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What is a sworn translation?

Sworn translation services are provided by sworn translators. These are professional translators who have been entrusted to provide accurate translations of official documents. Many government departments and other organizations around the world require translated documents to be translated by either a sworn translator, a certified translator, or a professional translator who has the translations completed notarized by a notary or lawyer. The actual requirements depend on the particular government. The Hague Convention of 1961 created the concept of the Apostille, which is a form of stamp or seal which is used to confirm that a translated document has been translated is valid.

There are 51 countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention, but sworn translators are not standard in each of these countries or even other countries that are not signatories to the Convention. There are other procedures that can be used to confirm the legality of official documents and signatures used on them which can be used in addition to or in place of sworn translations.

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The use of sworn translations has grown in recent decades because of the prevalence of international agreements as well as the increase in international migration for work, business, and residence.

Documents that may need sworn translations

To reiterate what has already been said, the final say on what needs to be officially verified by a sworn or certified translator is up to the government department or organization of a particular country. Procedures do vary considerably. In the European Union, it is standard for the sorts of official documents listed below to be accompanied by a sworn translation.

Examples of documents that may need a sworn translation include:

  • birth certificates;
  • marriage certificates;
  • divorce certificates;
  • passports;
  • driving licenses;
  • educational certificates, degrees, diplomas, etc.;
  • professional and trade qualifications;
  • police checks / criminal record clearance certificates;
  • tax status;
  • statement of assets.

The sworn translation concept in different countries

Most countries have some form of verifying whether an official document has been translated accurately and honestly. It’s understandable that a government department in one country would have problems knowing whether a document provided in an unfamiliar language originating in another country is genuine. That’s why official documents must be translated first and verified to show that they are translations of the original. Where the practice of sworn translators is prevalent, the translator would normally have sworn an oath at a court or other similar place. In the Netherlands or France, it is at a court, in Spain, it is at a town hall.

In other countries, like the U.K., the translator certifies the document and has the document legalized by the U.K. government’s legalization service. In the U.S. the translator just certifies the translated document if it is for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. In Australia, translated official documents must be translated and certified by a translator accredited by the National Accreditation Authority of Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

To sum up, it is the country for which translated official documents are intended which determines how translated documents are legally verified. In Europe, it is standard practice to demand that translated documents are translated by a sworn translator and accompanied by an Apostille. This is not the case everywhere, but generally, there will be some procedure that helps to ensure that translated documents are accurate versions of the original.

Finding the right agency for sworn translations

In most countries where sworn translations are necessary to have websites with a list of sworn translation services in that country. It’s important to find out what the exact requirements are for the department or organization that has requested the documents in the country they are needed. Getting official documents translated and ‘legalized’ can be a time-consuming business and it is a pain to have to start from square one all over again if your translated documents are rejected because you haven’t followed the required procedure.

Some translation agencies have links to sworn translators available in other countries and it is then a simple procedure to deliver your originals to the agency and let them get them translated by a sworn translator if that is what is required.

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