A guide for British nationals living in Portugal, including Madeira, with information on healthcare, residency, finance, benefits and property issues. The information is taken from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website, last updated in 2014
This guide sets out essential information for British national residing in Portugal, including advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements 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.
The Portuguese health system is universal, based residence. For this reason, 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 register with your local health centre and receive state healthcare.
However, EU regulations state that if you are in receipt of a State Pension from one EEA member state but resident in another, your healthcare should be covered by the state that pays your pension. For example, if you are resident in Portugal but in receipt of a UK State Pension, the UK should cover your healthcare by issuing you with an S1 (previously E121).
Therefore if you reach State pension age while living in Portugal, it will be necessary to request the form S1 from the DWP and hand it to your nearest social security office (Posto de Atendimento da Segurança Social) so that they can change the way you are covered.
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.
Before you go to Portugal on holiday make sure you bring a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you, and take out private travel insurance.
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 Loja do Cidadão (Citizens One-Stop Shop; website in Portuguese).
We do not certify British qualifications. See thison how to obtain recognition of UK educational documents.
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 FCO guide on taking up residency in Portugal (this is a 15-page PDF)
The Portuguese Social Security Department is called the DGSS (Direcçao Geral de Segurança Social) and their website contains extensive information in English, as well as the addresses of local offices. Alternatively, contact the DGSS by telephone: 808 266 266.
Driving Licences and vehicles
If you are transferring your residence to Portugal, you don’t have to exchange your UK-issued driving licence. These licences may be used in Portugal until they expire. If you have a photocard driving licence, please remember that you’ll need to renew the photo before the licence expires.
If you choose to continue to use your UK driving licence in Portugal, you must informIMT – Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes, I.P. (equivalent to DVLA) – at the very latest within 30 days of obtaining your residence certificate. You can be fined if you are resident here (even if you don’t have a residence certificate), are driving a Portuguese registered vehicle and have not registered your UK licence with the authorities.
If you intend to make Portugal your main or permanent home, there are a number of very good reasons for exchanging your licence for a Portuguese-issued one. If lost, stolen or damaged, the licence can only be renewed or replaced by the original issuing authority. Some licensing authorities, such as the DVLA, will not renew or replace a licence to an overseas address.
When the licence eventually expires, the Portuguese authority can’t renew it as it was not issued by them. This means that you’ll have to take (and pass) a driving test in Portugal before the Portuguese authorities can issue you with a licence. If you decide to exchange your licence, you should apply to the nearest office of the IMT. You’ll need to complete a form (in duplicate) and hand it in, together with:
- your original licence
- a photocopy of your passport (you’ll also be asked to show your original passport)
- 2 colour photos on a plain background
- a medical report (please see the IMT website for information on permissible issuing authority)
- the fee
You can drive in the UK on a Portuguese-issued licence provided the full entitlement for the vehicle you are driving is shown on the licence.
The UK basic state pension is payable in Portugal.
The UK state pension changed in April 2010. More people now qualify for a full basic state pension. Find out about the most important changes and what they mean to you.
To find out when you reach State Pension age, use the State Pension calculator.
If you live but have not worked in Portugal, you should claim your UK state pension by contacting the International Pension Centre in the UK on telephone: +44 (0)191 218 7777.
If you live in, and have worked at some point in Portugal you should normally apply to the [Centro Distrital de Segurança Social] (CDSS) for both your UK and Portuguese pensions. If you have only ever worked in the UK, you should see our information on applying for a UK state pension.
If you are moving to Portugal from the UK you should inform the International Pension Centre (IPC) of the changes to your circumstances. This will prevent any problems with your pension payments. UK pension credit is not payable in Portugal. If you decide to move to Portugal permanently you must inform the office that pays your benefits before you leave.
If you have received a life certificate from the UK Pension Service it is important that you reply as quickly as possible otherwise your benefit may be stopped. You’ll need to get it signed by a ‘witness’ and send it back, as instructed on the form.
Check the list of people who can witness a life certificate. This is now the same as the list of people who can ‘countersign’ a passport photo, although they don’t need to live in the UK, or have a British or Irish passport.
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.
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.