Letters Rogatory for International Service of Process

This is the fourth article of our knowledge base series addressing international service of process. This time we cover letters rogatory or letters of request. 

What are letters rogatory?

Letters rogatory are formal requests from a court in one country to an appointed judicial authority in another country authorized to request service of judicial documents. Letters rogatory are transmitted only through diplomatic channels from one authority to another authority in a different country, and are received and executed on the basis of comity of nations and reciprocity.

When are letters rogatory used for international service of process?

Prior to initiating the letters rogatory process, determine if the country you are seeking to serve process or request evidence from is a party to any other multilateral treaties on judicial assistance, as letters rogatory are reserved as means of obtaining judicial assistance from foreign countries in the absence of a treaty or other agreement. Letters rogatory are used to effect service of process or to obtain evidence (if permitted) by the laws of the foreign country. Failure to follow the proper diplomatic channels sanctioned by the foreign court could constitute a violation of that country's sovereignty.

How long do letters of rogatory take to be processed?

Letters rogatory are notorious for being slow and tedious. According to the United States Department of Justice archives on letters rogatory, “Prosecutors should assume that the process will take a year or more. Letters rogatory are customarily transmitted via the diplomatic channel, a time-consuming means of transmission.”  To remedy this, the Hague Service Convention and the Inter-American Convention were passed to better facilitate international judicial processes. 

Which other options do you have?

According to the 240px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svg-1U.S Department of State’s website on letters rogatory, “parties should also review the Department of State’s country specific judicial assistance pages to determine whether other alternatives are available, such as serving process by mail or in person, or hiring a local attorney to petition a court directly to collect evidence.”

The U.S. Department of State offers further information on letters rogatory here.

What is the procedure for letters rogatory?

ABC Legal is the sole contractor authorized by the DOJ to provide incoming service from abroad directed at private individuals or companies located in the United States.Incoming requests for service should be translated into English, provide the address of the individual to be served, and must be accompanied by payment for a government imposed fee in addition to the fees for the service of process. Requests are submitted by the foreign requesting authority to the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Consular Services.

Please note, outgoing requests for service being sent pursuant to diplomatic channels can be sent directly from the competent authority requesting service to the U.S. Department of State and do not need to be sent through ABC Legal.

Additional guidance is available through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Judicial Assistance (OIJA) website here, specifically in the OIJA Guidance on Service Abroad in U.S. Litigation.

How do I initiate an international service of process request?

You can start your international service of process request now by visiting ABC Legal’s International Service Page.

Where can I learn more about other regulations impacting international service of process?

This is the fourth article of our knowledge base series addressing international service of process.

  • Screen Shot 2020-06-18 at 7.18.37 PMIn part one of this series we highlighted that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) just awarded ABC Legal Services the contract to exclusively serve process and extrajudicial documents that come into the United States from foreign countries. 
  • In part two we answer questions around the Hague Service Convention and its impact on international service of process. 
  • Part three addresses the impact of the Inter-American Convention (IACAP) and its limited impact on International Service of Process between countries of the Americas.
  • In part four we cover letters rogatory or letters of request..


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