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How to “serve” someone in a foreign country

In today’s global economy, many companies will encounter disputes with firms in another country. Many may wonder, how does an international lawsuit begin? We often take service of process for granted in domestic lawsuits – people view it as a given. However, when international firms are involved, the rules change.

Today, we cover the procedures for international service of process – with a focus on serving defendants in China.

Determining the rules of the game

In general, the best place to begin is the Hague Service Convention, which codifies the standards for service of process between residents of countries that are party to the Hague Convention. The countries party to the Convention can create their own rules, known as “declarations” or “reservations,” that modify Hague Service Convention Rules.

Gathering the right documents

Those looking to serve a lawsuit on a defendant in China need to obtain a Request for Service Form (USM-94) from the U.S. Marshals Service. Plus, China’s declaration to Article 5(3) of The Hague Service Convention requires all documents to be translated into simplified written Chinese. An attorney experienced in U.S./China disputes can help you ensure the form is filled out correctly.

International service is indirect service

Keep in mind, when serving someone another country, it does not go straight to the party you are seeking to serve. First, it must go to the country’s Central Authority. Things do not move along as quickly as they might in a domestic action, and animosity between nations can come into play.

A misstep in service of process in China can derail an entire case. Moreover, with time and resources on the line, such delays should be avoided at all costs. U.S. companies should consult with an international business attorney experienced in disputes in China before attempting to begin this process.

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