In Civil Or Commercial Matters

The Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also known as the Hague Service Convention, is an international treaty that was adopted in 1965 by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It is intended to provide a method of service of judicial and extrajudicial documents from one contracting state to another. The Convention also sets out the rules for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. The Convention has been ratified by over 80 countries, including most of the countries of the European Union and the United States.

Hague Service Convention

This article is about service of legal documents. For other international agreements with similar names, see Hague Convention (disambiguation).
1965 multilateral treaty

  State party to the Convention
  State ratified, not yet in force
Signed 15 November 1965 Location Netherlands The Hague Effective 10 February 1969 Condition 3 ratifications Parties 79 Depositary Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Languages English and French Full text Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters at Wikisource

The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, more commonly called the Hague Service Convention, is a multilateral treaty that was adopted in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 15 November 1965 by member states of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It came into existence to give litigants a reliable and efficient means of serving the documents on parties living, operating or based in another country. The provisions of the convention apply to service of process in civil and commercial matters but not criminal matters. Also, Article 1 states that the Convention shall not apply if the address of the person to be served with the document is not known.

Diplomatic service via letters rogatory

Main article: Letter rogatory

For states that are not party to the Hague Service Convention, diplomatic channels are generally used for the service of legal documents. It is generally effected by a letter rogatory, which is a formal request to issue a judicial order from a court in the state where proceedings are underway to a court in another state. This procedure generally requires transmission of the document to be served from the originating court to the foreign ministry in the state of origin. The foreign ministry in the state of origin forwards the request to the foreign ministry in the destination state. The foreign ministry then forwards the documents to the local court. The local court then makes an order to allow for the service. Once service is made, a certificate of service would then pass through the same channels in reverse. Under a somewhat more streamlined procedure, courts can sometimes forward service requests to the foreign ministry or the foreign court directly, cutting out one or more steps in the process.


The Hague Service Convention established a more simplified means for parties to effect service in other contracting states. Under the convention, each contracting state is required to designate a central authority to accept incoming requests for service. A judicial officer who is competent to serve process in the state of origin is permitted to send request for service directly to the central authority of the state where service is to be made. Upon receiving the request, the central authority in the receiving state arranges for service in a manner permitted within the receiving state, typically through a local court. Once service is effected, the central authority sends a certificate of service to the judicial officer who made the request. Parties are required to use three standardized forms: a request for service, a summary of the proceedings (similar to a summons), and a certificate of service.

The main benefits of the Hague Service Convention over letters rogatory is that it is faster (requests generally take two to four months rather than six months to one year), it uses standardized forms that should be recognized by authorities in other states, and it is cheaper (in most cases) because service can be effected by a local attorney without hiring a foreign attorney to advise on foreign service procedures.

The Hague Service Convention does not prohibit a receiving state from permitting international service by methods otherwise authorized by domestic law. For example, a state could allow for service directly by mail or by personal service. States that permit parties to use these alternative means of service make a separate designation in the documents they file upon ratifying or acceding to the Convention.

Alternate methods of service

The Hague Convention provides various modes of process service of documents such as by postal channel or by diplomatic/consular agents, judicial officers, officials or other competent persons. These provisions are covered under Articles 8 to 10 and may or not be allowed by member countries as a valid mode of serving the documents in their territory. The method of serving the documents through a central agency (Article 5) is not optional but is binding on all the member countries. Service through a central agency usually takes a long time: 4 to 12 months. The convention gives relief to the litigants if they have not received certificate of service or delivery from the central agency even after waiting for six months. In such cases, the court may, if it considers that a reasonable time has elapsed, give its judgment. Also, in case of urgency, the court may issue a provisional order or protective measure even before six-month waiting period.

Central authority

Although the service is free, it may take 4 to 12 months for the central authority to process. The central authority decides which method is to be used. In many cases, a bailiff will be assigned by a local court to serve the documents and mail back the proof of service, but service by mail is also possible.

Service by mail

Service by mail is possible only in states that have not objected to that method under Article 10(a) of the convention and if the jurisdiction where the court case takes place allows it under its applicable law. It is therefore possible in France and the Netherlands but not in Germany, Switzerland, and South Korea, where incoming service is to be effected exclusively through the state’s central authority.

In the United States, the interpretation of a provision in Article 10(a) has long been controversial, as the judiciary in some of its jurisdictions contended that service by mail was impossible because the word “send” rather than “serve” was used in the English-language version of the convention. The matter was finally resolved in May 2017 by the US Supreme Court in Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon, bringing the interpretation in line with parties in other US jurisdictions and the rest of the world.

Relation with other instruments

Under the convention, states may conclude different agreements between them that take precedence over the convention. Thus, in the European Union (except for Denmark) other rules are applied instead of the Convention.

State parties

As of June 2021[update], 79 states are contracting parties of the Hague Service Convention. They include 66 of the 88 Hague Conference on Private International Law member states in addition to 13 other states.

State party Signed Ratified or acceded Entry into force
 Albania 1 November 2006 1 July 2007
 Andorra 26 April 2017 1 December 2017
 Antigua and Barbuda 1 May 1985 1 November 1981
 Argentina 2 February 2001 2 December 2001
 Armenia 27 June 2012 1 February 2013
 Australia 15 March 2010 1 November 2010
 Austria 22 November 2019 14 July 2020 12 September 2020
 Bahamas, The 17 June 1997 1 February 1998
 Barbados 10 February 1969 1 October 1969
 Belarus 6 June 1997 1 February 1998
 Belgium 21 January 1966 19 November 1970 18 January 1971
 Belize 8 September 2009 1 May 2010
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 16 June 2008 1 February 2009
 Botswana 10 February 1969 1 September 1969
 Brazil 1 November 2018 1 June 2019
 Bulgaria 23 November 1999 1 August 2000
 Canada 26 September 1998 1 May 1999
 China 6 May 1991 1 January 1992
 Colombia 10 April 2013 1 November 2013
 Costa Rica 16 March 2016 1 October 2016
 Croatia 28 February 2006 1 November 2006
 Cyprus 26 October 1982 1 June 1983
 Czech Republic 28 January 1993 1 January 1993
 Denmark 7 January 1969 2 August 1969 1 October 1969
 Egypt 1 March 1966 12 December 1968 10 February 1969
 Estonia 2 February 1996 1 October 1996
 Finland 15 November 1965 11 November 1969 10 November 1969
 France 12 January 1967 3 July 1972 1 September 1972
 Georgia 31 May 2021 1 January 2022
 Germany 15 November 1965 27 April 1979 26 June 1979
 Greece 20 July 1983 20 July 1983 18 September 1983
 Hungary 13 July 2004 1 April 2005
 Iceland 10 November 2008 1 July 2009
 India 23 November 2006 1 August 2007
 Ireland 20 October 1989 5 April 1994 4 June 1994
 Israel 25 November 1965 14 August 1972 13 October 1972
 Italy 25 January 1979 25 November 1981 24 January 1982
 Japan 12 March 1970 28 May 1970 27 July 1970
 Kazakhstan 15 October 2015 1 June 2016
 Korea, South 13 January 2000 1 August 2000
 Kuwait 8 May 2002 1 December 2002
 Latvia 28 March 1995 1 November 1995
 Lithuania 2 August 2000 1 June 2001
 Luxembourg 27 October 1971 9 July 1975 7 September 1975
 Malawi 24 April 1972 1 December 1972
 Malta 1 February 2011 1 October 2011
 Marshall Islands 29 July 2020 1 February 2021
 Mexico 2 November 1999 1 June 2000
 Moldova 4 July 2012 1 February 2013
 Monaco 1 March 2007 1 November 2007
 Montenegro 16 January 2012 1 September 2012
 Morocco 24 March 2011 1 November 2011
 Netherlands 15 November 1965 3 November 1975 2 January 1976
 Nicaragua 24 July 2019 1 February 2020
 North Macedonia 23 December 2008 1 September 2009
 Norway 15 October 1968 2 August 1969 1 October 1969
 Pakistan 7 December 1988 1 August 1989
 Philippines 3 March 2020 1 October 2020
 Poland 13 February 1996 1 September 1996
 Portugal 5 July 1971 27 December 1973 25 February 1974
 Romania 21 August 2003 1 April 2004
 Russia 1 May 2001 1 December 2001
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6 January 2005 27 October 1979
 San Marino 15 April 2002 1 November 2002
 Serbia 2 July 2010 1 February 2011
 Seychelles 18 November 1980 1 July 1981
 Slovakia 15 March 1993 1 January 1993
 Slovenia 18 September 2000 1 June 2001
 Spain 21 October 1976 4 June 1987 3 August 1987
 Sri Lanka 31 August 2000 1 June 2001
 Sweden 4 February 1969 2 August 1969 1 October 1969
 Switzerland 21 May 1985 2 November 1994 1 January 1995
 Tunisia 10 July 2017 2 February 2018
 Turkey 11 June 1968 28 February 1972 28 April 1972
 Ukraine 1 February 2001 1 December 2001
 United Kingdom 10 December 1965 17 November 1967 10 February 1969
 United States 15 November 1965 24 August 1967 10 February 1969
 Venezuela 29 October 1993 1 July 1994
 Vietnam 16 March 2016 1 December 2016



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