Portugal Golden Visa Healthcare for Foreigners Guide

If you’re looking to move to Portugal or to spend extended periods of time in the country, it’s important to know about healthcare for foreigners in Portugal.

Portugal’s public health system

Portugal has universal health coverage through its publically financed public health service (called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS). Basic national health coverage is administered through local and regional health centers and through hospitals and includes all care other than dentistry. This service is available to all residents of Portugal.

Healthcare under Portugal’s national health system is free for children under 18 and for people over 65. Otherwise, unless it is urgent care or falls under specific circumstances, state healthcare is available under the NHS at a low rate. Medication administered during a hospital procedure by the hospital is free.


How good is Portuguese healthcare?

The Health Care Index 2021 by Numbeo ranks Portgual in 24th position, highlighting that it has one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

Addititionally, according to the 2019 Health Care Index, Portugal’s healthcare ranking is considered high, ranking 22nd out of 89 countries, and performing particularly well in terms of the quality of infrastructure. The World Index of Healthcare Innovation 2021 has listed Portgual 17th in their rankings, which takes into account quality, choice, science & technology, and fiscal sustainability.

If you are moving to Portugal to enjoy your retirement, you will be happy to know that the Integrated Medical Emergency System offers very rapid response times, something to put your mind to rest.

Where to go if you need healthcare in Portugal

If you need healthcare in Portugal, you can visit your nearest health center for medical assistance. If the situation is an emergency, you can go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital.

If you require assistance you can phone the European Emergency Number: 112.

You can also call the SNS information hotline: 808242424, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available in English and is free of charge.

Portugal visa applicants and health insurance requirements

Portugal Golden Visa and health insurance requirements

Applicants of the Portugal Golden Visa 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. 

Once applicants receive their Golden Visa, they are eligible for the Portugal National Health Service (SNS). They will, however, have to register to the SNS in order to benefit from its services. In addition, recipients of the Portugal Golden Visa can also purchase private insurance, as this offers access to private practitioners and private clinics. Two of the most recognized private health insurance companies in Portugal are: Allianz and Cigna Global.

D7, Entrepreneur Visa and health insurance requirements

In order to apply for the D7 visa in their home country, applicants will need to purchase travel insurance with health coverage for one year. Proof of this cover will be requested along with other documents when applying for the D7 Visa.

If the initial application is approved in your country of citizenship, a four-month visa for Portugal will then be issued to applicants, who will have to present themselves to the Portuguese immigration authorities in Portugal (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras; SEF) within this time. As applicants have purchased travel insurance they will be covered by that travel insurance throughout their time in Portugal until the D7 Residence Permit is formally issued.

Following a successful appointment with SEF, a D7 Residence Permit (two years) will be granted to the applicant.

Once the applicant receives the D7 Residence Permit, they are entitled to benefit from the Portugal public health service. However, keep in mind that it is necessary to register to the SNS in order to benefit from its services. Those who wish to do so can also purchase private health insurance if they need extra health support.

Portugal’s private healthcare options

Private doctors and healthcare facilities are also widely available. Public-private partnerships for new hospitals, changing hospital management structures, pharmaceutical reforms, reorganization of primary care, and the creation of long-term care networks have improved the healthcare system in recent years. Virtually all doctors in the public and private systems speak English.

Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare?

The Portuguese state healthcare system is very similar to that of other countries, such as the UK, providing hospital and local health center services. Visitors will find that healthcare for foreigners in Portugal is much the same as it is for residents. The main difference between the Portuguese system and others is that everyone who uses it must pay a small charge for consults and tests.

Emergency care is free, as is healthcare in several other vital situations; without coverage through reciprocity, NHS, or private healthcare. All other services are charged at full price and are sometimes payable at the point of access. Everyone will receive hospital care if necessary, although you will be charged if not covered by the Portuguese national health services, a reciprocal agreement, or private health insurance.

Healthcare for short-term residents and visitors to Portugal

Short stay visitors with a Schengen visa must have a minimum health insurance coverage of €37k to enter Portugal.

World Nomads Travel Insurance
HCCMIS Atlas Travel

Europe Travel Schengen
AXA Travel Insurance

Those applying for temporary visas are required by law to have health insurance, which can be obtained in their current country of residence.

Allianz Care International Health Insurance
Cigna International Healthcare

Non-EU students must also prove they are fully covered by health insurance; if they don’t, the Portuguese government will not approve their visa and many schools will not accept their enrollment.

HCCMIS Student Insurance

Healthcare for short-term working residents of Portugal

Working residents of Portugal contribute to Social Security and can, therefore, obtain a Numero de Utente and will be assigned a GP. If you are not yet a permanent resident, but have been resident in Portugal for at least 90 days, you can obtain a document stating this from the local Junta de Freguesia and use this document, a photo ID, their IRS number and a proof of address to obtain a Numero de Utente, which will allow them to access Portuguese national health services at a discount.

Government-funded subsystems cover public employees. There are also private subsystems that are similar to the employee-provided health insurance elsewhere, for employees of specific types of companies, such as banks and larger corporations.

This type of cover is not the norm, however, and most who have private health insurance pay for it themselves.

Healthcare for non-habitual residents tax residents in Portugal

Many people are currently taking advantage of the non-habitual tax regime in Portugal. The scheme was launched in order to encourage investors and professionals of high cultural and economic worth to move to Portugal. First implemented in 2009, there are now over 10,000 NHR residents in Portugal. Those who qualify for the regime can benefit from significant tax reductions, or in some cases can be entirely exempt. Note, to take advantage of the tax deductions, you must have a valid tax identification number (NIF) in Portugal.

The type of healthcare for those living in Portugal as non-habitual residents depends entirely on specific circumstances. Professionals who are contributing to the social security system will be able to use the Portuguese health service, whereas those who are not may which to invest in private healthcare.

Take a look at our complete guide to the non-habitual resident tax regime for more information.

Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal: EU citizens

Visiting EU citizens are covered by Portugal’s NHS through reciprocal agreements. When traveling to Portugal, they should bring their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC card) with them and present the healthcare card to any hospital or doctor to guarantee government-funded care.

There are also many private health clinics all over Portugal, which are relatively inexpensive. You can expect to pay around €40 for an appointment with a general practitioner.

Healthcare for foreigners in Portugal: long-term residents

Those living and working in Portugal who are not covered by reciprocal agreements with their home countries have two options. You can either pay into the social security system, which is incremental in relation to income, or opt for one of the many private health insurance plans.

Pharmacies and medication in Portugal

Pharmacies and medication in Portugal

Pharmacies are widely distributed throughout Portugal. Many medicines, including over-the-counter medication, are subsidized if obtained with a prescription, which makes them very cost-effective.

Is there a language barrier within healthcare for foreigners in Portugal?

Portugal has a history of dealing positively with immigrants in terms of healthcare, and many medical professionals are sensitive to language barriers. Additionally, virtually all doctors in the public and private systems speak English.


Mental healthcare in Portugal

The mental healthcare system in Portugal is provided through mental health teams that work in hospitals and health centers. Studies have shown that around 30% of Portuguese residents experience some form of mental health problems, and the country has higher than EU average levels of substance abuse and depression. 

While mental health is clearly an issue in Portugal, the mental healthcare system and therefore the provision of mental healthcare is not as developed as in many other countries. There are 12.4 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants. This number is less than the EU.

Your GP should be your first point of contact and you can access mental healthcare services through the SNS. Depending on your situation and the service availability where you are living your GP can:

  • Prescribe medication
  • Refer you to counseling or a specialist
  • For more serious conditions, refer you to an emergency or psychiatric unit
  • Refer you to a community-based program

The SNS only provides some mental health services. To access a wider range of services, it is best to have private health insurance.


Health service for women in Portugal

Hospitals, health centers, and clinics all deliver women’s healthcare in Portugal. The national health system covers maternity care, and expectant mothers generally receive care at the public hospital close to where they live. Private healthcare is also an option if the expectant mother has appropriate health insurance. 

Prenatal care takes place at the hospital. During the initial appointment, the mother-to-be receives a Pregnancy Booklet, where her doctor will record the ongoing medical information as the pregnancy progresses. Maternity wards offer prenatal classes, although they are not generally subsidized through public health insurance. Midwives are on hand to help with the birth delivery.

You can access gynecologists through your GP. Gynecologists work at health centers and clinics, can provide health advice, and can carry out routine examinations. 


Healthcare service for children in Portugal

Children have access to free healthcare services in Portugal. The social security payments of their parent or guardian cover it under the system. Children have regular health checks from birth and can access services from screening, examination, vaccinations, and nutritional healthcare. They will also have a record that charts their progress. 

Portgual has a national vaccination system that is included in the SNS, including vaccinations for diseases including Hepatitis B, Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.

Are you looking to move to Portugal?

There are a number of options available to those looking to obtain residence in Portugal. One of the most popular methods is through the Golden Visa Program, which gives those who make investments in Portugal the right to residence in the country. For more information on the ways you can invest, take a look at our guide to the Portugal Golden Visa Program.

Want to learn more about moving to Portugal? Contact us today to see how we can advise on your investment and residency abroad.

Additionally, if you are looking to invest or move to another country, our pioneering Global Passport Index is worth looking into. Here, we analyze the strongest passports in the world, based not only on their visa-free access to other countries but also on investment opportunities and quality of life, which we believe are very important when debating second citizenship options. You can see more about it here.

Frequently Asked Questions about healthcare for foreigners in Portugal

How good is Portuguese healthcare?

The Portuguese healthcare system is ranked amongst the highest in the world and has greatly improved over the past decade. The system ranks higher than the UK, Ireland, Spain, and Italy in terms of patient rights, accessibility, information, waiting times, and overall health outcomes. Expats will generally have good access to healthcare in Portugal. Note that in some cases, as with many healthcare systems, waiting lists can be a little long to access health services. Waiting lists in private healthcare tend to be shorter.

Is healthcare free in Portugal?

There is a national healthcare service in Portugal, the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) which is entirely free for children under 18 and over 65s. It is free for all residents, with vastly subsidized costs for some services. Expats that are residents will be eligible to access the health services, provided you make the necessary social security contributions.

Are you entitled to Portuguese healthcare?

Expats who are a resident in Portugal and that make the necessary social security contributions are entitled to access the Portuguese healthcare system.

Do healthcare professionals in Portugal speak English?

Expats will find that English is widely spoken by healthcare professionals in Portugal.

Following my Golden Visa or D7 visa application when can I start using the Portuguese National Health Service (SNS)?

As soon as your Golden Visa or D7 Visa is approved expats can use the Portugal Health Service. However, you must first register yourself with the SNS in order to benefit from the national healthcare system.

Do I need private insurance if I move to Portugal under the Golden Visa or the D7 Visa?

As an expat living in Portugal under the Golden Visa or the D7 Visa, you can benefit from the Portugal public health service once you have registered. The national healthcare system is very good. However, expats are welcome to purchase a private health insurance policy if they require or wish to have extra cover.