Guide: D3 visa for highly skilled professionals

You must hold a higher professional education diploma and an appropriate position in a company in Portugal
9 min
May 22, 2023

The D3 visa is for highly qualified professionals who have received a job offer or have concluded a work contract with a Portuguese employer. To qualify for this visa, you must hold a higher professional education diploma and an appropriate position in a company in Portugal, and your salary must be at least 1,800 € per month.

You can apply for this visa in your country of citizenship or residence (where you have a residence permit or long-term visa). In most countries, apply directly to the Portuguese consulate. However, in some countries, you may need to apply through the VFS Global visa center. To find out the process in your country, contact the Portuguese consulate and ask for information on the current requirements and document list. Some consulates may have had their specific requirements, despite the general list on the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

You can also apply for a high-skilled professional residence permit after arriving in Portugal as a tourist and accepting employment there. The process is similar to applying for a D3 visa, except that you apply directly to the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) for consideration and to receive a residence card in Portugal.

However, if you can request a D3 visa before entering the country, we recommend using this method as it is legally more straightforward and familiar.

Main requirements

👉 You must apply in the country where you hold citizenship or a residency permit.

👉 You can apply with a job offer or employment contract in a Portuguese company.

👉 You must have a university degree and work experience of 5 or more years.

👉 If you apply for a D3 visa, your family can apply simultaneously for accompanying visas, but you will need to show more funds.

👉 Your salary must be at least 1,800 € per month.

What does a typical process look like

✅ Step 1. Preparation of documents.

You need to gather documents related to your education, work experience and a job offer or work contract with a Portuguese company.

✅ Step 2. Visa application.
Submit your application to the consulate or VFS in your country and obtain your visa.

✅ Step 3. SEF Application in Portugal.
Upon arrival in Portugal, apply at the SEF. Simply arrive on the designated date and provide the necessary documents. You're almost there!

✅ Step 4. The residence card is ready.
On average, you can expect to wait 2-3 weeks for the arrival of your ID card. However, it may take up to 3 months in some cases.

Follow our step-by-step guide

Step 1. Fill in the visa application form

First, determine how documents should be submitted in your country - directly at the consulate or through the VFS Global visa center. Information can be found here.

Application Registration:

First, determine how documents should be submitted in your country – directly at the consulate or through the VFS Global visa center.

1) Register to apply by entering your personal information and attaching the required documents.

2) A PDF file containing the application form will be sent to your email upon completion. You can edit the form if necessary before submitting it.

3) Application Form: 

  • fill out the application form using Latin letters. 
  • complete all mandatory fields marked with an asterisk (*)
  • do not use symbols, including commas, in some areas.

4) Select Consular Office: In the "Consular Office" section, select the line for the Portuguese Embassy in your city/country (e.g., "Consular office of the Portuguese Embassy in Moscow").

On-line Consulate application form.

Fill out the application form for a Portuguese Resident Visa D here if you apply through the consulate or on your country's VFS Global visa center website.

Application for accompanying visas for your family

To apply for accompanying visas for the family, each family member, including minors, must complete a separate application form.

Your family members may also apply for a long-term residence permit within Portugal if they enter the country as tourists. However, this can be challenging as you must schedule an appointment with SEF.

Step 2. Get a police criminal record

All applicants over 16 must provide a certificate of no criminal record from their country of citizenship and any countries where they have lived for more than a year after age 16.

Obtaining the Certificate: Request the certificate in paper format from your country, then obtain an apostille, translate it into Portuguese, and have it notarized by a notary. It is better to order the document as soon as possible and start gathering other required documents while it is being processed.

Validity: The validity of a certificate depends on the country of issuance and can range from 30 to 90 days. If you have a criminal record, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a lawyer. The specific offense and the time since the conviction may impact the decision regarding your visa.

Translation and Notarization: Remember to translate the certificate into Portuguese and have it notarized before submitting it to the consulate or VFS.

Step 3. Get a NIF (tax number)

The NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal) is a Portuguese tax number and the first thing you should get if you plan to immigrate to Portugal. Whether you will study, work or start your own company here. A NIF is a universal number you need when applying for any documents. The NIF number need for more often than the passport number.

You will need the following documents:

  • A copy of your passport or id
  • Proof of address outside of Portugal, from your "home country" (a bank statement will do)

There are different ways to get your NIF number depending on if you are an EU/EEA citizen or not, whether you’re applying remotely or in person. You can get a NIF yourself and for free in Portugal. Or you can get it online if you are in another country. The service does not cost more than €100-120 usually.

1. Get your NIF remotely and online.

You can get a NIF before you arrive in Portugal to save time to solve other problems, rent an apartment, or open a bank account. The NIF process takes 3 to 10 business days and costs from €89 to €120, depending on the type of service. We can be your representative and get a NIF for you.

2. Get your NIF in person

The default way of getting a NIF number is to go to your closest Finanças (Portuguese tax office) and apply for it in person. This path is completely free. Non-EU/EEA residents used to need a tax representative in order to apply for and maintain a NIF. But from July 2022 this is no longer needed, but it can still make the process of obtaining the NIF easier.

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Step 4.  Prepare the lease agreement

For a D visa, providing a long-term lease agreement is essential. The SEF ignores an apartment's cost, size, or location.  But we do not recommend using false documents – the SEF can selectively check applicants.

Where to find an apartment?

Try to monitor local lease sites. Hiring an agent is not obligatory, but a professional may help ease the search and communication with the landlord.

Some useful websites

Long-term rental:

Try also:

Some platforms charge a commission, but the contract could be terminated at any time if you do not plan to live in rented housing. SEF accepts such agreements.

Airbnb offers just short-term accommodation offers. So we don't recommend using it for applying for residentship. In Portugal, you must prove your trustworthiness with resumes, essays, income statements, and work contracts to your potential landlord.

Documents you need to rent an apartment:

  • Documents for landlord
    Prepare income statements, contracts, and even a motivational letter about why you want to live in particular and how you will pay for it.
  • A landlord might ask you for a guarantor
    Some owners require a guarantor who lives and works in Portugal (they usually ask for an IRS declaration). If you don't have a guarantor, then it could be circumvented by offering to pay several months of rent in advance or several deposits at once (in the amount of a monthly rent)
  • Landlords pay for agent services
    However, some agents may want to keep the commission private from your agent, which may affect your ability to view apartments. To avoid this issue, we recommend offering the agent an additional fee to negotiate with other agents.
  • Ask your landlord to register the agreement
    The lease agreement must be registered in Finanças (tax office). Do not agree to stay illegally. It may cause problems for both sides. For the lease agreement, you need NIF and a bank account.

Step 5. Proof of education and work experience

How to prove higher education?

To prove higher education, you must provide an apostilled university diploma with a Portuguese translation. Your current profession should match the earned degree.

If you do not have a higher education degree, you must provide evidence of at least five years of work experience, such as work history, employment contracts, letters from past employers, etc. However, it is worth noting that the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) has increasingly refused to accept documents without a diploma in recent months. Therefore, it is advisable to take this requirement seriously.

It is essential to verify your education!

If you do not possess a university degree, you should prepare certificates for advanced training and completion of professional courses in your expertise. Additionally, you should have letters from past employers (on company letterhead), and be sure to include their contact information. The SEF may selectively check these references, so it's advisable to be prepared for a possible phone or email verification.

Step 6. Work contract or job offer from a Portuguese company

What are the requirements for the employment contract?

After education, the second main criterion for obtaining a D3 visa as a highly skilled worker is a contract with a Portuguese employer offering a high salary (minimum of 1800 euros per month).

It is essential to confirm that your profession is considered highly skilled. You can do this by referring to the directory of highly qualified professions in Portugal (insert a link here).

Your position in the Portuguese company must align with your education. In addition to having a contract, if you have already started working, you should also provide the "recibo" (don't forget to sign it!).

Alternatively, it is possible to apply for a D3 visa or residence permit under Article 90.2 with an open Portuguese "Atividade" (recibo verde) and a contract with a Portuguese client. Still, this option is considered riskier than working directly for a Portuguese company. All other requirements, such as education, work experience, and income as a highly skilled worker, must still be met.

Step 7. Prepare a health insurance

It is important to note that insurance for a D visa and a residency permit are two different things. For a D visa, it is sufficient to obtain standard travel insurance for 120 days (the length of the visa). However, for a residency permit, you must get Portuguese insurance with a minimum coverage of 30.000 euros in case of hospitalization.

You will need to attach it to your application to SEF. Options include Tranquilidade and Fidelidade, among others. You may obtain this insurance through your Portuguese bank when opening an account.

Step 8. Tickets to Portugal

You do not need to purchase actual tickets, only show proof of ticket reservations for the approximate date of your planned arrival in Portugal with a D visa.

Typically, it is best to show ticket reservations for a date 1.5-2 months after your visa application to the consulate. The exact date on the tickets does not affect the processing speed of your visa application.

Step 9.  Motivation letter

It is not necessary, but it will help to convince the consulate

The essay is not a compulsory requirement, but in practice, a well-written motivation letter can positively impact the response. Briefly describe the type of income you receive and where it comes from. Also, specify what proof you will attach to the application. Explain why you chose Portugal and what your plans are for the future.

  • Document List:

Briefly state what documents you will attach in what order.

  • Financial Support:

Provide details about how you plan to support yourself financially. Discuss what you have done in your business, including local clients and partners. Mention the amount of money you have already made and the expected earnings of your business. Explain if you plan to hire local employees and what value your business will bring to the local community.

  • Managing Risks:

If your case is imperfect, explain how you will compensate for it. For instance, if you don't have a Portuguese bank account, explain why and provide evidence that you will open one. If you still need invoices, show more pre-contracts, etc.

Step 10. Apply to the consulate or VFS

You’re ready to apply!

Make an appointment at the consulate or VFS and apply. In some countries (for example, in Brazil or USA), you can send all your documents by mail.

  • If you apply in person, arrive 15-20 minutes before your appointment time at the Portuguese consulate or VFS.
  • Ensure that all documents are translated and certified and that required official documents have been apostilled. All translations must be approved by a notary.
  • Remember to make changes to the Questionnaire (in the pdf editor) if you have changed any information during the preparation of documents.

How to behave at the consulate

If you apply at the consulate, the consul may ask questions to test your stress resistance. Answer the questions calmly and honestly.

Want to be sure everything is ok with your application, documents and motivation letter? Check it with an attorney.

Check youself

  • International passport valid for at least three months after the planned date of return from Portugal
  • Job offer or work contract with a Portugese company, certificate of individual entrepreneurship (if applicable)
  • Bank account statement
  • Accommodation proof for a year
  • Criminal record from your country
  • Minimum 120 days insurance for $30K+
  • Airplane ticket booking
  • Motivation letter

Want to be sure everything is ok with your application, documents and motivation letter? Check it with an attorney.

Step 11. Come to Portugal and apply in SEF

Your visa is approved!

Once the visa is granted, you will be scheduled to visit the SEF. If you do not have a visit scheduled by the consulate, you must make an appointment yourself.

  • Your D visa will be valid for 120 days and will allow you to enter the EU twice during that time.
  • If your appointment with the SEF is scheduled after your visa expiration date, don't worry, you will still be legally in Portugal until your appointment. The most important thing is to arrive while your visa is still valid.
  • If you are not comfortable with the date assigned to you, you may call the SEF at 217 115 000 to reschedule if there are available slots.

The cost of the SEF fee

The SEF fee is €158, which can be paid by bank card.

Get your residence permit card

About two to twelve weeks after your SEF appointment, you will receive an envelope in the mail containing your residence permit card, which will be valid for two years.

You can pick up your residence permit card at the SEF

When applying for a residence permit at the SEF office, you may indicate that you will personally retrieve it, which will incur an additional cost of € 25.

Do you need help?

If you plan to move to Portugal, Spain, or another European country, contact us if you need expert help:

See more details here. 

Got a question? Contact us!

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Photo: Annie Spratt, Daniel Seßler, Helio Dilolwa

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