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Insurance for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: September 2014

Fundamentally, insurance is mainly a financial service which is designed to reduce risks. An insurance product transforms the cost of your potential large liabilities or expenses into regular premiums. An insurance product “ensures” that your situation is more stable/less risky than what it would otherwise be, but it is certainly not a way to evade the liabilities you are potentially responsible for.

Do not wait for problems to arise before reviewing your insurance arrangements. Once you have a problem, it is already too late. Financially speaking, being poorly insured is risky whereas being over-insured is expensive.

There is some competition between insurers on the Portuguese market. Consequently, it is advisable to shop around and compare before taking out an insurance policy (premiums, levels of coverage, discounts, etc.). Insurance products can be sold by insurance companies or by banks.

If you are unclear about your cover or your needs whilst you are in Portugal, you might wish to first review your existing insurance arrangements in your country of origin. This is important if you want to avoid double coverage.

Insurance isn’t necessarily a country-specific issue, but how much insurance you need may vary from one country to another. This is because your potential liabilities, such as medical bills, are specific to a jurisdiction.


Home insurance (Habitação)

Your home insurance needs depend on whether you own your home, or if you rent it.

For property owners, an insurance policy protects you against damage to your building, and is generally required to secure a mortgage. This is commonly referred to as the “buildings” component (Edificios). This may cover the costs of rebuilding your property from scratch or the costs of certain exceptional repairs. A basic home insurance policy should also cover you against third party liability if an accident happens in your home

For tenants, only third party liability insurance and contents insurance (Conteúdos) may be needed.


Making a claim

If you want your unforeseen expenses to be reimbursed to your insurer, you may have to ask for their prior approval, save for force majeure cases.

Such procedures would typically be explained in your insurance policy.


Going away from home

If you expect to be away from your home for more than one month, you should let your insurer know. Failure to do so may result in a claim being rejected if something happens to your home whilst you are away.


Home insurance exclusions

Check if something is excluded from your home insurance policy. In Portugal, common home insurance exclusions are:

Unless you pay extra, the following additional exclusions may apply:


Car insurance

Car insurance is mandatory in Portugal, and your policy must generally include at least third party cover. This should insure you against potential liabilities to third parties, but not damage or theft of your own car.

If you need your vehicle to have more than just third party cover, you might wish to take out a comprehensive vehicle insurance policy. As car insurance can be expensive, you should take some time to shop around and negotiate fair quotes.


Bringing a foreign car

If you are taking a foreign-registered car to Portugal, your car registration plate will serve as evidence that your car is insured. This, however, will apply only if your car is registered in the EU or various other neighbouring countries party to the Green Card system.

From a practical point of view, you should check your insurer’s requirements in the event you need to make a claim for an accident in Portugal. This information may be already available on your insurer’s website or on the documents you have been given from your insurer so far. If not, you might wish to give a call to your insurer before coming to Portugal.


Health insurance (Seguro de saúde)

Portugal has a comprehensive social insurance system that includes subsidised treatment through the public healthcare system. Accordingly, the common issue with health insurance is to avoid double coverage. If you are not covered by the Portuguese Social Security, private health insurance is strongly recommended.

However, those covered by social insurance may still be interested in private health insurance if they wish to rely on private sector treatment. This could be, for example, to avoid waiting times for specialist care.

Premiums can range from €200 to €1,000 per year.


Life insurance

Basic life insurance policy

Life insurance (Seguro de vida) can be particularly helpful if your family is financially very dependent on you, as it may guarantee a lump sum payment to your family if you die. In Portugal, life insurance may be required for a mortgage.

Do assess carefully the burden of retaining foreign life insurance while you are resident in Portugal. Do also check the geographical extent of your existing life insurance policy when you move across borders.


Endowment policies

Portuguese financial institutions may sell life insurance as an investment product. Usually, this will look like a long-term investment bond with the following features:

Future yields cannot be guaranteed, and they are more likely to go down than up. Before signing up for an endowment policy, feel free to ask how the yields have been like over the previous years.


Business insurance/employers insurance

If you are going to run a business in Portugal, you will need to have at least personnel and public liability insurance.

Portuguese law also requires personnel insurance for those who hire domestic workers.



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