International service of process involves the formal service of legal documents on foreign litigants. In general, legal documents should be served on the interested parties once the lawsuit is filed with the clerk. The documents usually include a summons and complaint. In most cases, the plaintiff personally serves the defendant with the legal documents. In some cases, the plaintiff can serve the legal documents by substituted service.
Now, for international service of process, the parties should refer to international treaties which outline the delivery parameters of legal documents to foreign litigants. The United States is a signatory to the Hague Service Convention and Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory.
The Hague Service Convention allows service of process on parties who reside in countries which are also signatories to this international treaty. In 1969, it became formally effective in the United States. The United States government undertook a reciprocal treaty obligation toward those countries by joining the convention which have also adopted it, to serve in the United States documents issued by foreign judicial authorities. It applies only to foreign documents which are related to civil cases and does not apply to documents related to criminal proceedings. The President has designated the Department of Justice as a “central authority” for these proceedings. The Assistant Attorney General, under 28 C.F.R. 0.49, who is in charge of the Civil Division is able to direct and supervise the functions of the central authority. Moreover, under 28 U.S.C. 1781, the Department of State is authorized to receive requests for service of foreign judicial documents from foreign courts and to transfer them to the proper agency.