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Portugal

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Portugal recognizes the importance of foreign investment and sees it as a driver of economic growth, with an overall positive attitude towards FDI.  Portuguese law is based on a principle of non-discrimination, meaning foreign and domestic investors are subject to the same rules.  Foreign investment is not subject to any special registration or notification to any authority, with exceptions for a few specific activities.

The Portuguese Agency for Foreign Investment and Commerce (AICEP) is the lead for promotion of trade and investment.  AICEP is responsible for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI), global promotion of Portuguese brands, and export of goods and services.  It is the primary point of contact for investors with projects over EUR 25 million or companies with a consolidated turnover of more than EUR 75 million.  For foreign investments not meeting these thresholds, AICEP will make a preliminary analysis and direct the investor to assistance agencies such as the Institute of Support to Small- and Medium- Sized Enterprises and Innovation (IAPMEI), a public agency within the Ministry of Economy that provides technical support, or to AICEP Capital Global, which offers technology transfer, incubator programs, and venture capital support.  AICEP does not favor specific sectors for investment promotion. It does, however, provide a “Prominent Clusters” guide on its website  where it advocates investment in Portuguese companies by sector.

The Portuguese government maintains regular contact with investors through the Confederation of Portuguese Business (CIP), the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among other industry associations.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no legal restrictions in Portugal on foreign investment.  To establish a new business, foreign investors must follow the same rules as domestic investors, including mandatory registration and compliance with regulatory obligations for specific activities.  There are no nationality requirements and no limitations on the repatriation of profits or dividends.

Non-resident shareholders must obtain a Portuguese taxpayer number for tax purposes.  EU residents may obtain this number directly with the tax administration (in person or by means of an appointed proxy); non-EU residents must appoint a Portuguese resident representative to handle matters with tax authorities.

There are national security limitations on both foreign and domestic investments with regard to certain economic activities.  Portuguese government approval is required in the following sectors: defense, water management, public telecommunications, railways, maritime transportation, and air transport.  Any economic activity that involves the exercise of public authority also requires government approval; private sector companies can operate in these areas only through a concession contract.

Portugal additionally limits foreign investment with respect to the production, transmission, and distribution of electricity, the production of gas, the pipeline transportation of fuels, wholesale services of electricity, retailing services of electricity and non-bottled gas, and services incidental to electricity and natural gas distribution.  Concessions in the electricity and gas sectors are assigned only to companies with headquarters and effective management in Portugal.

Investors wishing to establish new credit institutions or finance companies, acquire a controlling interest in such financial firms, and/or establish a subsidiary must have authorization from the Bank of Portugal (for EU firms) or the Ministry of Finance (for non-EU firms).  Non-EU insurance companies seeking to establish an agency in Portugal must post a special deposit and financial guarantee and must have been authorized for such activity by the Ministry of Finance for at least five years.

Portugal enacted a national security investment review framework in 2014, giving the Council of Ministers authority to block specific foreign investment transactions that would compromise national security.  Reviews can be triggered on national security grounds in strategic industries like energy, transportation and communication. Investment reviews can be conducted in cases where the purchaser acquiring control is an individual or entity not belonging to the European Union.  In such instances, the review process is overseen by the relevant Portuguese ministry according to the assets in question.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In February 2019, the OECD presented its latest Economic Survey of Portugal , including an updated macro overview and a set of policy recommendations.

Business Facilitation

To combat the perception of a cumbersome regulatory environment, the Government has created a ‘cutting red tape’ website branded ‘Simplex  that details measures taken since 2005 to reduce bureaucracy, and the Empresa na Hora (“Business in an Hour”) program that facilitates company incorporation by citizens and non-citizens in less than 60 minutes.  More information is available at Empresa na Hora .

In 2007, the Government established AICEP, a promotion agency for investment and foreign trade that also manages industrial parks and provides business location solutions for investors through its subsidiary AICEP Global Parques.

Established in 2012, Portugal’s “Golden Visa” program gives fast-track residence permits to foreign investors meeting certain conditions, including making capital transfers, job creation or real estate acquisitions.  Other measures implemented to help attract foreign investment include the easing of some labor regulations to increase workplace flexibility and EU-funded programs.

Portuguese citizens can alternatively register a business online through the “Citizen’s Portal” available at Portal do Cidadão .  Companies must also register with the Directorate General for Economic Activity (DGAE), the Tax Authority (AT), and with the Social Security administration.  The government’s standard for online business registration is a two to three day turnaround but the online registration process can take as little as one day.

Portugal defines an enterprise as micro-, small-, and medium-sized based on its headcount, annual turnover, or the size of its balance sheet.  To qualify as a micro-enterprise, a company must have less than 10 employees and no more than EUR 2 million in revenues or EUR 2 million in assets.  Small enterprises must have less than 50 employees and no more than EUR 10 million in revenues or EUR 10 million in assets. Medium-sized enterprises must have less than 250 employees and no more than EUR 50 million in revenues or EUR 43 million in assets.  The Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) Support Institute (IAPMEI)  offers financing, training, and other services for SMEs based in Portugal.

More information on laws, procedures, registration requirements, and investment incentives for foreign investors in Portugal is available at AICEP’s website .

Outward Investment

The Portuguese government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  On the contrary, it promotes outward investment through AICEP’s customer managers, export stores and its external commercial network that, in cooperation with the diplomatic and consular network, are operating in about 80 markets.  AICEP  provides support and advisory services on the best way of approaching foreign markets, identifying international business opportunities of Portuguese companies, particularly SMEs.

Investment Climate Statements
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