Highly Qualified Activity
Fast-track Business Class Residency Visa

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What is the HQA?

HQA (Highly Qualified Activity) Article 61 of REPSAE, Portugal’s Immigration Act, is designed to fast-track highly qualified professionals to Portugal. The law provides priority entry to professionals who drive R&D in Portugal through collaboration with recognized research institutions.


HQA visa legislation (Article 61 of REPSAE) requires that applicants provide one of the following:

  • An invitation letter issued by a research center; or,
  • An invitation letter issued by a higher education institution or professional training institution; or,
  • Statement of responsibility provided by a certified company as stipulated by law; or,
  • An invitation letter issued by a company or institute developing a relevant cultural activity, in the Portuguese territory, recognized by the government agency responsible for cultural activities, or as stipulated by law.

» » View the Government of Portugal’s Official HQA Visa Regulations » »

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How does the HQA Program work?

HQA Program partners invite highly qualified professionals to become the founder of their own new Portuguese business.

The founder’s new business commercializes R&D conducted at an HQA partner university, with the guidance of HQA partner business incubator Empowered Startups Portugal.

Empowered Startups Portugal accepts applications from accomplished businesspeople, investor-entrepreneurs, and senior professionals, as well as licensed lawyers and registered agents representing eligible clients.

Portugal HQA Visa and Passport

What are HQA processing times?

Portuguese HQA legislation requires that Embassy decisions must be issued within 30days. HQA residency permits must be issued within 60 days.

To date, all HQA Residency Permits have been issued well before the posted deadlines.

HQA permit processing has been prioritized above Golden Visa and other schemes, upon SEF reopening post-COVID.



Designed specifically for accomplished professionals.

Smooth transition to a professional base of operations in the EU

  • Your own EU company and bank account, with credit history
  • 3 years concierge incubation services, from business concept creation to product market fit
  • R&D driven IP wholly-owned by your EU company

More flexible and more cost-effective than alternatives

  • Fully refundable if Residency Visa is refused
  • 25% of total cost of the Portugal Golden Visa
  • No additional operational or maintenance fees
  • No business performance requirements
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Clear path to eligibility for permanent residency or citizenship

  • Freedom to travel internationally as needed
  • Fast processing : 4-6 weeks until Residency Visa approval
  • Accompaniment through renewals required for PR / Citizenship eligibility



Empowered Startups Portugal, a recognized transnational business incubator, has partnered with public research institutions.

  • Paul Girodo
  • Chris Lennon
  • Laura Blumes
  • Shawn Olson
  • Francesco Berrettini
  • Alex Rodrigues
  • Hugo Barros

Paul Girodo

Empowered Startups Co-Founder

Paul Girodo, MBA is expert in transnational entrepreneurship, scaling startups, and designing leading edge immigration products that deliver clear benefits to the governments, start-up ecosystems, and most importantly the citizens of countries accepting transnational business class migrants. As Co-Founder of Empowered Startups he helped build it into the largest deal flow provider to the Government of Canada’s Start-up Visa Program. He also leads Empowered’s delivery of new leading edge fast-track business investor class migration programs for entrepreneurs in Portugal and France with a growing number of established incubators in both countries. His industry interests range from combating human trafficking with his father (former Team Leader for INTERPOL Group of Experts on Corruption and Chief Human Factors Consultant in specialized drug and money laundering investigations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to deep tech and social venture enterprises. He is a shareholder and director of many Canadian, French, and Portuguese companies.

Chris Lennon

Empowered Startups President & General Counsel

Chris oversees all international operations for Empowered Startups, working closely with the Board of Directors. Prior to taking on this role, Chris acted as Empowered’s primary legal counsel since the organization’s inception. During his tenure at a prominent law firm in Vancouver Canada, Chris advised technology companies, research organizations, and corporate boards.

Laura Blumes

Empowered Startups Managing Director – Europe

Laura oversees all HQA business incubation programming. As co-creator of the HQA program, in partnership with Portuguese public institutions, she monitors every HQA venture from inception through to graduation. Laura is an experienced systems builder for high-growth international projects. She holds an MBA in the Management of Technology and an M.A. in Educational Technology. Laura served for 3 years as an immigrant settlement assistance volunteer.

Shawn Olson

Empowered Startups Vice President – Business Development

Shawn connects international professionals with the HQA program team. He works with counsel and advisors worldwide to identify and vet accomplished executives looking to create a new future for themselves in Portugal. Shawn is a graduate of the University of British Columbia who has lived and worked all over the world. He is an accomplished sports coach, an experienced athlete, and a devoted family man.

Francesco Berrettini

Empowered Startups Manager - Partnerships & Projects

Francesco is responsible for establishing and developing Empowered Startups’ partnerships and special projects in Portugal.

Prior to joining Empowered, Francesco was CEO of the Algarve Systems & Technology Partnership in southern Portugal. He assumed that regional leadership role subsequent to the sale of his award-winning marketing company Inesting to Digital Group. His previous experience includes due diligence in the investment banking sector, project management for the EU’s Business Innovation Centers, and strategy consulting services for both private and public organizations.

Francesco holds an MBA and is a certified Hubspot Inbound Marketing Consultant. He has served as Assistant Professor in Marketing & Management at the Catholic University of Portugal, and continues to teach at higher education institutions. He is also currently Honorary Consul for Italy, based in the Algarve.

Alex Rodrigues

Brigantia Eco-Park Technology & Innovation Officer

Alex leads the operations of Brigantia-EcoPark, an IAPMEI-certified Start Up Visa incubator in northern Portugal, 90min outside of Porto. As a key co-creator of the Portugal HQA Visa protocol, he facilitates the partnerships with authorities and public bodies in Portugal. Empowered Startups first incubator in Portugal was launched within the well-appointed facilities of Brigantia-EcoPark.

Hugo Barros

CRIA - University of the Algarve Coordinator

Hugo leads the team at CRIA, the IAPMEI-certified Start Up Visa incubator of the University of the Algarve, on the southern coast of Portugal. Hugo maintains significant relationships with regional Portuguese authorities, and facilitates pan-Mediterranean collaborative projects.


A clear path to your future in the EU, through your own R&D-based startup.


Meet with Intake Committee

Discuss your goals via videoconference.
Determine the direction and success metrics for your innovative EU start up.


Secure your Portuguese residency status

Collect your documents, as the HQA program team lays the groundwork for your R&D project at a top tier public research institution.


Benefit from business incubation

Provide strategic direction as your venture develops. Your startup will leverage the IP created through your R&D project.


Choose your future in Portugal and the EU

Direct the future of your company emerging from incubation, and prepare to apply for Permanent Residency or citizenship.