This article will provide guidance on How To Serve legal papers in Virginia. The fundamental task of the plaintiff is to guarantee that all parties interested in the action are entitled to a copy of the documents to be submitted in court. Plaintiffs are responsible for ensuring that all parties involved in the action are provided a copy in accordance with Virginia Process Service regulations. Aside from tailoring Virginia Process Service to the specific needs of each case, it is important to keep in mind that each circumstance requires a distinct kind. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

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The entire name and last known address of the defendants must be provided by the plaintiffs. The plaintiff must provide the clerk or other issuing authority with the complete name and last known address of each defendant at the outset of the case. If they are unable to provide the defendant’s name and address, they must provide details to help identify the defendant with reasonable certainty. Whenever a Virginia Process Service is issued, the clerk or other person responsible for issuing it must take note of the information provided in the record of the documents. The legitimacy of any decision is unaffected if these process standards aren’t followed. Click Here for information on What Do Process Servers in Virginia Do?

 The process from any court, whether original, mesne, or final, can be directed to the sheriff in any county, city, or town in Virginia. Only in the instance of a person escaping from custody or when it is specifically permitted by law may civil process be served on Sunday. Click here for information on Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure


Virginia Process Service may be served by [A.] the sheriff, [B.] any person eighteen years or older who is not a party or otherwise interested in the matter. However, only a sheriff can execute an order or writ of possession for the personal, real, or mixed property, including an order or writ of possession arising out of action in unlawful entry and detainer or ejectment. Additionally,  any sheriff can serve any capias or criminal show cause order; Click here for information on How To Identify A Good Process Service Agency

The person executing any Virginia Process Service must note the manner and the date of the service on the original. Additionally, the copy of the process so delivered or posted should be recorded as to the return of the Virginia Process Service. Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.

In all actions against somebody who is convicted of a felony and is confined in a local or regional jail or State correctional institution, the Virginia Process Service must be served on them as well as a guardian ad litem appointed for them. This Virginia Process Service may be effected by delivery to the officer in charge of the jail or institution who is then responsible for delivering the Virginia Process Service. Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation.


Virginia Process Service on a corporation may be served by personal service on any officer, director, or registered agent of the corporation. If personal service is not possible, Virginia Process Service can be done via substituted service on stock and non-stock corporations. Click here for information on How Process Servers Protect Your Rights: Myths Debunked

The Virginia Process Service can be served by municipal and county governments and quasi-governmental bodies or agencies according to the specific guidelines for each locale. This means that if the case is against a city or a town, Virginia Process Service will be served upon the city or town attorney or on its mayor manager or trustee. If the case is against a county, similar provisions will allow for Virginia Process Service on the county attorney or the attorney for the Commonwealth. 

However, suppose the case is against any political subdivision or any other public governmental entity which can be sued separately. In that case, Virginia Process Service may be served by the director, commissioner, chief administrative officer, attorney, or any member of the governing body. Suppose the case is against a supervisor, or agent of the county board arising out of official actions, then in addition to the person named defendant in the case. In that case, service should be done to each supervisor and the county attorney or on the clerk of the county board.

Additionally, any agent of a foreign or domestic company may be served with a Virginia Process Service in attachment or garnishment proceedings. This will be accompanied by a notification by the creditor of a judgment obtained and execution issued in their favor. If notice of judgment and execution have been acquired and served, this Virginia Process Service will be sufficient to notify and serve the company. 


Virginia Process Service can be done by the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles as an agent for the nonresident motor vehicle operator.  Virginia Process Service on either the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles is made by leaving a copy of such process together with the fee for Virginia Process Service on parties; for nonresidents, Virginia Process Service may be accomplished by delivering a copy and fee for service of process to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles or the Secretary of Motor Vehicles and leaving them in the Commissioner’s or the Secretary’s office. 

This law mandates that any fees collected by the Commissioner for the Department of Motor Vehicles be paid into the state treasury and placed in a separate fund for Motor Vehicles’ expenses. Virginia Process Service on the statutory agent has the same legal force and validity as if served within the Commonwealth personally upon the person for whom it is intended. 

However, the agent must immediately send a copy of the process by registered or certified mail, with a return receipt requested, to the person named therein and for whom the statutory agent is receiving the Virginia Process Service. The statutory agent should file an affidavit of compliance with the papers in action. This filing shall be made in the clerk of the court’s office in which the action is pending.

To serve on the Secretary in a civil action, the party seeking service of process and the agent or attorney must file an official document with the court. This document must state that either the person to be served is a nonresident or that the party seeking Virginia Process Service, after exercising due diligence, has been unable to locate the person to be served.

In any situation, an affidavit must provide the person’s last known address. An affidavit signed by an attorney, party, or agent of the person seeking service constitutes a certificate by him that the process has been delivered to the sheriff or a disinterested. Additionally, if the sheriff or disinterested person was unable to carry out such Virginia Process Service, they have made a bona fide attempt to determine the actual place of residence. 


 There are two options when it comes to serving papers on a government official: either [A.]  an affidavit indicating the person to be served is a nonresident or [B.] proof that the person to be served has been unable to be located after reasonable diligence has been provided. In any situation, an affidavit must provide the person’s last known address. To serve someone who is a Virginia resident, the signature of an attorney, party, or agent of the person seeking Virginia Process Service on such affidavit constitutes an acknowledgment that the process was delivered to a sheriff or a disinterested person for execution.

When service of process is received by the Secretary of State within ten days of the warrant’s return date, it is null and void and has no impact on proceedings taken. The affidavit’s copy and the fee will be returned to the plaintiff in such circumstances by the Secretary of State. The clerk of the court where the lawsuit was filed will get a copy of the notice of denial.

 For two years, the Secretary must keep a record of each notice of Virginia Process Service sent to a person. An official record of the plaintiff or person requesting service, as well as the person to be served’s name and the date notice was sent to that person, must be kept by the Secretary of State. The date on which the Secretary of State submitted the competent court the certificate of conformity. There will be no more records kept by the Secretary of State.

.There are a number of ways in which a plaintiff, his agent, or sheriff might serve the Secretary. The Secretary’s office is located in the City of Richmond, Virginia. To serve anyone, the Secretary or someone designated for that purpose must immediately mail a copy of the Virginia Process Service or notice a copy of the affidavit and a certificate of compliance to their last known post office address. As long as the court has received the certificate of compliance, delivery of Virginia Process Service or notice on the Secretary of State will be enforceable.


Within seventy-two hours of service, except on a Saturday or Sunday or a legal holiday, Virginia Process Service must be returned to the clerk’s office by the person who served it unless the court specifically instructs otherwise. A legal holiday or a Saturday or Sunday are days when a return is required the following day. The date, method, and name of the party served must all be included in the Virginia Process Service. In cases of service by sheriff, the form of the return of such sheriff as provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court or the affidavit of such qualifications constitute adequate proof of Virginia Process Service Where nothing in the record established that the process server was qualified to serve the process under Virginia’s procedural requirements, the service of process was invalid. 

However, no return can be conclusive confirmation that the procedure has been served. Proving the facts contained by a sheriff’s return is thus considered to be sufficient proof. Qualified individuals must return to prove the facts in the document.


As soon as possible after receiving the process or notice, every statutory agent who has been served with it should send a copy of that process or notice to the person or people to be served at last known postal address and submit a certification of compliance. When a statutory agent receives service of process or notice, it is effective as of the date of service of the certificate of compliance as filed with the court clerk in which the action or suit is pending.

By signing the evidence of service and specifying the jurisdiction and state in which it was received, the person for whom the Virginia Process Service is meant can accept it. However, Virginia Process Service in divorce or annulment cases may only be recognized if it is delivered in accordance with the rules. 


The judge, clerk, magistrate, or Commonwealth’s Attorney may issue a non-record subpoena to compel the presence of a witness to testify in court. If a witness is required to appear before a grand jury or circuit court, the clerk or the Commonwealth’s attorney must issue a subpoena. An appropriate officer or officers, the name of the witness, the name of the court and the title, the time and place where the witness must appear, and the name of whoever applied to have the subpoena issued are all requirements for a proper subpoena. The subpoena must also state on whose application it was issued.

It is prohibited to issue a criminal subpoena or subpoena duces tecum requiring the production of evidence or testimony on behalf of any current or former client of any member of the bar of the Commonwealth or any other jurisdiction unless the subpoena request is approved in all specifics in advance by a judge of the circuit court. The judge has the option of conducting the processes for approval in private and sealing the proceedings if they so choose. Upon the request of the grand jury foreman, the Commonwealth’s attorney for the jurisdiction in question will issue a subpoena for the requested information. 

Subpoena duces tecum may be issued by the court or clerk after notice of an opposing party and an affidavit from the party seeking for the subpoena that the desired writings or objects are relevant to the proceedings and have a person who is not a party to the action, who is a person of interest.

If a subpoenaed document or object is sought, it must be made accessible to all parties and counsel for scrutiny and review. Subpoenaed documents or items will be handed over to the clerk by the prosecutor’s office. If the court orders otherwise, they are not to be examined or reviewed by anyone beyond the parties and their counsel. The clerk must put processes in place to make sure that this section is followed.

A subpoena may be executed anywhere in the State by an officer authorized by law to execute the subpoena in the place where it is executed. The officer executing a subpoena will make a return to the court named in the subpoena. Failure by any person without adequate excuse to obey a subpoena served upon them may be deemed a contempt of the court to which the subpoena is returnable. If it appears that a person’s testimony is material in any criminal proceeding, a judicial officer may require him to give a recognizance for their appearance.


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1. Territorial limits within which sheriff may serve process in his official capacity; process appearing to be duly served. The sheriff may execute such a process throughout the political subdivision he serves and in any contiguous county or city. Suppose the process appears to be duly served and is good in other respects. In that case, it shall be deemed valid although not directed to an officer, or if directed to any officer, though executed by some other person. This section shall not be construed to require the sheriff to serve such a process in any jurisdiction other than his own.
(Code 1950, § 8-50; 1977, c. 617; 1982, c. 674.)

2. Where nothing in the record established that the process server was qualified to serve the process under Virginia’s procedural requirements, service of process was invalid, and the court did not acquire personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Harrel v. Preston, 15 Va.App. 202, 421 S.E.2d 676 (1992).

3. Any nonresident owner or operator of any aircraft that is operated over and above the land and waters of the Commonwealth or uses aviation facilities within the Commonwealth shall provide by such operation and use appoint the Secretary of the Commonwealth as his statutory agent for the service of process in any action against him growing out of an accident or collision occurring within or above the Commonwealth in which such aircraft is involved. (Code 1950, § 8-67.4; 1952, c. 384; 1954, c. 333; 1977, c. 617.)

4. No judgment will be rendered upon, or by, any instrument in writing authorizing the acceptance of service of process by another on behalf of any person who is obligated upon such instrument when such service is accepted as therein authorized unless the person accepting service shall have made and filed with the court an affidavit showing that he mailed or caused to be mailed to the defendant at his last known post-office address at least ten days before such judgment is to be rendered a notice stating the time when and place where the entry of such judgment would be requested. (Code 1950, § 8-7)

5. The date and method of service; the name of the party served; and stamped, written, or printed on the return of process, an annotation indicating the process was served by a private server, as well as the server’s name, address, and phone number

6. The court did not acquire personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Harrel v. Preston, 15 Va.App. 202, 421 S.E.2d 676 (1992).

7. Statutory agent must be served. A copy of the notice or process must be provided to the defendant, and a certificate of service must be filed with the court; the date of service is effective


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