Regular procedure


Country Report: Regular procedure Last updated: 26/05/22


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General (scope, time limits)

The first instance determining authority is required to take a decision on the asylum application within 6 months. This time limit is additional to the duration of the admissibility procedure and can be extended to 9 months in cases of particular complexity.[1] The Asylum Act does not provide for specific consequences in case of failure to meet the time limit and, in practice, asylum seekers are reluctant to act on the delay on the basis of general administrative guarantees, e.g., by requesting Administrative Courts to order SEF to issue a decision on the application within a given time limit.[2]

The significant increase in the number of spontaneously arriving asylum seekers and relocated asylum seekers has led SEF-GAR to recruit additional staff in the recent years (the number of staff slightly decreased in 2021). In 2019, there were 1,849 spontaneous asylum applicants in Portugal, up from 1,270 in 2018.[3] In 2020, there were 1,002 asylum applications in Portugal,[4] a decrease likely linked to the travel restrictions enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, a total of 1,537 applications were registered (including relocated applicants and persons evacuated from Afghanistan – see: Registration of the asylum application).

SEF was not able to share an estimation of the average duration of the procedure at first instance for 2021. The 2021 Statistical Report of Asylum also does not indicate the average duration of the asylum procedure.[5]

The UN Human Rights Committee, in its Concluding Observations published in 2020, expressed concern with “[r]eported delays in the processing of regular asylum applications and in the issuance and renewal of residence permits.” The Committee recommended that Portugal “continue its efforts to maintain and strengthen the quality of its refugee status determination procedures, in order to fairly and efficiently identify and recognize those in need of international protection and to afford sufficient guarantees of respect for the principle of non-refoulement under the Covenant.”[6]

CPR was able to gather information on 82 regular procedure decisions issued in the course of 2021, including decisions communicated by SEF in accordance with the law, and decisions that reached CPR’s knowledge by other avenues, i.e., through direct contacts with applicants. In these cases,[7] the overall duration of the procedure[8] ranged from 46 to 2,216 days, with an average duration of 1,053 days. CPR is uncertain whether the low number of notifications of asylum decisions is related to gaps in communication or indicates further delays in the decision-making process (or a combination of both).

A study focusing on the situation of asylum-seeking unaccompanied children and ageing out in Portugal published in 2021 revealed that among those questioned, the majority waited for more than 12 months for a decision on their application for international protection.[9]

In the context of the provision of legal assistance to asylum seekers, CPR has also at times observed significant delays in the execution of judicial decisions by SEF (up to one year or more in some cases). According to CPR’s observation, this mostly concerned the execution of judicial decisions that annulled first instance decisions rejecting applications in accelerated procedures and consequently condemned the Administration to channelling them into the regular procedure, or Dublin cases that should be reprocessed. CPR also observed that, apparently, the authorities consider that the 30 days mandatory deadline for decisions regarding the inadmissibility/accelerated analysis of applications does not apply in these circumstances, and, as such, do not deem the applications admitted to the regular procedure when the deadline is elapsed.


Prioritised examination and fast-track processing

While no statistics are available,[10] according to SEF, cases of pregnant women, of applicants accompanied by young children, of elderly persons, and of applicants in need of medical care are fast-tracked. SEF did not share information on the impact of fast-tracking in the average duration of the procedure.

As at the time of writing, CPR’s observation does not indicate a clear trend in this regard.


Personal interview

The Asylum Act provides for the systematic personal interview of all asylum seekers in the regular procedure prior to the issuance of a first instance decision.[12] The personal interview can only be waived where:

  1. The evidence already available allows for a positive decision; or
  2. The applicant lacks legal capacity due to long-lasting reasons beyond his or her control.[13]

If the interview is waived, SEF is required to offer the applicant or his/her dependant(s) the opportunity to communicate relevant information by other means.[14]

The asylum seeker is entitled to give his/her statement in his/her preferred language or in any other language that he/she understands and in which he/she is able to communicate clearly.[15] To that end, the asylum seeker is entitled to the assistance of an interpreter when applying for asylum and throughout the asylum procedure, if needed.[16] The asylum seeker can also be assisted by a lawyer but the absence thereof does not preclude SEF from conducting the interview.[17]

The transposition of the provisions of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive (APD) regarding the personal interview into national legislation presents some incompatibilities, most notably:

  • Cases of applicants deemed unfit/unable to be interviewed due to enduring circumstances beyond their control – the final part of Article 14(2)(b) of the recast APD was not transposed (“[w]hen in doubt, the determining authority shall consult a medical professional to establish whether the condition that makes the applicant unfit or unable to be interviewed is of a temporary or enduring nature). The safeguard contained in Article 14(4) of the recast APD, determining that the absence of a personal interview in such situations “shall not adversely affect the decision of the determining authority”, was also not explicitly transposed to the Asylum Act.
  • Conditions of the personal interview – the requirements set out in Article 15 of the recast APD, particularly those regarding to the characteristics of the interviewer and the use of interpreters (Article 15(3) recast APD), are not fully transposed. Furthermore, and without prejudice to Article 84 of the Asylum Act which refers to the adequate training of all staff working with applicants and beneficiaries of international protection, the specific training requirement for interviewers provided for in Article 4(3) of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive was not transposed to the domestic order (“[p]ersons interviewing applicants pursuant to this Directive shall also have acquired general knowledge of problems which could adversely affect the applicants’ ability to be interviewed, such as indications that the applicant may have been tortured in the past.”).
  • Content of the personal interview – the final part of Article 16 of the recast APD, establishing that the personal interview “shall include the opportunity to give an explanation regarding elements which may be missing and/or any inconsistencies or contradictions in the applicant’s statements” was not transposed to the Asylum Act.

The Asylum Act does not provide a right for the applicant to request the interviewer and/or the interpreter to be of a specific gender (Article 15(3)(b) and (c) of the recast APD). According to the information provided by SEF, this can happen in practice when the applicant so requests and if it is possible, but it is unclear to CPR whether applicants are systematically made aware of that possibility. Information on the criteria used to analyse such requests or the arrangements in place to ensure effectiveness is not available.

SEF affirmed that applicants are guaranteed the right to an interview before any decision regarding their application is adopted, emphasising that interviews can only be waived in the cases listed in the Asylum Act. SEF also noted that interviews are conducted in all types of procedure, including Dublin. According to CPR’s observation in 2021, personal interviews were generally conducted in practice. Nevertheless, CPR has also identified at least one instance of a relocated applicant where the interview conducted in the Member State of arrival was apparently used to analyse the case in Portugal without the applicant being offered a full interview in accordance with the applicable Portuguese legislation. CPR could not ascertain whether this is, or has been, a systematic practice within the context of relocation of applicants for international protection.

According to SEF, interviews were not conducted by remote communication means.

The interview is generally conducted by SEF-GAR, although some interviews may be conducted by SEF’s regional delegations in cases of asylum applications made in more remote locations. Such interviews are conducted on the basis of a questionnaire prepared by SEF-GAR. According to CPR’s observations, the interviews conducted by the SEF’s regional delegations tend to have further accuracy issues and sometimes fail to adequately clarify material facts of the claim.

In the course of 2021, CPR was informed by SEF of the adoption of decisions not to proceed with the analysis of the application due to the impossibility of performing the personal interview (e.g., because the applicant absconded), on the basis of general administrative procedure rules.[18] Procedures were also suspended in cases where age assessment procedures were triggered by the Family Courts and while results were pending.[19] Within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, decisions suspending the procedure were also adopted when it was not possible to conduct an interview due to quarantine/isolation of the applicant.[20]

Throughout the year, CPR was also informed of decisions extinguishing the asylum procedure according to Article 32 of the Asylum Act, either due to explicit or implicit withdrawal of the application. According to the law, an application is deemed as implicitly withdrawn if the procedure is inactive for more than 90 days, namely if the applicant: (i) does not provide essential information for his/her application when requested to do so; (ii) does not attend the personal interview; (iii) absconds without contacting SEF; (iv) does not comply with the obligation to appear or to communicate with the authorities.[21] The competence to determine the extinction of an application belongs to the National Director of SEF.[22] Notwithstanding, the applicant is entitled to reopen his/her asylum case by presenting him/herself to SEF at a later stage. In this case, the file is to be resumed at the exact stage where it was discontinued.[23] According to CPR’s observation, these decisions usually follow the above-mentioned decisions not to proceed with the analysis of an application.

A number of decisions from TCA South issued in 2021 focused on the right of the applicant to request legal aid in order to have a lawyer present during the interview. According to the analysed decisions, the Court overall considers that:

  • Applicants for international protection may request legal aid in order to have a lawyer present in the asylum interview;[24]
  • The performance of an asylum interview without a lawyer present per se does not violate the Portuguese Constitution;[25]
  • To effectively guarantee the applicant’s rights, the authority (SEF) must fully and correctly inform the applicant of the possibility of being accompanied by a lawyer in the interview and of applying to legal aid for that purpose. If that does not happen, the decision on the asylum application may be annulled.[26]

According to the available information, at the time of writing, the appeal of one such case was pending in the Supreme Administrative Court (STA).[27]


The quality of interpretation services used for interviews remains a serious challenge, as in many cases service providers are not trained interpreters but rather individuals with sufficient command of source languages. Interpreters are bound by a legal duty of confidentiality. It is unclear whether SEF has a code of conduct/guidance applicable to interpreters.

According to CPR’s experience, securing interpreters with an adequate command of certain target languages remains challenging (e.g., Tigrinya, Pashto, Bambara, Lingala, Tamil, Kurdish, Mandinka, Nepalese, Sinhalese, Bengali, and Gujarati).

Recording and report

The Asylum Act does not provide for the audio and/or video recording of the interview or for conducting interviews and/or interpretation through videoconferencing, and CPR is not aware of its use.

SEF produces a written report summarising the most important elements raised during the interview. Until 2020, the interview report was immediately provided to the applicant who had 5 days to submit comments.[28] Since the second half of 2020, CPR observed a shift in the practice of SEF in this regard.

Currently, while the interview report is provided to the applicant upon completion of the personal interview, he/she is not given the 5-day deadline to comment/correct/add information to the document. Instead, SEF notifies the asylum seeker of another document, that summarises the key information that will underlie the decision to deem the application admissible/not unfounded and, as such, submit it to the regular procedure, or to reject it as inadmissible/unfounded (accelerated procedure). The applicant then has 5 days to submit comments to the summary report.

This summary report broadly contains information on: (i) identification of the applicant; (ii) family members; (iii) time and place of the application for international protection; (iv) prior information; (v) itinerary; (vi) summary of the facts that will underlie the decision;[29] (vii) the prospective decision to be taken (brief reference to the relevant legal basis).

This change in practice was likely linked to the jurisprudential understanding that applicants have a right to be heard about the prospective decision to be taken on their files in any decision within the procedure.[30]

According to law, upon consent of the applicant, the report must also be communicated to UNHCR and to CPR, and the organisations may submit observations within the same deadline.[31] In the past, interview reports were usually communicated to CPR accordingly. Within the context of the above-mentioned shift in practice, SEF-GAR ceased the systematic communication of interview reports and currently communicates the summary reports (although it does not communicate reports for Dublin cases). As such, access to interview transcripts by CPR depends on the applicant. The systematic non-communication of interview transcripts is an obstacle to the full monitoring of the national asylum procedure.

CPR provides systematic legal assistance to asylum seekers at this stage, with the support of interpreters, for the purpose of reviewing and submitting comments/corrections to the summary report and to the interview transcript. According to CPR’s observation, the summary reports sometimes oversimplify the statements provided by the applicant to the authorities, and the merits analysis conducted tends to be simplistic. Furthermore, applicants usually find it difficult to understand the meaning of the document and to comment meaningfully on its content. Given its content and context, this new practice did not seem to improve the quality of the asylum procedure.

CPR has observed inconsistent practices with regard to cases that are to be admitted to the regular procedure.

Depending on the assigned caseworker, the applicant may be notified of a report and given the corresponding deadline to provide written comments, or may be only notified of a decision deeming the application admissible. The latter may prove problematic given that, usually, no further interviews are conducted during the procedure. Consequently, in practice, such applicants are not given the possibility to offer comments on the facts adduced during the interview before being notified of a decision at the final stage of the procedure.

CPR has made efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of this practice by adding the applicant’s comments to the file in accordance with article 28(5) of the Asylum Act, that allows the organisation to add observations on individual cases at any stage of the procedure.

CPR has also been made aware that when the interview is conducted following admission to the regular procedure, the applicants are not, at least in some instances, given the written report of the interview. Moreover, such reports are also not communicated to CPR on a systematic basis.[32]

This practice is problematic as it curtails the applicant’s right to submit comments and corrections to the interview report and may also impact the applicant’s ability to fully exercise other procedural rights at later stages of the procedure (e.g., replying to a proposal of decision on the grant of international protection). Moreover, it seems to be in contradiction both with the domestic legal framework and the recast Asylum Procedures Directive as the relevant requirements apply to the personal interview, regardless of the moment in which it is conducted.[33]



First appeal before the Administrative Court

The Asylum Act provides for an appeal against the first instance decision in the regular procedure consisting of judicial review of relevant facts and points of law by the Administrative Court.[34] The asylum seeker has 15 days to lodge the appeal, which has automatic suspensive effect.[35]

A ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court has clarified that appeals against decisions regarding the grant of asylum are free of charge.[36] This is also established by the Asylum Act that provides for the free and urgent nature of procedures regarding the grant or loss of international protection both in the administrative and judicial stages.[37]

Administrative Courts have a review competence, which allows them to either:

(1) confirm the negative decision of the first instance decision body;

(2) annul the decision and refer the case back to the first instance decision body with guidance on applicable standards;[38] or

(3) overturn it by granting refugee or subsidiary protection status.[39]

The Asylum Act qualifies the judicial review as urgent,[40] and provides for a simplified judicial process with reduced formalities and time limits with the objective of shortening the duration of the judicial review.[41]

A decision issued by TCA South in 2021 confirmed that, when legal aid is requested by the appellant, the appeal is deemed as having been filed on the date of submission of the request for legal aid.[42]

The information provided by the High Council of Administrative and Fiscal Courts (Conselho Superior dos Tribunais Administrativos e Fiscais – CSTAF) for 2021 regarding the duration of judicial reviews of first instance decisions does not make a distinction between the type of asylum procedure. According to these statistics, the average duration of appeals at first instance courts in 2021 was of 2 to 3 months.

While the Asylum Act does not specifically provide for a hearing of the asylum seeker during the appeal procedure, such a guarantee is enshrined in the general procedure that provides for the hearing of the parties.[43] This is rarely used in practice by lawyers and accepted by the Court when requested, as procedures before the Administrative Court tend to be formalistic and essentially written.[44] As a general rule, the hearing of the appeal body is public but the judge may rule for a private audience based on the need to protect the dignity of the individual or the smooth operation of the procedure.[45] CSTAF confirmed that no such hearings have occurred in 2021.

In practice, and without prejudice to issues such as the poor quality of legal Assistance and the merits test applied by the Bar Association, and language barriers that have an impact on the quality and effectiveness of appeals, CPR is not aware of systemic or relevant obstacles faced by asylum seekers in appealing a first instance decision in the regular procedure.

According to the CSTAF, a total of 294 appeals were lodged against negative asylum decisions in 2021, marking a decrease of around 44% compared to 2020. Out of these, 250 were filled in TAC Lisbon. TAC Lisbon rendered decisions on 240 of the appeals filled in 2021 while 10 were pending at the end of the year.

The information provided by the CSTAF for 2021 regarding the outcome of judicial reviews of first instance decisions indicates a poor success rate at appeal stage (12% at TAC Lisbon and 15.5% at national level). As mentioned in Statistics, these figures do not make a distinction between the type of asylum procedure. In the experience of CPR, the majority of the appeals filed usually follow decisions adopted in the accelerated and Dublin procedures. In this regard, it must also be acknowledged that the quality of many appeals submitted is often poor, given that very few lawyers have relevant expertise in the field.

According to the information provided by CSTAF, in early 2022, the Working Group for Administrative and Fiscal Justice, created by the Ministry of Justice, proposed an amendment to the Statute of the Administrative and Fiscal Courts that would allow CSTAF to create specialised sections in the Administrative Courts, namely in the field of asylum. In order for this to be implemented, the Statute would have to be amended and the CSTAF would then have to deliberate on the creation of the relevant section.

Onward appeal

In case of rejection of the appeal, onward appeals are possible before the Central Administrative Court (Tribunal Central Administrativo – TCA), consisting of a full judicial review of relevant facts and points of law,[46] with automatic suspensive effect.[47] Furthermore, the law provides for an additional appeal with automatic suspensive effect before the Supreme Administrative Court (Supremo Tribunal Administrativo, STA) on points of law but only in exceptional cases of fundamental importance of the appeal for legal and social reasons or to improve the quality of legal reasoning in decision-making more broadly.[48] The STA makes its own assessment and decision on the facts of the case.[49] In both cases the asylum seeker has 15 days to lodge the appeal.[50]

The rulings of second instance Administrative Courts (TCA) and the STA are systematically published.[51]

According to information provided by CSTAF, Higher Courts do not collect autonomous data on asylum-related processes. Nevertheless, CSTAF reported that, in 2021, a total of 46 appeals were filed in second instance courts (TCA South and TCA North). Out of these, 6 were filed by the asylum authority (was decided favourably, and 5 were rejected). The remaining 40 were filed by the applicants (of which 6 were decided favourably).


Legal assistance

The Portuguese Constitution enshrines the right of every individual to legal information and judicial remedies regardless of their financial condition.[52]

Legal assistance at first instance

The Asylum Act provides for the right of asylum seekers to free legal assistance at all stages of the asylum procedure, which is to be understood as including the first instance of the regular procedure.[53] Such legal assistance is to be provided without restrictions by a public entity or by a non-governmental organisation in line with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).[54]

Furthermore, under the Asylum Act, UNHCR and CPR as an organisation working on its behalf must be informed of all asylum applications and are entitled to personally contact all asylum seekers irrespective of the place of application to provide information regarding the asylum procedure, as well as regarding their intervention in the procedure (dependent on the consent of the applicant).[55] These organisations are also entitled to be informed of key developments in the asylum procedure upon consent of the applicant,[56] and to present their observations at any time during the procedure pursuant to Article 35 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.[57]

In practice, CPR provides free legal assistance to spontaneous asylum seekers during first instance procedures on the basis of MoUs with the Ministry of Home Affairs and UNHCR. The legal assistance provided by CPR at this stage includes:

  • Providing information regarding the asylum procedure, rights and duties of the applicant;
  • Conducting refugee status determination interviews in order to assist the applicants in reviewing and submitting comments/corrections to the report narrating the most important elements of their interview/application with the determining authority;
  • Providing SEF with observations on applicable legal standards and country of origin information (COI);
  • Providing assistance in accessing free legal aid for appeals; and
  • Assisting lawyers appointed under the free legal aid system in preparing appeals with relevant legal standards and COI.

Regarding particularly vulnerable asylum seekers, CPR provides specific legal assistance to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This includes the presence of a legal officer during the personal interview with SEF (see Legal Representation of Unaccompanied Children) as well as the provision of information and assistance in the framework of procedures before the Family and Juvenile Court.[58]

CPR also provides legal information and assistance to beneficiaries of international protection, including persons within the context of resettlement. This includes, for instance, providing information on the legal status, providing information and assistance in family reunification procedures, nationality acquisition and other integration-related matters, and submitting observations on applicable legal standards when relevant.

In 2021, CPR provided legal support to 817 spontaneously arrived asylum seekers in all types of asylum procedures lodged throughout the year, which represents around 58% of the total number of applications communicated to CPR according to the law (1,433) and 53% of the total number of applicants registered by SEF (1,537). This percentage represents a significant decrease from usual figures (around 90%). The decrease is explained by the fact that a significant number of the applications registered in 2021 concern applicants who were evacuated from Afghanistan, whose reception did not follow the general rules applicable to spontaneous asylum seekers. Furthermore, CPR has observed that, given the circumstances surrounding their individual situation and arrival in Portugal, such applicants tend to assume that legal assistance is not necessary within the context of the asylum procedure.[59]

All the applicants whose cases were communicated to CPR were sent a letter setting out details of the legal assistance provided by CPR and relevant contacts. Bilateral contacts were also established with organizations responsible for the reception of evacuated and relocated applicants. In early 2022, CPR conducted a legal information session for applicants evacuated from Afghanistan, who are provided reception conditions by the Portuguese Red Cross (CVP).

As in previous years, CPR also continued to provide remote assistance (e.g., by telephone and/or e-mail communication).

Throughout 2021, the coronavirus pandemic continued to present challenges to the provision of services by CPR and to require adjustments. Nevertheless, legal assistance was continuously ensured throughout the year.

There are other organisations that provide legal information and assistance to asylum seekers during the first instance of the regular procedure such as the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Portugal, and the High Commissioner for Migration (ACM) through its National Centres for Migrants’ Integration (CNAIM) and Local Support Centres for Migrants Integration (Centro Local de Apoio à Integração de Migrantes, CLAIM) spread throughout the country, and Crescer. According to the available information, these services remain residual and mostly focused on integration.

A number of decisions from TCA South issued in 2021 focused on the right of the applicant to request legal aid in order to have a lawyer present during the interview. According to the analysed decisions, the Court overall considers that:

  • Applicants for international protection may request legal aid in order to have a lawyer present in the asylum interview;[60]
  • The performance of the asylum interview without a lawyer present per se does not violate the Portuguese Constitution;[61]
  • To effectively guarantee the applicant’s rights, the authority (SEF) must fully and correctly inform the applicant of the possibility to be accompanied by a lawyer in the interview and of the possibility to apply to legal aid to that purpose. If that does not happen, the decision on the asylum application may be annulled.[62]

According to the available information, at the time of writing, the appeal of one such case was pending in the Supreme Administrative Court (STA).[63]

Legal assistance in appeals

Regarding legal assistance at appeal stage, the Asylum Act provides for the right of asylum seekers to free legal aid in accordance with the law.[64]

The legal framework of free legal aid provides for a “means assessment” on the basis of the household income,[65] as only applicants who do not hold sufficient income are entitled to free or more favourable conditions to access legal aid.[66] The application is submitted to the Institute of Social Security (Instituto da Segurança Social, ISS) that conducts the means assessment and refers successful applications to the Portuguese Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados).[67]

The Bar appoints a lawyer,[68] on the basis of a random/automatic selection procedure.[69] The sole responsibility for organising the selection lies with the Portuguese Bar Association but such procedure should ensure the quality of the legal aid provided.[70] While the average duration of this procedure in 2021 was around 1 to 2 weeks, the law provides for the suspension of the time limit for the appeal upon presentation of the free legal aid application and until the appointed lawyer submits the judicial appeal.[71]

It should be noted that the national legislation provides for a “merits test” to be conducted by the appointed lawyer according to which free legal assistance can be refused on the basis that the appeal is likely to be unsuccessful. In that case, the free legal aid lawyer can excuse him/herself from the case and the Portuguese Bar Association can choose not to appoint a replacement.[72]

CPR supported the submission of 292 applications for legal aid in the course of 2021. While a breakdown by type of procedure is not available, the overwhelming majority of such requests followed refusals in accelerated and Dublin procedures.

In general, asylum seekers enjoy unhindered access to free legal aid at appeal stage. Nevertheless, the practical implementation of the “means test” conducted by ISS and the “merits test” conducted by appointed lawyers have been recently raising some concerns:

  • In the case of the “means test” conducted by the ISS, the fact that asylum seekers admitted to the regular procedure are issued a provisional residence permit and are therefore entitled to access the labour market (see Access to the Labour Market) has at times resulted in asylum applicants having a level of income that excludes them from the free legal aid regime. In this case, given the usually limited levels of income, applicants can still be offered more favourable conditions to access legal aid such as instalments. While this is not problematic, occasionally, CPR has been informed of sporadic cases where legal aid requests by applicants within the regular procedure have been refused due to the residency documents presented and to the lack of proof of income (notably where such applicants were benefiting from social support provided by the ISS due to the lack of income).
  • In the case of the “merits test”, as reported in previous years, the practice of the Portuguese Bar Association remained inconsistent. Since 2019, CPR witnessed an increasing number of cases where, following a refusal by the appointed lawyer to provide free legal aid on the grounds that the chances of success were limited, the Bar Association chose not to appoint a replacement. In some instances, this happened following the assessment of only one lawyer. The objective criteria for such decisions remained unclear. While CPR has provided support in the submission of revision requests, reversals have not been significant.[73] Up until now, this practice has mostly impacted applicants within Dublin/Admissibility/Accelerated procedures. This remains a concerning practice that may have an impact on the effective access to legal aid by asylum seekers.

Additional persisting challenges in this regard include the absence of an easily accessible interpretation service, which hinders the communication between the lawyer and the client during the preparation of the appeal. Although ACM’s translation hotline can constitute a useful tool in this regard, according to CPR’s experience, it is insufficiently used by lawyers.[75] Moreover, the expenses for the preparation of the appeal, including for interpretation and translation of documents, need to be paid in advance by the appointed lawyer who can then ask the court for reimbursement.[76]





[1] Article 28(2) Asylum Act.

[2] Article 129 Administrative Procedure Code; Article 66(1) Administrative Courts Procedure Code.

[3] As a comparison, there were 1,750 in 2017 (both spontaneous and relocated asylum seekers); 1,469 in 2016 (spontaneous and relocated); 896 (spontaneous and relocated) in 2015 and 447 (spontaneous) in 2014.

[4] This figure probably includes applicants relocated from Greece under the relevant bilateral agreements.

[5] Observatório das Migrações (OM), Requerentes e Beneficiários de Proteção InternacionalRelatório Estatístico do Asilo 2021, June 2021, available in Portuguese at: The previous edition of the report seemed to indicate that an increase in duration occurred over the years. See: Observatory for Migration, Entrada, Acolhimento e Integração de Requerentes e Beneficiários de Protecção Internacional em Portugal – Relatório Estatístico do Asilo 2020, May 2020, pp.103-104, available in Portuguese at:

[6] Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the fifth periodic report of Portugal, CCPR/C/PRT/CO/5. 28 April 2020, par.35(a) and (b), available at:

[7] 25 refusals, 27 decisions granting a form of international protection (18 refugee status and 9 subsidiary protection).

[8] Time comprised between the date of the application and the date of issuance of the first instance decision on the (regular) asylum procedure.

[9] Sandra Roberto, Carla Moleiro, ed. Observatório das Migrações, De menor a maior: acolhimento e autonomia de vida em menores não acompanhados, April 2021, p.43, available at:

[10] Regarding neither the number of cases to which prioritised analysis was applied, nor the impact of the adoption of fast-track procedures in the duration of the analysis.

[11] As detailed further below in the text, the law does not specifically provide this possibility. However, according to the information provided by SEF, asylum seekers can make such a request in practice. Further information on the practical implementation of such possibility is not available.

[12] Article 16(1) (2) and (3) Asylum Act.

[13] Article 16(5) Asylum Act.

[14] Article 16(6) Asylum Act.

[15] Article 16(1) Asylum Act.

[16] Article 49(1)(d) Asylum Act.

[17] Article 49(7) Asylum Act.

[18] Article 119(3) Administrative Procedure Code.

[19] Article 38(1) Administrative Procedure Code.

[20] Based on the principle of good faith and the principle of colaboration – articles 10 and 11 Administrative Procedure Code.

[21] Article 32(1) Asylum Act.

[22] Article 31(2) Asylum Act.

[23] Article 31(3) Asylum Act.

[24] TCA South, Decision 2285/20.7BELSB, 21 April 2021, available at:

[25] Ibid.

[26] TCA South, Decision 806/21.7BELSB, 23 September 2021, available at:; TCA South, Decision 2144/20.3BELSB, 7 October 2021, available at:

[27] STA, Decision 02144/20.3BELSB, 25 November 2021, available at:

[28] Article 17 (1) and (2) Asylum Act.

[29] Presentation of the application, motives, relevant elements.

[30] E.g., TCA South, Decision 1560/19.8BELSB, 16 January 2020, available at See also the jurisprudence on the right to be heard described infra in the Dublin section.  

[31] Article 17(3) Asylum Act.

[32] According to article 17(3) Asylum Act, upon consent of the applicant, the report is to be communicated to UNHCR and to CPR as organisation working on its behalf. Such entities may submit observations.

[33] Article 17(3) Asylum Procedures Directive. Articles 16 and 17 of the Asylum Act do not make a distinction between interviews conducted prior to admission and interviews conducted following admission to the regular procedure.

[34] Article 30(1) Asylum Act; Article 95(3) Administrative Court Procedure Code.

[35] Article 30(1) Asylum Act.

[36] Supreme Administrative Court, Decision 408/16, 17 November 2016, available in Portuguese at:

[37] Article 84 Asylum Act.

[38] Article 71(2) Administrative Court Procedure Code. In practice this is normally the case when the courts find that there are relevant gaps in the assessment of the material facts of the claim, thus requiring the first instance decision body to conduct further investigations.

[39] Article 71(1) Administrative Court Procedure Code.

[40] Article 84 Asylum Act.

[41] Article 30(2) Asylum Act; Article 110 Administrative Court Procedure Code.

[42] TCA South, Decision 1441/20.2BELSB, 18 March 2021, available at:

[43] Article 90(2) Administrative Court Procedure Code; Article 466 Act 41/2013.

[44] Quite strangely, despite having the possibility of hearing the applicant directly, TAC South determined in a 2019 decision that the opinion of the officer that conducted the applicant’s interview on his/her credibility is relevant as only direct contact with the applicant will allow to ascertain the credibility of his/her statement, as well as his/her general credibility “as a person”. Therefore, in the absence of a gross error of the determining authority, the court cannot query its assessment of the credibility of the statements. TCA South, Decision 713/18.0BELSB, 10 January 2019, unpublished. 

[45] Article 91(2) Administrative Court Procedure Code; Article 606 Act 41/2013.

[46] Article 149(1) Administrative Court Procedure Code; Article 31(3) Act 13/2002.

[47] Article 143(1) Administrative Court Procedure Code.

[48] Articles 143(1) and 150(1) Administrative Court Procedure Code.

[49] Article 150(3) Administrative Court Procedure Code.

[50] Article 147 Administrative Court Procedure Code.

[51] Decisions are available at:

[52] Article 20(1) Constitution.

[53] Article 49(1)(e) Asylum Act.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Article 13(3) Asylum Act. See also Article 24(1) concerning applications at the border; Article 33(3) concerning subsequent applications; Article 33-A(3) concerning applications following a removal procedure.

[56] Article 17(3) Asylum Act: document narrating the essential facts of the request; Article 20(1): decision on admissibility and accelerated procedures in national territory; Article 24(5): decision on admissibility and accelerated procedures at the border; Article 29(6) first instance decision in the regular procedure; Article 37(5): Dublin take charge decision.

[57] Article 28(5) Asylum Act.

[58] These procedures are provided in the General Regime of Civil Guardianship Process, 141/2015, and the Children and Youths at Risk Protection Act, 147/99.

[59] As happened in the past within the context of EU relocation, it is expected that a number of such citizens may contact CPR later in order to obtain support in integration-related procedures such as family reunification and naturalisation, or if their applications are rejected.

[60] TCA South, Decision 2285/20.7BELSB, 21 April 2021, available at:

[61] Ibid.

[62] TCA South, Decision 806/21.7BELSB, 23 September 2021, available at:; TCA South, Decision 2144/20.3BELSB, 7 October 2021, available at:

[63] STA, Decision 02144/20.3BELSB, 25 November 2021, available at:

[64] Article 49(1)(f) Asylum Act.

[65] Act 34/2004; Ministerial Order 10/2008.

[66] Article 8-A and Annex Act 34/2004.

[67] Article 22 Act 34/2004.

[68] Article 30 Act 34/2004.

[69] Article 2(1) Ministerial Order 10/2008.

[70] Article 10(2) and (3) Ministerial Order 10/2008.

[71] Article 33(4) Act 34/2004. See e.g., TCA South, Decision 10733/13, 2 April 2014, available in Portuguese at:

[72] Article 34(5) Act 34/2004.

[73] In such cases, the solution suggested by the Bar Association is to file a new application for legal aid, which raises questions with regard to respect for the applicable deadlines and the efficiency of the solution.

[74] Article 3(3)(c) Regulation of the Bar Association 330-A/2008 of 24 June 2008.

[75] ACM’s interpretation hotline relies on a database of 60 interpreters/translators to enable communication with non-Portuguese speaking citizens. Access is free of charge (cost of a local call) and can be used on working days, between 9:00 and 19:00. It is possible to request the interpretation immediately (upon availability of interpreter) or to schedule a call. Additional information, including the list of languages covered, is available at

[76] Article 8(3) Ministerial Order 10/2008.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation