This article will provide guidance on How To Serve Legal Papers On The U.S. Department of State.  The United States Department of State is an executive agency of the U.S. federal government tasked with overseeing foreign policy and international affairs on behalf of the United States. Its main responsibilities are similar to those of other countries’ ministries of foreign affairs, such as advising the U.S. president, managing diplomatic missions, negotiating international treaties and accords, and representing the United States at the United Nations. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

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The Executive and Congressional branches of government are jointly responsible for US foreign policy under the Constitution. Foreign policy is mostly shaped by the Department of State, whose secretary serves as the president’s top foreign policy adviser. The Department’s main duty is to formulate and execute the President’s foreign policy, which promotes US goals and interests throughout the globe. As a result, it offers a wide range of valuable services to both U.S. residents and visitors, and immigrants from other countries. Click here for information on How To Identify A Good Process Service Agency


The Department of State is one of the most powerful and renowned executive agencies in the world, having been founded in 1789 as the first administrative arm of the executive branch of the United States government.The secretary of state, a Cabinet member appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, is in charge of it. An analogy to a foreign minister would be the secretary of state, who is the first official in the Cabinet in the order of precedence and presidential succession. Currently, only the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has more diplomatic missions throughout the globe than the State Department. Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.


Along with managing the US Foreign Service and providing diplomatic training to government employees, it has some jurisdiction over immigration and offers a variety of services to Americans, such as issuing passports and visas, posting foreign trip advisories, and promoting commercial ties with other countries. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research is the oldest US civilian intelligence organization, while the Diplomatic Security Service is the department’s law enforcement arm. Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation.

For all of the operations related to foreign affairs — such as US diplomatic presence overseas or assistance programs in other countries — the foreign affairs budget, which accounts for less than one percent of the overall federal budget, is used. Click here for information on How Process Servers Protect Your Rights: Myths Debunked

US citizens living or traveling abroad are protected and assisted, while American businesses are assisted in the international marketplace. Other activities of other US agencies (local, state, or federal government), official visits abroad, and at home are also supported by the department, as are other diplomatic efforts. It is also the job of the DOS to keep the people knowledgeable about US foreign policy and ties with other states as well as provide administration officials with feedback from the public. Often the DOS must provide automobile registration for non-diplomatic staff vehicles and for foreign diplomats’ vehicles in the United States who have diplomatic immunity.

Normally, the Foreign Service personnel system is used by the Department of State for jobs that need travel outside of the country. Depending on the position, employees may be deployed to diplomatic missions overseas to represent the United States, study and report political, economic, and social trends, adjudicate visas, and attend to the requirements of American residents stationed there.

More than two hundred and fifty US embassies and consulates are located throughout the globe, having diplomatic ties to more than a hundred nations and many international organizations. The Department of State collaborates closely with other federal agencies, such as the Departments of Defence, Treasury, and Commerce, in carrying out these duties. Department of State regularly works with the United States Congress on foreign policy issues and policies


Only the Executive Office of the Office of the Legal Adviser (L/EX) is authorized to receive and accept summonses or complaints sought to be served upon the Department or Department employees. Furthermore, only the Office of the Legal Adviser is authorized to receive and accept subpoenas, court orders, or other demands or requests for official information or action.

It is important to adhere to the requirements of Process Service of any summons or complaint described. Any attempted Process Service that does not comply with these requirements is rendered ineffective. Consequently, the officer who receives that Process Service is required to either refuse the Process Service or return the documents with a letter telling the plaintiff to comply with  Process Service procedures. 

It must be remembered that in case of misplaced or misleading Process Service, the Department is not an authorized agent for serving of Process Service with regard to civil action against Department employees solely in their personal, non-official capacity. Documents such as summonses or complaints addressed to Department employees in conjunction with court processes arising out of the execution of official responsibilities may, however, be delivered onto the Office of the Legal Adviser. Additionally, papers for which the Office of the Legal Adviser allows service in an official position only must be marked “Service Accepted in Official Capacity Only”. 

Receipt of Process Service will not amount to admission or waiver with regard to jurisdiction, appropriateness of Process Service, inappropriate venue, or any other defense in the law applicable under the laws and regulations relevant for the serving of Process Service.


Unless the Department is represented by legal counsel who has entered an appearance or otherwise notified the Department of their representation, only the Office of the Legal Adviser is authorized to begin receiving and acknowledge subpoenas, or even other demands or requests directed to the Department, regardless of whether civil or criminal in nature. This is relevant for all types of subpoenas, including [A.]  material, including documents, contained in the files of the Department; [B.] information; [C.] garnishment or attachment of compensation of current or former employees; or [d.] the performance or non-performance of any official Department duty. 

If a subpoena, demand, or request is attempted to be served on a Department employee (including former employees) in a way other than that specified, such attempted Process Service is considered to be null and void. After consulting with the Office of the Legal Adviser, such personnel are well within their rights to refuse to accept the subpoena, demand, or request and might return them to the server through a written message. Even if the subpoena or other documents are actually accepted, their acceptance would not constitute a waiver of any defenses that might otherwise exist with respect to Process Service under the Federal Rules of Civil or Criminal Procedure or other applicable rules. 


It is not necessary for any employee of the Department to provide any written or oral testimony about information in their employment with the Department. This is not a part of their official status or duties and is not required to do so unless specifically asked by the Director-General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel or the Legal Adviser, or delegates of either after the two bureaus confirm the same. This information may be solicited via deposition, declaration, or affidavit. 

The functions of the Passport Office, the Visa Office, and the Office of Citizens Services provide authority to the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs to authorize testimony. This authority comes from concurrence with the Office of the Legal Adviser. 

Unless authorized by the Director-General of the Foreign Service, Legal Advisor, or Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs or their delegates as appointees, it is not allowed for any employee to use any document or material acquired as part of discharging their duties in litigation. This requirement is also held by virtue of their official status in response to a demand or request in connection with any litigations. 


When testimony or production of official Department information is sought, the party seeking such release or testimony must set forth the Process Service request in writing. This written message must be as specific as possible and must detail the nature and relevance of the official information sought. This could be via testimony or a request or demand It is the responsibility of Department personnel to only work on items that have been authorized in writing by the relevant Department authority for production, disclosure, release, comment, or testimony. The Office of the Legal Adviser may waive this requirement in some circumstances. A framework of all reasonably foreseeable demands may indeed be required by the Department. 

This official shall inform the Department employee and anyone else who may be affected by the decision on compliance with the request or demand. Legal counsel for Department and the employees will have to discuss with the Department of Justice what actually suitable situations, according to the Process Service guidelines of the Office of Legal Adviser. 


If a response to a demand is required before the appropriate Department official renders a decision, the Department will request that either a Department of Justice attorney or a Department attorney  who is authorized will [A.] appear with the employee upon whom the demand has been made; [B.] furnish the court or other authority with a copy of the regulations contained in this part; [C.] inform the court or other authority that the demand has been referred for the prompt consideration of the appropriate Department official; and  [D.] respectfully request the court or authority to stay the demand pending receipt of the requested instructions. 

It is the employee’s responsibility to ask for a reasonable stay of proceedings in order to get instructions from the department if an immediate request for production or disclosure is made in situations that prevent the appropriate designation or appearance of a Department of Justice or Department attorney on the employee’s behalf.  


The employee on whom the demand has been made must courteously reject compliance with the demand if a court or other legal or quasi-legal authority declines to stay the effect of the demand. This also applies if the court rules that the demand must be met regardless of commands from the Department to withhold material or disclose information sought.

In deciding whether to comply with a demand or request, Department officials and attorneys must take into mind whether such compliance would be unduly burdensome or otherwise inappropriate under the rules of discovery or the rules of procedure governing the case or matter in which the demand arose. Additionally, it should be examined whether compliance is appropriate under the relevant substantive law concerning privilege or disclosure of information. 

Other factors like public interest or the need to conserve the time of Department employees for the conduct of official business or even the need to maintain impartiality between private litigants in cases where a substantial government interest is not implicated would have to be considered


Department employees cannot provide an opinion or expert testimony based upon information which they acquired in the scope and performance of their official Department duties, except on behalf of the United States or a party represented by the Department of Justice. 

The relevant Department official assigned may grant special, written authorization for Department employees to appear and testify as expert witnesses at no cost to the Unit only on an exhibition by the requestor of exceptional need or unique circumstances and that the anticipated testimony will not be adverse to the interests of the United States

A court of competent jurisdiction or other appropriate authority may order the appearance and expert or opinion testimony of a Department employee. In this case, the Department employee must immediately notify the Office of the Legal Adviser. Employees in the Department must comply with court orders that are determined by the Office of the Legal Adviser that further legal review or challenge will not be undertaken. However, if ordered to do so by the Office of Legal Counsel, the employee will politely refuse to provide evidence.


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1. He has been approved by the Senate after being nominated by Joe Biden and receiving a majority of the vote of seventy-eight senators to twenty-two senators on January 26, 2021.

2. All such documents should be delivered or addressed to: The Executive Office, Office of the Legal Adviser, Suite 5.600, 600 19th Street NW., Washington DC 20522. (Note that the suite number is 5.600.)

3. §§ 172.2(d); § 172.3 Service of subpoenas, court orders, and other demands or requests for official information or action.

Although the Department is not an agent for the service of process upon its employees with respect to purely personal, non-official litigation, the Department recognizes that its employees stationed overseas should not use their official positions to evade their personal obligations and will, therefore, counsel and encourage Department employees to accept service of process in appropriate cases, and will waive applicable diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities when the Department determines that it is in the interest of the United States to do so.

4. including testimony, affidavits, declarations, admissions, responses to interrogatories, or informal statements, relating to the material contained in the files of the Department or which any Department employee acquired in the course and scope of the performance of his official duties

5. In response to a demand or request in connection with any litigation, whether criminal or civil

6. Except as otherwise required by federal law or authorized by the Office of the Legal Adviser

7. § 172.7 Procedure in the event of an adverse ruling.

If the court or other judicial or quasi-judicial authority declines to stay the effect of the demand in response to a request made pursuant to § 172.6, or if the court or other authority rules that the demand must be complied with irrespective of the Department’s instructions not to produce the material or disclose the information sought, the employee upon whom the demand has been made shall respectfully decline to comply with the demand, citing this part and the United States ex rel. Touhy v. Ragen, 340 U.S. 462 (1951).

8. United States ex rel. Touhy v. Ragen, 340 U.S. 462 (1951)

9. § 172.4 Testimony and production of documents prohibited unless approved by appropriate Department officials.

10. including but not limited to names of all employees and former employees from whom discovery will be sought, investigation areas, expected durations of proceedings requiring oral testimony, and identification of potentially relevant documents.

11. 57 FR 32896, July 24, 1992, as amended at 83 FR 17489, Apr. 20, 2018

12. 57 FR 32896, July 24, 1992, as amended at 83 FR 17489, Apr. 20, 2018

13. United States ex rel. Touhy v. Ragen, 340 U.S. 462 (1951).

14. Among those demands and requests in response to which compliance will not ordinarily be authorized are those with respect to which, inter alia, any of the following factors exist: 

(1) Compliance would violate a statute or a rule of procedure; 

(2) Compliance would violate a specific regulation or executive order; 

(3) Compliance would reveal information properly classified in the interest of national security; 

(4) Compliance would reveal confidential commercial or financial information or trade secrets without the owner’s consent; 

(5) Compliance would reveal the internal deliberative processes of the Executive Branch; or 

(6) Compliance would potentially impede or prejudice an ongoing law enforcement investigation. 

15. A court of competent jurisdiction or other appropriate authority may order the appearance and expert or opinion testimony of a Department employee. In this case, the Department employee must immediately notify the Office of the Legal Adviser. Employees in the Department must comply with court orders that are determined by the Office of the Legal Adviser that further legal review or challenge will not be undertaken. However, if ordered to do so by the Office of Legal Counsel, the employee will politely refuse to provide evidence.


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