United States Marshals Service Form 94, the much feared Hague Service Request.  Really, it’s just a form to fill out, not much different from a tax return or job application far simpler to complete than a Letter Rogatory.  [This is the proper form for an Article 5 request under the Hague Service Convention.  If that isn’t your treaty or isn’t the right article, move along.  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.]

Now, to be fair, the USM-94 is not really a creation of the U.S. Marshals.  It was designed by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law some fifty years ago—the Marshals just had it designated as an official U.S. Government document back when they were tasked with serving process in federal lawsuits.*

Honestly, we’re not building rockets here.  And I’m probably killing my own business by giving away the recipe to the Secret Sauce.  Honestly, though… it’s not really a secret if you have the time to look beyond this article, which merely scratches the surface.  This is the basic “how to” manual if you seek to do it yourself.  (To be sure, I don’t recommend the DIY method, but I’m awfully biased.)


Sam Girard cannot help Dr. Richard Kimball.  Dr. Kimball did not kill his wife.  Sam does not care.  Sam is a U.S. Marshal with a job to do.  But he can’t sign a Hague Request because he’s not a lawyer.

A big, fat, hairy, ugly, do not pass go do not collect $200 disclaimer:  this article does not paint the entire picture of what you need to know in order to fill one of these things out.  If it did, I wouldn’t have a practice.  It’s a bit like your attitude toward your clients and LegalZoom: if you DIY and mess it up, I’m Sam Girard.**  Just without the badge.  And the gun.  And the Texas drawl.


CORRECT FORM

First off, make sure you’re using the right one.  The garden-variety USM-94 will probably work, but there’s a better way.  That version is only bilingual—English-French.  If you’re serving in China, the Central Authority might appreciate the respect demonstrated by at least having the form in their language.   Click here to get the whole range:

  • The regular English-French version co-opted by the Marshals for the USM-94
  • A French-English version, in that order. Very handy in France, Belgium, western Switzerland, and Quebec.

And then the tri-lingual versions, in English-French and…

  • Chinese (In both simplified and traditional, but use the simplified for the PRC.)
  • Czech
  • German (Using the English-French only ist nicht gut.)
  • Italian
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Slovak (Not to be confused with Czechoslovakian, which isn’t a language, and isn’t even a nationality anymore)
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian
  • Oh yeah, and Spanish (Don’t use the USM-272A—this one’s better because the Hague form isn’t just in Spanish and the 272-A doesn’t even apply to Hague requests.)

Make life easy for yourself and use the MS Word version, rather than the PDF.  Typing information is a whole bunch easier in that format.

And now, the form itself…


REQUEST FOR SERVICE ABROAD OF JUDICIAL OR EXTRAJUDICIAL DOCUMENTS (Page 1)

IDENTITY AND ADDRESS OF THE APPLICANT

That’s you, counsel.  Indicate who you are and where you want the Certificate returned to you.  Wise to include your email address and phone number, too.

No, do not let your process server list himself there.  Non-lawyers cannot sign Hague Service Requests, no matter how adamantly they insist they can.  If you let them, call your malpractice carrier with a heads-up that you’re apt to get sued.  See here for why that is.

ADDRESS OF RECEIVING AUTHORITY

Click here, select the country, and use Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V accordingly.

For Germany, Switzerland, and Canada… there are many.

…THE ADDRESSEE, I.E., (IDENTITY AND ADDRESS)”

The defendant.  If you don’t have an address, stop here, because the treaty doesn’t apply, and you’ll waste a whole lot of time.

(THREE CHECK BOXES)

Pick one.  Pick only one.

Most likely, it’s going to be Box (a), which essentially says to the Central Authority, “however you’d do it for a case in one of your courts.”

Box (b) allows you to request a particular method, but keep in mind that the method you want may not comport with the foreign country’s practice, in which case they’ll simply send it back to you.

Box (c) is, frankly, inapplicable in just about every case, because if your defendant is willing to accept, you’re wiser to have him waive service and just render the whole affair unnecessary.

LIST OF DOCUMENTS

Exactly what it says.  List the documents that you’re serving.  Example:

  • Summary of the Documents To Be Served
  • Summons in a Civil Action
  • Civil Cover Sheet
  • First Amended Complaint
  • Exhibits A-QQ
  • Corporate Disclosure
  • Local Rules

DONE AT               THE                .

DONE AT (the city where you sign the form), THE (date you sign it).

This should correspond with the address you indicated in the “Applicant” box above.

SIGNATURE AND/OR STAMP

Sign that thing, counsel.  Wet ink, please—none of this “e-signature” stuff.


CERTIFICATE/ATTESTATION (Page 2)

Leave this one blank altogether.  It’s up to the Central Authority to complete and send this one back to you.  Technically, this is the reverse face of the request form, and most of the time, the Authority will simply fill out a blank they have sitting on the shelf.  The one you send them will come back untouched.


WARNING/NOTICE (Page 3)

Pretty straightforward here.  For the first box, enter the defendant’s name and address.

For the second, enter the name, address, and phone number for the Legal Aid office the defendant can contact for help.  (Oh, you’re suing Volkswagen or Toshiba?  Complete this box anyway.  Don’t get cute.)


SUMMARY OF DOCUMENTS TO BE SERVED (Page 4)

NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE REQUESTING AUTHORITY

You again.  Name & address.  Email & phone as well.

PARTICULARS OF THE PARTIES

List all the plaintiffs and all the defendants, but addresses are not necessary.  Essentially, pull both sides of the “v.” from the caption.

JUDICIAL DOCUMENT

NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE DOCUMENT

A short statement indicating that the documents are to make the defendant(s) aware of a claim against him and demand his response within however many days are indicated in the summons.  For a garden-variety federal claim, this is going to be 21 days from the date of service.

NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE PROCEEDINGS

A short statement of the claim in a nutshell, including a dollar figure if it has been specified.

DATE AND PLACE FOR ENTERING APPEARANCE

The court’s name and full address.  Reiterate the deadline to answer.

COURT WHICH HAS GIVEN JUDGMENT

Usually “n/a” unless you’re serving a summons in an enforcement action or a petition to modify a judgment.

DATE OF JUDGMENT

Ibid.

TIME LIMITS STATED IN THE DOCUMENT

State the deadline again.  (You’re leaving no doubt as to when the defendant has to get his answer in.)

EXTRAJUDICIAL DOCUMENT

NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE DOCUMENT

Usually “n/a”.  The term “extrajudicial” is pretty rare, but this would be an appropriate space for discussion of documents pertaining to an arbitral proceeding.  [A subpoena issued by an attorney, rather than the court itself, might be considered extrajudicial, but it’s not appropriately served under the Hague Service Convention.  See here.]

TIME LIMITS STATED IN THE DOCUMENT

Again, applicable in arbitration but probably not elsewhere.

(The “Extrajudicial Document” portion may add a fifth page to the document– discard that page if you haven’t entered anything.)


That’s the end of the form.  Again, we aren’t building rockets here, and there are a whole bunch of issues that pop up on a case-by-case basis, but this lays out the foundation.  If it gets sticky, give a shout.

*****   *****   *****

*  The FRCP has since been updated… today, any adult non-party can serve process on a defendant in the United States.  This prompts some in the industry to think any adult non-party can sign a USM-94.  Nope, not so.  The U.S. Marshals can’t sign one either, for what it’s worth.

**  You must under no circumstances take this article as a definitive and exhaustive guide.  Further research and care are critical to successful pursuit of your client’s case—this is merely a primer, offering a starting point for what comes next in your analysis.

  • Carolene Fontanet Smith

    Thank you so much for this article. It was very helpful.

  • Sue Hinterman

    On page three you say the applicant should provide the defendant with information concerning legal aid. But what if the applicant works for the only legal aid organization in the area where the action is pending?

    • I faced this very issue not long ago on a case for a Legal Aid office. I provided information for the state bar’s lawyer referral service. This still fulfills the intent of the space on the form, but avoids the obvious conflict.

  • Ashley Ramirez

    Hello! Do I have to mail this out? Or can I somehow sent it electronically for faster service?

    • It has to go in hard copy– I don’t know of any country that accepts electronic submissions yet. But I wouldn’t advise just mailing it– use a courier like UPS or DHL or FedEx, so it can be tracked.

  • James

    Is there a way to get a follow up? Is there a particular form that is required?

    • It varies by country, and there isn’t a follow-up form– for the easier ones (Switzerland, Germany, Korea), proof comes back quickly, so there’s no need for follow-up. Some, however (which I decline to name), are woefully non-communicative. They just don’t answer, so following up is futile. With those countries, your request goes into a figurative black hole… and all you can do is hope.

  • Sydney Griffith

    Thanks for your information. Its very helpful

    I do have one question. In your guide in relation to the first question on page 4 “NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE REQUESTING AUTHORITY” you state “You again. Name & address. Email & phone as well.”

    This response seems to suggest its again the name and address of the “applicant” like on page one. However, wouldn’t the REQUESTING AUTHORITY be the contact information of central authority for the requesting country?

    • The Requesting Authority and the Applicant are the same person– specifically, the attorney filing the request with the foreign government.

      (Bear in mind, this post is written for attorneys. Pro se litigants are not authorized to sign the request.)

      • Sydney Griffith

        Hi Aaron

        I am an attorney in a foreign country that is also a signator to the Hague Service Convention. I have a client that has sued a US corporation here. The defendant has no business presence here and our local rules require that we serve process in the US. As such I am completing USM94 for service to be made by the US Central Authority (Dept of Justice through its designated agent)

        I am guessing most of your audience are US attorneys suing abroad but my case is the opposite. Either way the process shouldnt be different, correct?

        thanks Sydney

        • For the most part, it’s the same regime that governs whichever direction the papers go. But depending on country of origin, the attorney may or may not be authorized to sign the request– and it isn’t the only way to effect service in the US. Where are you?

          • Sydney Griffith

            I am in Belize and the action is being brought here.

          • Understood. Detailed reply sent privately, offline.

  • skimcpip

    Great guide – extremely helpful.

    Question: Do the brief narrative sections of the form also have to be translated or can they be filled out in english? Eg, the description of the claim in the “Nature and purpose” section.

    • Depends entirely on the country– their declarations to the Convention indicate whether it’s required.

      • skimcpip

        Many thanks for the response.

        In this case, it’s Switzerland. I just checked and it seems like the Declaration only relates to the underlying document(s) and not the USM-94 form itself.

  • SL27

    This was very helpful. I have a question about the Applicant – you say it should be as the requesting attorney. But my state’s website says to put the state Clerk of Court as the applicant. What should I do?

    • For the Service Convention, a court official OR any attorney can be the applicant. For the Evidence Convention, only the judge.

      I sense that the court is just trying to avoid litigants’ signatures on them.

  • Cory Burright

    Great articles with a great amount of information! I’ve read your blogs regarding overseas divorce and this article; would the Form USM-94 (Hague Service Request) still be needed when filing for divorce. I am wanting to serve my divorce papers to my ex who moved back to Australia from the US. Am I able to use a private process server in NSW? I would first need to file the divorce papers here in the state I’m currently residing in the US and then send the divorce papers to be served to a Process Server in NSW Australia? Would they be able to get it done instead of myself trying to go through the Central Authorities?