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How to Hire and Work with Foreign Investigators

  • April 29, 2010
  • by PInow Staff

Whether or not you have ever considered seeking the assistance of a private investigator in another country, eventually you may find yourself needing one. You might need to locate heirs in a foreign country. Or a child custody case could turn into an international child kidnapping incident when one parent takes a child to another country without the other parent's consent. There is also always a need for international corporate investigations with the continued growth of financial activity worldwide and President Obama's promotion of tougher compliance and enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

There are several specific issues and concerns involved when hiring and working with a foreign private investigator. We discussed some of them with Steven Rambam, owner of Pallorium, Inc, whose investigative agency has offices and affiliations worldwide. He has over 20 years of experience solving thousands of cases ranging from homicide investigations to international insurance fraud in more than 50 countries. Rambam offered some useful advice for American investigators who need to hire a foreign-based private investigator.

1. Know which specific services you need

Before contacting an overseas private investigator, you can review his or her website for information about services offered. However, Rambam cautions that the Internet may not help you verify the background and skills of the private investigator. You still need to perform due diligence to find out such critical information as licensing requirements in the investigator's country.

While private investigators in foreign countries typically provide the same services that U.S. investigators provide, they also offer such specialized services as:

  • assisting in local police investigations
  • serving legal documents
  • locating and repatriating stolen vehicles
  • preparing foreign affidavits

Make sure that the overseas private investigator you choose has the relevant experience to perform all activities required for your specific investigation.

2. Verify that the private investigator is properly licensed and insured under the laws of his or her country

One of the most important questions to ask an overseas private investigator is how long the investigator has been licensed. Many countries have no licensing requirements for private investigators other than the business must be properly registered. This is the case in India, where all one needs to set up a private investigator business is a shopkeeper's license.

On the other end of the spectrum, Rambam points out that Israel has strict standards for private investigators. An Israeli private investigator must have at least five years of experience, have no criminal record, and be approved by the police.

Keep in mind that there may be local laws within a country governing the private investigation profession. For example, each province of Canada has its own licensing requirements for private investigators.

3. Ask the overseas investigator about his personal background and references

If the foreign private investigator has a firm or agency, Rambam recommends asking about the number of people employed there. You should also ask the investigator for references.

If you need corporate investigations, it helps if the private investigator has a business, corporate, or legal background. If your case is criminal in nature, you need someone with a law enforcement background.

Check to see if the overseas private investigator is a member of a recognized international investigator organization. While this is not a guarantee of the private investigator's skills or competency, membership usually requires that the private investigator submit proof of license (if required), registration, insurance/bond, education, and experience in investigations. Some countries, including Britain, Germany, and Israel, have their own local associations.

4. Make sure you and the overseas private investigator observe U.S. and international laws regarding evidence and certification of documents

Some evidence obtained overseas may not be admissible in U.S. courts. So it is very important that you and the overseas private investigator know what kind of evidence obtained abroad will be useful back home. It is critical for you to understand the U.S. and international rules of evidence because:

  • He or she may be the one who actually gathers evidence overseas and brings it back to the United States.
  • The United States can bar anyone from entering the country and your foreign colleague may not be able to enter the country to give testimony.

That's why Rambam believes that it's important that you and the foreign private investigator work "hand-in-hand" performing an investigation and gathering testimony. The foreign private investigator brings his knowledge of local customs and languages to the investigation. You can bring the evidence into the United States and testify. The ability to gather and present evidence that can be accepted and believed is a very important skill for any private investigator.

Additional Tips

  • When working with foreign law enforcement officials, act in a professional manner if you want cooperation and assistance. A common remark that Rambam makes when working with overseas police is, "I am a guest in your home."
  • When traveling overseas, make sure you have other foreign private investigators as a backup so you aren't stuck with an unreliable investigator during your investigation.
  • Face-to-face networking is critical. Personally meet with foreign private investigators whenever possible. You may make long-lasting and valuable contacts in other countries for future investigations.


Once you choose the overseas private investigator you want to work with, you need to finalize the agreement. Some countries may have specific legislation mandating what is required in order to hire a private investigator. For example, a private investigator in Croatia states on his website that in order to enter into a contract for his investigative services, the laws of Croatia require a special contract and a notarized power of attorney.

It may seem a little intimidating at first to find an overseas private investigator to work with. But if the partnership works out, you can subcontract with other overseas private investigators in various countries so that you can provide global services to your clients and grow your investigations business beyond U.S. borders.

This article was written by staff writer Cynthia Padilla.

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