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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently asked questions – private international law

The Private International and Commercial Law Section within the Attorney-General's Department is Australia's Central Authority for the following treaties:

  • Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention)
  • Hague Convention of 18 March 1970 on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters 1970 (Hague Evidence Convention)
  • Treaty on Judicial Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters between Australia and the Republic of Korea 1999
  • Agreement on Judicial Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters and Cooperation in Arbitration between Australia and the Kingdom of Thailand 1998.

The Hague Service Convention provides for the transmission of judicial and extrajudicial documents for service to countries which are party to the convention.

The convention ensures that the foreign litigant will receive a certificate or affidavit confirming service or attempted service. This can be used as evidence of service, or the reasons for non-service. The convention deals primarily with the transmission of documents. It does not address or comprise substantive rules relating to the actual service of process.

The Hague Evidence Convention establishes methods of cooperation for the taking of evidence abroad in civil or commercial matters between members of the convention.

The convention provides an effective means of overcoming the differences between civil law and common law systems with respect to the taking of evidence.

Yes. Requests for service will still be processed in all Australian jurisdictions. However, all Australian jurisdictions anticipate delays in executing these requests.

For specific information on individual Australian jurisdictions, we recommend you contact the relevant Australian authority directly.

Further information, including details of individual Australian jurisdictions, can be found on our Serving a legal document across international borders webpage.

Yes. Please note, however, that taking evidence across international borders will likely be subject to delays or restrictions in all Australian jurisdictions.

The length of the delay will depend on the state or territory where the evidence will be taken. Find more information, including details of individual Australian jurisdictions, on our Taking evidence across international borders webpage.

See our How to serve a foreign civil legal documents in Australia factsheet for more information on how to serve foreign civil legal documents on someone in Australia for civil legal proceedings.

This factsheet includes information on options for the service of documents including using the Hague Service Convention, bilateral treaties with other countries, diplomatic channels and private process servers.

Overseas requesting parties must ensure the request complies with any declarations or reservations made by Australia.

Please see our How to serve a civil legal document overseas factsheet for more information on how to serve Australian documents on someone overseas for Australian legal proceedings.

This factsheet includes information on options for the service of documents under the Hague Service Convention, bilateral treaties with other countries, diplomatic channels and private process servers, local agents and post.

Australian requesting parties must ensure the request complies with any declarations or reservations made by the overseas country.

If you need to serve a document on someone who is located in a country that is not a member of the Hague Service Convention, there are other options available to effect service. These include:

  • bilateral treaties (Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Thailand and some treaties entered into by the United Kingdom)
  • service using diplomatic channels
  • service using private process servers, local agents and via postal mail.

For more information, see our factsheets Service of Australian civil legal documents overseas ("outgoing requests") and Service of foreign civil legal documents in Australia ("incoming requests").

There are several ways for a foreign court to obtain evidence in Australia for use in proceedings, including through applicable international agreements.

Australia is a party to the following international agreements:

  • Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil and Commercial Matters 1970
  • bilateral treaties with Korea and Thailand, available on the AustLii website
  • bilateral treaties between the United Kingdom and other European countries that have been extended to Australia by the UK. These bilateral treaties were concluded in the 1920s and 1930s and many of the countries extended the treaty to their external territories at the time. Even though those territories are now independent states, in many instances the treaty continues to operate. The relevant treaties are available on the Austlii website.

Diplomatic channels are used to transmit requests where there is no agreement or treaty in place between Australia and the foreign country.

See Taking evidence in Australia for Foreign Court Proceedings for more information. Overseas requesting parties must ensure the request complies with any declarations or reservations made by Australia.

Generally, the taking of evidence overseas for Australian proceedings must comply with the procedural and evidentiary rules of both the Australian court and the overseas jurisdiction.

In complex cases, we recommend obtaining advice from a local lawyer in the relevant foreign country. For more information, including links to relevant Australian court rules, see Taking evidence across international borders.

Australian requesting parties must ensure the request complies with any declarations or reservations made by the overseas country.

It generally takes 3 months to execute a request for service in Australia. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this may take longer.

The time taken also varies according to the state or territory that the request is sent to and depends on where the person to be served is located. If the person is in a remote location, it will take longer than if the person lives in a capital city.

Requests for taking evidence can often take 6 months to execute.

There may be costs associated with the execution of requests for service. Generally, Australian authorities will forward an invoice for service fees with payment instructions to the foreign litigant. There is no fee for service of documents in South Australia or Western Australia.

Please note that the Australian Capital Territory currently requires prepayment of the foreign service fee by the litigant. The current fee is listed on the Supreme Court website. Please note: service fees generally increase on 1 July each year.

Payment can be made by international funds transfer to the ACT Supreme Court. Visit the Hague website for more information.

Once payment has been completed, a receipt or remittance advice must be forwarded along with the request for service. This will assist the Supreme Court to identify the payment.

There may be costs associated with the execution of the request. The forwarding authority will receive a Statement of Costs/Invoice which is payable by the litigant in Australia.

The applicant should refer to the practical information pages for further information on the relevant country, available on the Service section of the Hague Conference website.

Requests for the taking of evidence made under the Hague Evidence Convention generally do not incur a fee or cost. However, an Australian authority has the right to require the overseas authority reimburse the fees paid in relation to experts, interpreters and costs resulting from the use of a special procedure requested.

We recommend you contact the relevant Australian state or territory authority directly for more information on fees to execute evidence requests.

Similarly, requests for the taking of evidence overseas made under the Hague Evidence Convention generally do not incur fees or costs. However, an overseas authority has the right to require an Australian authority reimburse the fees paid in relation to experts, interpreters and costs resulting from the use of special procedures used.

Other potential costs may include where an overseas requested authority has obtained the consent of the Australian requesting authority to appoint a suitable person to execute a request, or where constitutional limitations require the Australian authority to reimburse the overseas authority for fees and costs for the service of process necessary to compel the appearance of a person to give evidence, the costs of attendance of those persons, and the costs of any transcript of the evidence, in connection with the execution of the Request.

We recommend you contact the relevant overseas authority for more information. Information on overseas authorities can be found on the Hague website.

For information on the Central Authorities for the Hague Service Convention, visit the Authorities section of the Hague Service Convention webpage.

For information on the Central Authorities for the Hague Evidence Convention, visit the Authorities section of the Hague Evidence Convention webpage.

We are unable to provide information on overseas authorities located in a country that is not a member of the Hague Service Convention or Hague Evidence Convention. These requests are usually transmitted via diplomatic channels and should be sent directly to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, not the Attorney-General's Department.

We are unable to provide information on substituted service. You may wish to contact the relevant Australian court in the jurisdiction in which you are seeking documents be served by substituted service.

Find contact details of all the Australian Supreme Courts on our webpage Serving a legal document across international borders.

No. We are unable to assist with locating or verifying the address of a person located in Australia. We recommend that you conduct a search of public records in Australia, in particular the online telephone listings on the white pages website or the Australian electoral roll. Information on how to check the electoral roll is available on the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Alternatively, you may wish to engage the services of a private law firm in Australia to assist with locating the person.

The legalisation of documents and affixing of Apostilles is the responsibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), through the Australian Passport Office in your capital city. Information on the legalisation of documents is also available on the DFAT website.

How do I obtain a copy of someone's death certificate or information about their heirs/descendants? Death certificates can be obtained directly from the relevant state or territory authority that maintains these records (generally the relevant Australian state or territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages).

These authorities have their own policies about handling requests and generally require adequate reasons for granting access to these records. We recommend the requesting authority or party contact the authority directly.

Get more information

If your question is not answered above, email pil@ag.gov.au. Unless your enquiry is urgent, we will aim to provide you a response within 28 days.