Does the Hague Service Convention apply to US territories?


No, the Hague Service Convention does not apply to service of process in unincorporated US territories. Accordingly, US litigants do not have to seek guidance from or follow the procedures of any international treaty or convention, such as the Hague Service Convention, to effect service upon such defendants.

An unincorporated territory is a legal term of art and denotes a territory where fundamental rights apply as a matter of law, but other US constitutional rights are unavailable. These locations include, but are not limited to: Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa. While it is clear that defendants located in these territories will not be served within the “United States,” per se, they are located within lands controlled by the US. All territories under the control of the federal government are considered part of the “United States” for legal purposes.

8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(36) and (a)(38) [13] (defining what constitutes the “United States”). Therefore, service upon defendants within unincorporated territories cannot be considered international service of process. 8 U.S. Code § 1101. Definitions.

by Julio Menchaca Valentín, Paralegal, BSCJ.