The Hague Service Convention codifies service of process by international registered mail and by agent. The treaty also provides for service of process by a Central Authority (usually the Ministry of Justice) in the Convention countries pursuant to a request submitted on a form USM-94, available at the office of any United States Marshal. The text of the treaty is self-explanatory, but see the reservations and declarations each country made on accession to the treaty. Some countries made specific reservations against particular methods of service. The Convention method should be employed in all countries party to it.
Request for Service Form (USM-94)
You may obtain a copy of the Request for Service form (USM-94) from the local office of the U.S. Marshal's Service. Further information on the treaty may be obtained from the Supervisory Deputy for process at the nearest U.S. Marshal's office. You may also contact Headquarters, U.S. Marshal's Service, 202-307-9100.
Complete the Form
The completed request form and documents to be served, with accompanying translations (2 copies of each), should be mailed directly to the foreign central authority as provided by Article 3 of the Convention.
Federal Authority for Attorneys to Complete and Send Form
Effective February 26, l983 Public Law 97-462 amended Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure regarding service of process. Pursuant to this change in Rule 4(c)2(A) the U.S. Marshal will no longer transmit Form USM-94 directly to the foreign central authority of a country party to the Hague Service Convention. Rather, the attorney representing the party seeking service should execute the portion of Form USM-94 marked "Identity and Address of the Applicant" and the "Name and Address of the Requesting Authority" portion of the Summary of the Document to be Served.
A reference to the statutory authority to serve the document should appear prominently on the request, stating that "service is requested pursuant to Rule 4(c)2(A), U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure" which authorizes any person who is not a party and is not less than 18 years of age to serve a summons and complaint.
State Court Actions
In actions pending in state courts, state law designates the person authorized to effect service. Requests pending in state courts should specify that the request is made pursuant to Rule 4(c)2(A) of the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and any pertinent state law.
Designating Method of Service to Be Used by Central Authority
Fill in the USM-94 in duplicate, designating the method of service to be used by the foreign Central Authority.
The Central Authority itself serves or arranges to have served "by a method prescribed by its internal law for the service of documents in domestic actions upon persons who are within its territory". Generally, documents to be served in accordance with this method must be translated into the official language of the country. (Article 5, paragraph 1, sub-paragraph a). See the Practical Handbook on the Convention for specific information, or consult the U.S. Central Authority.
Unless a particular method is requested, the document may always be served by delivery to an addressee who accepts it voluntarily. This method of informal delivery is by far the most broadly used approach in a substantial number of Contracting States. The person who delivers the document is often a police official. In most cases, the addressees accept the document voluntarily or come down to pick it up at the police station, which dispenses with the need for translation of the documents to be served. (Article 5, paragraph 2).
If personal service is required, delete methods (a) and (c) on the Request for Service form (USM-94) and indicate method (b) on the form, noting that the documents should be served personally upon the person or company to be served. (Article 5, paragraph 1, sub-paragraph b)
Unless the party to be served will accept service voluntarily, the documents to be served must be accompanied by a translation into the official language of the foreign country. See Ristau, International Judicial Assistance (Civil and Commercial), International Law Institute, 1995, Vol. 1, Section 4-2-3(5), pp. 133-138. See Teknekron Management Inc. v. Quante Fernmeldtechnik Gmbh, 115 F.R.D. 175 (D. Nev. 1987); Vornees v. Fischer & Krecke, 697 F. 2d 574, 575 (4th Cir. 1983)
There are generally no costs incurred in connection with service through the central authority under the Convention. However, if personal service is made and the person to be served resides in some remote location, some fees may be charged. The fees will be billed to the requester by the foreign central authority.
There is no specific time frame for service provided for in the Convention. However, the Hague Conference on Private International Law advises that most Convention central authorities generally accomplish service within two months.
Proof of Service
On the reverse side of the Request for Service form is a Certificate of Service form. The certificate, which serves as proof of service, is completed and mailed directly to the requesting party by the foreign central authority after service has been effected.
Service Other Than by Convention Central Authority and Thru Consular & Diplomatic Channels
Each member state may effect service of judicial documents upon person abroad directly through its diplomatic or consular agents. However, any member state may declare opposition to such service.
Also, each member state may use its consular channels to forward documents for the purpose of service.
The U.S. consular officers are specifically prohibited by Federal regulations from effecting service of process in private matters. See 22 CFR 92.85. (Articles 8 and 9)
Service by Postal Channels
American courts have consistently held that international mail service of civil summonses is not proper in the case of States party to the Hague Service Convention which have entered an appropriate reservation under Article 10 thereof. (Article 10, sub-paragraph a) See Ristau, Vol. 1, Section. 4-1-6, pp. 121.3-121.9. See also, Epstein, International Litigation, A Guide to Jurisdiction, Practice and Strategy, 2nd., 1994, Section 4.04(3), pp. 4-14-4-19.
Translations and Service by Mail
Translation of documents to be served by registered mail is not strictly required by the Convention. Courts have ruled that the translation requirement of Article 5 applies only to service of documents by the foreign Central Authority, and not direct postal service. See Lemme v. Wine of Japan Import, Inc., 631 F. Supp. 456, 463-64 (E.D.N.Y. 1986). See also Greenfield v. Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd., 776 F. Supp. 698, 701-703 (E.D.N.Y. 1991). See Epstein, International Litigation: A Guide to Jurisdiction, Practice and Strategy, , 2nd, 1994, Section 4.04(1), p. 4-13. But see, Ristau, Vol 1, Section 4-3-1(2), p. 142 for a discussion of challenges which can occur if documents are not served in the language the recipient understands.
Service Thru Judicial Officers
Permits the judicial officers, officials and other competent persons of the state of origin to effect service of judicial documents through the efforts of the judicial officials of the state of destination, unless the latter state objects to this method. (Article 10, sub-paragraphs b and c).
See Also, Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk, 108 S. Ct. 2104, 100 L. Ed. 2d 722, 27 I.L.M. 1093 (15 June 1988) on the issue of service on an agent for a foreign corporation in the United States.
Foreign Central Authorities
The Hague Conference on Private International Law Handbook on the Operation of the Hague Service Convention provides contact information for the foreign central authorities.
The Office of American Citizens Services has available general information flyers on international judicial assistance many of which are available through our automated fax system or via our Internet Consular Affairs Home Page. These topics include country-specific information about service of process and obtaining evidence abroad.
Using the Internet: Many of our judicial assistance flyers are also available on the Internet via the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs Home Page at the URL: http://travel.state.gov. See also, the Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser for Private International Law (L/PIL).
Private International Law. See also the Home Pages for many of our embassies which are linked to the Consular Affairs Home Page.
1. U.S. Central Authority: Additional questions regarding the operation of the Hague Service Convention should be addressed to the U.S. Central Authority, the Office of International Judicial Assistance, Civil Division, Department of Justice, tel: (202) 514-6700.
2. General questions may also be addressed to the appropriate geographic division of the Office of American Citizens Services, at telephone (202) 501-4444 or toll free at 888-407-4747.