This article will provide guidance on how to serve legal papers in Iceland. Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is the most sparsely inhabited European nation.   Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital and the country’s biggest city. A market economy with minimal taxes and the largest trade union membership in the world may be found in Iceland.   As a Nordic welfare state, it offers universal healthcare and higher education to its residents.  Equality and stability are major priorities in Iceland, which ranks third in the world for the wealthiest adults per capita. Iceland relies nearly solely on renewable energy to power its infrastructure. Click here for How the Hague Convention Simplifies International Process Service.

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The Althing, one of the world’s longest continuously operating legislative bodies, administered the island as an autonomous nation. Iceland remained a remote semi-colonial area where Danish institutions and infrastructures were conspicuously absent despite the Danish kingdom’s forced introduction of Lutheranism in 1550.  Click Here for information on the Code of Civil Procedure in Iceland.

During the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution, Iceland’s independence movement took shape and culminated in the creation of a republic in 1944. Althing was suspended from 1799 to 1845, although the island republic is recognized as having the world’s longest-running and oldest parliament, notwithstanding this fact. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

Subsistence fishing and farming were Iceland’s main sources of income before the 20th century. Following World War II, Iceland became one of the richest and most industrialized countries in the world because of the industrialization of the fisheries and Marshall Plan help. In 1994, it became a member of the European Economic Area, which allowed it to broaden its economic base to include fields like banking, biotechnology, and production. Click here for information on How To Identify A Good Process Service Agency

The Scandinavian roots of Icelandic people are at the heart of the country’s unique culture. Norse and Gaelic immigrants have been the primary ancestors of most Icelanders. Because of their shared North Germanic roots, Icelandic and Faroese have a lot in common linguistically. Traditional Icelandic food, Icelandic literature, and medieval sagas are all part of Iceland’s rich cultural legacy. Since Iceland has the lowest population among the NATO countries, it is the only one without a permanent army, except for a tiny, lightly equipped coast guard. Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.


When the three-tier system was implemented on 1ST January 2018, it replaced the previous two levels of courts in Iceland. Court of Appeal is a court of the second instance that sits between the District Court and the Supreme Court, and it was established in Iceland in 2011. Introducing the Court of Appeal is part of a comprehensive reform of Iceland’s legal system. Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation.

All legal proceedings in Iceland begin in one of Iceland’s eight District Courts. If certain requirements are met, a case may be appealed to the Court of Appeals from a District Court decision. It will be possible to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court, which will remain the country’s highest court, under certain circumstances and with the authorization of the Supreme Court. In most cases, the Court of Appeal’s decision will be final. In light of these reforms, the Supreme Court of Iceland will play a more prominent role in creating legal precedents. The eight District Courts in Iceland are presided over by forty-two of Iceland’s sixty-four judges. There are fifteen justices in the Court of Appeals, and seven on the Supreme Court. Click here for information on How Process Servers Protect Your Rights: Myths Debunked

The newly created governmental entity, the Judicial Administration, started functioning on January 1. With the help of the Judicial Administration, courts will be able to communicate with the government, media, and other parties more effectively.


The Supreme Court of Iceland is Iceland’s court of final appeal. Iceland’s Supreme Court is also the oldest and most powerful of the country’s three courts, which include the District Courts and Court of Appeal.

It is approved by Iceland’s Courts Act No. 50/2016 despite the fact that the Court is not named by name, only its judges are. Dómhsi in Arnarhóll in Reykjavk is where Iceland’s Supreme Court is housed; it was constructed specifically for this purpose and began operation in 1996. Benedikt Bogason serves as the court’s current president.


Under the Iceland Process Service legislation set in place, it is required that the summons include: [A.] the party’s name and ID number; [B.] the names and positions of any representatives that exist; [C.] the person or persons who will be pleading the case for the plaintiff; and [D.] the plaintiff’s claims, such as a sum of money in ISK, compensation for specific damage suffered (if it is still unknown), or the plaintiff’s defense, if any, in the action. This should also include the grounds for action on which the plaintiff bases their action, and also other circumstances which need to be stated for the background of the grounds to be clear; this description is supposed to be concisely worded and sufficiently clear as to leave no doubt as to the substance of the case.

Somewhat distinct from the civil procedure in the United States, the summons is also required to have the legal principles or statutory provisions on which the plaintiff bases their action, as well as the primary items of evidence that they possess, and those remaining to be collected included in its body. This also extends to the persons who the plaintiff intends to produce as witnesses in court regarding the facts of the case, laid down with the location and time of the court session.

The defendant will be summoned and given notice that if they do not appear in court to answer the charge and provide evidence if the case is registered, a judgment in absentia may be entered against them.

If the plaintiff’s claims in the action can only be satisfied by means of an enforcement measure, one copy of the summons is specifically to be written on legal document paper of A4 size with a margin of at least 4 cm on the left side of the front of the page and on the right side of the back of the page. This copy of the summons will be submitted additionally to the judge when the case is registered unless a settlement has already been reached or the defendant accepts the plaintiff’s claims and submits observations.


The Republic of Iceland ratified the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also called the Hague Service Convention, on November 10, 2008.

The Convention’s provisions entered into force in Iceland on July 1st of the following year. The Tenth Session of the Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted the Hague Service Convention in 1964. The Hague Conventions on Civil Procedure of 1905 and 1954 were updated by the Convention. In order to ensure that defendants who are being sued in foreign jurisdictions get timely and accurate notice of the complaint, the amendment was designed to make serving procedure overseas easier.

US attorneys seeking service in Iceland are required to keep the context of the Convention as set forth in Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk. Justice Brennan said in Volkswagenwer Aktiengesellschaft v Schlunk that Convention provisions are ‘mandatory’ with regard to any transmission governed by it before the Supreme Court of the United States. It follows therefore that the Hague Process must be used as the exclusive form of service if both nations have agreed to it. As a result of the Hague Convention’s legally binding character, private parties are unable to bargain their way out of their contractual commitments. In Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia) VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology CO., LTD, this was shown.

As a whole, the Convention has two major consequences. To begin, it gives transnational litigants a variety of options for serving papers outside of their home country, as long as none of them are in conflict with the rules of the country to which they are being served. Most of the guidance on which procedures are not permitted is found in the Convention. For the sake of ensuring that ‘due process is followed, the Convention also governs the awarding and relief from default judgments by courts.

The Icelandic Central Authority, while not as swift as many of its Scandinavian neighbors, is methodical and efficient. Difficulties are quite rare. If a judicial or extrajudicial document must be sent from one Contracting Party to another for service, the address of the person to be served is known, and the document to be served pertains to a civil or commercial issue, the Convention will kick in. If these conditions are satisfied, then the Convention’s transmission channels must be used in accordance with the Convention. If communication to another Contracting Party is required, it should be noted that the law of the forum will decide whether or not the transmission is required.

Requests for service under the Convention are sent to the Central Official of the Contracting Party in which the service is to be provided by a competent authority or judicial officer from one Contracting Party. The request must adhere to the Convention’s Model Form.

The Central Authority of the requesting Contracting Party will serve or arrange for the service of the document by a competent authority in accordance with the legislation of the country in which it is being sought. There are exceptions to this rule, such as where the forwarding authority in the asking Contracting Party requests a specific technique or process, as long as it is not in conflict with the legislation of that Contracting Party. If service was not completed, an explanation for why is required to be included in the certificate that is appended to the Convention.


Iceland is a majorly English-enabled country, which renders the question of translation requirements as per Article 10 of the Hague Service Convention. As a result, Iceland does not specifically require the translation of English documents under the Hague Service Convention.

In all cases, however, documents must reasonably be understood by the defendant in order to fulfill US Due Process requirements. In particular, for documents served upon a recipient who speaks neither English nor Icelandic, translation into another language altogether may be necessary. Central Authority may refuse any service requests that do not meet the Convention’s requirements.  A rejection by the Central Authority ‘must quickly notify the applicant and detail its objections to the request,’ if applicable.   A Central Authority is required under the Convention’s Article 6 to provide a certificate stating that the papers have been served, together with information on the date, time, and mode of service. The certificate must explain why service of the document was denied.’

Since the Central Authority has the authority to evaluate whether the translated papers fulfill the State’s demand for translation before serving them to its citizens, service might be sought in accordance with State internal service laws.

Accordingly, although perhaps not mandatory, an Icelandic translation is advisable in many cases. US practitioners are encouraged to discuss this issue with us. In order to be served in the United States, a plaintiff must closely adhere to the Convention’s translation requirement. However, this consequence is not as serious as the court entirely rejecting the case due to inadequate service if the court quashes said service. Because American courts interpret Article 5 according to American legal principles, there is a lot of confusion about how broad the duty for translation really is.

Iceland has declared that it does not object to direct service by postal channel. However, mail service pursuant to the Hague Service Convention is fraught with issues, including the need to have it executed in accordance with the forum court’s local rules, and where service abroad is proper when the destination country has not affirmatively stated that it is not opposed to mailing service.

In all cases, service via the postal channel should include a signed receipt mechanism (required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4). The federal courts in the United States are divided regarding the right interpretation of Article 10(a) in the United States. As long as the recipient country hasn’t protested directly to this provision of the Convention, the Second Circuit has ruled that article 10(a) permits foreign service of process by mail.  Article 10(a) does not allow for this kind of service, according to the Eighth Circuit.

Iceland, however, specifically objects to direct service by a judicial officer, official, or other competent people, as well as by ‘interested persons,’ under the Convention.


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1. Two-third of Icelanders live in the southwest, around the capital city of Reykjavik and its environs

2. In the 13th century, after a period of civil unrest, Iceland came under the control of the Norwegians. The Kalmar Union was established in 1397, bringing Norway, Denmark, and Sweden together. In 1523, Sweden renounced its membership in the Union of Sweden and Norway, and Iceland became a Danish colony.

3. Icel. Landsréttur

4. Dómstólassla

5.  Also known as Courthouse

6. Code of Civil Procedure No. 91, 31 December 1991. Ferill málsins á Alþingi. Frumvarp til laga. Took effect 1 July 1992. Amended by Act 133/1993 (took effect 1 Jan. 1994; The EEA Agreement: Annex V, Directive 64/221/EEC;

7. Plaintiffs are at all times entitled to issue summonses themselves. They may also submit them to a judge for the issue, providing that the wording is appropriate. If a judge is asked to issue a summons, he or she shall bring to the plaintiff’s attention any flaws in the presentation of the case which he or she sees and which could result in the case being dismissed; the judge may not, however, refuse to issue the summons for this reason, as judges are not bound by such private opinions when resolving the case.

8. 486 U.S. 694 (1988).

9. Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia) VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology CO., LTD., B272170 v. California Court of Appeal, ruled on June 1, 2018

10. Article 1

The present Convention shall apply in all cases, in civil or commercial matters, where there is the occasion to transmit a judicial or extrajudicial document for service abroad.

This Convention shall not apply where the address of the person to be served with the document is not known.

11. Article 5

The Central Authority of the State addressed shall itself serve the document or shall arrange to have it served by an appropriate agency, either –

a)  by a method prescribed by its internal law for the service of documents in domestic actions upon persons who are within its territory, or
b)  by a particular method requested by the applicant, unless such a method is incompatible with the law of the State addressed.

Subject to subparagraph (b) of the first paragraph of this Article, the document may always be served by delivery to an addressee who accepts it voluntarily.

If the document is to be served under the first paragraph above, the Central Authority may require the document to be written in, or translated into, the official language or one of the official languages of the State addressed.

That part of the request, in the form attached to the present Convention, which contains a summary of the document to be served, shall be served with the document.

12. Article 6

The Central Authority of the State addressed or any authority which it may have designated for that purpose shall complete a certificate in the form of the model annexed to the present Convention.

The certificate shall state that the document has been served and shall include the method, the place and the date of service, and the person to whom the document was delivered. If the document has not been served, the certificate shall set out the reasons which have prevented service.

The applicant may require that a certificate not completed by a Central Authority or by a judicial authority shall be countersigned by one of these authorities.

The certificate shall be forwarded directly to the applicant.

13. Article 10

Provided the State of destination does not object, the present Convention shall not interfere with –

a)  the freedom to send judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to persons abroad,
b)  the freedom of judicial officers, officials, or other competent persons of the State of origin to effect service of judicial documents directly through the judicial officers, officials, or other competent persons of the State of destination,
c)  the freedom of any person interested in a judicial proceeding to effect service of judicial documents directly through the judicial officers, officials, or other competent persons of the State of destination.

14. Because article 10(a) refers to ‘send,’ rather than ‘serve,’ the Eighth Circuit ruled that only later papers may be sent, once service has been achieved via an allowed means.


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