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Living here means understanding the Portuguese social security system in and out – here’s all you need to know!

Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by Laila Oliveira

The picturesque landscape might be enough for some. But if you’re relocating, you will want more than that. Questions about social security and welfare benefits are quite common. To be prepared, you must learn about the personal and financial workings of the country. In this article, we will dive into everything you need to know about the Portuguese Social Security System!

From eligibility to the types and benefits of social security, we will unravel each aspect step by step. This article will also focus on the connection between healthcare and social security and how political notions like Portuguese socialism might affect the social security system. Tag along to find out more! 


How is the Portuguese Social Security System?

The Portuguese Social Security System is like a safety net and benefits social and financial well-being. As a resident, the system will allow you to access healthcare services, pension schemes, and unemployment support. The enrollment process may seem confusing with its paperwork, but once registered, you’ll see the process was worth it.

You just need to visit a local Social Security office with:

  • Identification documents;
  • Proof of residence;
  • Employment details.

And then you’ll need to fill out certain forms for the application to be complete. Online applications are also available for specific services for your ease. 

Who is eligible for social security in Portugal?

If you fall in any of the following categories, you are eligible for the Portuguese Social Security System:

  • A formal employee: Your social security contributions will be deducted from your salary, making you eligible for various benefits.
  • Self-Employed Individuals
  • Special Groups

Who can apply for a Social Security Identification Number (NISS)?

The NISS can be requested by expats, Portuguese citizens with ID Cards, legal representatives, and employers. People with a Citizen Card and legal entities are exempt from this process of requesting the NISS because it is automatically assigned. It is completely free of charge. 

You must submit the following documents: 

  • Identification (Passport or ID card)
  • Tax Identification Number (NIF)
  • Employment Contract (for formal employees)
  • Proof of self-employment (for self-employed)
  • Employment status (for special groups)
  • Residence Certificate (proof of residence)
  • Bank Information

For more information on how to apply, you can check out the official portal

How does an expat or resident receive social security in Portugal?

Now that we’ve discussed the eligibility and documents, let’s dive into the remaining process. To register with the Portuguese Social Security System, you must visit the nearest office with the documents mentioned earlier. 

You must submit the relevant application after becoming eligible for a specific social security benefit. For this, apart from form filling, additional documentation may be required. 

Next, the Social Security authorities will review your application and check whether you meet the eligibility criteria. And if approved, you’ll start receiving benefits.

You should know that Social Security benefits are usually paid through direct deposit into a bank account. So, make sure that you provide accurate and up-to-date bank information. Also, remember to constantly update the authorities with any changes in your employment status, address, etc.  

Types of Social Security Contributions

The Portuguese Social Security System has a wide coverage base. So, to keep its execution organized, the system divided its contributions into different categories. Each contribution is deducted distinctly, and understanding these is important if you wish to access the full range of benefits. 

Encouraging an adaptable framework, the contributions play an integral role in maintaining the financial equilibrium of the social security system. Let’s break these down one by one:

Employee contributions

These are mandatory deductions from an employee’s salary and entail contributions for:

  • Social security
  • Healthcare service
  • Pension benefits
  • Unemployment support

The Portuguese government utilizes these contributions to sustain the overall social security system. The exact amount deducted depends on the employee’s income. 

Employer contributions

In Portugal, employers have to contribute on behalf of their employees to cover social security, health, and unemployment insurance. These contributions are separate from the deductions made from employees’ salaries.

Employers contribute the amount based on the total earnings of their workforce. This structure allows employers to actively contribute to the sustainability of the social security system. Also, these contributions reinforce a collaborative approach to social security financing, promoting a robust and inclusive safety net.

Self-employed contributions

Self-employed contributions are specifically designed to include independent workers in the social security network. Such people voluntarily contribute to the system and set their own level of coverage based on their declared income.

Like the rest, these contributions also cover health, unemployment insurance, etc. The idea is to extend the safety net to all. The fact that you can adjust your contributions according to your income leads to tailored social security benefits. Through these contributions, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and self-employed professionals access essential healthcare and pension benefits services. 

Types of Social Security benefits

Social security benefits are designed to provide financial and social support across different life circumstances. To ensure a comprehensive benefits distribution, the Portuguese Social Security System offers 6 types of security benefits: 

Old-age pensions

Old-age pensions provide financial support to retirees to secure them a reasonable standard of living during their retirement years. However, your eligibility would depend on your contribution history and also fulfillment of specific age requirements.

Your earnings and the number of years of contributions would decide the pension amount you’ll be eligible for. In any case, it will ensure your post-work life well-being by providing a reliable source of income after retirement.

Disability benefits

Disability benefits are vital as they offer financial support to those unable to work because of a qualifying disability. These also enforce that if you are going through severe health challenges, you get the necessary medical care with a basic standard of living.

You need medical assessments stating the extent of the disability and its impact on your ability to work in full-time employment to be eligible. Also, these benefits are a highlight of Portugal’s Social Security’s belief in the inclusivity of social support. It takes into account the lives and diverse needs of people with disabilities.

Survivor’s pensions

These reflect Portugal’s commitment to social welfare and family support during loss. The benefits offer financial assistance to surviving spouses, children, or dependents of the deceased. 

Portuguese socialism also strongly advocates for this pension. The country’s socialist policies put great emphasis on community and solidarity and take responsibility to care for those left behind. The security system considers your relationship to the deceased in deciding your eligibility for the pension. It also considers factors of age, disability, or financial dependency. 

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Unemployment benefits

These benefits offer financial support if you have lost your job involuntarily and are actively seeking new employment. The idea is to mitigate the economic impact of unemployment by offering a temporary source of income. And these are applicable until you find a new source of income. 

When assessing your eligibility, you need to consider the following factors: 

  • Your work history;
  • Contributions to the social security system;
  • Circumstances of the job loss.

Family and maternity benefits

These are structured to support individuals and families during significant life events. These are formed to reinforce the significance of family well-being in Portugal’s welfare framework.


Family benefits are a range of financial aid provided to families with dependent children. These benefits are designed to reduce the economic burden of raising children and also include allowances for education, health, and general family support.

Maternity benefits are specifically targeted at expectant mothers. It offers financial assistance during pregnancy and childbirth, which helps cover medical expenses. The financial support helps new mothers to access necessary healthcare services for a speedy recovery. 

Healthcare coverage

The country gives great attention to its healthcare, so consequently, it has a comprehensive set of benefits for health coverage. The coverage guarantees that you can access a range of healthcare services through SNS if you contribute to social security.

The following are the aspects of the healthcare coverage:

  • Primary Healthcare;
  • Hospital Services;
  • Emergency Care;
  • Specialist Consultations;
  • Diagnostic Tests;
  • Prescription Medications.

Healthcare system in Portugal

Known for its efficient and affordable healthcare, Portugal ensures that those services are equally accessible to expats. Portugal’s National Health Service (SNS) is funded through social security contributions, taxes, and other revenue sources. 

The Portuguese Social Security System intricately incorporates healthcare to allow expats the ability to access comprehensive medical services. However, expats need to contribute to the social security system to be entitled to healthcare services. 


Through the social security system, you can access the following efficiently in healthcare:

  • Medical care and consultations;
  • Prescription medications and preventive care;
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital services;
  • Surgical procedures and treatments;
  • Access to emergency departments in hospitals;
  • Referrals to specialists for specialized medical care;
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging;
  • Maternity care, including prenatal and postnatal services;
  • Mental health consultations and treatments;
  • Physical therapy and other rehabilitation services.

The country offers a healthcare subsystem, ADSE, for those directly covered by social security. SNS does offer comprehensive healthcare, but ADSE takes that a step further and allows members to take relief from additional coverage. You can avail benefits, including coverage for dental care, vision care, and prescribed medications through this subsystem.  

While public healthcare provides a commendable service, you can invest in private health insurance for additional services or a quicker treatment process. So you can utilize the combination of healthcare providers and merge the strengths of both public and private sectors for perfectly tailored healthcare solutions.

Health insurance in Portugal

The country’s private health insurance covers a plethora of services, such as quicker access to medical consultations, specialized treatments, and elective procedures. It also includes modern amenities like private hospital accommodations and a broader network of healthcare providers. 

Locals and expats prefer health insurance for specific healthcare needs. For example, if you need surgery that is beyond the equipment of the SNS. Or if you wish to have greater flexibility in selecting your healthcare providers. Insurance also leads to reduced waiting times for medical services.

If you’re in the country’s social security system, you already have access to SNS’s healthcare services. And with insurance, you can supplement those services with tailored healthcare coverage. So this just adds an extra layer of assurance regarding healthcare. 

You can even explore international health insurance plans. These further add a layer of security to your healthcare as they provide coverage beyond the country’s borders. International plans are a global safety net, ideal for expats with frequent international travel. 

Remember to research and choose a policy that meets your specific healthcare needs and budget. Lastly, be aware of the healthcare options in your particular region of Portugal, as these may vary slightly depending on each city.

Do you need help understanding the Portuguese Social Security System?

We hope this guide was able to help you answer the most common questions you had about the social security system! But it’s okay if it didn’t. Head over to schedule a call with our immigration representatives and ask them questions. 

From your Visa application to helping you settle in your new apartment, we’re here every step of the way. Viv Europe is here every step of the way!

If you want to read stories and get inspired, check out our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. A community of Portugal enthusiasts is waiting for you to ask questions and share your concerns! 



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