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California Rules of Civil Procedure

Disclaimer: Laws regarding process serving can change. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information on this page. Please consult legal counsel in your state.

Does a process server have to be licensed in California?

You can get California Process Servers License. If you don’t have your license, you must be registered and bonded. Read more below.

California Process Server Licensing Requirements

If an individual serves more than 10 papers a year they are required to be registered in the county they serve in. Registration is statewide and applicants must be a resident of the State of California for one year immediately preceding filing. There is no testing, or education required. Every applicant is required to post a $2,000 bond or cash deposit. Licensed private investigators are exempt from the registration requirement, but are likely not permitted to serve bank levies and similar documents without being registered per the statutory language requiring that a registered process server serve those documents. [California Business and Professions Code §22350 and §22353]

For further information on becoming a process server in California, visit our Become a Process Server page.

California Service of Process Laws to Note

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California Rules of Civil Procedure

Please note that lobbyists are active in California and laws concerning civil procedure and process serving can change. Therefore the information listed below may have been amended. For updated process serving legislation, please visit the California Judiciary and Courts web site.

§ 413.10 Law governing service.

Except as otherwise provided by statute, a summons shall be served on a person:

  1. Within this state, as provided in this chapter.
  2. Outside this state but within the United States, as provided in this chapter or as prescribed by the law of the place where the person is served.
  3. Outside the United States, as provided in this chapter or as directed by the court in which the action is pending, or, if the court before or after service finds that the service is reasonably calculated to give actual notice, as prescribed by the law of the place where the person is served or as directed by the foreign authority in response to a letter rogatory. These rules are subject to the provisions of the Convention on the “Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents” in Civil or Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention). (Amended by Stats. 1984, Ch. 191, Sec. 1.)

§ 413.20 If a summons is served by mail pursuant to this chapter, the provisions of Section 1013 that extend the time for exercising a right or doing an act shall not extend any time specified in this title. (Added by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1610.)

§ 413.30 Where no provision is made in this chapter or other law for the service of summons, the court in which the action is pending may direct that summons be served in a manner which is reasonably calculated to give actual notice to the party to be served and that proof of such service be made as prescribed by the court. (Added by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1610.)

§ 413.40 Service in violation of law goerning process servers. Any service of summons which complies with the provisions of this chapter shall not be rendered invalid or ineffective because it was made by a person in violation of Chapter 16 (commencing with Section 22350 Bus. & Prof.) of Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code. (Added by Stats. 1971, Ch. 1661.)

§ 414.10 Authorized persons. A summons may be served by any person who is at least 18 years of age and not a party to the action. (Added by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1610.)

Comment: The 1997 legislature enacted substantial changes in Section 22350, et seq. of the Business and Professions Code, requiring that all process servers who serve process for compensation-and also any corporationor partnership that derives compensation for service of process within California-be registered with the county clerk in the county where he or she resides or has a principal place of business. Licensed private investigators and their employees are among those exempted from registration.

§ 415.10 A summons may be served by personal delivery of a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the person to be served. Service of a summons in this manner is deemed complete at the time of such delivery. The date upon which personal delivery is made shall be entered on or affixed to the face of the copy of the summons at the time of its delivery. However, service of a summons without such date shall be valid and effective. (Amended by Stats. 1976, Ch. 789.)

§ 415.20 Leaving a copy of summons and compliant at office, dwelling house, usual place of abode or business or usual mailing address...

  1. In lieu of personal delivery of a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the person to be served as specified in Section 416.10, 416.20, 416. 30, 416.40, or 416.50, a summons may be served by leaving a copy of the summons and of the complaint during usual office hours in his or her office with the person who is apparently in charge thereof, and by thereafter mailing a copy of the summons and of the complaint (by first-class mail, postage prepaid) to the person to be served at the place where a copy of the summons and of the complaint were left. Service of a summons in this manner is deemed complete on the 10th day after such mailing.
  2. If a copy of the summons and of the complaint cannot with reasonable diligence be personally delivered to the person to be served as specified in Section 416.60, 416.70, 416.80, or 416.90, a summons may be served by leaving a copy of the summons and of the complaint at such person’s dwelling house, usual place of abode, usual place of business, or usual mailing address other than a United States Postal Service post office box, in the presence of a competent member of the household or a person apparently in charge of his or her office, place of business, or usual mailing address other than a United States Postal Service post office box, at least 18 years of age, who shall be informed of the contents thereof, and by thereafter mailing a copy of the summons and of the complaint (by first-class mail, postage prepaid) to the person to be served at the place where a copy of the summons and of the complaint were left. Service of a summons in this manner is deemed complete on the 10th day after the mailing. (Amended by Stats. 1989, Ch. 1416, Sec. 15.)

§ 415.21 Access to gated communities.

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person shall be granted access to a gated community ... for the purpose of performing lawful service of process, upon identifying to the guard the person or persons to be served, and upon displaying a current driver's license or other identification, and one of the follow: (1) a badge [applies to sheriffs and marshals] (2) evidence of current registration as a process server...
(b)This section shall only apply to a gated community which is staffed, at the time service of process is attempted, by a guard or other ... personnel assigned to control access...

§ 415.30 Service by mail. [describes mail service by sending a copy of summons and complaint by first-class mail or airmail to the defendant, together with 2 copies of notice and acknowledgment form; service is complete on date defendant executes a written acknowledgment; if form not returned within 20 days from mailing, defendant will be liable for reasonable costs in being served by another permitted method]

§ 415.40 Service on person outside of state. A summons may be served on a person outside this state in any manner provided in this article or by sending a copy of the summons and complaint to the person to be served by first class mail, postage prepaid, requireing a return receipt. Service of summons by this form of mail is deemed complete on the 10th day after such mailing.

§ 415.95 Service on a business - form unknown.

(a) A summons may be served on a business organization, form unknown, by leaving a copy of the summons and complaint during usual office hours with the person who is apparently in charge of the office of that business organization, and by thereafter mailing a copy ... by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the person to be served at the place where a copy of the summons was left. Service of a summons in this maner is deemed complete on the 10th day after the mailing.
(b) Service of a summons pursuant to this section is not valid for a corporation with a registerd agent for sevice of process listed with the Secretary of State.

§ 416.10 Corporations. A summons may be served on a corporation by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint:
(a) to the person designated as agent for service of process as provided by any provision in...
(b) to the president or other head of the corporation, a vice president, a secretary or assistant secretary, a treasurer or assistant treasurer, a general managre, or a person authorized by the corporation to receive...

§ 417.10 Proof of Service-Service within state. Proof that a summons was erved on a person within state shall be made:
(a) If served under §§ 415.10, 415.20 or 415.30, by the affidavit of the peson making such service showing the time, place, and manner of service and facts showing that service was made in accordance with this chapter. [It] shall recite ... the name of the person to whom a copy ... was delivered, and, if appropriate, his title or capacity in which he is served, and the notice required by § 412.30 appeared on the copy .. served, if in fact it did appear.
(f) All proof of personal service shall be made on a form adopted by the Judicial Council.

§ 2015.5 Certification or declaration under penalty of perjury.
Whenever, under any law of this state ... any matter is required or permited to be supported, evidenced, established, or proved by the sworn statement, declaration, verification, certicate, oath, or affidavit, in writing of the person making same (other than  deposition, or an oath of office, an oath required to be taken before a specified official other than  notary public), such a matter may like force and effect be ... proved by the unsworn statement, declaration, verification, or certificate, in writing of such person ... The certificate or declaration may be in substantially the following form:

(a) If executed within this state:
"I certify (or declare) under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct: (Date and Place)  (Signature)"

(b) If executed ... within or without this state:
"I certify (or declare) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct: (Date and place)   (Signature)"

You should contact an California Process Server if you have specific questions about Process Serving in California.