How To Register for Portuguese Healthcare & Get a Número de Utente

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Published: March 2021 & Last Updated: September 2022

You’ve probably heard of the NIF, the tax number without which it’s impossible to do very much in Portugal. Well, another important number that you will need is the número de utente or SNS number

The SNS number allows you to access the Portuguese public healthcare system. That doesn’t just mean emergency care at A&E but also access to doctors and nurses at your local centro de saúde (community healthcare centre). Because healthcare is important, this is something that you should organise as soon as you are able to, which is once you are resident in Portugal. 

Finding your nearest centro de saúde

To register for your SNS number you will need to look up the centro de saúde nearest to your property. Google Maps is probably the easiest tool to use here, but there’s also centrosdesaude.pt. Don’t be put off by negative reviews on Google: just about every centro de saúde seems to have them. 

Registering 

You will then need to bring the following documents in order to register. 

  • Passport or ID
  • Proof of residency, such as your CRUE or residency certificate 
  • Proof of address 
  • NIF, either on a card or the printed paper from Finanças (Don’t have one? Try Bordr or E-Residence or read more about getting a NIF here)
  • Cartão de cidadão (citizen’s card) or, if you don’t already have your citizen’s card, your SEF invitation letter
  • NISS or social security number (may not be asked for or necessary if you don’t work)
  • Portuguese mobile number

The ease of registering and obtaining a número de utente can vary from one centro de saúde. It can even vary depending on who’s working on reception that particular day. Some people are incredibly helpful. Others, it seems, try to come up with reasons that you can’t register. 

Although many doctors speak English, don’t assume that the person on the desk will. Because of this, it’s a good idea to learn some basic phrases in advance and to have memorised important numbers (like your phone number and NIF) and name in Portuguese. 

Next Steps

That’s it. The person behind the desk should register you and give you your número de utente and you will now be able to book an appointment to see a doctor or nurse. 

Due to the long waiting lists that are common within the public system, many expats also choose to get private health insurance to cut down on the costs of using the private hospitals. You can read more about private health insurance here.

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Comments

  1. Hello, I want to thank you for this information.

    I have a Portuguese residence permit but I had no idea how to get a Número de Utente.

    I followed your instructions and sent an email with a copy of my passport and residence card to the address you indicated. I got an auto-reply that it might take 3-4 weeks to get my SES number.

    What actually happened is that is that it took THREE MONTHS. But at least I got it!!!

    Your information here was correct and helpful.

    Reply
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  3. Hi,
    I was on holidays in the Algarve in July and got Covid. I now need to get a certificate of recovery from Portugal however I can’t access it because I don’t have a número de utente. I have rung the SNS helpline multiple times and I have not gotten any real answer. Is there anyway to get a provisional number just to get the certificate?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • hi Eve were you able to figure this out? My parents are having the same issue i’m Portugal after testing positive for covid before returning to the United States

      Reply
  4. I applied for my Utente directly at the Cascais health center around April 2020(!) and never heard back from them, never received my Utente number. This has not really been a problem until recently, and now I'm stuck without access to the vaccine. The link above to applying for an appointment without the Utente number works, but I - like the other commenter - I have tried it before and never heard back from anyone. Currently on holiday in my birth-country, Denmark, I was recently told that I should be vaccinated in my country of residence - or - stay in Denmark at least a full month in order to complete the vaccination program there, which is a problematic solution for most, including me, to say the least.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea,

      Yes, it does seem like nobody is replying to people that fill out that form.

      Some people are managing to get vaccinated without a numero de utente, especially if they're 50+. Have a read of this article: https://www.portugalist.com/covid-vaccine-problems-portugal/

      Reply
    • Hi Andreas
      Did you ever resolve this? I’m trying to get my utente number in Cascais although I can’t figure out the process here.
      Regards
      Sam

      Reply
  5. Hei someone can help me? I’m have permanent residence visa in Norway and my son is 5 years old now and have norwegian passport, we can take easy utente number or ? Tanks for help !

    Reply
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  7. Hi,
    I am Russell. I have Portuguese Residency. My wife just came couple of months here. She is got NIF, Social Number and SEF appointment. I just want to know how to apply SNS number online and get quickly. Even I applied 3,4 times here-( https://servicos.min-saude.pt/covid19/vacinacao-nao-utente ), but still nothing.
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  8. Hi,

    I noticed above that you were able to recommend someone to fight for the paperwork to be done. Could I get the same recommendation please?
    my husband has been waiting for 6 months for residency and still doesn't even have an appointment with SEF, and I have residency but have been waiting for 4 months since then for an SNS. In the meantime we are both paying taxes which have gone through no problem!

    Thanks

    Reply
  9. How do i get a Utente number i have my recidencia and social security number and fiscal number.Regards from Gitte

    Reply
  10. Hi,
    We are looking for a great, street fighting expat agency that will partner with us to fight the bureaucratic BS that allows us to pay social security in Portugal but not get access to healthcare and vaccines. We also want someone to sit with us and get us set up on all the government systems — we already have our NIF, NISS and EU residency certificates.
    Do you have any recommendations?

    Reply
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  12. Hi My name is Jeannette Horta. I’m 74 years old my husband is Portuguese. I applied for my documents for permanent residence ce from last year. Just finally got an appt with SEF at the end of August. My husband got vaccinated but they told me I cannot get vaccinated because I do not have a utente #. How can I get an Utente right away so I can get vaccinated? I hate to wait till end of August. Please help me with this issue!! Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Jeannette

      There is a form you can fill in if you don't have a utente number: https://servicos.min-saude.pt/covid19/vacinacao-nao-utente

      (There's a button to switch this to English in the top right hand corner)

      Reply
  13. Hello!

    I am not a resident.
    I will volunteer at a hostel in Lisbon soon, and they say I need a work-rekated health insurance. I'm from Belgium and I don't know what that is. Do I need to check with my travel insurance? My Belgian health insurance? I'm confused.

    Thank you

    Reply