What’s the Difference Between a Residence Permit and a Visa?

6 de May, 2024

What’s the Difference Between a Residence Permit and a Visa?

We want to clarify once and for all the difference between a residence visa and a residence permit. What is the validity and function of each one, and how to obtain them?
Casa portuguesa
Reading: 4 min

If you want to move to Portugal but don’t have Portuguese citizenship, you’ll need legal authorization to stay in the country for more than 3 months. But what authorization is that? Today we’ll clarify once and for all the difference between a residence permit and a visa. What is the function of each of them and how to obtain them?

What is a Visa?

A residence visa is issued to allow a non-European Union or Schengen Area foreigner to enter that country with the intention of staying for a specific period of time. It must be applied for and obtained before moving to Portugal, while still in the country of origin. It requires the submission of documents and compliance with certain requirements for its granting.

Generally, residence visas are granted based on a predefined reason, such as work, study, or investment.

Types of Visas for Portugal

In a previous article, we explained the various types of visas for Portugal available to foreigners who decide to reside in the country. Each of them is tailored to a specific profile of applicant. There are temporary stay visas, which are suitable for stays of less than 12 months, and long-term visas, for periods exceeding one year. Among them, the most popular are the digital nomad visa and the visa for passive income holders (known as the D7 Visa).

What is the Validity of a Visa?

Generally, the visa for obtaining a residence permit is valid for two entries and for four months. During this period, the holder must request a residence permit.

What is a Residence Permit?

A residence permit (RP) is a document granted to allow a foreigner to legally stay in that country for a specific period of time after their entry. This legal document allows the holder to live, work, study, and access public services in Portugal for a longer period. It is requested through the AIMA (formerly SEF), where the individual must present the necessary original documentation to justify their stay (work, studies, family reunification, etc.). When issuing the first RP, the interested party is usually subjected to an in-person interview with local authorities.

What is the validity of a residence permit?

A residence permit may have different validity periods, depending on the specific type (temporary or permanent). The initial one is usually valid for one or two years and can be renewed.

Renewals of the Residence Permit

When your first residence permit expires, you will need to apply for its renewal. In some cases, this may be possible without requiring an in-person interview. At this time, requests can be submitted digitally/online by “Third-Country Nationals with legal residence in Portugal who have children in their household over 5 and under 15 years of age, and who intend to apply for family reunification in Portugal, under art.º 98.º/2 of Law no. 23/2007, of July 4, in its current wording.”

The implementation of the automated document submission system is already being advertised on the AIMA website, dispensing the need for future in-person attendance at agencies.

For requests submitted in digital/online format, proof of the necessary situations for obtaining the Residence Permit can be provided by using digital documents signed with digital certificates, such as those from the Citizen Card or Digital Mobile Key, and, in some situations, using the Professional Attribute Certification System (SCAP).

Do you want to live in Europe?

Realizing your goal of living in Europe or obtaining European citizenship can be simpler than you think. We offer personalized support to make the immigration process more accessible and uncomplicated.

So, what do I need? Residence Permit or a Visa?

Both! Both are important!

We always recommend obtaining a visa to enter Portugal. In the case of some nationalities, entry for tourism purposes is allowed without the need for a visa, such as for Americans. However, this does not guarantee this authorization. In fact, when going through immigration agents, if the authorities identify that you are traveling with the intention of staying in the country, you may face problems and even be forced to return home immediately!

Summary: Residence Permit vs Residence Visa

In summary, the residence visa is a necessary preliminary step for non-Europeans who need to enter Portugal with the intention of establishing themselves for a long period. The residence permit is what effectively allows the individual to reside in the country for an extended period after already being in Portuguese territory.

Do you want to apply for your visa to live in Portugal? Contact the Atlantic Bridge team. We are here to help in the process of obtaining residence visas in Portugal and Spain. We help you clarify all your doubts.

Silvia Resende


Silvia Resende

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