Guidance

Healthcare in Portugal

Healthcare information for UK nationals living in, visiting or moving to Portugal.

Healthcare in Portugal during the transition period

There will be no changes to healthcare access for UK nationals visiting or living in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland before the end of 2020.

You can continue to use your EHIC during this time, as you did before.

If you’re living in Portugal or move there permanently before the end of 2020, you’ll have life-long healthcare rights in Portugal as you do now, provided you remain legally resident.

You may need to register or apply for residency. This guidance explains what you need to do in Portugal depending on your circumstances.

If you live and work in Portugal

There will be no changes to healthcare access for UK nationals in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland before the end of 2020.

If you’re living in Portugal or move there permanently before the end of 2020, you’ll have life-long healthcare rights in Portugal as you do now, provided you remain legally resident.

This means you’ll also have the right to apply for a UK S1 if you start drawing a UK State Pension.

You may need to register or apply for residency depending on your circumstances.

If you’re a posted worker

There will be no changes to healthcare access for UK nationals in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland before the end of 2020.

You can continue to use your EHIC or S1 during this time, as you did before.

If you use an S1

There’s different guidance if you have an S1 as a posted worker.

There will be no changes to healthcare access for UK S1 holders in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland before the end of 2020 if you’re either:

  • someone with an exportable UK State Pension
  • someone with another ‘exportable benefit’
  • a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another)

If you’re living in Portugal or move there permanently before the end of 2020, you’ll have life-long healthcare rights in Portugal as you do now, provided you remain legally resident.

This means that you’ll get:

  • continued access to healthcare in Portugal using your UK-issued S1
  • a UK-issued EHIC for travelling to other countries in the EU
  • planned treatments in other EU countries via the S2 route

You may need to register or apply for residency depending on your circumstances.

If you’re studying in Portugal

There will be no changes to healthcare access before the end of 2020.

You can continue to use your EHIC during this time, as you did before.

If you started studying in Portugal before the end of 2020, your student EHIC will be valid for the rest of the time you study there.

Moving back to the UK

If you return to the UK permanently you will be able to use the NHS like any other UK resident.

Read more about using the NHS when you return to live in the UK.

If you’re visiting Portugal

There will be no changes to healthcare access for UK nationals visiting or living in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland before the end of 2020. You can continue to use your EHIC during this time, as you did before.

If you’re visiting Portugal on 31 December 2020, you can continue to use your EHIC until the end of your visit to Portugal.

An EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. Make sure you have both before you travel.

Living in Portugal

The healthcare system in Portugal consists of a National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS), a social security scheme, and voluntary private health insurance.

You’ll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as a Portuguese national if you’re going to work in Portugal and make national insurance contributions.

You must be working or be a dependant of someone who’s working in Portugal to get a Portuguese Social Security number (NISS).

If you’re registered with Portuguese Social Security, you can apply online through your Portuguese account for a Portuguese-issued EHIC for visits outside of Portugal to other EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

If you are not registered with Portuguese Social Security, but you have a health care user’s number (número de utente), you can also apply for a Portuguese-issued EHIC. Download the application form (in Portuguese) and take it to any social security office.

You should also buy comprehensive travel insurance to cover anything not covered by your Portuguese EHIC or for travel to countries outside the EU.

UK posted workers

If you’re a worker posted to Portugal by a UK company, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK.

You can find out more from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC):

Non-workers

If you’re legally resident in Portugal, you can register with your local state-run health centre (centro de saúde) and get a healthcare user’s number (cartão de utente). Show this number whenever you need to access healthcare.

S1 certificate

You may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK if you live in Portugal and receive:

  • an exportable UK State Pension
  • a contribution-based Employment Support Allowance
  • another exportable benefit

You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 certificate.

An S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in Portugal.

You may be eligible for an S1 certificate, if you:

  • receive certain UK benefits, such as a UK State Pension
  • are employed by a UK body or firm (you are a posted or frontier worker)
  • are a dependant of someone who has an S1 certificate

You can apply for an S1 certificate through the Business Services Authority.

If you receive a UK State Pension, you can apply for your certificate via the Overseas Healthcare Service on +44 (0) 191 218 1999 (option 5).

Read more about claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides information about what UK and Portuguese benefits are available to UK nationals living in Portugal.

Studying in Portugal

If you’re a UK resident studying in Portugal, you can apply for a student EHIC.

The government always advises UK citizens to take out comprehensive insurance when going overseas. Your EHIC is not an alternative to insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

Read more about healthcare when studying abroad.

For more information about healthcare when living abroad, read the NHS guide to planning your healthcare when moving abroad.

Visiting Portugal

Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance if you’re planning to visit Portugal.

The government always advises UK nationals to take out comprehensive travel insurance when going overseas. Your EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

Emergency medical care is provided to anyone requiring urgent attention. You may be charged in full for any care provided without an EHIC.

Your EHIC does not cover you for private treatment so you will need to make sure you are treated by a state healthcare provider.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork.

Pre-existing health conditions

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you should buy medical travel insurance before you visit Portugal. You must tell the insurance company about any pre-existing health conditions you have, so that you can get the cover you need.

If you have a pre-existing condition that will need treatment while abroad, ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel. Take any documents about your health condition or medication with you.

The Money and Pensions Advice Service has information about buying travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

If you are travelling to have planned medical treatment, read the NHS guide to seeking medical treatment in Europe.

Healthcare services in Portugal

Finding help in an emergency

Call 112 if you have a serious life-threatening emergency. This number is free of charge.

Dentists

Dental treatment is not covered by the state healthcare system unless it’s an emergency.

Hospitals

You’ll need to be referred by a doctor for any specialist hospital treatment.

Make sure you’re referred to a state hospital as only these provide treatment with an EHIC. However, you may still have to make a small contribution. This is known as moderating fees (taxa moderadora).

Even in a state hospital you’ll need a valid EHIC. Make sure you’re not treated as a private patient.

Prescriptions

Prescription costs are subsidised and visitors can expect to pay for their medication.

Bringing your own medicines to Portugal

Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that extra legal controls apply to these medicines.

You may need a personal licence to take controlled medicines abroad.

Specific requirements also apply to:

  • the information that you must take with you
  • how you carry your controlled medicines

Read more about travelling with controlled medicines.

Healthcare in Portugal from 1 January 2021

If you’re living in Portugal or move there permanently before the end of 2020, you’ll have life-long healthcare rights in Portugal as you do now, provided you remain legally resident. You may need to register or apply for residency depending on your circumstances.

EHIC from 1 January 2021

You’ll still be able to access healthcare through EHIC for visits that begin after 1 January 2021 if you’re either:

  • a UK State Pensioner living in the EU before the end of 2020
  • a UK student studying in in the EU before the end of 2020
  • a ‘frontier worker’ (someone who works in one state and lives in another) before the end of 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • an EU national living in the UK before the end of 2020

Published 23 September 2019