Can Portuguese Nationals Live & Work In The USA?

Can a Portuguese citizen work in the USA? Absolutely—with the right visa. This guide cuts through the complexity to outline how H1B, L1, and E2 visas can be your gateway to the U.S. job market. Ready to dive in? Find out which visa fits your goals and what the application entails, getting you one step closer to your American work endeavor.

Key Takeaways

  • Portuguese nationals have several U.S. work visa options, such as H1B for specialized professionals, L1 for intra-company transfers, and E2 for investors, with the recent inclusion of Portugal in the E2 program under the AMIGOS Act.
  • The visa application process demands careful preparation of documents, awareness of financial aspects like fee payments, and navigating consular interviews, with the Visa Waiver Program allowing short-term business travel without a visa under certain conditions.
  • Legal consultation should be considered by Portuguese individuals navigating complex immigration scenarios, with immigration attorneys providing expertise in handling visa denials, adjustments of immigration status, and understanding pathways to permanent residence.

Exploring Work Visa Categories for Portuguese Nationals

Understanding the different work visa categories available to Portuguese citizens is key to unlocking these opportunities. Such visas provide a legal pathway for Portuguese nationals to work in the United States, where they can experience the diversity and vibrancy of American life. From professionals in specialized fields to intra-company transfers and investors, there is a visa category to suit a variety of employment and business scenarios.

Identifying the visa category that best fits your career or business objectives is crucial. Here are some options to consider:

  • H1B visa: a popular route for skilled professionals with specialized knowledge.
  • L1 visa: for multinational company employees looking to transfer to a US office.
  • E2 visa: for investors willing to put their capital to work in the US economy.

Choose the visa pathway that aligns with your goals and qualifications.

The H1B Visa: A Pathway for Professional Employment

The H1B visa is specifically tailored for professionals with specialized knowledge in fields such as IT, finance, engineering, or medicine. If you’re a Portuguese professional with expertise in these areas, the H1B visa could well be your ticket to the United States. However, one should bear in mind that obtaining an H1B visa can be challenging. It requires sponsorship by an employer who is willing to hire you for the specialized occupation.

Another key factor to consider is the cap on the number of H1B visas issued annually. This means only a limited number of visas are available each year, which can affect the chances of obtaining a visa even for eligible professionals. Despite this limitation, if you qualify and secure sponsorship, the H1B visa can open doors to rewarding professional opportunities in the United States.

L1 Visas: Intra-Company Transfers

If you’re not an individual professional but rather part of a multinational company seeking to transfer to a US office, the L1 visa is designed for you. However, there are specific requirements. For starters, to be considered for an L1 visa, you must have been employed by the company for at least one year within the past three years.

The L1 visa is specifically tailored for those in managerial positions or those having specialized knowledge pertinent to the company’s operations. To apply, you can request an appointment with the U.S. Embassy, with interview slots regularly available depending on current capacities. This visa category makes it possible for companies to seamlessly transfer qualified employees, thus fostering the exchange of knowledge and expertise between the company’s offices in different countries.

Investor Visa Opportunities: The E2 Path

For those with an entrepreneurial spirit and capital to invest, the E2 visa presents a path filled with possibilities. As a Portuguese citizen, you’re eligible for the E2 visa if you’ve invested, or are actively investing, in a bona fide enterprise in the U.S. The business you invest in should generate profits and provide jobs for U.S. workers – a win-win situation for both you and the American economy.

From starting a restaurant to launching a technology startup, the types of businesses you can invest in are diverse. The E2 visa not only allows you to live and work in the U.S. but also offers the possibility to renew your stay indefinitely as long as the business remains operational.

The recent inclusion of Portugal in the E2 visa program under the AMIGOS Act, starting from mid-2024, further simplifies this process and opens new doors for Portuguese investors.

Navigating the Application Process

Once you’ve identified the right visa category for your needs, the next step is navigating the application process. This involves:

  • Compiling essential documents
  • Understanding the intricacies of consular appointments
  • Handling monetary matters such as fee payments and converting Portuguese money to USD

Remember, every visa application requires a non-refundable application fee. If the visa is approved, you’ll also need to pay a visa issuance fee, which is determined based on reciprocity agreements with the applicant’s home country.

While the process might seem daunting, knowing what to expect at each stage can make it more manageable. From preparing your documentation to understanding consular appointments at the US embassy, each step brings you closer to your goal of living and working in the U.S.

Preparing Your Documentation

It is important to make sure all necessary paperwork is in order when applying for a U.S. work visa, taking into account your circumstances. This includes personal identification and proof of employment among other essentials.

Some of the key documents you’ll need to have on hand include:

  • A valid passport
  • The DS-160 confirmation page
  • The application fee payment receipt
  • A compliant photo
  • The receipt number from Form I-129 or Form I-797

Having these documents ready can expedite the application process and increase your chances of approval.

Understanding Consular Appointments

Consular appointments play a significant role in the visa application process. These appointments can be scheduled through specific online systems, with additional interview slots becoming available based on the consulate’s capacity.

Before your consular appointment, it’s imperative to:

  • Gather the necessary documents
  • Review the consulate’s guidelines
  • Provide accurate personal information beforehand
  • Handle fee payments like the MRV fee
  • Arrange for return delivery of your passport, which may incur additional costs for certain regions.

You’ll receive a confirmation email with details such as the date and time.

Converting Portuguese money to USD

Financial planning, especially the conversion of Portuguese money to USD, is another essential factor to consider when intending to live and work in the U.S. This is not just for the application process but also to manage your living expenses once you’re in the U.S.

Thankfully, there are numerous currency converters or financial tools provided by payment networks like Visa that can help estimate the exchange rate. This will give you an idea of how much your Portuguese money is worth in USD, allowing you to budget accordingly and make informed financial decisions.

The Visa Waiver Program and Business Travel

Despite discussing various work visa categories, it’s worth mentioning that short-term business travel to the U.S. may not necessitate a visa. Thanks to the Visa Waiver Program, Portuguese citizens can travel to the United States for business purposes without a visa for stays of up to 90 days. However, participation in this program requires obtaining an Electronic Travel Authorization (ESTA) before your trip.

There are certain restrictions to be aware of. For instance, the Visa Waiver Program cannot be used by Portuguese citizens who have been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria since March 1, 2011, or who are also nationals of these countries. Moreover, an e-passport, which is a secure passport with an embedded electronic chip, has been mandatory for all Visa Waiver Program travelers since April 1, 2016.

Eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program

Eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program is not automatic. To be eligible, Portuguese passport holders must apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ESTA) for short-term business trips to the U.S.

Certain travel history or dual nationality can disqualify Portuguese citizens from the Visa Waiver Program. Suppose you have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011, or hold nationality in these countries. In that case, you will not be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program unless the travel was for diplomatic or military purposes.

Electronic Travel Authorization and Homeland Security

As part of the Visa Waiver Program, travelers must gain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). However, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 removed VWP eligibility for individuals who are dual nationals of designated countries or who have recently traveled to those countries.

Following the 2015 Act, travelers with dual citizenship from identified countries had their current ESTAs revoked, affecting their ability to use the VWP. Nevertheless, waivers to these restrictions can be issued by the Department of Homeland Security on a case-by-case basis for travelers undertaking certain roles or duties, such as those for international organizations or journalism.

Advancing Mutual Interests: Trade and Investment Between Portugal and the USA

The bond between Portugal and the USA extends beyond immigration, encompassing the advancement of mutual interests via Portuguese-American trade and investment. These strong economic ties, including major investments by U.S. firms in Portugal, create new opportunities for entrepreneurship and job growth in both countries.

This interlinking of economies has a twofold impact. On one hand, it impacts investor visas, making it easier for Portuguese investors to seek opportunities in the U.S. On the other hand, it promotes entrepreneurship and job creation, leading to economic growth and prosperity in both nations.

Impact on Investor Visas

These strong economic ties and the flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from the United States to Portugal create favorable conditions for Portuguese nationals seeking investor visas in the United States. The recent signing of the Amigos Act by President Joe Biden, which grants Portuguese citizens access to the E-2 non-immigrant investor visa, is a testament to this trend.

The passing of the Amigos Act could potentially boost the value of Portugal’s residence programs like the Golden Visa. It opens up new opportunities for Portuguese investors to engage in investment activities in the U.S., bringing in more capital and creating more jobs. However, to be eligible for an E-2 visa under the Amigos Act, an individual who obtains Portuguese nationality through investment must have been domiciled in Portugal for at least three years before applying for the visa.

Promoting Entrepreneurship and Job Creation

The economic ties between Portugal and the USA not only impact investor visas but also promote entrepreneurship and job creation. Portuguese tech startups often engage with the U.S. startup ecosystem for funding, know-how, and networking. This creates new jobs in the US and Portugal, further strengthening the economic relationship between the two nations.

Likewise, U.S. companies have established business and service delivery centers in Portugal, leveraging Portugal’s cost-effective and multilingual workforce. This not only brings more investment into Portugal but also contributes to job creation in both countries, making it a win-win situation.

Legal Consultation: When to Seek an Immigration Attorney

Navigating through the multitude of visa categories, application procedures, and eligibility criteria of the immigration process can be intricate. That’s where an immigration attorney comes in. These legal professionals are critical in providing expert navigation through legal intricacies, particularly in complex cases such as those involving prior immigration violations or uncertain legal status.

Whether you’re dealing with visa denials, overstays, issues of inadmissibility, or even deportation or removal proceedings, an immigration attorney can provide the defensive strategies and legal avenues that you need. Immigration cases represented by an attorney see a higher success rate for clients aiming to remain in the United States compared to those without legal representation.

Complex Cases and Legal Advice

An immigration attorney can provide personalized legal advice for individuals dealing with unique and complex immigration scenarios. They can help with:

  • Filing waivers of inadmissibility, which may enhance the prospects of visa or other immigration benefits being granted
  • Guiding in navigating the immigration process
  • Assisting with visa applications and petitions
  • Representing clients in immigration court
  • Advising on immigration consequences of criminal convictions

This can be particularly helpful if you have a criminal record.

Immigration attorneys provide a range of services, including:

  • Counseling clients on how to maintain their immigration status
  • Navigating the conditions of their green cards, particularly when approaching expiration
  • Providing professional legal advice for managing complicated immigration cases
  • Ensuring compliance with U.S. immigration policies

Their expertise and guidance in border protection can be crucial in navigating the complexities of immigration law.

Path to Permanent Residence

Beyond navigating the intricacies of visa applications and legal issues, immigration attorneys also help individuals understand their options for permanent residence in the U.S. They can assist with the adjustment of status process, which allows visa holders to transition to obtaining a Green Card or Permanent Residency.

Whether you’re seeking to extend your stay in the U.S. or planning to make it your new home, an immigration attorney can be particularly helpful. They can:

  • Ensure that the application process is handled correctly
  • Guide the interview
  • Increase the chances of your Green Card application being approved.

Portuguese Immigration to the United States: Historical Context and Modern Opportunities

The history of Portuguese immigration to the United States is deep-rooted, tracing back to the Colonial period. From Mathias de Sousa in 1634 to the Portuguese Jews who established the Touro Synagogue, the oldest in the country, in 1763, the Portuguese have been integral to the fabric of American society.

Fast forward to the present day, and Portuguese citizens are benefiting from modern opportunities arising from Portugal’s inclusion in the E2 Visa program and strong bilateral economic ties with the U.S. Despite the complexities involved; these opportunities make the dream of living and working in the U.S. a very real possibility for Portuguese nationals, who may consider obtaining Portuguese citizenship as a valuable asset.


In conclusion, the opportunities for Portuguese nationals to live and work in the USA are vast and varied. From the H1B visa for professionals, the L1 visa for intra-company transfers, and the E2 visa for investors, to the Visa Waiver Program for short-term business travel, there are multiple paths to achieving this dream.

While the journey may be complex, the rewards are worth it. And with the right guidance, be it from an immigration attorney or through self-education, you can navigate the intricacies of U.S. immigration policy, seize the opportunities that lie ahead, and embark on an exciting new chapter of life in the United States.

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