Legal Information and Protection

Useful Information

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The legal framework governing access to the law and the courts, provided for in Article 20 of the Portuguese constitution and enshrined in Law No. 34/2004 of 29 July, takes account of legal information and protection, covering the form in which legal consultation and legal aid should be provided.

Legal Aid

The right to legal aid – access to the law and the courts – ensures that no one is hindered or prevented from knowing, exercising or defending their rights, whether for social or cultural rasons or due to insufficient financial means.

All Member States of the European Union (EU) have legal systems which contemplate civil and criminal proceedings in national and cross-border disputes.

By law, all national and EU citizens are entitled to legal aid, as are non-profit organisations, foreigners or stateless persons with residence permits valid in a Member State of the EU who can demonstrate that they have insufficient financial means (lacking the objective conditions to bear the occasional costs of a lawsuit) and foreigners without residence permits valid in a Member State of the EU in the same situation.

If a foreign individual enters into litigation with a company, liberal professional, employer, or any other person in Portugal and does not have sufficient funds to pay for the legal costs, s/he may request legal aid for cross-border disputes. This aid includes prior legal counselling aimed at reaching an agreement to avoid the institution of legal proceedings, assistance with commencing proceedings, court representation and a contribution to pay fees or even the waiving of these fees.

In the event that legal aid is requested by a foreigner or stateless person, this aid will also cover:

  • interpreting services;
  • the translation of documents required by the court or the competent authority that are necessary to resolve the dispute;
  • the travel expenses borne by the plaintiff, as and when the law and court require the parties involved in the dispute to be physically present.

To obtain legal aid, it is necessary to fill in the appropriate forms. These can be obtained, free of charge, in paper format, at any Social Security customer service office, or in digital format aTt:

After filling the forms, they should be submitted by hand, by fax, by post or by email to the Social Security department. The final decision on whether legal aid will be granted or not is the responsibility of the latter, which shall notify the plaintiff of its final decision.

Legal aid may be requested by the party interested in obtaining it, by the public prosecutor's office on behalf of the interested party or by a lawyer, trainee lawyer or solicitor representing the interested party.

Legal Advice

The National Immigrant Support Centre (CNAI) is also equipped with an Immigrant Legal Aid Office which can provide free legal aid to any immigrant who asks for advice. This Office provides information, counselling, forwarding and mediation on matters as diverse as, amongst others, immigration, nationality, work, social security, minors and access to the law and courts. Contact can be established via the Immigrant SOS Hotline (Linha SOS Imigrante), which also allows you to book an appointment by phone at any of the CNAI Legal Aid Offices or at the Working Conditions Authority (ACT).

  • CNAI – Porto
    Rua do Pinheiro, nº 9
    4050-484 Porto
    Tel: + 351 222073810
    Fax: + 351 222073817
    Mon-Fri  08:30-16:30; Sat 09:00-13:00
  • Line SOS Immigrant
    Tel. 808 257 257 (valid in Portugal)
    Tel. +351 218 106 191 (mobile network and from abroad)
    Mon-Sat – 08:30-20:30

Published 22-05-2013