How to Become a Freelancer in Portugal and Issue Recibos Verdes

Ever heard of Recibos Verdes? The name translates to “green receipts/invoices”. They are well-known to anyone working as a registered freelancer in Portugal and are the means through which you can formally invoice clients and declare your income for tax and social security purposes.
You can register as a freelancer and issue Recibos Verdes online on the Portuguese tax authority’s platform (Portal das Finanças). However, you may need to recruit the help of a knowledgeable Portuguese speaker, because while it contains several help guides in English, the website itself is all in Portuguese and you do need to be careful filling out the registration form.
You can also register in person at any local Serviço de Finanças tax office (locations here) or Loja do Cidadão Citizen Shop (locations here).

Requisites to Register as a Freelancer

This is what you should need in order to abrir uma atividade independente open an independent activity, register as a freelancer:

Applicable to everyone:

  1. Having a NIF: Número de Identificação Fiscal tax identification number (also called Número de Contribuinte) — Read our guide on applying for a NIF.

  2. Having a bank account and providing the IBAN

  3. Knowing the type of work you’ll perform and the date of start

  4. Estimating how much you plan to earn until the end of the year

To register online, you will also need an access code that you will need to request in advance by creating a new account in the Portal das Finanças. The code is sent to your address and takes a few business days to arrive.

Additional Requirements

Other steps that are not directly part of the actual process of registering as a freelancer, but will be necessary for you to be fully legally compliant:

Applicable to EU/Schengen member state citizens:

  • Applying for a registration certificate within 30 days after 3 months in the country.

Where: Your local Câmara Municipal City council.
More information: Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF)

Applicable to non-EU/Schengen member state citizens:

  • Having a visa that allows you to work in Portugal

Where: Ideally, a Portuguese embassy or consulate in your country. Alternatively, one of the SEF offices.

  • Applying for a residence permit

Where: One of the SEF offices.
More information (general): Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF)
More information (high-level investors): Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service (SEF)

Applicable to everyone:

  • Applying for a social security number, called NISS – Número de Identificação de Segurança Social

Where: Any Serviço de Atendimento da Segurança Social Social Security office (locations here) or Loja do Cidadão.
Some minimum documentation you should need:

  • Valid ID/passport
  • Registration certificate (EU/Schengen, when already applicable)
  • Visa/residence permit (non-EU/Schengen)
  • Proof of start of activity
  • NIF

More information: You can go in-person to get more information from a Social Security office or Loja do Cidadão. A Social Security support line is available, but only in Portuguese (+351 300 502 502), so you’ll need a Portuguese speaker to help you, unless you want to try your luck and see if you land a good English-speaking samaritan on the other side of the line.
Note: Applying for a NISS, especially as a self-employed foreigner, is a bit of a pain sometimes and no information is readily available online from official sources to ease the process. Also, be aware that for freelancers who already have a NISS when they start their activity, the Portuguese tax authority automatically informs the Social Security Institute of the new registration, with no further action needed from you other than keeping up with the regular contributions. If you’re only getting your NISS after registering as a freelancer, make sure to confirm whether the tax authority will liaise with Social Security or if there’s anything else you yourself need to do.
 

Online Registration and Recibos Verdes

To register as a freelancer, a declaration needs to be filed with your personal details and the details of your activity. If you register in person, a clerk will fill in all the information for you – you just need to provide it verbally. If you do it online, you will have to fill it in yourself. One important piece of information you’ll need is the code specific to the work you intend to perform (most codes and the corresponding occupations should be available here, in Portuguese).
After validating and sending the declaration, you will receive a confirmation letter at the address you provided, after which point, you can start issuing recibos verdes. Nowadays, they can only be issued online, but you will need to print them after in order to sign them. In the Portal das Finanças, the recibos verdes will be pre-filled with your own details, but you will need to manually add your client’s details. You will need their NIF, name, and address, along with a brief description of the service you provided/plan to provide.
The Portuguese tax authority itself has a very detailed guide on how to fill and issue recibos verdes (in English).