Work Permit Applications – Dissonance Between Law and Practice

Dealing with work permit applications can be tricky. This is as such because, even though we have specific legislation that establishes procedures and official fees for obtainment of work permits1 things on the ground can be different.

One aspect is the obtainment of work permits under a short term work regime. The Regulations on Employment of Foreign Citizens, Article 6, provide the documents required are as follows:

    • Application letter, giving the grounds for employment, i.e., an explanation of the reasons leading to the employment of the foreign citizen, highlighting his/her professional qualifications and skills.
    • Certified copy of the foreign employee’s passport.
    • Certified copy of the company license (Alvará).
    • Payment of an official fee corresponding to 1 (one) minimum wage of the company’s activity sector.

Quite clear and simple, right? Theoretically yes, but in practice not all work permit applications are created equal. This happens because focusing only on legislation might be an invitation to application rejection. Even if the company gathers all legally required documents, at the end of the day it is all dependent on the software program for work permit applications: SIMIGRA – one system to rule them all!

In one occasion I gathered all documents for obtainment of work permit under a short term work regime. After several checklists I was confident that all legal requirements were conforming. However, when I arrived at the local labour department to submit the application, the software program required that the company proves its conformation with social security and tax payments. I complained that those requirements were against the law since they are not mentioned in the Regulations on Employment of Foreign Citizens, Article 6. The State officials agreed that, from a legal perspective, the application was all perfect, but for the software program the application was incomplete. The tricky dissonance between law and practice was evident. No amount of legal reasoning about the importance of following the law worked. The Lord of work permit applications – SIMIGRA – overlapped the law.

So, how do we avoid risks of application rejection, especially in urgent cases? The answer is – homework. Yes, a combined approach to gather legal and practical requirements. It is important to ensure that the legal documents are in place, while at the same time confirmation is made with the authorities. This exercise may be necessary whenever an application is about to be submitted, considering that the software program may be updated and new documents, not provided in the Regulations on Employment of Foreign Citizens, might be requested.

Another point to take into consideration is the fact that different provinces may have different approaches to the same matter. For example, when it comes to giving notice about termination of a foreign citizen’s employment contract,2 the Labour Department in one province may issue – through SIMIGRA – a written confirmation of such fact, while the Labour Department in another province may just keep silent. These tiny discrepancies may create confusion to the investor, with business in different provinces.

Therefore, at the end of the day, when it comes to employment of foreign citizens, strict compliance with the law and constant interaction with the labour authorities is relevant, no matter how simple the procedure may be. With this combined approach, a lot of stress can be prevented, and, of course, huge fines avoided, safeguarding the integrity of the investment.

  1. Decree no. 37/2016, of 31 August (approves the “Regulations on Employment of Foreign Citizens”).
  2. Regulations on Employment of Foreign Citizens, Article 23.

Leave a Reply