What is sworn translation and why is it important?

Published on March 18th, 2016

Sworn translation has recently become very important due to international trade, the creation of political-economic blocks, migration and tourism.

But what is it? Sworn translation is generally recognised as an officially accepted translation of a legal document or any document that needs to be accepted in a legal situation, such as birth certificates, academic certificates or declarations. Sworn translations are always needed when a translation is to be used for administration purposes or governmental requirements.

There are no fixed regulations regarding sworn translations, as the requirements are dependent upon the country in which it will be used, and therefore regulations can change based on the location. That is why we can also refer to this type of translation as certified, public or official, depending on the process used for translating for the target country.

However, there are some different processes required to validate a translation based on the country where the translation originates and the country to which the final document will be delivered. Some of the most common are as follows:

  • A translation can be considered officially certified if the document has been translated by a “sworn translator”. There are some countries such as Spain, France or the Netherlands, where a translator becomes a sworn translator by taking an oath before a court, so that his or her translations are accepted as a full and faithful version of the original and in accordance with legal requirements. These translations also include the translator’s signature and seal. In countries such as the UK or the USA, this does not exist. Here, a translation can be certified if it has been signed by the translator in the presence of a solicitor or notary; however, the solicitor or notary does not guarantee the accuracy of the document, instead the translator who signs it assumes all responsibility. For instance, if a document has been carelessly translated, the translator could be charged with contempt of court, perjury or negligence.
  • A translation can also be certified by the translator or the translation company by stating their qualifications. To do so, the translator or translation company should:
    o confirm that the document is a true and accurate translation of the original document
    o print the date of the translation
    o provide a full name and contact details of the translator or a representative of the translation company.

In order to make this process easier and faster, The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 drafted the Apostille Convention, which is a stamp or printed form containing ten numbered standard fields. It guarantees that all the documents from the administration or judicial organisms in every one of the 51 countries that signed it are valid in those countries.

Therefore, every sworn translation should be accompanied by this guarantee to be effective. This apostille certifies that the person who sends the translation (in some countries, for instance Spain, it is usually the translator), acts as attester of the document and certifies the accuracy, completeness and official value of the document.

Certifying a translation could become a long-winded procedure. For example, if a document has to be translated from a non-signatory State, this will have to be certified twice (in the country of origin and the country where it will be used).

With the apostille, the documents can be legalized without third parties taking part and thereby making the process faster and simpler.

Posted on: March 18th, 2016