How to Become a Doctor in Portugal (7 Steps)

Portugal is the westernmost country in Europe, bordering Spain to the East and the Atlantic Ocean to the West. It is a nation of very rich history and an enormous influence on the region and the entire world.

After years of exploration and establishing itself as a dominant force in Europe, Portugal is now a modern nation that enjoys one of the highest qualities of living, democracy, peacefulness, and a thriving economy that relies on many industries. Portugal also enjoys a very welcoming climate and beautiful beaches, making it an ideal place for many immigrants. In this article, we will go over the process to become a doctor in Portugal.

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1. Portuguese requirements to become a doctor in Portugal

The Portuguese language is spoken by over 250 million people throughout the globe and is one of the most popular ones that foreign speakers look to learn. It is closely related to Spanish, and Spanish, as well as Italian and French speakers, will have a significantly easier time when learning Portuguese. But, even for non-Spanish speakers, learning this language should not be a very difficult task and can be accomplished with a few years of dedicated practice. This is not the case for Asian speakers, as they will probably take much longer to get used to the vastly different letters and grammar.

Unless the aspiring doctor completed his medical education in Portugal, he/she will be required to pass a language skills exam by the Portuguese Medical Association before becoming a doctor in Portugal. Knowing all of the medical terms and phrases can be particularly difficult and can take years to fully master, which can prove to be a big problem when taking this exam.

2. Enroll in Portuguese medical schools if possible

Medicine is one of the oldest subjects taught in Portuguese universities and is still a very popular subject among native and international students. There are currently 7 medical schools in Portugal, two in Porto and Lisbon, and one in Coimbra, Faro, and Covilha. Each of them has a slightly unique curriculum, but they all last for 6 years and aim to equip you with the appropriate skills in pathology, physiology, and physiopathology to be able to deal with various diseases that you may encounter with your patients over the course of your career.

For further specialization in a certain area, you have to take the National Seriation Test, and if you pass it with good grades, you have the chance to pursue a vacancy in the area that you wish to specialize in. Only a limited number of vacancies are available each year, depending on your field.

3. Pass the medical exams and complete the residency

The process for becoming a doctor in Portugal is not very complicated, and the only test that needs to be taken if you haven’t graduated from a Portuguese university is the Language Exam by the Portuguese Medical Association, also known as the Order of Physicians. If you are a foreign graduate, you will also need a certificate of equivalency for your degree issued by a Portuguese university.

All medical graduates in Portugal are required to complete a 1 year residency period in a hospital, after which they can choose to either specialize further or begin working as a general practitioner. Foreign graduates can avoid the residency if they have spent 3 of the last 5 years working as a health professional. If they don’t meet this requirement, they will have to complete the one-year residency just like the Portuguese graduates.

4. Becoming Medically Licensed in Portugal

The Order of Physicians is the licensing body for all medical practitioners in Portugal. There are a few documents you will need to register as a doctor. EU citizens have to provide a certificate of good standing from their country of origin, a document that proves a clean criminal record, a Portuguese tax ID number, a medical degree, as well as to pay the registration fee. Non-EU citizens have to also have their degree certified, provide a Curriculum Vitae as proof of professional activity, and proof that they have spent 3 of the last 5 years practicing medicine. More information on this can be found here.

The entire licensing process lasts for a period of 5 to 6 months. Once you get licensed, you can keep the license forever as re-certification is not required. Then, you can become a doctor in Portugal!

5. Work Visa Details

EU nationals can freely move to Portugal and start working as a doctor in Portugal after they get licensed in the country, however, those outside the EU will need the Residence Visa for highly qualified activity if they want to reside and work in Portugal. This visa is dedicated to skilled workers who will stay in the country for at least one year. After the first year, the visa is valid for 2 more, after which it has to be renewed. More information on the visa and the documentation required can be found here.

Alternatively, one can opt to apply for an EU Blue Card, which grants all non-EU citizens the ability to move and work in member states of the EU. You can apply for the EU Blue Card online.

Apart from this, doctors also need to register for a residence permit with the local town hall. After spending 5 years working in Portugal, they can apply for permanent residence.

6. Getting a Job

Foreign doctors are a common theme in Portugal, and since many health care professionals are beginning to emigrate from the country, there are more and more vacancies opening up, especially in more remote areas. This means that becoming a doctor at a Portuguese hospital shouldn’t be too difficult, and the ACSS site even posts vacancies for both internships and full-time positions.

Starting your private practice is also a viable option, and you can freely do so after you become medically licensed. However, you will need a significant financial investment in order to comply with all of the regulations for medical institutions in the country.

7. How can foreign-trained doctors become a doctor in Portugal

Foreign-trained doctors need to follow a fairly straightforward procedure in order to become a doctor in Portugal. First, they need to spend 3 of the last 5 years working as a medical professional in another country to be eligible for the medical license in Portugal. Alternatively, they can complete a one-year residency in Portugal to meet that requirement. The next step is to take and pass the language exam for medical professionals. If they pass the exam, they can send all of the required documents to the Order of Physicians, which is the licensing body for all medical practitioners in the country.

The next step after getting licensed is to get a work and residence permit to be allowed to work in Portugal. For EU citizens, this is not required. The final step is to find a job position. There are plenty of vacancies available, especially in rural areas.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Europe Scholarships Page.