Got a brainwave? Get a Portugal Start-UP Visa

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A lot is heard these days about the Golden Visa – a Portuguese investment programme which confers residency status on applicants who invest at least €500,000 in property or create at least 10 local jobs.

And there is an equal amount of noise about both private and government-led venture capital agencies that help seed-stage start-ups develop their ideas to market by raising investment through a series of funding rounds.
There are legion, Portugal Ventures which supports tourism-related projects and which is supported by Turismo de Portugal, Armilar Ventures (formerly known as Espírito Santo Ventures), Indico Capital, EDP Ventures which invests in early stage energy and sector related startups, Oxy Capital Partners specialising in high-tech seeders, Novabase Capital are into Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Grande Enseada Capital Partners and the list goes on.
But there had been scant exposure in the market about Portuguese Government’s StartUP Visa programme operated by the Portuguese Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation IAPMEI.
The StartUP Visa is a programme aimed at non-EU overseas entrepreneurs with a good idea and viable and tested pilot who want to develop their idea further and settle in Portugal to do so.
The project has to be innovative and disruptive and applicants face strict and rigorous selection criteria before they are granted an authorisation for residency permit in Portugal.
The programme foresees a prior process of certification from incubators (specially designated centres for startups) which have premises house and support overseas entrepreneurs to create and set up their businesses which should be technologically based.
The incubators have to ensure that they can house startups from other countries while IAPMEI is responsible for staying the project, selecting and providing certificates for the successful candidates and ensuring that the programme works smoothly.
The entrepreneurs, for their part, have to submit their applications on IAPMEI’s online platform.
Essential Business caught up with Helena Moura of IAPMEI who refers to the StartUP Visa as a “very innovative programme” and aimed at those who “have permanent residence outside of the Schengen area.”
“The success of this programme since we started in 2018 has been astounding. We already have on-the-ground in Portugal over 90 entrepreneurs who came to Portugal in order to develop their ideas and launch a startup.”
The start-UP Visa is aimed at entrepreneurs over 18 years of age with “no age limits as everyone can be an entrepreneur in Portugal, even the silver entrepreneurs” she said referring to seniors with young, fresh ideas.

Spoilt for choice
The visa is also aimed at companies based elsewhere wanting to relocate to Portugal or open an office in Portugal.
Helena Moura says that Portugal is well above the EU average in terms of entrepreneurship which shows how strong and skilled the entrepreneurial ecosystem is in Portugal.
“We have a permanent help-desk to help entrepreneurs who want to apply and to answer all their questions” says Moura adding that applicants have to apply online with their personal data and an online of their project.
“With this information we have to invite a certified incubator from our list of IAPMEI-certified incubators and then we match the start-up with the incubator from our list that best suits the project” she adds.
IAPMEI has a list of incubator partners up and down the country, particularly in the centre and north of Portugal. The applicant must invite one or more of the incubators from the list to support the project and is done on the StartUP Visa platform.
The incubator has, in turn, to show an interest in supporting the project (again via the platform). “The applicant might apply for seven incubators and receive favourable responses from five, but it is up to the applicant to choose the best one for their startup,” Moura explains.

The requirements
Helena Moura stresses that Portugal is operating in a global world and doesn’t necessarily want projects solely focused in Portugal.
Environment and technology projects are welcome but above all start-ups which have the potential to expand abroad, do business overseas and export ideas, services and goods abroad.
“The criteria and selection procedure is tough because if the idea is not truly innovative then it will be difficult to scale-up. If the decision is favourable, the entrepreneur gets approval and there follows a 40-day period to draw up the contract with the incubator. IAPMEI is not involved in the agreement between the two.
If everything goes well, once the incubator and entrepreneur have signed the contract, IAPMEI issues the StartUP Visa.
Each project can have between one and five entrepreneurs and each will receive a statement of acceptance onto the programme and get their visas. The declaration or statement is ten taken to the Portuguese consulate in the entrepreneur’s(s) country of origin where the visa will be issued.

Arrival procedures
The visa holders register at the border and immigrations service SEF in Portugal to obtain their Authorisation for Residency permit.
“To date we have 94 statements of acceptance for start-ups but IAPMEI can also help startup projects from Schengen and EU countries with advice and support on how to get their businesses off the ground in Portugal and signpost you for the right people and entities,” adds Moura.
As for funding, IAPMEI works with special funds, the Ministry of the Economy, has links to venture capital organisations and business angels, international programmes like Portugal 2020 so there is, she stresses, funding for startups and support in finding those entities that provide funding.
“If you have an good idea, thence to Portugal where you will find excellent support through the whole application process of applying to an incubator, registering your startup, business and financial advice and even sources of funding” concluded Helena Moura.