Working in Portugal
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
The job market in Portugal is slowly recovering from the economic downturn and still experiences high levels of unemployment, especially in the graduate sector. This means there will be a shortage of graduate jobs for foreigners and competition for any available roles will be high. Most graduate jobs will tend to be located in the larger cities and unless you are looking to teach English, you will need to be able to speak some Portuguese. The job market relies heavily on tourism and the service sector; graduates might be more successful finding work in these areas.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: tourism, property and business services, hotels and catering, public services, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, textiles, wood and cork, retail.
- Recent growth areas: call and contact centres and shared services centres, as well as construction, automotive trade and communication technologies.
- Shortage occupations: seasonal jobs in the tourism, hotel and catering sector, doctors in various specialist areas, IT professionals, particularly computer engineers, call and contact centre managers.
- Major companies: EDP (electricity), Cimpor (building materials), Corticeira Amorim (cork), Galp (energy group), Jerónimo Martins (retail), Millennium BCP (banking), Portucel Soporcel (pulp and paper), Portugal Telecom, Sonae (conglomerate), Martifer (metal construction and renewable energy), RE/MAX Portugal (real estate).
What’s it like working in Portugal?
- Average working hours: 40 hours a week, which is also the legal maximum.
- Holidays: annual leave entitlement is a minimum of 22 days, plus public holidays. Work typically starts at 9am and finishes at 7pm with a two hour lunch break.
- Tax rates: tax, national insurance and social security contributions are automatically deducted from your salary via the PAYE (pay as you earn) system. Tax deductions for residents (usually defined as anyone living in Portugal for more than 183 days in a year) are on a progressive scale from 14.5% to 48%. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
The use of application forms is widespread in Portugal and they vary widely. Some ask for standard information, while others ask more open questions about previous experience. Online recruitment is common.
Copies of diplomas and references are not required at the application stage, but you should take them with you if you are invited for an interview.
You can find an example of a Portuguese CV and advice on applying for jobs on Eurograduate – Working in Portugal.
The selection procedure may consist of several interviews and some psychological and technical tests. Aptitude and psychometric tests are sometimes used for candidates up to middle-management level.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
- The Portuguese Public Employment Service (Instituto do Emprego) – provides advice on training, opportunities and how to find work, as well as providing access to vacancies (in Portuguese).
- Superemprego – online vacancy portal with a section for careers advice. You can post your CV and receive email alerts (in Portuguese).
- EURES – European Job Mobility Portal – provides information about job vacancies, living and working conditions, and labour markets in Portugal, as well as a CV-posting service for jobseekers.
- Academic Jobs EU – part of the European Union (EU) network of websites and advertises academic jobs across the EU, including Portugal.
- Empregos Online - Portuguese online vacancy site
- Details of recruitment agencies, including private agencies, are listed in the Portuguese Yellow Pages (Páginas Amarelas) under ‘pessoal temporário’ and ‘pessoal recrutamento e seleção’. You can search in English.
- Try the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce for links to recruitment agencies in Portugal.
- Correio de Manhã – general vacancies at graduate and non-graduate level across Portugal (in Portuguese).
- Diário de Notícias, Jornal de Notícias and Expresso share one vacancy portal that can be accessed through any of their websites (in Portuguese).
Speculative applications are fairly common in Portugal and can be an important route into employment for graduates. It is advisable to phone the company before submitting. This enables you to introduce yourself, show your interest in the company and ask to whom you should send your application.
Make use of informal methods of recruitment such as word of mouth and networking, especially when looking for employment with small and medium-sized companies.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
- AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) runs an international exchange programme.
- IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) arranges paid, course-related vacation training abroad on a reciprocal exchange basis. These placements are available to undergraduates.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
- The European Youth Portal has a list of organisations providing voluntary opportunities for young people in Portugal.
- Organisations such as Volunteer Abroad have volunteer projects in Portugal.
Do you need a visa?
Most EU nationals do not need a visa or work permit but citizens of non-EU countries may be required to have these documents.
If entering Portugal to study, you may need to show proof that you are a student and have the means to support yourself.
If entering the country to work you may be asked to prove that you have adequate means to support yourself during your stay and that the cost of your return journey is secured.
An identity card (bilhete de identidade) must be carried at all times. Application forms are available from the Portuguese Consulate General. Contact the consulate well in advance of departure to confirm requirements.
Employees must register at the treasury to get a CIF number, without which their employer will not be able to pay them.
If you are from a non-EU country, check with the Portuguese embassy in the country where you are residing to enquire about visa requirements. You may also wish to contact your ministry of foreign affairs (or your own embassy, if you are not in your home country) to find out whether there are any issues to be considered if you are planning to study or work in Portugal.
How do you become a permanent resident?
EU nationals who intend to stay in Portugal for longer than three months must apply to the Portuguese Immigration Service (Serviçio do Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) for a registration certificate in the 30 days following the three-month period.
This certificate is initially valid for five years, or for the period of intended residence if this is less than five years. After living in Portugal for five years, you can apply to the immigration authorities for a certificate of permanent residence.
Living in Portugal
- Cost of living: prices have risen recently, although prices of commodities, accommodation and leisure are slightly lower than in the UK. As in many other European countries, commuters tend to live in apartments in city suburbs. Rents vary according to location, quality and the number of rooms, e.g. one to two rooms, €350–€1,100 per month, four rooms, €750–€2,000 per month. Most newspapers publish adverts for property to rent (‘alugam-se’), including English papers, such as The Portugal News. Always look for adverts that say ‘mediador autorizado’ (government-licensed). Some employers offer assistance in finding accommodation.
- Internet domain: .pt.
- Currency: Euro (€)
- Health: Portugal provides free essential medicines and general medical consultations through its health system. For non-essential medicines, contributions of 40%–100% are standard. It is likely that you will have to pay for dental treatment. Everyone legally employed in Portugal has health insurance deducted from their salary. The self-employed need to arrange their own payments. Portugal is part of a reciprocal agreement between EU member states, which enables EU citizens to receive free urgent medical treatment. For this, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is required.
- Type of government: parliamentary democracy
- Laws and customs: if you are caught in possession of drugs for personal use, you may be subject to a fine or other sanction (including the seizure of personal belongings). The selling or trafficking of drugs is subject to severe penalties. Foreign nationals are required by law to be able to show some form of identification if requested by the police or judicial authorities. Same-sex marriage was legalised in Portugal in 2010 and there is an established gay scene in both Lisbon and Porto. Other smaller cities and regions have much more discreet gay communities.
- Emergency numbers: The contact number for police, ambulance and fire services is 112.
- People: ethnic Portuguese make up the vast majority of the population. There are small numbers of people from Portugal’s former colonial possessions such as Brazil and parts of Africa and Asia, as well as minority groups such as Ukrainians and Romani. There is a strong expatriate community, who are predominantly British.
- Major religion: Roman Catholic