The SNS is similar to healthcare systems in other countries, providing local health and hospital services. Healthcare for visitors is very similar to healthcare for residents. The main difference between the Portuguese health system and some other healthcare systems, such as in the US where healthcare is very expensive for visitors, is that each person who uses the SNS will have to pay a small charge for consultations and tests.
As an expat in Portugal with a residence permit, you should be registered at the health center (Centro de Saúde) and must hold a User’s Card. This is obtained from the health center by presenting proof of residence. If you are from a non-EU country, you will also need to provide a social security number.
Portugal visa applicants and health insurance requirements
Portugal Golden Visa and health insurance requirements
Portugal Golden Visa applicants who travel to Portugal before obtaining the Golden Visa will need travel insurance that they can get in their country of origin. The documents should state that it is valid and renewable in Portugal.
After being issued their Golden Visa, they will have access to the Portugal National Health Service (SNS). They will need to register beforehand to benefit from the service.
Alongside this, individuals with the Golden Visa can also purchase private health insurance. Some of the best private health insurance in Portugal to consider are Allianz and Cigna Global.
D7 Visa Portugal healthcare and health insurance requirements
The D7 Visa is an excellent option for individuals that are looking to move to Portugal but do not want to make a significant investment in the country. In order to apply for the D7 Visa in their home country, applicants need to purchase travel insurance that includes health insurance for one year. Proof of this is needed, along with the other documents necessary to apply for the Portugal D7 Visa.
Once the initial application is approved in your home country, then a four-month temporary visa is issued to applicants, whereby they will need to present themselves to the Foreigners and Border Service (SEF, Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras). Applicants will have purchased travel insurance, including health insurance so they will be covered until the D7 Residence Permit is formally issued.
After visiting SEF, a D7 Residence Permit will be granted to the applicant, which is valid for two years. D7 Visa holders can then benefit from the Portugal public healthcare system, although they will need to register to the SNS to benefit from the services. Also, individuals can purchase private health insurance. Private health insurance allows access to private clinics, private hospitals, and private practitioners, so it could also be a good option.
You can see more about the two visa types in our article: How to get Portuguese Residency?
Healthcare for non-habitual residents in Portugal
The non-habitual tax regime is increasingly popular in Portugal – this is essentially a scheme by which foreigners can receive attractive tax benefits. You can read more about it in our Complete Guide to the Portugal NHR Tax Regime.
The type of healthcare for non-habitual residents in Portugal depends on their specific circumstances. Professionals who are contributing to the social security system will be able to use the SNS service, while those who are not should consider private healthcare as an option.
Healthcare for EU residents in Portugal
Visiting EU citizens in Portugal need not worry as healthcare in Portugal for them is covered under reciprocal agreements. EU citizens will simply need to bring their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to the hospital with them and present it to the hospital or doctor to secure government-funded care. The European Health Insurance Card entitles you to necessary medical attention within EU/EEA member states, and Switzerland.
EU residents will also have many private health clinics across the country to consider. These are relatively inexpensive – as a ballpoint, you can expect to pay approximately €40 for an appointment with a general practitioner.
Healthcare for long-term non-EU residents in Portugal
If you live and work in Portugal and are not covered by reciprocal healthcare agreements with your home country then there are two options on the table. You can pay into the social security system or you should consider a private healthcare plan.
Healthcare for short-term residents and visitors in Portugal
Anyone who needs to apply for a visa to Portugal will need travel insurance. Short stay visitors that have a Schengen visa must have a minimum health insurance coverage of €30,000k for Portugal and the entire Schengen Area. Visa officers will ask to see proof of this. For those that do not need a visa to enter Portugal, then they will not need to have travel insurance, although it is highly recommended.
Travel insurance options
Schengen Zone Insurance
Those who have a temporary visa need to have health insurance under Portuguese law, which can be obtained in their home country.
International health insurance options:
Non-EU students must prove that they have fully valid health insurance. If they do not, then the Portuguese government will not approve their visa, and schools and universities will not accept their enrollment.
Student health insurance options:
HCCMIS Student Insurance
Emergency healthcare in Portugal
Emergency care in Portugal is free, without coverage through reciprocity, the NHS, or Portugal private healthcare insurance. Other services are charged at full price, however, and sometimes need to be paid at the time of access. Don’t worry, you will receive hospital care if needed, although you will be charged if you are not covered by the SNS, unless you have private insurance or a reciprocal agreement.
Portugal healthcare: Practical information
Firstly, it is good to know that almost all of the doctors in both public and private healthcare facilities in Portugal speak English. Alongside this, foreigners are catered for well in Portugal, with many professionals extremely understanding of any language barriers. Indeed, there are many tourists, retirees, and expats that move to Portugal, so it is unsurprising that the Portuguese are well adept at catering to the needs of foreigners.
Pharmacies and medication in Portugal
You should easily be able to find pharmacies in Portugal, just look out for the big green cross on the shopfronts. Many medicines, including over-the-counter medication, are subsidized if obtained with a prescription, making them fairly cost-effective.
Mental health care in Portugal
The primary healthcare facilities for the Portuguese mental healthcare system is provided through mental health teams that work in health centers and hospitals in the country. Studies have found that as much as 30% of Portuguese residents experience some kind of mental health problem.
While mental health is evidently an issue in Portugal, the mental healthcare system and the provision of mental healthcare services are not as developed as in many other countries, with fewer psychiatrists compared to other EU countries – 12.4 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants.
Your GP should be your first port of call and you can access mental healthcare services through the SNS Portuguese healthcare system in Portugal. You can have access to the following from your GP, depending on your situation and the service availability:
- Medication prescription
- Referral to counseling or a specialist
- For more serious conditions, a referral to an emergency or psychiatric unit
- Referral to a community-based program
It is worth noting that the SNS provides only some mental health services, which may be limited in scope. It may be a good idea to have private health insurance to access a wider range of services as, with private health insurance plans, professionals will generally have very good English and be able to provide a service tailored to your needs.
Maternity and childcare services
Health services for women in Portugal
Women’s healthcare in Portugal is delivered in health centers, clinics, and hospitals. The SNS covers maternity care, and expectant mothers generally receive care at the public hospital close to where they live. You can also purchase private health insurance if you would like to go down this route. With private insurance, you can access private services, clinics, and consultations and the level of English is generally of a very high standard.
Parental care will take place in the hospital and, during the initial appointment, the mother-to-be will receive a Pregnancy Booklet. This is where her doctor will record the ongoing medical information about the pregnancy process. Parental classes are offered in maternity wards, although they are not usually subsidized through the public Portuguese healthcare system. Midwives will be on hand to help with the delivery of the birth.
You can access gynecologists by speaking with your GP. Gynecologists work at health centers and clinics and can provide health advice, along with conducting routine examinations.
Healthcare services for children in Portugal
Children can access health services in Portugal for free. The social security contributions of their parent/guardian covers this under the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS). Children have regular health checks from birth and have access to services for screening, examination, vaccinations, and nutritional healthcare. A record to chart their progress will also be provided.
Portugal has a national vaccination system that is included in the SNS. This includes vaccinations against the following diseases: Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.