What is the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol?

The Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol is an international treaty between the US and many South and Central American countries regulating international service of process. The Convention is actually two treaties which are commonly cited as a single unit. The US is a party to both the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory, done at Panama on January 30, 1975, and the Additional Protocol with Annex, done at Montevideo, Uruguay, on May 8, 1979.

The Inter-American Convention is effective in the United States only for those countries that have also agreed to execute the Additional Protocol, a secondary instrument that significantly modifies the terms and conditions of the original Convention. It is therefore incorrect to refer to the provisions of the Convention without also making reference to the provisions of the Protocol.

Article 2 of the Convention provides that the Convention shall apply to the transmission of letters rogatory abroad that have as their purpose:

  1. The performance of procedural acts of a merely formal nature, such as service of process, summonses or subpoenas abroad;
  2. The taking of evidence and the obtaining of information abroad, unless a reservation is made in this respect.

The US made a reservation excluding letters rogatory that pertain to obtaining evidence from the operation of the Convention between the US and other countries party to the Convention.

Further, the Protocol, without which the Convention is ineffective, plainly states in Article 1: This Protocol shall apply only to those procedural acts set forth in Article 2(a) of the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory.

Therefore, the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol informs the procedures by which litigants may effect service of process only, not evidence taking as well. For assistance with obtaining evidence abroad, please contact LLS at 800-755-5775.

Keep in mind that, unlike the Hague Service Convention, US courts have not deemed use of the Inter-American Convention and Additional Protocol to be the exclusive or mandatory channel for transmission of service of process. However, enforcement of any ensuing judgment will be difficult if the originating processes were not served pursuant to Convention procedures.

The following countries are members of both the Convention and Additional Protocol:

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico*, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela*.

*Mexico and Venezuela are also members of the Hague Service Convention.