DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND MAY NOT BE TOTALLY ACCURATE IN A SPECIFIC CASE. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO THE APPROPRIATE FOREIGN AUTHORITIES OR FOREIGN COUNSEL.
Contact the U.S. Embassy in Brussels
Belgium is a party to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters. Complete information on the operation of the Convention, including an interactive online request form are available on the Hague Conference website. Requests should be completed in duplicate and submitted with two sets of the documents to be served, and translations, directly to Belgium’s Central Authority for the Hague Service Convention. The person in the United States executing the request form should be either an attorney or clerk of court. The applicant should include the titles attorney at law or clerk of court on the identity and address of applicant and signature/stamp fields. The Belgian Central Authority requires that the document to be served is translated in the language of the place of residence of the addressee (French, Dutch or German). Belgium did not formally object to service via postal channels under Article 10 of the Hague Service Convention. For additional information see the Hague Conference Service Convention webpage and the new edition of the Practical Handbook on the Operation of the Hague Service Convention.
Prosecution Requests: U.S. federal or state prosecutors should contact the Office of International Affairs, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice for guidance about the U.S. – Belgium Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty.
Defense Requests in Criminal Matters: Criminal defendants or their defense counsel seeking judicial assistance in obtaining evidence or in effecting service of documents abroad in connection with criminal matters may do so via the letters rogatory process.
Belgium is not a party to the Hague Evidence Convention. Belgium permits the taking of voluntary depositions of willing witnesses. It is possible to schedule a deposition at the Embassy. If the services of a U.S. consular officer are required to administer an oath to the witness, interpreter and stenographer, such arrangements must be made in advance with the U.S. embassy directly. See 22 CFR 22.1 for information about current consular fees related to obtaining evidence. While parties have the option to request that a Belgian court conduct the deposition, this would require transmittal of letters rogatory via diplomatic channels.
In civil cases, attorneys from abroad are allowed to depose anyone in Belgium provided that they are willing witnesses and provided that this procedure does not create procedural issues for the requesting party or implicates the legal rights of the requested party. In criminal cases, it is a fairly common practice to take voluntary depositions of witnesses (or often also victims) at a lawyer’s office.
Such requests for an ‘informal deposition’ are acceptable as long as the witness (1) is willing to testify; (2) is not (also) as suspect or accused involved in a related Belgian criminal case or wanted by a third country or prosecuted in a third country; and therefore (3) as long as the deposition has no influence on an ongoing Belgian criminal case.
Oral depositions or depositions on written questions may be taken by U.S. consular officers or by private attorneys from the United States or Belgium at the U.S. Embassy, or at another location such as a hotel or office, either on notice or pursuant to a commission. If the services of a U.S. consular officer are required to administer an oath to the witness, interpreter and stenographer, such arrangements must be made in advance with the U.S. embassy directly.
Belgium is a party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents. Belgium’s competent authority for the Hague Apostille Convention will authenticate Belgian public documents with Apostilles. For information about authenticating U.S. public documents for use in Belgium, see the list of U.S. Competent Authorities. To obtain an Apostille for a U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America, contact the U.S. Department of State, Passport Services, Vital Records Office.