In a globalised world where cultural and economic exchanges between countries are increasingly frequent, the need to give international validity to official documents such as diplomas, administrative acts or legal contracts is paramount. One of the main instruments for ensuring this recognition is sworn translation, which involves having a translation certified by a professional approved by a competent authority. But to what extent are these translations recognised abroad? This article provides an overview of the mechanisms and processes used to ensure the international validity of sworn translations.
The sworn translator’s authorisation: a key first step
For a translation to be considered sworn and have international validity, it must be produced by a sworn translator. This professional is authorised by a competent authority (for example, in France, this is the Court of Appeal), which confers on them the title of ‘legal expert’ in translation matters.
This authorisation guarantees the quality and reliability of the translation carried out by this specialist, who has in-depth linguistic skills and a good knowledge of the legal and administrative subtleties specific to the country concerned. Choosing a sworn translator is therefore a crucial step in ensuring the international validity of your documents.
Legalisation or apostille: essential additional procedures
Although a sworn translation is carried out by an approved professional, this is generally not enough for it to be automatically accepted abroad. Depending on the country to which the document is addressed and the specific nature of the document, it may need to be legalised or apostilled.
Legalisation is an administrative process that allows a document issued in one country to be officially recognised by the authorities of another. In practical terms, this involves having the document (or its sworn translation) officially stamped by various bodies, such as consulates, embassies or other competent institutions.
This confirms the authenticity of the signatures, stamps and titles of the people who signed and certified the original document or the sworn translation. However, each country has its own legalisation requirements, which can make the process long and tedious.
To simplify the process of international recognition of documents, over a hundred countries have signed up to the Hague Convention, which introduced the apostille mechanism. The apostille is a unique, official stamp affixed to a document (or its sworn translation) which considerably simplifies the procedure compared with legalisation.
Once a document has received an apostille issued by the competent authority in the issuing country (for example, in France, this is the tribunal de grande instance (high court)), it is no longer necessary to go through the consular or diplomatic services of the recipient country in order for it to be recognised. However, you should first check whether the country concerned is a signatory to the Hague Convention.
The period of validity of sworn translations
There is no universal period of validity for sworn translations. This concept essentially depends on the requirements of each country and the specific features of the documents concerned. For example, some countries may require the sworn translation to be completed within a specific period of time before the date on which the document is presented, while others do not impose any particular time constraints.
As a general rule, it is therefore advisable to check with the competent authorities in the country of destination to find out what their requirements are in terms of the validity of sworn translations. Whatever the case, opting for a sworn translation carried out by an approved professional and scrupulously following the legalisation or apostille stages is an additional guarantee that your document will be recognised abroad.