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International Service of Process: What Lawyers Need to Know

Perhaps one of the less common tasks that an attorney needs to oversee, international service of process can be more complicated than serving a defendant domestically. For this reason, attorneys need to know what this involves and how to ensure international service of process is effectuated properly. Many issues can arise when serving a defendant internationally, including extended timelines, increased costs, and nuanced rules. Handling international service of process properly can be the difference between a successful case and one that is lost on a technicality. Below is some information all lawyers should know when filing suit against foreign defendants.

 

What is the Difference Between Domestic and International Service of Process?

 

When someone or an entity is served within the United States, service of process is done in compliance with state and federal rules of civil procedure. When it comes to international service, on the other hand, service must comply with the receiving country’s rules and laws regarding service of process. Generally, there are three ways to serve a defendant internationally:

 

  • The Hague Service Convention: In an effort to simplify how to serve a defendant in a foreign country, the Hague Service Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents (“Hague Service Convention”) was created. Under this international treaty, countries who agree to this method of international service — referred to as “signatories” — can pick and choose which articles they agree to for service. Under the Hague Service Convention, a central authority was created in each sovereign when it comes to international service requests through a streamlined process. Once everything is received, each country handles the rest of service internally.
  • Letters Rogatory: If a country chooses not to be a signatory to the Hague Service Convention, then the next option for formal international service of process is Letters Rogatory. This process is much more expensive and longer than the method allowed through the Hague Service Convention. This is because there is a lack of uniformity. Moreover, Letters Rogatory require that the service go through a formal request process. These requests are processed through diplomatic channels that ask the receiving country to complete the service. Consequently, the timeline and result is significantly dependent upon the political relationship between the two countries involved in service; and
  • Service via agent: If the plaintiff is not seeking to have a judgment enforced by a foreign government, then the informal method of service of service via agent is a viable option for international service of process. Service in this manner is principally intended for notification purposes instead of for the purpose of the receiving country’s court system enforcing a judgment on a defendant. Instead, the foreign courts expect service to be completed in the particular manner prescribed by the receiving country.

 

We Can Help You

 

It is critical for all attorneys to follow the proper procedures and translation mandates when serving a lawsuit internationally. If you need to serve a document internationally, contact Ancillary Legal today.