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Working in Lisbon

Find out how to get a job and work in Lisbon

Having recovered from the economic and fiscal problems of the past few years, Lisbon is once more an extremely appealing destination for expats. Our guide informs you about the state of the city’s economy and potential job opportunities.

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Employment in Lisbon

At a Glance:

  • Like many expat hotspots, Lisbon has a booming services sector home to Portugal’s largest companies.
  • It is home to the best job market in Portugal and the economic situation has improved greatly in the past few years.

Lisbon’s Dominant Service Sector

As the city is the capital of a major Westernized country, Lisbon’s economy today shares many features with those of other expat hotspots around the globe. The most prominent and obvious feature is, of course, the major role of the services sector. Many of the largest Portuguese corporations have their headquarters in Lisbon, including telephone network provider Portuguese Telecom and the largest energy supplier, Energias de Portugal. With major service providers moving into and operating from Lisbon, there is a drive for recruitment in the city to ensure the support, expansion, and development of a tertiary sector that is responsible for roughly 75% of value of Portugal’s economy and almost 70% of available jobs in the country.

Lisbon’s seaport has been an important facet of the city’s economy for centuries, and it remains so today. While it does not retain the dominant position in European trade it once had, it is still a major export-hub. In terms of ship servicing, transfer of goods, and as a large employer, the seaport remains of great significance for Lisbon.

For anyone involved in Portuguese mass media, working in Lisbon is an important career step: the nation’s TV stations, major newspapers, and all other forms of media are represented widely across the city.


Within the Greater Lisbon Area, the municipality of Oeiras has developed into the preferred choice of multinational corporations looking to reap the benefits of working in Lisbon without being constrained in terms of space or having to deal with the city’s high rents. Corporations that are, in one way or another, part of the daily lives of most of us have established representations in Oeiras. Among others, these include Nestlé, Samsung, and Hewlett-Packard. Fittingly, the municipality is home to various business parks grouped by trade, facilitating ease of business and creating synergies between the various companies in Lisbon’s northern suburb.

Industries in Lisbon

If you are not employed in the services sector but would still like to gain some experience working in Lisbon, you might have to look further outside the city — more specifically across the Tagus River. The south of the river is home to large-scale industrial enterprises, specializing in textiles, oil refinery, and steel amongst others.

The Economic Situation

It is perhaps no surprise to find that the perks of operating from and working in Lisbon has resulted in it being the wealthiest region in all of Portugal. Lisbon has the highest GDP per capita in Portugal, and the median income of an employee working in Lisbon is above those in other parts of the country. However, due to the different sectors, transnational and national corporations alongside traditional family businesses, and various other factors, a large pay gap also exists in Lisbon.

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Work Permits for Lisbon, Portugal

Handling What’s Most Important: A Work Permit

If you have read our guide on working in Portugal, you may already be familiar with the process of acquiring a work permit for the country. The work permit is closely linked to the duration of time you may spend in the country, and the residence title you are granted.

Those who are citizens of a country which is part of the European Economic Area or Schengen Area are not subject to any visa or work permit regulations, though. From the time of your arrival, expats from these countries have three months to find a job and to apply for a registration certificate from your local council, which will confirm your right to stay in Portugal. Once you are employed, you will have the same rights as Portuguese workers. If after five years you are still working in Portugal and hold a valid registration certificate, you will be eligible to request a Permanent Residence Certificate.

For everyone else, your road to employment in Lisbon begins at the nearest Portuguese mission in your home country where you will be required to apply for a work permit. Application from within Portugal by virtue of a visitor’s visa is not possible.

Expats usually pick one of two visa categories — the Temporary Stay Visa or the Residence Visa. The Temporary Stay Visa is usually issued for four months with the possibility of multiple entry. The residence visa allows you to enter Portugal and is the visa you should apply for if you have the intention of becoming a resident. The visa must also be valid for the purpose of your stay. It is also important to note that the residence visa is not an actual residence permit: you must apply for the permit within four months of arriving in Lisbon.

Jobs for Third-Country Nationals

Job offers which are open to nationals of third countries — this means nations which are not part of the EEA or with which Portugal has an agreement on the free movement of persons — are limited in Portugal. In order to be allowed to advertise job openings to third-country nationals, employers need to apply for evaluation of the offer with the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP). The main requirement is that no applicants fitting the job description can be found in either Lisbon or the rest of Portugal, even after extensive advertising of the open position. If the IEFP decides in favor of the company, allowing them to extend the job offer, it will be posted on the institute’s website as well as Portuguese missions abroad.

From here, the process is straightforward: after you have successfully applied for the job, you will receive an employment contract or promise thereof, as well as a statement from the IEFP. You will need this statement to prove that your job offer was included in the quota and could not be filled by applicants with preferred status (Portuguese citizens, EEA nationals, third-country citizens already living in Portugal).

The Last Steps to Legal Employment

If you have been offered a job in Portugal and need to acquire one of the two visas mentioned above, you must supply the following, along with the employment contract and IEFP statement:

  • proof of sufficient means of subsistence
  • proof of travel insurance
  • a valid travel document
  • a ticket that ensures your return travel

If you are an executive or management-level employee assigned to a short-term project or job at a Lisbon-based subsidiary of your company, there is an additional visa category open to you. This is also important regarding intra-company transfers. The requirements are almost identical to those of the Temporary Stay Visa.

To expats moving to Portugal on a Residency Visa with the intention to apply for a residence permit, please be aware that the usual waiting time for the clearance of the permit is 60 days. It is therefore advisable to start the process as early as possible. The website of the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) has further information.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: November 26, 2019
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