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A Comprehensive Guide on How to Become a Foreign Nurse in Portugal

Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world, due to its low crime rate. Aside from that, there are also several beautiful places that you can visit in the country. Truly, it is a dream destination to work in. Portugal is also in need of more healthcare workers, which could give you a higher chance of landing a job in the country. Before moving to Portugal, it is important that you provide all the necessary documents and requirements. It is also important to secure a job first. Learn more about how to become a nurse in Portugal through this article.

About the Country

 Portugal, or officially known as the Portuguese Republic, is a country located along the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula in Southwestern Europe. The country has a relatively warm climate, however, it differs per region. The south region is more arid, while the northwest regions are more rainy. The northeast region experiences long and warm summers.

During 2019, Portugal ranked as fourth among the safest countries in the world, based on the Global Finance Magazine. The country has a low crime rate. In fact, the Portuguese are generally kind and welcoming individuals that treat immigrants with warmth, friendliness, and openness. On the other hand, in 2020, it ranked third in the Global ranking of peaceful countries. In addition, in 2020, Portugal received 26 World Travel Awards for their attractions, beaches and resorts. The country is perfect for individuals who prefer a more relaxed pace of life, as the Portuguese are often not in a rush when going out. The cost of living in the country is also quite inexpensive, wherein the basic living cost is relatively lower as compared to the costs in European countries, such as Switzerland, Austria, United Kingdom (UK), and even Spain. In addition, the government spends roughly 9 percent of its GDP on healthcare per year, which explains why their healthcare system is significantly efficient.

Type of Nurses

There is a wide-range of nursing careers for you to choose from in the country. The basic level of nursing in Portugal is the General Care Nurse (Enfermeiro). If you decide to take post nursing training courses, you could become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (Enfermeiro Especialista). 

General Care Nurse (Enfermeiro)

General Care Nurses offer direct patient care, such as washing and clothing patients, providing doctor-prescribed medicines, and taking fluid samples. They are also responsible for conducting physical examinations, listing down the health history of patients, and checking the vital signs of the patient. 

Clinical Nurse Specialist (Enfermeiro Especialista)

Clinical nurse specialists have the knowledge and abilities to detect any gaps in the services of healthcare. They aid in the design and implementation of interventions, as well as their assessment and evaluation, in order to enhance the overall delivery of healthcare.


 Based on, the average salary of nurses in Portugal is 2,660 EUR (₱151,892.31) per month. The salary of nurses is highly dependent on the amount of experience and qualifications that they have. Entry-level nurses earn an average salary of 1,710 EUR (₱97,645.05), whereas senior nurses earn an average salary of 5,120 EUR (₱292,364.14) monthly. Furthermore, the specific nursing career that you choose could also affect your salary. For instance, Acute Care Nurses have an average salary of 2,440 EUR (₱139,329.79) per month, while Neonatal Nurse Practitioners earn an average salary of 3,080 EUR (₱175,875.3) monthly.

Demand for Nurses

In 2018, there were around 41,000 nurses employed by the Portuguese Health Service, however it was said that the country was in need of 30,000 more nurses to meet the demands for nurses. The shortage in nurses can be further illustrated by the fact that there are less than 5000 nurses per one million individuals in Portugal. In addition to this, the pandemic has taken a greater toll on the country’s healthcare system, causing an even higher demand for nurses in the country. With these, it is more likely that you could find a nursing job in the country.


Based on the National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estatística), there are a total of 238 hospitals in Portugal, wherein 127 of these are private hospitals and the remainder are either public or partially supported by the state. 

Private hospitals

Private clinics in the country provide a greater level of care, wherein it is likely that you could book an appointment sooner as compared to in public clinics. The private medical facilities in Portugal include Saint Louis Hospital, Hospital da Luz Oia, Hospital CUF Infante Santo, SA, Surgical Medical Clinic of Santa Tecla, Lda, Hospital da Luz Arrábida, Hospital Particular do Algarve, SA, Hospital da Luz Aveiro, and Trofa Private Hospital, SA

Public hospitals 

The public hospitals in the country are dependent on the state through the National Health Service (SNS). It is utilized by a vast majority of the people. The SNS provides primary and specialized health care to the whole population of mainland Portugal at no cost. Public hospitals in Portugal include Hospital de Santa Maria, Hospital Pulido Valente, Hospital de Egas Moniz, Hospital de Faro, Hospital de Lagos, and Hospital Beatriz Ângelo. 

Educational Requirement

Just like in most countries, in order to become a nurse in Portugal, you must have obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and a valid license issued by an institution that is recognized by the country

Language Requirement

The official language of the country is Portuguese, which you may have to use when speaking to your co-workers, patients and their families. Therefore, it is important to be able to understand and speak the language even at a minimum, in order to efficiently communicate with locals in the country. Language proficiency in Portuguese is no longer required in order to work as a nurse in the country. Despite this, it is essential that you obtain an advanced level of English and the necessary skills in the Portuguese language, in order to be qualified to work in the institutions of the country. These language skills will be important when you practice nursing in Portugal.


If you obtained your nursing education outside of Portugal, you must submit your application to the Portuguese Nursing Society. You must also submit the necessary documents that are required by the authorities. The following are some of the documents required for the application: Proof of citizenship, Copy of professional certificate or license, Evidence of professional experience, Proof that you do not have any criminal history, Medical certificate certifying your fitness to work, and Proof of financial standing and insurance. All of the required documents must be notarized and legalized by the authority in your country of origin. Aside from that, you must also provide a certified translation of the papers, as well as original copies  of these. The forms and other information could be found on the Ordem dos enfermeiros website.


 Some institutions may require you to take an English proficiency examination if you are unable to speak the Portuguese language. The accepted exams are the TOEFL iBT, IELTS, and PTE A.

Test of English as a Foreign Language – Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)

The Test of English as a Foreign Language – Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT) is an English-language test that is accepted worldwide for academic, professional and immigration purposes. Most universities and institutions prefer this exam. The exam will assess your proficiency in the English language. There are four sections in this exam, namely the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections, wherein you will be given about 3 hours to complete the exam. 

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is recognized by more than 11,000 educational and training institutions around the world. There are also four sections in this exam, which include the listening, reading, writing, and speaking exams. In addition, you may choose between two different IELTS modules to take, the academic and general training. The academic module is for individuals who will take their undergraduate or postgraduate levels, and for professional registration, which include doctors and nurses. On the other hand, the general training module is for those who wish to migrate to an English-speaking country, or study at a level below degree.  In both modules, the speaking and listening exams are identical. However, they vary in the reading and writing exams. 

Pearson Test of English – Academic (PTE-A)

In the Pearson Test of English, you will be required to take the C1 or C2 levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which are the advanced and proficient general levels, respectively. Unlike the other two aforementioned exams, the PTE-A only has three sections, namely, the speaking and writing, reading, and listening sections. 

Make sure to prepare the necessary documents so that you will not encounter any delays in the application process. Study in advance for your preferred English Proficiency Examination in order to secure a high score! Once you have successfully submitted all the requirements, and have been deemed eligible to work in the country, you are now one step closer to becoming a nurse in Portugal!


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