Flag of Portugal at the Castelo de São Jorge in Lisbon. Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons.

Portugal is erroneously considered the “little brother” of the bigger country next to it on the Iberian Peninsula.    It has its own culture, its own language, and one heck of a lot more progressive recent history than its neighbor-who-shall-not-be-named.*  At one time, it was a global colonial power, and it counts some of the 16th century’s greatest explorers among its sons.   Pertinent to litigators today, serving process in Portugal is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.

You’ve got three ways to go:

  1. Tap us on the shoulder for bespoke attention—and probably some amusing commentary to boot (see the upper right if you’re on a desktop, or way down below if you’re on a phone/tablet),
  2. Cruise over to the Hague Envoy platform at USM94.com to automate the completion of your forms in perhaps twenty minutes or so, or
  3. If you’re feeling froggy & prefer to handle the whole thing yourself, keep reading.  This lays out the framework you’ll need.

Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, before we cut to the chase.

  • The roadmap to the overall process—the recipe to our Secret Sauce.
  • The structure of the Convention itself is discussed in this four-part series.
  • And an absolutely critical note: the Hague Service Convention does not pertain to subpoenas.  Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad and expect it to actually work.  You have to file a Hague Evidence Request, which is dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.

Here’s how service is effected in Portugal

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents into Portuguese. Portugal’s declaration to Article 5(3) requires it and, although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents will prompt the Central Authority to reject your request.
  • Fill out a USM-94, and do it in Portuguese.  Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney.  If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
  • Send to the Central Authority.
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—possibly a year or more from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • Mail service may be available, depending on your venue, but it’s a bad idea anywayIt’s an even worse idea amid the Covid pandemic, so save yourself a headache by using a more formalized method.
  • Service via local counsel is available under Article 10(b)– a Portuguese attorney can effect service without the involvement of the Central Authority, using the local procedure as if the action were brought in a Portuguese court.  It can save a bit of waiting, but the cost in many cases outweighs the speed.  If time is of the essence, though, this can be a fantastic option.  Just make sure local counsel is adept at Hague issues.

Seriously—that’s all there is to it in Portugal, but don’t get excited.  Sure, the method is straightforward and simple, but it’s going to take a while, even if you have a lawyer handling things for you in-country.  The wheels just move more slowly than they do over here.

Portugal’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.


* Of course, I mean Spain.