Service of Process in Foreign Countries
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are court rules that govern the practice and procedure to be followed in civil lawsuits that are filed in federal courts in the United States. The Federal Rules specify how service of process (notice that a lawsuit has been filed) is to be made on the defendant (the person being sued). A court must have personal jurisdiction over a defendant who has been properly notified of the lawsuit before the court can enter a valid judgment against the defendant.
There are special rules for service of process on individuals in a foreign country. This article discusses the procedure to be followed in serving an individual in a foreign country with process.
Hague Service Convention
Many countries, including the United States, have signed the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial And Extra-Judicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention). The Hague Service Convention specifies what methods of service of process are permissible. These include service by international registered mail, service by an agent, and service by a central authority in a country that is a party to the Hague Service Convention. Some countries have opted out of the Hague Service Convention’s provision for service of process by international registered mail. International registered mail service should not be used in those 18 countries, which include China, Egypt, Germany, Norway, and Switzerland. Some countries, such as Japan, have opted out of the provision allowing service of process by agent.
Inter-American Service Convention
The United States is a party to the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol with Annex. This treaty covers 13 nations belonging to the Organization of American States. The treaty provides for service of court documents by a foreign central authority. The form specified by the Convention takes the place of a formal letter rogatory (a written request to a foreign country to secure its assistance in serving process on an individual in the foreign country).
Service of Process When There is No Treaty
For countries that have not signed the Hague Service Convention or another treaty relating to service of process, the U.S. Department of State provides information on proper service of process. Potential methods for serving process in a foreign country include service by international mail, service by an agent, service by publication in a newspaper of general circulation, or service of process via letters rogatory.
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