Service of Documents
The Central Authority receives letters of request for service of documents in Sweden from other states and forwards Swedish letters of request for service abroad. Documents in both civil and criminal matters may be served and both within and outside the framework of agreements and conventions.
Service of documents in Sweden
In most cases a request for service of documents in Sweden is made directly to the Central Authority by foreign judicial authorities but may also be received via an embassy in Sweden or the Swedish diplomatic mission in the applicant country. The subsequent report on the matter is normally returned through the same channels.
If the documents are written in Swedish or accompanied by a translation into Swedish or another Nordic language, and if the given information does not include a date set for a hearing in the near future, the documents are served by mail (registered letter with return receipt). If a translation has not been attached or if very little time remains before the hearing - or should service by mail have proved unsuccessful - the documents may be served with the assistance of a police authority. The person to be served then, as a rule, has the opportunity to refuse to accept a document which is not accompanied by a translation into one of the Nordic languages. The police authority may also be involved if it has not been possible to confirm the name and address or if other doubts have arisen in a matter, for example concerning which company is the correct recipient of a document.
Service of documents in the Nordic countries - all service matters
A Nordic agreement on mutual legal assistance in service of documents has been in existence since 1974. It states that letters of request may be exchanged directly between the competent authorities in the Nordic countries. The Agreement is applicable in civil as well as criminal matters.
Circular letter 1995:419 states what authority the request should be sent to in the respective countries. The receiving authority in Sweden is the county administrative board of the county where the person to be served resides. If there is still some uncertainty in the individual case as to which authority the request should be sent to, the Central Authority can provide the information.
Private applicants in Sweden, e.g. writ-serving firms, banks, firms of undertakers, law firms, who wish to serve documents in the Nordic countries, may send their requests to the Central Authority who will forward them to the competent court in the Nordic country in question. There is no charge for service in the Nordic countries.
Service of documents within the European Union - civil or commercial matters
On 13 November 2007, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Regulation (EC) No. 1393/2007 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters. The Regulation entered into force on 13 November 2008 and repealed Council Regulation (EC) No. 1348/2000 (see Government Ordinance (2008:808) with supplementary rules concerning the European Union regulation on Service of Documents).
When service is to take place in a Member State of the European Union which is also a member of the Hague Convention 15 November 1965 (please see below), the Regulation prevails over the provisions contained in that Convention.
Swedish courts of law, enforcement services and other authorities that wish to serve documents in civil or commercial matters may forward an application for service directly to one of the authorities appointed by the receiving state. A request written on a standard form should be enclosed with the documents which are to be served. The request should be translated into a language approved by the receiving state. It is not a requirement that the document to be served is translated. However, the person served with the document can refuse to receive it if it is not translated into the official language of the receiving state or a language of the sending state which the addressee understands.
In accordance with the conditions prescribed by the receiving state, service may be effected by post directly to persons residing in another Member State.
Information about the Regulation, the above-mentioned standard form and details of the receiving authorities and language reservations of other Member States etc. is available on the Commission's website. The Central Authority supplies information on the practices of the Regulation.
Service of documents outside the Nordic area and the European Union - civil or commercial matters
Matters concerning service of documents outside the Nordic countries are received by the Central Authority primarily from Swedish courts of law although assistance is given to private applicants as well, e.g. law firms, banks, insurance companies and writ-serving firms etc.
Many cases fall within the framework of the 1965 Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters. Such matters are sent by the applicant authority directly to the Central Authority of the other state with a request for service. The website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law supplies the full text of the Convention (#14) etc, and information on the reservations and declarations made by the respective country can be found under "Status table", and in most cases states the address of the receiving authority. It is also possible to check a certain country's position as regards e.g. service by post, or its translation requirements.
Service of documents in criminal matters
In many cases, service of documents in criminal matters falls within the framework of the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters made in Strasbourg on 20th April, 1959 (Council of Europe Convention). Under the terms of article 15, paragraph 4, of the Convention a court may communicate a request for service of documents directly to a judicial authority in another member state. The Council's Convention was supplemented by the Convention of 29th May, 2000, on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union (European Union Convention) which, for Sweden, became effective on 5th October, 2005. For links to the conventions in question, see the external links in the right-hand column.
Under the terms of article 5, paragraph 1, of the European Union Convention, the main rule is that procedural documents are to be sent to the addressee directly by post. Service via the competent authorities of the state in which the person to be served is staying, may take place only in exceptional cases (paragraph 2).
Regardless of whether the documents are sent directly by post or via the competent authorities of the requested Member State, the documents must in certain cases be translated (paragraph 3). Where there is reason to believe that the addressee does not understand the language in which the documents are drawn up, the documents, or at least the important passages thereof, must be translated into the language of the Member State in which the addressee is staying. If the authority by which the procedural documents were issued knows that the addressee understands only some other language, the documents must be translated into that other language.
The authorities indicated by Sweden as being the competent authorities under the terms of article 24 of the European Council Convention are similarly deemed to be the competent authorities in respect of the European Union Convention. In practice, this means that a request for assistance in the service of documents may be communicated from a competent authority of another Member State directly to a competent authority in Sweden.
In the case of documents in criminal matters to be served in nations which are not parties to the Conventions, please refer to the section below.
Service of documents with the assistance of the Central Authority
If assistance with service of documents in civil or criminal matters is requested in a country with which Sweden does not have an agreement, the Central Authority refers the matter to the Swedish foreign mission in the country concerned. The Embassy or Consulate then either itself ensures service of the documents or forwards the matter to a competent local authority. If the address of the person on whom the documents are to be served is unknown, no assistance can normally be offered, as the possibilities of carrying out investigations in situ may be very small or non-existent.
If the document to be served on the individual is, for example, a summons to attend a hearing, advance planning is essential.
Notice of service of documents abroad and certification of service can normally be reported back to the applicant within a couple of months. In certain cases, however, a significantly longer period may be required.
Requests to the Central Authority for assistance with service of documents abroad shall contain particulars of the name and address of the physical person, or of the representative of a legal entity, sought for service of documents and, if possible, his or her telephone and fax numbers, the name of his or her employer, etc. All documents intended for service should be submitted in duplicate. Normally, one copy of the documents with proof of service, or, alternatively, a notice of impediment to service, will be returned.
If the person on whom the documents are to be served does not speak Swedish, the documents need to be translated into the relevant language. Should the authority in the requesting state so demand, even documents to be served on a Swedish citizen need to be translated into the language of that state. Note that both authorities and private applicants will be required to have the documents translated and pay the cost of translation.
Fees and costs
No fee is charged for service requested by a national authority, but the cost of translation is to be ordered and paid by the authorities themselves. Private applicants are expected to pay an application fee of 250 kronor (Nordic matters excluded) and, where appropriate, order translation and pay for translation costs.
Other service costs may occasionally arise, e.g. sheriff costs in the United States, fees for French or Belgian process servers, etc. Such costs are payable both by national authorities and by private applicants.
Laws, Conventions and Agreements
- Act on Service of Documents (2010:1932) (only in Swedish)
- Ordinance on Service of Documents (2011:154) (only in Swedish)
Information on service of documents is also available in:
- Proclamation concerning Service of a Document at the Request of a Foreign Authority (1909:24) (only in Swedish)
- Proclamation relating to Assistance from the Ministry of Justice in Serving Documents abroad (1933:618) (only in Swedish)
- Ordinance concerning Charges at Swedish Foreign Missions (1997:691) (only in Swedish)
Conventions and Agreements:
- Convention between Sweden and the United Kingdom regarding legal proceedings in civil and commercial matters, London 28 August 1930 (SÖ 1931:1 and 17, SÖ 1933:23, SÖ 1935:9, SÖ 1959:72)
- Hague convention of 1 March 1954 relating to civil procedure (SÖ 1957:53)
- European convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters, Strasbourg 20 April 1959 (SÖ 1968:15)
- Vienna Convention of 24 April 1963 on Consular Relations (SÖ 1974:10)
- Hague convention of 15 November 1965 on the service abroad of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (SÖ 1969:26)
- Agreement 1974 between Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway on mutual assistance in matters concerning service of documents and taking of evidence (SÖ 1975:42) (only in the Nordic languages)
- Agreement between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Republic of Austria on the simplified procedure concerning international legal assistance according to the Hague convention of 1 March 1954 (SÖ 1983:53) (only in Swedish)
- Agreement between The Kingdom of Sweden and The Hungarian People's Republic on mutual assistance in criminal matters 1985 (SÖ 1986:5)
- Agreement between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Polish People's Republic on legal assistance in criminal matters 1989 (SÖ 1990:9)
- Circular letter regarding mutual assistance between Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway on mutual assistance in matters concerning service of documents and taking of evidence (1995:419) (only in Swedish)
- Convention of 29 May 2000 on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union
- Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2007 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (service of documents), and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No. 1348/2000
- Ordinance with supplementary rules concerning the EC Regulation on Service of Documents (2008:808) (Only in Swedish)
A list of states which are parties to the different conventions is found in:
- Notification concerning ratifications made by other states of conventions on co-operation in criminal matters (2005:122) (only in Swedish)
Information about the central authorities of the Member States of the 1965 Hague Convention, their requirements concerning translation, etc, is available in the Foreign Ministry's instructions (SFS 1997:19) (only in Swedish) (Please note that the appendix is largely obsolete)
- Delgivningshandboken (Practical Handbook on Service of Documents, section 'Service Abroad'. Issued by the National Courts Administration. (only in Swedish)