Portugal has a high quality public health system, which is mostly free or low-cost to end users.
Once you become a resident, you’ll be entitled to the full benefits of Portuguese healthcare.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to get an SNS number in Portugal and access state health care.
What is an SNS Number / Utente Number?
SNS stands for ‘Servico Nacional de Saúde’ – the national health service of Portugal.
Similar to the UK’s NHS, you’ll need a unique identifying number to access public healthcare in Portugal. This is called the SNS number, or utente number (Utente means ‘user’ in Portuguese).
You can apply for your SNS number once you officially get residency in Portugal. You’ll need to show your official residency documentation to prove this status when you go to apply for the SNS number.
If you’re an EU citizen, you can use your CRUE residency certificate to register with. If you’re from outside the EU, you should use your residency card instead. The latter will be the situation for anyone moving to Portugal with the D7 Visa or the Portugal Golden Visa.
If you’re still waiting for your SEF appointment to get this card, then you could also try showing proof of the appointment booking.
How to Get an SNS Number in Portugal
Here is a step-by-step guide for how to get an SNS number in Portugal, including a list of the documents you will need to bring with you when you attend your appointment, and what to expect when you get there.
1. Find your local health center
Use Google Maps to locate the Centro de Saúde (health center) that’s nearest to your registered address in Portugal. It’s important to go to the nearest one, because the healthcare system works according to geographical area. If you go to the wrong health center, they’ll probably send you away.
2. Gather your documents
You’ll need to bring the following documents along to the Centro de Saúde:
Proof of residency,
NIF number (on the original document from Finanças),
Social Security number (if you have one; you probably won’t if you’re not employed in Portugal),
Portuguese phone number (they normally won’t accept a foreign one).
3. Go to the Centro de Saúde
Head to your local health center to make your application. You’ll probably need to take a ticket and wait for your number to come up. The employee handling your application will ask you several basic questions. They may speak some English, but be ready to use Google Translate on your phone if necessary. It’s a good idea to prepare several key phrases in Portuguese, to smooth things over and make the process easier.
4. Get your SNS number
After checking all your documents, the employee at the Centro de Saúde will print a paper showing your new health number. That’s it – you’re officially part of the Portuguese public health system!
5. Schedule a health check up
This step is optional, but the employee who handles your application will probably encourage you to do so. It normally involves basic checks of blood pressure, height, weight, and so on. You can always come back and do it at a later date.
Private Medical Insurance in Portugal
Many foreigners in Portugal prefer to have private medical insurance, to get faster waiting times and better access to English speaking doctors.
Insurance cover could be either with a Portuguese provider or an international provider. The Portuguese options will typically be a lot cheaper when compared to the international ones.
Local private health insurance is usually the best option, unless you frequently travel abroad. In that case, you should consider an international health insurance plan.
Popular international health insurance providers:
- Cigna Global
- Allianz Care
- William Russell
- SafetyWing Remote Health
Portugal’s private healthcare network typically offers shorter wait times, better facilities, a broader range of options, and fewer language barriers.
Although there are many English-speaking doctors in major cities and touristic towns, that’s not always the case in more rural areas.
Getting private coverage can give you better access to English-speaking medical professionals.
Popular Portuguese health insurance providers:
Important phone numbers for healthcare in Portugal
- Emergency number in Portugal: 112
- 24-hour medical advice line (Saúde 24): 808 24 24 24
FAQs: How to Get an SNS Number in Portugal
Is healthcare free in Portugal?
Healthcare in Portugal is not entirely free. You normally have to pay a small fee (around €5) to access GP appointments, along with fees for various kinds of treatment, and prescription medication.
Can I get private healthcare in Portugal?
Yes, you can get private healthcare in Portugal in addition to being part of the public healthcare system. You may find this useful if you have pre-existing conditions. There are private hospitals in all major cities in Portugal. Private healthcare also offers the benefits of reduced waiting times and a higher number of English-speaking healthcare professionals. It’s best to get a private health insurance plan to cover these costs. Portuguese private health insurance is relatively affordable compared to international plans.
How do you get numero de utente in Portugal?
First, you need to be a resident of Portugal to get a numero de utente. Then you can go to your local health centre with the necessary documents and be issued the numero de utente on the spot.
Is SNS number the same as utente in Portugal?
Yes, SNS number (Servico Nacional de Saúde) and utente number are the same thing in Portugal.
How much does private health insurance cost in Portugal?
Costs for private health insurance in Portugal vary a great deal depending on the level of coverage, your age, and your personal health situation. You normally need to either fill out a health questionnaire or undergo a health check before receiving an accurate quote.
Can foreigners get health insurance in Portugal?
Yes, all foreign residents in Portugal can get private health insurance, along with access to Portugal’s public health care service (Servico Nacional de Saúde)
In this article we looked at how to get an SNS number in Portugal, so you can benefit from Portugal’s public health care service.
We also discussed the benefits of private health insurance in Portugal, along with a range of frequently asked questions about healthcare in Portugal.