Sworn translations: everything you need to know

Legal texts present a dual challenge for translation professionals. The translation process allows them to use their linguistic skills in a meticulous context with specific terminology and play a key role in the legal application of an official document.

date iconSeptember 24, 2022     tag iconTranslation

This work requires impeccable technical expertise combined with in-depth knowledge of the legal system in which the text will be used. Translation professionals who provide sworn, notarized or certified translation services offer their clients a guarantee of quality and legal value.

When do you need a sworn translation?

In the legal world, “certified”, “sworn” or “notarized” translations are required in cases where a legal document needs to be translated for submission to an authority in the client’s country of residence or another country. In most cases, these translations are the only formats that will be accepted by town halls or courts for legal dossiers.  Examples include documents relating to civil status, such as certificates of birth, marriage or death, diplomas, legal judgements or extracts issued by a Chamber of Commerce. This list is, of course, far from exhaustive. 

An essential check 

It is important to note that a sworn translation may not have the same legal value in all countries. A translation that is accepted in one country may very well not be valid in another. For example, in some countries, such as France, sworn translators must be recognized by the courts. In other countries, like the United States or the United Kingdom, there is no such thing as a ‘sworn’ translator, but translations can be notarized in the presence of a notary. In the UK, translations can receive an apostille which is issued by the English Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). An apostille verifies the authenticity of the signature and ensures that the document is recognised in states that signed the Hague Convention of 1961. 

As you can see, rules and requirements differ significantly between countries! To avoid potentially unnecessary procedures, we strongly recommend contacting the legal authorities from the country in question before requesting a sworn translation. Our team of account managers are also happy to work with you to determine the type of translation needed for your situation. As one of our clients from a large health company puts it: “what I like about working with Acolad is that they have a lot of experience handling translations for authorities in different countries and can advise me about which documents I need to prepare.”

A document's legal validity will depend on the agreements in place between the country of origin (the country of issue of the official document) and the destination country (country in which the translated document is required). A sworn translation follows a special process and, consequently, lead times may be longer in comparison to a standard translation. That’s why we offer around-the-clock service, so you can receive a quote and launch your project almost immediately.

The translator’s role

A translator who produces a sworn, certified or notarized translation takes on a dual role. As well as acting as a translation services provider, he or she also is also involved in the official certification of the final document. The translator therefore contributes directly to the legal value of the text he or she has translated. To be certified as “sworn”, a translation must have been produced by a translation specialist who has sworn an official oath in front of a court.  When the translation work is complete, the translator places his or her stamp on the document, giving it a legal value with courts and authorities. Our legal translators are professionals with both linguistic and legal expertise and they work with lawyers, solicitors and other translators with legal experience to ensure extremely precise texts.

Specific features of a sworn translation 

A sworn translation of a document contains several required elements. It must include a statement to the effect that this is a “certified and true copy of the original”, along with the sworn translator's seal and signature. The translator must clearly state his or her full name, the designation “sworn translator” (or certified, etc.) and the languages for which his or her translation is sworn.  

If required, the translator's signature on a translation can be certified by the mayor in his or her local town hall. The document must make it clear that it is a translation and specify the language in which the text was originally written. The formatting must be as close as possible to that of the original document. Pagination must be clearly specified, and the end of the document needs to be indicated. These precautions help to protect the content of the document by preventing fraudulent additions. 

How long does it take?

The destination country will generally stipulate that certified translations of an official document must be produced from the original document rather than a copy. This requirement must be factored into the translation lead time. Clients may be reluctant to supply original official documents because of the extra time involved or concern over potential loss or theft. However, a sworn translator may refuse to work from an electronic document or a photocopy. The translator is entitled to demand direct access to the original document to work with peace of mind. This is a reasonable request and demonstrates the sworn translator's integrity and adherence to the rules attached to this status, as the translator has no guarantee that the copies received will actually be identical to the hard copy of the document provided when the file is put together and certified. In the event of any discrepancy between the copy and the original, the translator will regard the document as invalid and will be unable to apply his or her seal. As a general rule, the translation lead time quoted starts from the time when the translator receives the original hard copy of the document to be processed. 

It is essential that the final version of the source document is delivered to the translator at the start of the translation process. Once the certification step has been completed, the translator is unable to make any further modifications to the document. In the event of any last-minute additions, the entire certification process will need to start over from the beginning (print the new translation, apply stamps and signatures on all pages of the translation and the original, and return by post). Considering the meticulous nature of this procedure, even a tiny modification can have a major impact on the costs and lead times for a sworn translation. 

It is best to provide an original and complete document from the very start of the process to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of translation lead times and deadlines.  At Acolad, we are committed to meeting even the most urgent deadlines, without compromising the quality of the translation provided. Our Legal & Finance division can provide a quote in under an hour and are available 24/7 to handle your urgent translation projects.

Do you have a sworn translation project?

Validity of a sworn translation

The delivery of the sworn translation marks the end of the translator's work, but this is not necessarily the end of the procedure. As mentioned above, in some cases, the sworn translator's signature may need to be certified on both the translation and the original document. Depending on the country, this certification procedure needs to be done at a town hall, a notary’s office or, if applicable, the local Chamber of Commerce. To avoid losing any time during the certification process, we strongly recommend that you contact your local authorities to verify the compliance of the documents and dossier provided.

Once a sworn translation has been produced and delivered, it takes on the status of an official document in the same way as the document in the source language. Consequently, only the certified original document can be presented to legal and administrative authorities. Copies have no legal value. There is no legal end date to the validity of documents processed by sworn translators. However, an exception may apply for certain documents relating to civil status. 

Security: a top priority 

We take the security and confidentiality of personal data very seriously, and so do our suppliers. Sworn translators are therefore subject to the same confidentiality rules as all professionals in this area. They retain working files for just a few months after the delivery of a certified translation, after which time they must be destroyed. 

Finding the right agency  

In summary, sworn translations require specific expertise from a professional who has a thorough understanding of the legal system. Due to the detailed nature of this work, it’s especially important to work with a language services agency who understands the ins and outs of the sworn translation process and can connect you with a suitable translator. At Acolad, we work with a network of qualified legal translation professionals who are ready to help you translate your documents for use in any country. If you have a sworn translation project or any questions about this topic, please contact us and we will be happy to help. 

date iconSeptember 24, 2022     tag iconTranslation

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