HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS INTERNATIONALLY

This article will provide guidance on how to serve legal papers internationally.  What happens when documents need to be transmitted across boundaries? The long waits and intricate procedures for cross-border delivery of papers are a constant source of worry for international litigants. However, with Undisputed Legal, international service of process does not have to be an arduous journey. 

International service of process refers to the formal delivery of legal documents to individuals involved in a legal dispute across jurisdictions. Legal documents should be served on interested parties after filing the lawsuit with the clerk. The documents typically consist of a summons and complaint. The plaintiff typically serves the defendant with the legal documents. However, the defendant may also serve the plaintiff with a counterclaim. The plaintiff may use substituted services to serve legal documents in certain situations. 

Serving documents outside of the United States can be a challenging task. The process involves costs, timelines, multiple parties, and attention to detail. Undisputed Legal aims to provide our international clients with proper assistance to achieve their service goals. Click here for a video on International Process Service

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For international service of process, parties should consult international treaties that specify the requirements for delivering legal documents to foreign litigants. The US is a signatory to the Hague Service Convention and Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory.

International process service involves serving legal documents to individuals or entities located outside of the country where the legal action is taking place. Different countries have different laws and regulations regarding international process service. It is crucial to understand that the specific jurisdiction and requirements of the international service process are complex and involve various factors such as timelines, processes, costs, translation requirements, and ease of service. The efficiency of serving documents depends on the approach used, but there is no guarantee of success. Proactive planning for potential challenges and disruptions helps prevent them from becoming bigger problems. Service of process requires strict compliance with local laws and meticulous attention to detail in order to properly carry out service, complete paperwork, and provide documentation.  This is where a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal comes in handy. Our goal is to take the pressure off our clients by handling the paperwork intrinsic to international service. 

The Hague Service Convention permits the service of process on parties in countries that have signed the treaty. The United States has adopted the Convention and its goals to accept and serve documents issued by foreign judicial authorities, as a reciprocal treaty obligation with other countries that have also adopted the convention. The rule only pertains to foreign civil case documents and does not extend to documents involved in criminal proceedings. The President has designated the Department of Justice as the “central authority” for these proceedings. The Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Civil Division has the authority to direct and supervise the central authority’s functions, as outlined in 28 C.F.R. 0.49. Under 28 U.S.C. 1781, the Department of State can receive and transfer requests for service of foreign judicial documents from foreign courts.

Enforceability requirements.

Different options for process service in a foreign country have varying advantages and disadvantages. To obtain an enforceable judgment, it is advisable to utilize official channels such as the Hague Convention, Letters Rogatory, or the Inter-American Service Treaty. Agent-based service is often the only choice, but it is also difficult to enforce. However, Undisputed Legal process servers across the globe can be of great help with their in-depth knowledge of local laws and regulations.  It should be remembered herein that alternative methods may exist for serving legal documents to individuals involved in foreign litigation. Under FRCP 4(f)(2)(C), courts may allow service of process by registered or certified mail with a signed receipt. Courts have allowed alternative methods of service, such as email, which are not restricted by international agreements.

PROCESS Service via the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention facilitates international service of process. Service through the Hague Convention involves several steps, and it is important to note that there are many nuances involved.  Countries have diverse approaches to participation. To ensure effective service of process, parties must be aware of both specific and general details.  It is preferable to engage a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal here for a smoother progression for the service of papers. 

The necessary documentation and a “letter of request” are sent to the relevant central authority in the location where the service will be carried out. The central authority then reviews and ensures the completeness and accuracy of the documents before transferring them to the local court, which has jurisdiction over the defendant. The court hires a process server to deliver documents, and the local court then provides proof of service once the documents are served. The central authority follows the Hague Convention to process paperwork and confirm service completion. They then send the documentation back to the requester, thus completing the service of documents. 

What is the typical duration of service through the Hague Convention?

International process service under the Hague Service Convention can take three to six months. Adhering to legal processes is crucial and time-consuming. Failure to meet all requirements can lead to dismissal of the service, particularly if it is contested or requires enforcement of judgment. Accurate completion of paperwork is crucial in all process service situations, particularly in international cases. Failure to do so can result in delays of 2-4 months.

Translation requirements vary based on the official languages of the destination country. Translations are required for court documents if English is not the court’s language. Translate all documents into the target language(s) before sending them to central authorities. Depending on the national and regional languages used, multiple languages may be required in administrative settings. Failure to comply may result in further delays if the service is declined. The service cost varies based on translation requirements. 

Letters Rogatory

The Hague Convention has benefits for signatory countries, but many countries are not part of it. Additionally, certain countries may have ratified the main sections of the treaty but not the Hague Service Convention. Process service must occur via an alternative route in these instances. 

Letters Rogatory is an alternative method for serving legal documents instead of using the Hague Convention. Letters Rogatory are formal requests for judicial assistance made through diplomatic channels, usually to foreign courts, seeking assistance in obtaining evidence or serving legal documents. The Hague Service Convention is only one of several international laws, treaties, and conventions that must be considered when serving legal process internationally. A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal has experts in both the sending and receiving nations’ legal systems, so service may be made in accordance with all applicable regulations.

Letters rogatory are a legal mechanism used to request assistance from a foreign court in obtaining evidence or serving legal documents. They involve a formal request made by one court to another, seeking their cooperation in the legal process.  The Letters Rogatory process involves drafting a request to be sent by the court with jurisdiction over a case. The letter should include [A.] the request for judicial assistance statement; [B.] the case type; [C.] the assistance that is requested; [D.] t he personal information of the individual residing in the country of service, including their name, address, and other identifying details. It is important that the requesting court expresses its willingness to provide similar judicial assistance to the authorities of the receiving state and is willing to reimburse the receiving court for the costs of executing the request.  The letters need to be signed by a judge from the requesting court. Accurate translation and a sufficient quantity of letters are crucial. 

The receiving court can either accept or reject the Letters Rogatory based on completion, proper formatting, and sufficient justification. Service will be completed under local rules if the court grants the request.   The duration of service through letters rogatory varies. Due to the diplomatic steps involved, Rogatory is a lengthy process, often lasting over a year. 

 Letters Rogatory can be costly. Fees for Letters Rogatory include charges for the U.S. State and costs for copying, translating, mailing, and hiring a private process server for service. However, we at Undisputed Legal aim to provide the best to our clients. We assure fast and efficient service and treat our clients as our priority. Additionally, we are accountable to our clients, providing them real-time email updates so they know exactly where their documents are.

Inter-American Service Treaty

Foreign Service officers are not allowed to serve process for private litigants or appoint others to do so, even if state law allows it. The US is part of two multilateral treaties on service of process: [A.] the Hague Service Convention and [B.] the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol.  The Inter-American Service Treaty is a treaty that promotes cooperation among countries in the Americas.  The IACAP is a multilateral treaty that facilitates the service of documents between countries in the Americas that are not parties to the Hague Service Convention. 

IACAP facilitates service of process requests between countries by establishing Central Authorities to handle the routing of service. The Inter-American Service Treaty is a treaty that governs the provision of services between countries in the Americas. It establishes a framework for cooperation and mutual assistance in various areas, including trade, transportation, and telecommunications. The treaty outlines the rights and obligations of member countries and provides mechanisms for resolving disputes and ensuring the smooth functioning of service provision.

IACAP facilitates service requests.  Translation requests must adhere to all specified requirements and include a mandatory form; it is necessary to provide three copies of all documents.  After document preparation, the request requires approval from an overseas country judge.  Documents are sent to the foreign Central Authority for service in compliance with local rules and regulations.  The sending country will receive a Certificate of Service from the foreign Central Authority upon completion of the service.

The duration of using the IACAP for service can range from 4 months to a year, depending on various factors. Service through Letters Rogatory is a formal method that ensures service of process.  Documents may need to be translated if the receiving state’s language is not English. The outcome relies on the recipient’s language and local rules. Our team can provide information on the appropriate language based on the country and region of service.  Service requests sent through the Inter-American Convention do not have set fees. However, there may be additional costs for translation and duplication of documents before submitting the requests. 

The U.S. Central Authority is responsible for the Hague and Inter-American Service Conventions. The OIJA is the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Service Convention and the Inter-American Convention. At Undisputed Legal, we maintain cordial relationships with the Central Authorities of both the originating and receiving nations. Additionally, our expertise in the local area to be served is a significant asset. Because of our familiarity with these areas, we aim to provide only the most effective assistance to our clients.  

Certified Mail

International Registered Mail is a service that provides secure and traceable delivery of mail items. Registered or certified mail with return receipt is available in many countries worldwide. FRCP 4(f)(2)(C) allows for the use of this service method unless the foreign country’s law prohibits it. U.S. courts respect formal objections to service by mail from countries that are part of a multilateral treaty or convention on service of process. Litigants should avoid using this method of service. Registered mail should not be used for service in countries that object to Article 10(a) of the Hague Service Convention. 

Hiring a foreign attorney or process server may be the best option to expedite personal service in a specific country. FRCP 4(f)(2)(C) allows for personal service unless prohibited by foreign laws. The attorney can execute an affidavit of service at the nearest U.S. embassy, consulate, or a local foreign notary. This method of service may not be valid under foreign laws. Enforcement of a U.S. judgment in a foreign country may be challenged if it is anticipated. Consider consulting foreign counsel early on to determine the available and effective methods of service under the domestic law of the country where the service is executed. U.S. process servers and agents may face legal consequences, such as arrest or deportation if they attempt to serve documents in a foreign country without authorization.

Service by publication is a method of delivering legal documents to a party involved in a lawsuit when traditional methods of service are not possible. It involves publishing a notice in a newspaper. Service by publication may not be valid in a foreign country. Consultation with an experienced private process service agency like Undisputed Legal is advisable before proceeding with service of a U.S. judgment in a foreign country, especially if enforcement is anticipated.

Waiver of service

Waiver of service refers to voluntarily giving up the right to be formally served with legal documents.  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3) permits courts to authorize service of process on individuals in foreign countries using any method that is not prohibited by international agreement. The Rule states that the courts have sole discretion to decide whether to issue an order allowing an alternate means of service.  After analyzing Rule 4(f) and its advisory committee notes, it is clear that the service of process under Rule 4(f)(3) is not considered a last resort or extraordinary relief.  It is one of several methods for serving process on an international defendant. The method of service of process must align with constitutional due process. The district court must create a service method that effectively informs interested parties about the ongoing action and allows them to voice their objections. 

FRCP 4(d) refers to a specific Federal Rules of Civil Procedure rule. Waiver of service may not be valid in a foreign country. Consulting foreign counsel or U.S. foreign legal consultants abroad is advisable before proceeding with the service of a U.S. judgment in a foreign country, especially if enforcement is anticipated. Waivers of service can be executed abroad before a U.S. consular official in the form of an acknowledgment or affidavit.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) is a law that governs the immunity of foreign sovereigns from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) governs the service of process on foreign states and state-owned agencies and instrumentalities. U.S. Embassies will serve a summons, complaint, notice of suit, or default judgment on a foreign government if other methods of service under the FSIA have been unsuccessful. Letters rogatory can be sent through the Department of State to request service of process on a foreign government agency or instrumentality.

Using a private process service agency like Undisputed Legal for service can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete most services abroad, from months or over a year to weeks. Enforcing a judgment overseas is a complex procedure, and some countries may also refuse to accept many methods of service. At Undisputed Legal, we aim to deliver. We understand that international service of process is subject to variability based on multiple factors and is determined by the court requirements in the foreign country. However, we are equipped to move quickly and effectively, meeting strict deadlines. We understand that delays in judicial processes are costly and unacceptable.

OUR PROCESS

Documents can be faxed at (800)-296-0115, emailed to ps@undisputedlegal.com, mailed to 590 Madison Avenue, 21 Floor, New York, New York 10022, or dropped off at any of our locations. We do require pre-payment and accept all major credit and debit cards. Once payment is processed, your sales receipt is immediately emailed for your records.

Drop-offs must call and make an appointment first to be added to building security to permit access to our office. Documents for service must be in a sealed envelope with payment in the form of a money order or attorney check (WE DO NOT ACCEPT CASH) payable to UNDISPUTED LEGAL INC.; Our receptionist will receive all documents.  Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

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INTERNATIONAL COVERAGE AREAS:

Albania | Andorra | Anguilla | Antigua | Argentina | Armenia | Australia | Austria | Azerbaijan | Bahamas | Barbados | Belarus | Belgium | Belize | Bermuda | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Botswana | Brazil | British Honduras | British Virgin Islands | Bulgaria | Canada | Cayman Islands | Central and Southern Line Islands | Chile|China (Macao) | China People’s Republic | Colombia | Costa Rica | Country of Georgia | Croatia | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Dominican Republic | Ecuador | Egypt | Estonia | Falkland Islands and Dependences | Fiji | Finland | France | Germany | Gibraltar | Gilbert and Ellice Islands | Greece | Guernsey | Hong Kong | Hungary | Iceland | India | Ireland | Isle of Man | Israel | Italy | Jamaica | Japan | Jersey Channel Islands | Jordan | Kazakhstan | Korea | Kuwait | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg| Malawi | Malaysia | Malta | Mauritius | Mexico| MonacoMontenegro | Montserrat | Morocco | Namibia | Netherlands| New Zealand |Nicaragua | Norway | Pakistan | Panama | Paraguay | Peru | Philippines | Pitcairn |Poland| Portugal | Republic of Moldova | Republic of North Macedonia | Romania |Russian Federation | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | San Marino | Saudi Arabia | Serbia | Seychelles | Singapore| Slovakia | Slovenia | South Africa | Spain | Sri Lanka | St. Helena and Dependencies | St. Lucia | Sweden | Switzerland | Taiwan | Thailand | Tunisia | Turkey | Turks and Caicos Islands| UkraineUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland | Uruguay | US Virgin Islands | Uzbekistan | Venezuela | Vietnam

OFFICE LOCATIONS

New York: (212) 203-8001 – 590 Madison Avenue, 21st Floor, New York, New York 10022
Brooklyn: (347) 983-5436 – 300 Cadman Plaza West, 12th Floor, Brooklyn, New York 11201
Queens: (646) 357-3005 – 118-35 Queens Blvd, Suite 400, Forest Hills, New York 11375
Long Island: (516) 208-4577 – 626 RXR Plaza, 6th Floor, Uniondale, New York 11556
Westchester: (914) 414-0877 – 50 Main Street, 10th Floor, White Plains, New York 10606
Connecticut: (203) 489-2940 – 500 West Putnam Avenue, Suite 400, Greenwich, Connecticut 06830
New Jersey: (201) 630-0114 – 101 Hudson Street, 21 Floor, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
Washington DC: (202) 655-4450 – 1101 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Suite 300, Washington DC 20004

FOR ASSISTANCE SERVING LEGAL PAPERS internationally

Pick up the phone and call (212) 203-8001, or click the service you want to purchase.  Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to assist you. We can handle all of your Albania process service needs; no job is too small or too large!

Contact us for more information about our process-serving agency. We are ready to provide New York City service of process to all our clients globally from our offices in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

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