International Service by Mail: Allowed and Effective?

International Service by Mail: Allowed and Effective?

Service of process on a foreign defendant can be complicated, as proper service is wholly dependent upon the rules of both countries involved in the litigation as well as any treaty that the nation-states may have agreed to as signatories. One example of such an international agreement is The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters—commonly referred to as the Hague Service Convention. In an attempt to get around the requirements involved in effectuating the service of process internationally, many are choosing the method of service by mail. While service by mail seems to be a simpler way to effectual international service of process because it avoids sending service through a foreign court, the consulate, or trying to locate the individual, it is likely not the best option. This is because improper service can negatively affect the legality of the lawsuit as well as hinder the ability to enforce any resulting orders and/or judgments from an American court.


International Service by Mail


According to a 2017 United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision, Water Splash Inc. v. Menon, international service of process by mail is an accepted method of service under the Hague Service Convention. International service by mail, however, is only appropriate if the receiving country has not objected to this method and the nation’s laws do not restrict this type of service. Even if a country is a signatory to the Hague Service Convention it is crucial to research the nation’s laws and any objections.


If a receiving country is not a signatory to the Hague Service Convention and service was completed by mail, this can make effectuating service more complicated. Indeed, one of the first things that the attorney representing the foreign defendant will look for when their client is served in an American court is the method of the service of process. Typically letters rogatory are an alternate method when serving a nation that is not a signatory to the international treaty, however, they take time and are expensive. Consequently, there is a high likelihood of the service of process by mail being challenged and the plaintiff being unable to enforce a U.S. court order or judgment.




If you need to sue an out-of-country defendant in a United States court, it is critical that the service of process is effectuated in a legal and valid manner. Otherwise, the time and expense spent on the litigation can be in vain if the plaintiff cannot collect on a judgment against the foreign defendant. Whether or not service of process by mail is allowed in international litigation depends on if the receiving country is a signatory to the Hague Service Convention. Even when the receiving nation is a signatory to this international treaty, it is still critical to research if there are any rules prohibiting service by mail or any existing objections by the receiving nation.


Contact Ancillary Legal if you need international litigation support, including properly effectuating the process of serving oa foreign defendant. Our team will provide excellent support service to ensure that you can focus on litigating the matter. For assistance with court reporting, depositions, transcriptions, and videography; contact us at Elizabeth Gallo Court Reporting. 


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