Do you Need a Sworn or Certified Translation Service?

Law, Translation Services

If you need to supply documents that have a legal significance for a government agency in another country, you may have questions about what level of certification or authenticity the translation will need to have in order to be valid in that country.

Legal translation is a complex task, and it’s definitely best left to a professional.

A translated legal document must be able to stand up in a court of law and, therefore, needs to be translated, edited, and proofread by a team of expert linguists who can make this happen.

There are a variety of options for legal translations, and it may be difficult to know which one you may need for your particular document.

Do you need a sworn translation? A certified one? Or just a straightforward translation without any kind of certification?

Here are a few things to consider to help you choose the right path for your translation request so it holds the legal validity needed for your particular document.

What is a sworn translation?

A sworn translation is a translated document that has been signed and stamped or sealed by a sworn translator.

This seal is a formal declaration of the translated document’s accuracy.

Sworn translators are typically certified by their country’s government. They execute a sworn translation of a document that is legally valid and binding in their country.

Because of the sworn translator’s certifications and qualifications, a sworn translation is equivalent to any other legal document in the eyes of the law, and thus, it holds the same legal standing as the original.

What is a certified translation?

A certified translation is one that comes with a signed statement that certifies the translation is true and accurate to the best of the translator’s knowledge.

This statement can be provided either by the translator or by the translation agency that is handling the project for you.

Receiving this certification statement provides the recipient with the assurance that the translation is complete and accurate, since the recipient is not likely to speak both languages well enough to verify.

What are the main differences between a certified and sworn translation?

Unlike sworn translations, there is no official accreditation process necessary to certify a translation.

Certified translations would often be used for documents that need a higher level of trustworthiness and honesty than your typical translation, but do not necessarily need to be legally binding in a court of law.

The statement of certification helps provide this level of confidence.

Sworn translations, on the other hand, are used for documents that must be legally binding in the country where the translation will be used.

How to know if you need a certified or sworn translation for your project

Again, sworn translations are used for documents that must be legally binding in a court of law.

Examples of documents that must be legally valid in a foreign country—and so, are often handled by sworn translators—are birth certificates, patents, and proof of identity such as a driver’s license, state ID or passport, among other documents.

Sworn translations of these documents are, in most cases, the only format that will be accepted by town halls, courts, or other official offices.

You can request a certified translation for these types of documents in the United States, as well as for documents used for hearings or trials, such as evidence and transcripts.

Even though they do not hold the same legal value as sworn translations in other countries, these types of documents still have legal significance and are accompanied by the certification statement to verify that the translation is accurate. In addition, a translator who provides a certification to accompany their translation may be called to testify in court.

When in doubt about the type of translation service you need, check with the government agencies to whom you’ll be providing your translated documents.

When is a sworn or certified translation unnecessary?

If a translation does not have any legal significance, you won’t likely need a sworn or certified translation.

Examples of translations that do not need to be sworn or certified are:

–       Marketing materials

–       Literary texts

–       Product manuals

–       Subtitle translation

–       among many others

This list is not exhaustive, of course. It is important to note that translating your content without an accompanying certification does not mean that your translations are not accurate!

The translations provided for these types of content are very likely to be accurate if you hire a professional translator, but since they do not have any legal significance, they do not require the same level of authentication.

Things to keep in mind when you need a sworn or certified translation

Depending on the country where your documents will be presented or on the judge requesting the documents, you may also need to have the translated documents notarized or bear an apostille.

An apostille is often issued by the embassy of a country that has signed the Hague Apostille Convention and is usually signed by an embassy official. Make it clear beforehand if an apostille or notarization is necessary for your document or case so that these steps can be handled on your behalf.

You will also want to factor in the extra time it will take to get the notarization and/or apostille, as, typically, you must have the original translated document in hard copy to show the original seals and stamps.

Because these types of translations may require additional steps, it is essential to factor in additional time when considering your deadline.

Also, if you have provided a scanned document to your translation provider and some of the text is difficult to decipher, you may be asked to supply that text whenever possible.

If it is not provided or remains unknown, the translation team will write “[Illegible]” instead of trying to make a best guess.

If there is text within a stamp or seal that you want to make sure is included in the translation, be sure to provide that as well. Otherwise, signatures, stamps and seals are often left untranslated, but will be marked as “[Signature]” and “[Stamp]” or “[Seal],” where appropriate, instead.

Additionally, if the language you request translation into/from uses a different alphabet or series of characters, supplying your translation provider with parties’ names to ensure that they are listed correctly on the translated document can also be quite helpful.

If you don’t, the team will do their best to portray it phonetically, which could potentially nullify the translated document if it turns out to not match another legal document with the same person’s name portrayed differently.

Taking the appropriate steps to have your document translated professionally and correctly can make a difference in the translation’s validity in the courtroom or in other legal settings.

As such, it is important that these translations be handled correctly. Be sure to use a professional agency or translation team, and always ask any questions you may have along the way.

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