How to Set Up Your Business in Portugal

Do you want to set up your business in Portugal and move abroad? Here's what you need to know.

Published on
November 19, 2019

We spoke to Aleksandar Tutulic of moviinn, a relocation and integration company that makes moving to Portugal simple, for his tips on preparing to move and set up a business in Portugal. He'll be providing tips for three crucial steps in the process: Research, Decide, and Execute. 'Relocating personally is hard enough, let alone setting up a business in a new country. This gets harder if you don’t prepare adequately, so good preparation and solid local support are key success factors for a successful relocation', he remarked.

Read on for our conversation with Tutulic that's full of plenty of advice, as well as for resources for starting a business in Portugal.

Step 1: Research

What tips do you have for people doing preliminary research about moving to Portugal to open a business?

'Every “journey” starts with a wish, an idea, an intention. Once you actually start doing something, you start realizing how different it is becoming, until you come to the point where the “reality” and the “idea” are so different that now you don’t know what to do or how to move forward. Research as a stage of the journey of moving abroad is maybe the most important stage. This allows you to verify your idea with credible information.'

  1. Verify your idea / wish / thoughts / intentions: Try to find a community of like-minded people online or offline, reach out, ask questions, talk to them. Maybe you will not get direct answers to your masterfully curated questions, but you will get the accidental answers to some of the questions you had not even thought asking and which are actually very important. 
  2. In order to find credible and verified information, reach out to a local relocation company you like and ask questions. Send an enquiry email, book a call, visit events they organize, take a look at webinars, join a group on Facebook. These are usually much more useful than you give them credit.
  1. Look at setting up a business in Portugal as an enterprise per se – setting up a business is a business itself before the business actually starts becoming the business you want it to become. So, before you actually come to the point to consider factors of how your business will kick off in Portugal, consider what it takes to set it up, including your financial runway.
  2. The sooner you realize you cannot do everything on your own, the more time, nerves and money you will save! There is nothing bad about asking for help, whether it's a local community, online forum or relocation company.

Do you recommend people reach out to fellow entrepreneurs who have started businesses in Portugal to network and pick their brains? If so, how should they approach it?

'Absolutely! Other people’s experiences will give you most realistic insight into the idea to open a business somewhere. However, do not try to copy and paste someone else’s experience to your own idea or situation. Rather use it as a test paper for the external factors and reality check for things like: bureaucracy, processes, procedures, administration, etc. Also, do not be reluctant or timid to ask a lot about mistakes they made – maybe the most valuable preventive source.'

What do you think is the most enticing part about starting a business in Portugal?

'PeoplePerHour voted it 4th Best City in the World to start a business (Lisbon), it's the 3rd safest country in the world out of 163 countries according to the Global Peace Index, and there's 0% dividends and capital gains tax. Combined with 3023 hours of sunshine per year, great local wine, and easy flights to and from the U.S and South America - it makes it a pretty great place to live.'

Step 2: Decide

What tips do you have for entrepreneurs struggling to make their business decisions? How can they know if they're making the right choices?

'It all depends on the nature of your business, whether you're moving alone or with your family, if you're an EU or a non-EU citizen, etc. However, in the experience of our clients, there are some universal decision-making factors:

1. Make sure you've done your research properly – business and personal

2. Make sure you chose the right residency visa

3. Make temporary arrangements to ensure your first month goes smoothly (like sorting out your phone's data plan and finding a rental on Airbnb) – a "soft-landing package"

4. It would be great if you had spent some time in Portugal before the actual decision-making (in most of the cases, this is either a deal-breaker or a serious push towards a positive decision)

5. Have a local relocation support, who will make a relocation strategy, including which type of visa you need, what kind of accommodation you need, what are other essential considerations you need to have in mind, etc.'

Any recommendations for deciding which area of Portugal to start a business in?

'In terms of areas where to start a business, Lisbon is currently the biggest and busiest entrepreneurship hub in Portugal, followed by second largest city of Porto, located in the north of Portugal. These two cities are bustling with internationals relocating to Portugal. However, let’s not overlook the interior of Portugal, regions like central-south Alentejo or south Algarve, as well as island of Madeira, only a one-hour flight from the mainland. Areas outside big cities are more affordable, both in terms of real estate investment as well as day-to-day life. Portugal is not a big country and has an excellent road infrastructure, so basically everything is more or less close, especially if you’re coming from the States or a similar big country.'

Step 3: Execute

What do you think are the most important steps to execute in preparing to move? How can entrepreneurs ensure that they have all the necessary paperwork, visas, etc?

'The execution (pre-departure and departure) and soft-landing (Survival) stages are most stressful and intense. However, if the previous stages have been executed properly, your stress levels will likely be reduced. This step is where the value for money you paid to your local relocation support proves to be the highest. During the course of the Execution stage you should consider the following:

Visa: Apply for the visa and receive it, or at least have all options sorted out

Company Papers: You need to make sure your company has a registered address and Tax Identification Number. Nowadays, you can register your company online yourself or you can have a PoA to a lawyer to do it on your behalf. Everything else depends on the type of business and other criteria you have considered in the decision stage.

Accommodation: You should have booked your initial accommodation for at least a month (we recommend 3 months since the survival period usually is most intense during 3 months and you do not want to be wasting your time and energy to find another place to live only 2 weeks after you had landed). Having a base, an alternative for home, a place you can relax, that is well located and comfortable is essential in this stage, because it provides peace of mind and comfort.

Relocation: Give yourself time to move. Don’t hurry, but also don’t procrastinate. Be decisive.'

Interested in starting your business in Portugal? Moviinn offer relocation packages, and you'll find 2 Outsite locations - Ericeira and Lisbon - to land in once you arrive.

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