The Swiss Confederation became signatory to the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also called the Hague Service Convention, on May 21, 1985, and its provisions entered into force on January 1, 1995.
US attorneys seeking service in Switzerland would be wise to familiarize themselves with the mandatory character of the Hague Service Convention as set forth in Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).
Canadian attorneys should consult provincial precedent — Canadian courts take a more nuanced view of the Convention, but effectively reach the same conclusion: its limitations must be observed. Regardless of forum court requirements, the service rules of the receiving country must be observed, or enforcement of a judgment may become impossible.
Switzerland, much like that of its northern neighbor, Germany, is politically decentralized. As such, the Swiss Central Authority is not a single entity; in fact, a different Central Authority has jurisdiction for each of 26 Cantons.
Requests for service must be sent to the Central Authority of the Canton where the recipient is located, or they are likely to be significantly delayed or rejected outright (an accurate address is the threshold issue for any Hague Service request).
Our staff is adept at identifying the appropriate Canton, and has outstanding professional relationships with most of the Swiss Central Authorities.
Many Swiss speak English, to at least some extent. However, Article 5(a) of the Hague Convention requires that in order for service to be compelled, documents to be served must be accompanied by a translation.
Interestingly, as Switzerland has three national language, the language required for translation varies by Canton. French is the predominant language in the west, German in the north and east, and Italian in one southern Canton, Ticino.
In all cases, however, documents must reasonably be understood by the defendant in order to fulfill US Due Process requirements. In particular, documents served upon a recipient who speaks neither English nor a Swiss national language may even need to be translated into an additional language. US practitioners should explore this issue at length with our legal staff.
Service of process in Switzerland is generally straightforward and practical. The Swiss authorities are, collectively, among the most efficient and effective Central Authorities in the Hague Conference.
Therefore, if a request for service is properly formatted and includes a proper address, the Swiss will usually go to great lengths to effect personal service: first by summoning the defendant to receive foreign judicial documents at the authority’s office, and then by sending an official to locate the defendant at home or workplace.
Swiss attestations of service are frequently accompanied by a defendant’s signature, and occasionally even a copy of the recipient’s identification.
Switzerland objects to all forms of alternative service under Article 10. As such, service may only be effected via the Central Authority channel outlined in Article 5.
LLS can assist you with service and can help you understand and meet the requirements for service of process in Switzerland. Please call 800-755-5775 to speak with one of our staff attorneys.
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