Highly Qualified Activity
Fast-track Business Class Residency Visa

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 program provides priority entry to professionals who drive R&D in Portugal through collaboration with recognized research institutions.

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How does the HQA Program work?

HQA Program partners invite qualified professionals to collaborate on R&D projects that have the potential for commercialization.

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 domain experts.

Portugal HQA Visa and Passport

What are HQA processing times?

Portuguese HQA legislation stipulates that Embassy decisions should be issued within 30 days and HQA residency permits should be issued within 60 days.

Designed specifically for accomplished businesspeople, investor-entrepreneurs, and domain experts

Smooth transition to a professional base of operations in the EU

More flexible and more cost-effective than alternatives

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Clear path to eligibility for permanent residency or citizenship


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

  • Paul Girodo
  • Chris Lennon
  • Naheed Henderson
  • Harsev Oshan
  • Francesco Berrettini
  • Alex Rodrigues
  • Hugo Barros
  • Filipe Galego

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.

Naheed Henderson

Empowered Startups CEO - Global Accelerator Program

Naheed leads the team at Empowered Startups’ Global Accelerator program.

Naheed is a dynamic leader in business development, partnerships and communications, with an affinity for collaboration and creative problem solving. Naheed has a personal story honed by a lifetime in the mountains and studies in biology and design, and has lent her development, marketing and communications talent, guiding skills and adventure profile to a host of vertically-impassioned clients and partners. She has been on design and development teams that put to market leading innovative products, led business development and communication projects for global outdoor leaders, and worked to develop and sustain critical partnerships and direction for tourism leaders world-wide.

Harsev Oshan

Empowered Startups HQA Account Executive

Harsev 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. Harsev is a graduate of the University of British Columbia and has worked in the fintech and immersive tech industry.

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.

Filipe Galego

Empowered Startups Manager - Operations

Filipe is responsible for coordinating the operational processes of Empowered Startups incubation programs in Portugal.

Prior to joining Empowered, Filipe was Manager of ÉvoraTech, the public incubator for the Alentejo region, in the center of Portugal. His work at Alentejo’s regional development agency ADRAL included travelling internationally to attract direct investment. As the regional facilitator for EU programming in EIT-KIC, Filipe also coordinated projects in efficient/renewable energy, agri-tech, and water management.

Filipe was previously in banking, as Branch Manager at Unicaja Bank (formerly Caja Duero), and Deputy Manager at Espirito Santo Bank.

Filipe holds a degree in Management, and is a semi-professional singer.

A clear path to your future in Portugal