The service of documents in cross-border legal relations is governed by the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters of November 15, 1965 (BGBl. II 1977, S. 1453).
A central authority in each country has been charged with the formal service of documents. In the US, it is the agency commissioned by the Department of Justice in Washington and in Germany, it is the (decentralized) judicial authorities of the individual German states (for the most part, the state ministries of justice).
Service of German Documents in the US
1. Official Service via US authorities (Art. 2-6 of the Convention)
In the US the Central Authority's activities have been outsourced to Process Forwarding International (PFI)
Requests by German courts or authorities for service of documents are to be sent directly to the PFI in compliance with its guidelines, with two document sets and, as applicable, with an English translation. The PFI will then initiate the service of documents. The status of the service request can be tracked at any time on the Internet.
For further information such as the current address of the PFI and current fees please see the following websites:
2. Consular Service of Documents (Art. 8 of the Hague Convention)
In legitimate exceptional cases and on a voluntary basis, judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil, commercial, and labor matters may also be served by the competent German mission in the U.S. on an informal basis and without regard for the nationality of the recipient of the service documents. Para. 13 of the Rule on Judicial Assistance stipulates the requirements for such service of documents.
Service of US Documents in Germany
1. Official service via German Authorities (Art. 2-6 of the Convention)
The documents to be served shall be forwarded to the central authority in Germany in the various Federal States by the authority or judicial officer competent under US law (this may be the attorney of one of the parties). The request for service must be accompanied by a summary of the document which itself must be written in, or translated into, the German language. The summary and the document (including, if applicable, its German translation) will be served upon the addressee. This will be initiated by the competent central authority or, upon its request, by the Local Court in Germany. The competent central authority will issue a certificate of service and forward this to the authority or person having requested the service in the other State.
List of central authorities in Germany (Federal States) [pdf;183 KB ]
2. Service through diplomatic/consular agents (Art. 8 of the Convention)
US Missions in Germany may - without application of any compulsion - serve documents upon US citizens in Germany only.
3. Service by postal channels (Art. 10 of the Convention)
Service by direct postal channels from the US upon persons in Germany is not allowed, as Germany has raised objections under Art. 10 of the Hague Convention.