International Process Service Via The Hague Service Convention
The Hague Convention was established in 1965 in order to create an avenue for service of process without the need to bring consular or diplomatic channels into the equation. This reduces the amount of time it takes for process to be effectuated (generally 3-6 months) – a plus in any case.
More and more countries are joining the Hague Service Convention, with nearly 65 countries being contracting parties. For the countries that have not joined, the only option to serve is through Letters Rogatory. These requests from courts in one country to the judiciary of a foreign country usually goes through diplomatic channels and can take more than a year. In addition to taking longer than going through the Hague Service Convention, costs associated with this type of service are generally significantly higher.
HOW LONG DOES SERVICE THROUGH THE HAGUE CONVENTION TAKE?
Typically international process service under the Hague Service Convention is between three to six months due to the lengthy legal process required to ensure service has been completed correctly. Failing to undertake all of the necessary steps will result in service being dismissed, especially if it’s contested or a judgment needs to be enforced.
The general process service through the Hague Convention is as follows:
- A special “letter of request” is completed along with the necessary documentation and is sent to the appropriate central authority in the country where service is being completed.
- The central authority there reviews the documents to ensure completion and accuracy. They are then given to the local court with jurisdiction over the defendant.
- The local court then sends the service out to an individual to serve the document.
- The local court then sends documentation to the central authority that service was effectuated.
- The central authority then completes paperwork in accordance with the Hague Convention to verify service was completed.
- The central authority forwards the documentation back to the United States and sends it back to the individual who originally requested service.
There are many nuances under the Hague Service Convention, as countries can pick and choose what articles of the Convention they agree to. Signatories can also specifically object to particular articles, it’s critical to have a thorough knowledge of the general process as well as the individual signatories’ requirements.
Additionally, if the forms are completed incorrectly or are missing information, there can be a delay of anywhere from two to four months in effectuating service.
DO DOCUMENTS NEED TO BE TRANSLATED WHEN SERVING VIA THE HAGUE CONVENTION?
Prior to actually sending out the service to the appropriate court, the documents may need to be translated depending on where they are going. Certain countries have particular regions which require a different translation language than in another part of the country. Without the proper translation, the service may be rejected by the central authority of the country it is being sent to or service may be considered invalid.
WHAT COUNTRIES ARE SIGNATORIES TO THE HAGUE SERVICE CONVENTION?
There are more than 70 signatories of the Hague Service Convention. Of these signatories, each one has its own set of particular Articles of the convention it does or does not agree to. Service outside of these agreements is considered invalid.
A current list of signatories can be found on the HCCH website.
For full documentation, including the complete Articles, of the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, click here.
CAN I SERVE A SUBPOENA THROUGH THE HAGUE SERVICE CONVENTION?
For countries who are signatories to the Hague Service Convention, accepted service doesn’t extend to subpoenas. Only summons and complaints can be served under the Hague Service Convention, as outside of a country’s jurisdiction a subpoena would simply be seen as a request to comply rather than an enforceable demand.
Requests for evidence need to be handled directly through the Hague Evidence Convention, which is a very similar process to Letters Rogatory.
WHAT IF A COUNTRY ISN’T A SIGNATORY TO THE HAGUE SERVICE CONVENTION?
For countries who aren’t signatories to the Hague Service Convention, there are two other common ways to effectuate service: Letters Rogatory or service via agent. Determining which method to choose is largely dependent on whether or not a judgment will need to be enforced, as some countries will not recognize service via agent as valid.