The Definitive FAQ for Taking U.S. Depositions Abroad, Part II

This is the second part of The Definitive FAQ for Taking U.S. Depositions Abroad article. You can find Part I here. If you have any questions about this subject feel free to leave a comment or reply to us on our Optima Juris Facebook Page
6. Will legal video shot in a foreign country play correctly in court in the United States?
If you hire a professional, trained U.S. legal videographer based abroad, your legal video record will be shot in NTSC (the U.S. video format) and in keeping with the standards of the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence. So the answer to this question is yes, provided that you hire the right professional.
Definitely avoid using camera operators or video technicians in foreign countries who have never done depositions before – you’ll find that the video record taken by such individuals may be unplayable in the U.S., requiring an expensive format conversion, or worse, it may end up being considered inadmissible in court.
7. Do I need a special visa to depose a witness in country X?
No, you don’t (the one exception to this rule is for Japan – please see below).
But you will definitely need a valid passport – make sure that yours is up to date, with at least six months of validity left on it. When traveling with an American passport, you can get into a lot of countries without applying for a visa beforehand. To check on the requirements for a particular country, simply Google “visa requirements for X,” where X is your country of interest, in order to find out what is needed.
Some countries require that you apply for a formal visa in advance, and it can often take several weeks to process your request. Specific documents, such as letters of invitation from the witness or client in the foreign country, may be required. If you’re not sure about what is needed or if you’re under a tight deadline to depose in a country with strict visa requirements, just let us know and we can recommend the best solution for your particular needs.
The only country we know of that requires a special “deposition visa” is Japan (readers, please correct me if I’m missing any countries here). You can read more about that requirement at:
8. Can I depose a foreign witness by telephone?
Yes you can, and this is done quite often. The advantage to conducting a foreign deposition by phone is that it is the least expensive way to get testimony from abroad. In some third world countries lacking dependable Internet service and videoconferencing facilities, the good old fashioned telephone can be the best way to take a deposition without having to physically fly in.
We do recommend that the court reporter be physically present with the witness abroad, and that you have a legal videographer there with the witness as well. Because you can’t see the witness when deposing telephonically, having a good video record will come in real handy should you need to analyze specific responses down the road. A video record can also help to ascertain the identity of a witness should questions or challenges arise in trial.
9. Can I depose a foreign witness by Skype?
Yes, you can. This approach is just now coming into vogue, thanks to much better Internet connectivity worldwide and the prevalence of Skype on computers almost anywhere you go. There are a few important caveats to keep in mind, however: Skype is not perfect and can often drop out or garble communications, especially in countries with bad Internet connectivity. Booking a professional videoconference facility instead of using Skype can assure a much better quality of connection, although there is a price to pay. If you choose to conduct your deposition by Skype, we strongly recommend having a speakerphone with the witness and a backup plan in place to proceed telephonically should Skype fail to work correctly. Also, your witness should be technologically capable, or at least have someone present who is, in order to ensure that Skype is installed and that their computer is configured correctly.
As with telephonic depositions, when taking depos via Skype we strongly recommend having the court reporter physically present with the witness abroad, as well as having a qualified legal videographer there to take a clean video and audio record of the proceedings. If your witness needs an interpreter, the interpreter should also be there with the witness.
10. It’s always so easy to schedule a reporter for my depos in the States. Why is it so hard to find a local reporter in country X? 
This may come as a surprise, but most foreign courts do not rely on verbatim transcripts to the extent that we do in the United States. Nor do they employ lengthy discovery and out-of-court depositions as part of their process like we do. Because the majority of foreign jurisdictions don’t use them, or only use them sparingly, qualified court reporters can only be found in a limited number of countries possessing legal systems similar to our own.
And of course, a lot of countries don’t speak English — which means that their reporters won’t be able to take down English-language testimony.
What this all boils down to is that finding a qualified, English-language court reporter abroad is not a simple matter. In fact, in the majority of foreign countries, there aren’t any. My agency has the largest database of foreign-based reporters available, and we always try to schedule locally-based reporters in order to save our clients money on travel costs. If that’s not possible, we can almost always fly a reporter in from a nearby country in the same region.
There are some U.S. certified, American reporters who live abroad and with whom we work regularly, but they are few and far between. For this reason, it’s important to schedule your deposition abroad as far ahead as possible in order to increase your chances of finding a good reporter and legal videographer with availability. You’ll also find that strict cancelation policies typically apply when scheduling reporters and videographers for depositions abroad, so be sure that your dates are firm before you book.
We hope this FAQ has been helpful! Should you have any other questions, or if would like to follow up on any of the answers given in this article, please contact us at any time. We’re more than happy to help!
* Please note that these questions and answers are based on our practical experience, and do not constitute legal advice. We at Optima Juris are not attorneys, although we love working with them. We always recommend that attorneys seek buy-in for their foreign deposition plans from opposing counsel and the judge before proceeding. What is allowed ultimately depends on your local jurisdiction and your judge’s discretion.
Ian Hardy is the President and lead Global Deposition Expert at Optima Juris, the world’s first and only reporting agency that exclusively handles depositions abroad

Ian Hardy

Ian Hardy is an internationally-recognized Global Deposition Expert and President of Optima Juris, the world’s first and only agency specialized in deposition services for U.S. legal matters abroad. With over 20 years of experience organizing depositions throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania, Ian is a leading expert in global deposition consulting and services.