There are several numbers that you typically need when you live in Portugal. The most common of these, the NIF, is asked almost every time you make a purchase or register for something. Then there’s the numéro de utente or SNS number, which you will need to use the public healthcare system. One other number that you may need is the NISS (Número de Identificação de Segurança Social) or social security number.
Unlike the NIF, which everyone living in Portugal needs, not everyone needs a NISS. You only need it if you’re working in Portugal, for example as an employee, a freelancer, or student. If you’re retired, for example, you may not need a NISS.
The NISS ensures social security payments are collected on your behalf. This is important because it’s a requirement but also because it entitles you to segurança social, for example if you lose your job or are unable to work due to sickness.
There are two ways to get a NISS. The first is to use a company or law firm to obtain the number for you. E-residence, for example, can obtain a NISS in 5 days and at a cost of €150. The entire process is done online and you only need to upload your NIF and passport.
The second option is the do-it-yourself option. You will need to visit your nearest Segurança Social office and give them the application form and other required documents.
You will typically need:
- Your passport or ID card
- Your NIF number (E-Residence also offers this as a service, as does Bordr.io. More info about getting a NIF here)
- Your residence permit
- Proof of address
- Application form (for self employed/freelancers)
Note: Freelancers often need six months of tax contributions registered with Finanças before they are able to register for a NISS at a Segurança Social office.
If you’re an employee working at a Portuguese company, your employer will most likely help you obtain the NISS. However, double check this is the case as you will want to make sure you are making social security contributions.
One challenge people moving to Portugal often come across is that their employer may ask for a NISS in order to provide a contract. However, if they do not have the NISS yet, it’s not always as easy as asking your nearest Segurança Social office to provide one – they’ll ask for a work contract. To get around this bureaucratic dilemma, many companies will provide a letter of intention to offer a work contract (rather than the actual work contract) which seems to satisfy Segurança Social.
If you do not yet have a work contract you can technically get a NISS, but it seems to be more complicated.
Somewhat surprisingly, children also need a NISS number in order to go to school. As blogger Alicia writes,
“You must get a NISS number,” said the teacher, standing in the sunlight and showing me a piece of paper with a list scribbled on it. “We need a NISS, and a vaccination certificate for your son. Also a health card.” All that? Where do we start?