Guidance

Living in Portugal

A guide for British nationals living in Portugal, including information on healthcare, residency, finance, benefits and property issues.

Overview

This guide sets out essential information for British national residing in Portugal, including advice on residence requirements, healthcare, pension and benefits, education, and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals. This information supplements the travel advice for Portugal.

There will be no change to the rights and status of UK nationals living in the EU while the UK remains in the EU. Keep up-to-date with the work being undertaken to prepare for the UK leaving the EU on GOV.UK and Plan for Britain websites.

Entry and residence requirements

EU citizens may remain in Portugal for a maximum of 3 months without registering. If you intend to remain in Portugal for more than 3 months, you must apply for a registration certificate from the Town Hall (Câmara Municipal) in your area of residence. This has to be done within 4 months of arrival in Portugal. This certificate will be valid for 5 years from the date of issue, or for the period of intended residence. Thereafter, you can apply for a permanent residence certificate from the Immigration authorities (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras). For entitlement to local services - ie schools, healthcare, and social security - people living in Portugal must register with the Portuguese authorities.

See also our guide on taking up residency in Portugal.

Taking up residence in Portugal

Healthcare

The Portuguese health system is universal, based on residence. If you are formally resident in Portugal (ie you have registered with the Town Hall or Immigration authorities and have obtained a residence certificate), you are entitled to state healthcare.

If you are working and paying social security contributions, or are the dependent of someone who is working, request a social security number (NISS) from your nearest social security office. When received, register with your local GP surgery and obtain a medical card.

If you are in receipt of a UK old age state pension, request an S1 form (previously E121) from the Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999. If you are in receipt of an exportable DWP benefit, request an S1 form from the office which pays your exportable benefit. It is your responsibility to keep the Overseas Healthcare Team or office which pays your exportable DWP benefit up to date with any changes in circumstances which may affect your entitlement to an S1 (E121). When received, register the S1 form with your local social security office, before you register with your local GP surgery and obtain a medical card.

If you have taken early retirement and are not yet in receipt of a UK state pension or other exportable DWP benefit, you can still register with your local GP surgery and obtain a medical card by showing your residence certificate and British passport.

If you do register with the state health system in Portugal, it is important to de-register with your GP in the UK. Likewise, if you decide to return to the UK, then you must de-register with the Portuguese authorities. You can find out more about how to plan for your healthcare if you are going to live abroad on a permanent basis on the NHS website.

State pensions

The UK State Pension is payable in Portugal if you’ve paid enough UK National Insurance contributions to qualify and you meet other eligibility criteria.

If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016 you can claim the new State Pension.

If you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016, you’ll get the State Pension under the old rules instead.

Find out more about your State Pension if you live or wish to retire abroad.

Where to apply for your UK State Pension

You must be within 4 months of your State Pension age to make a claim. If you live in Portugal but have only ever worked in the UK you will need to contact the International Pension Centre in the UK. If you live in and last worked in Portugal you should make your claim to the Portuguese pension authority, Instituto de Segurança Social.

If you’ve worked in the UK and any other EEA country you should make your claim for your UK State Pension to the pension authority in the country you’re living in or in the country you last worked. If you’ve never worked in the country where you’re living, your host country will forward your claim to the one you last worked in.

Pension Credit

You can’t get Pension Credit if you live permanently in Portugal. If you decide to move to Portugal permanently you must inform the office that pays your benefit before you leave. If you live in the UK, Pension Credit can only be paid for up to four weeks whilst you are abroad.

Life certificates for UK state pensions

If you receive a life certificate from the Department for Work and Pensions, it is important that you reply as quickly as possible. If you don’t, your pension payments may be temporarily suspended. You will need to get the form signed by a witness. The instructions are on the form. The people who can sign the form are the same as those who can ‘countersign’ a passport photo. Your witness doesn’t have to live in the UK or have a passport from any specific country.

Entitlement to a Portuguese retirement pension

You may be entitled to a State Pension from any other countries you have worked in as well as from the UK if you meet the eligibility criteria for each country.

If you’ve worked in Portugal you may be entitled to a Portuguese State pension. Contact the Centro Nacional de Pensões for more information. When applying you should complete and submit the relevant application form. Make sure you declare all periods of work in each EEA country on the application form.

Find out more about applying for your State Pension if you have worked in several EU countries.

Benefits

Find out what UK benefits you might be able to get while abroad. Check the information on moving or retiring abroad. The Portuguese Social Security Department is called the Instituto de Segurança Social. You can find the address of your local Social Security Office from their website. Alternatively, you can contact their helpline on 300 502 502 or check out their information leaflets (in Portuguese only) here.

Criminal Record Checks

If you are working in Portugal or thinking about applying for Portuguese nationality, you may be asked to provide a criminal records check.

Criminal Records check from the UK

If you need a criminal records check from the UK irrespective of whether or not you have lived there, see our information leaflet: Police Records (PDF, 192KB, 1 page)

There is also some general information on Disclosure and Barring Service checks (DBS) here.

Criminal Records Certificate from Portugal

If you are asked to provide a Criminal records certificate (Certificado de Registo Criminal) from the Portuguese authorities, details (in Portuguese) of how to apply are available here.

Education

Education is obligatory for all children aged 6-16 if the parents are legally resident in Portugal and is free from pre-school to high school. However, as pre-school is not obligatory, not all children can gain a place. The availability of places depends on demand and varies across different areas of Portugal. More information can be found at the Portuguese Ministry for Education.

For further information on Portuguese Government services please see the Portal do Cidadão (Citizens One-Stop Shop; website in Portuguese and English).

We do not certify British qualifications. See this information leaflet (PDF, 336KB, 3 pages) on how to obtain recognition of UK educational documents.

Driving Licences and vehicles

For information on Portuguese Government services please see the Portal do Cidadão (Citizens One-Stop Shop; website in Portuguese and English).

Property and property disputes

Buying property in Portugal requires careful preparation and research. The legal and other procedures relating to the sale and purchase of property are different to those in the UK, so it pays to research in advance and to take legal advice in order to avoid difficulties and possible disputes later on. You are strongly advised to consult a lawyer who is experienced in land law and property transactions. Make sure he/she is registered with the Law Society.

An increasing number of notaries offer an independent property purchasing service, known as Casa Simples, Casa Segura (information in Portuguese only). Notaries in Portugal are trained lawyers and those offering this service can give legal advice and assist with the procedures for purchasing property, registering the title deeds and paying the relevant duty.

If you are considering purchasing a coastal, river or lakeside property, you should ensure it is not affected by the 2005 Water Resources Law. A lawyer or notary will be able to advise you on this. Exercise caution if the Land Registry record shows that the property you wish to buy is built on rural land. In normal circumstances this type of land is reserved for agricultural use and you would need to undertake additional checks with the municipal authorities to ensure that full planning permission has been obtained for residential use.

We are unable to provide any guidance on individual property purchases. See our information on what consulates can and cannot do for British nationals. For further general information on buying property abroad, see the ‘How to buy property abroad’ guide.

Disclaimer

This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British Embassy Lisbon will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

Published 22 March 2013
Last updated 22 February 2018 + show all updates
  1. Attached updated Driving Licences leaflet and added updated Car Importation Leaflet.
  2. Updated December 2017
  3. Update July 2017
  4. Updated May 2017
  5. Information updated 9 March 2017
  6. We are currently updating our information on driving licences in Portugal. Revised information will be available shortly.
  7. General information amended and property advice added
  8. Information added on changes to rules for EHIC and early retirees from July 1 2014.
  9. Instructions for signing life certificates for UK state pensions updated
  10. First published.