No.  No, no no… NO.

Stop believing key word results without thinking things through.  Just stop it.

If you Google “Process Server China” a whole bunch of hits come back that would lead you to believe that you can simply hire a guy in Shanghai or Shenzhen or Beijing to walk up to a defendant and serve him.  Heck, there’s even one vendor that says they can handle “Formal Hague” or “informal” service.

No.  No, no no… NO.

Another one says that it can serve abroad for you whether the foreign country has signed the Hague Service Convention* or not!  It just isn’t so, folks.



If you don’t believe me, ask this nice lady from Arizona; she’ll give you a straight answer:

Here’s her straight answer: “The present Convention shall apply in all cases… where there is occasion to transmit a judicial or extrajudicial document for service abroad. This language is mandatory…”

I’m serious here.  Lawyers know that taking legal advice from Google is as bad as taking medical advice from Google– every question is too fact-specific to leave it all up to an algorithm, and doing so can be disastrous.  And it’s even worse when your Google search leads you to an abjectly incorrect conclusion of law.  Let me illustrate…

Let’s say you’re in a hurry, you have a grumpy client, and you’re being yelled at by an even grumpier judge.  Your defendant is in China, and you need to get him served tout de suite.**  So you Google “Process Server China” and come to the results list I railed about a moment ago.  Notice something?  Not a single attorney in the bunch.  Just a whole bunch of people who’ve never heard of Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988), the case that is as critical to overseas service as Miranda is to criminal defense.

Anybody who knows that case– and who is also familiar with China’s declarations opposing the alternative methods under HSC Article 10–knows that there is exactly ONE legal way to effect service on a defendant over there, and it involves a very lengthy wait following a request to the Justice Ministry in Beijing.  That’s it.  You can’t mail it, you can’t email it (contrary to some very bad case law), and you definitely can’t hire a private agent to do it for you– if you do, that guy could be looking at a very long prison sentence for usurping the state’s authority.

But let’s also say you call the process serving agency that lands in the top five (or worse, whoever bid the highest pay-per-click on their AdWords portal) and they tell you it’s no problem getting someone served informally, they do it all the time, and if you’ll just send them a few hundred bucks, they’ll have a proof to you in a few weeks.

Whether that person is here in the United States or in a call center in Hong Kong, don’t buy it.  If you do, your next call should be to your malpractice carrier to make sure you’re paid up on your premiums, because you’re taking bad legal advice from a non-lawyer and potentially injuring your client in the process.

Either follow the HSC or don’t bother filing the suit.

* Hague Service Convention… HSC for our purposes here.

** Or, as many pronounce it, “toot sweet”.  In short, quickly.  Yesterday.  Tick tock, Clarice.  (Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist in China, and there’s no such thing as a service of process emergency anyway.)