You are thinking of starting a business in Portugal or becoming self-employed as a foreign resident? Understand what you need to do to set up your business, which types of registered companies you can set up, and the process is of becoming self-employed.

In this article you learn:

  • How and Where to register your business in Portugal
  • What Documents you need
  • The advice on how professionally plan your new business before setting is up
  • What legal types of businesses exist in Portugal

We wish you lots of success!

How and Where to Register Your Business

There are 3 ways of setting up a company in Portugal, online, on-the-spot, and the traditional (offline) way.

1. Setting up a Business ONLINE (Empresa Online)

This allows certain types of Portuguese businesses to be set up and registered over the internet with 1-2 days for a cost of EUR360. An electronic certificate is required. The Portal de Empresa website for doing this can be found here.

2. Empresa Na Hora – Setting up a Business ‘On-The-Spot’ in one Hour

With the Empresa Na Hora you can set up a business in less than an hour for EUR360 via this government scheme. You can set up a one-man company, a private limited company (LTD), or a Public Limited Company (PLC), on the spot at just one desk. All partners should be present along with all necessary documentation and any legal representatives.

The process of setting up companies through this initiative is promised to be extremely simple. More information (also on english) can be found here and here. There is also a Facebook page.

3. Criação da Empresa – The Tradional Way

You can set up your Portuguese business by following the steps:

  • Obtain a Certificate of Admissibility to formally identify your Portuguese company name. This can be done through the Institute of Registries and Notaries (IRN). Apply for a Company Card and a Collective Card (the main business ID) from the IRN
  • Open a Business Bank Account and deposit the initial capital
  • Declare Commencement of Activity at the local Tax Office
  • Register your Portuguese business at a Commercial Registry Office
  • Register as an employer at the local Social Security office

    For Small Businesses:
    • Choose a name for your company
    • Draft the Articles of Association
    • Set up a bank account
    • Register for VAT and other social contributions (NIF)
    • Apply for the proper Business License (legal Business Structure)

Once you have completed these steps, which should take not more than around 15 days, you can start running your business in Portugal.

Check if your area of business activity has any additional requirements, such as a license or certain qualifications. For some businesses, it is illegal to start activity before being granted official status in Portugal.

Documents You Need For Registering Your Business

  1. Ensure that you meet the legal requirements (Visa etc.) to trade as self-employed in Portugal. You will find very good information about the Visa rules here (with links to application forms), or at the official SEF Portuguese Immigration Website.
    Here you find your local Portuguese immigration (SEF) office.
  2. You will need a Portuguese Residency Card. More info here.
  3. Get a Social Security Number from the Seguranca Social – Portuguese Social Security
  4. Get a Portuguese Tax Number (NIF) at your local Tax Office (Finanças)
    When you do shopping, you will be asked for your ‘contribuente’, which is your Portuguese Tax Number (NIF).
    It is normally easy to get your NIF at the local Finanças even with a foreign address but things can vary from office to office. Sometimes you will get your NIF in the first go, sometimes it will take more time and effort. Be patient.
  5. Register at the Portal das Finanças (AT – Autoridade Tributária e Aduaneira)
    Get your login for the financial portal (Registrar-Se) here.

Here you find an overview of the Portuguese Tax System, and forms.

Get a Local Accountant

It is strongly recommended to seek a local accountant that speaks English and is well recommended in your area who can give you professional support and advice.

Registering your business yourself at the AT can work when you know the system and the language very well, but if not you can end up registering for the wrong tax setting and it can cost you lots of money.

IMPORTANT: The Professional Planning Of Your New Business

1. Crystallize Your Idea

There are several methods to crystallize your business idea and find your unique name or domain. Popular Methods are for instance Brainstorming or Mind Mapping.

2. Do The Research

First, check if your idea exists already. You might have a brilliant idea for a niche or a unique name but you find out that it exists already.
This should not stop you from starting your business but for your success it is important to check if someone else already had a similar idea.

The second crucial thing is to be clear of is: Who are going to be your clients? What do you want to offer, and how does this serve your clients and your community?
If you want to open an offline business, factors like location, local infrastructure, and population are to be thought about.

3. Create a Business Plan

Think about the numbers and how you want to reach them to get an idea of what is realistic. Plan your possible costs. What turnover do you need to make to pay the costs, and how much profit do you want o make? Do you want to have employees?

Create a proper business plan to make sure that your business will be profitable. You can find online forms to make your business plan here:

4. Choose a Business Name and Address

You may already have these but if not, now is the time to get it finalized as you will need to register them as part of your set-up process.


and I’ll help you to CRYSTALLIZE and MANIFEST your BUSINESS IDEAS.

Brainstorming, research, business plan, finding your name, structuring your ideas, visualized business strategy, branding, your website, your Internet strategy, and much more.

Pola Vida – Creative Set-Up Coach
+351 920 307 851
I speak German and English.

Legal Types of Businesses in Portugal

When registering a business you also need to decide about its legal structure.
The Portuguese Companies Code regulates businesses in Portugal and defines the different legal forms.
Here is an overview of the Portuguese business types:

Businesses owned by one individual

  • Sole Proprietor (Empresário em Nome Individual) – Single Entrepreneur like Freelancers and single Entrepreneurs
  • Single-Shareholder Limited Company (Sociedade Unipessoal por Quotas)
  • Individual Limited Liability Establishment (EIRL -Estabelecimento Individual de Responsabilidade Limitada)

Businesses owned by more than one person

  • Sociedade por Quotas (LDA – Private Limited Company)
    Portuguese company with a minimum of 2 partners and minimum capital investment of EUR5000. Shareholders pay a minimum of EUR100 per share and are jointly responsible for everything agreed in the Articles of Association. Shareholders are liable for debts up to the amounts covered by business assets.
  • Sociedade Anómina (SA -Public Limited Company)
    Portuguese company that requires at least 5 shareholders and a minimum capital investment of EUR50,000. Liability of debts is limited to business assets and shareholders are liable for amounts up to their share value.
  • Limited co-partnership companies (Sociedade em Comandita – SC) These businesses have two categories of partners: Dormant partners (Sócios Comanditárias) whose liability is limited to the amount of their shares and Full partners (Sócios Comanditados) who are liable for any company debts


Non-profit organizations (NGO) run by cooperative principles and mutual assistance of members. They are freely established legal entities whose capital and composition may vary. Portuguese cooperatives are regulated by the Antonio Sergio Cooperative Sector Institute (CASES).

For more information check here.

We also find the Expatica website very helpful.

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