to Portugal’s thriving ecosystem, where opportunity meets ambition under the sunlit skies of the Iberian Peninsula.


What are the costs associated with opening a business in Portugal?
The expenses for setting up a company in Portugal can vary based on the services chosen. If you opt for incorporating a company with a pre-approved set of rules, it will cost 220 euros. However, if you create a company with a custom set of rules, the cost rises to 360 euros.

Are American citizens allowed to own and operate a business in Portugal?
Foreign and local investors are granted equal opportunities to start, own, and manage businesses in Portugal. They can also buy and sell business interests without facing any discrimination. It is required to designate a legal representative for the company. There is no necessity to allocate capital to a branch office.

How challenging is it for foreigners to open a business in Portugal?
Initiating a business in Portugal is relatively straightforward, even for foreigners. However, the requirements may vary depending on the individual’s needs and the business sector they are interested in.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advisory, legal or tax advice. When opening a business in Portugal, please consult a qualified professional for specific guidance tailored to your circumstances.

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