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When it comes to the requirement for certification of official documents, legislation will vary between one country and the next. In neighbouring France, for example, it would be unthinkable to have official documents translated by a translation agency or bureau without having the translation certified by a sworn translator. In Switzerland, however, the official stamp of the translation agency or bureau will suffice in most cases.

So what is a sworn translation?

The term “sworn translation” applies to the legal sector and relates to official documents. Providing a sworn translation of an official document involves translating the content of the document into a particular language, as faithfully as possible, and certifying that the content of the translation is consistent with that of the original. In Switzerland, a translation agency or bureau is able to certify a translation by appending its stamp together with the signature of the director or, in his or her absence, the signature of one of the employees. In France, however, translation agencies or bureaux do not have the same authority. Only a sworn translator is able to certify a translation by appending his or her signature and seal. But not all translators have this special status. In France, the status is conferred by the Court of Cassation or the Court of Appeal, by request, for a renewable period of five years.

The status of court-sworn translator does also exist in Switzerland, where it is issued by the Conseil d’État, also for a renewable five-year period. Once a court-sworn translator has acquired this title, he or she will obtain a seal (bearing his or her surname, forename, capacity and the cantonal emblem), which will then be appended to the translations that he or she carries out in order to show them as certified. Some documents, in addition to being certified, need to be legalised by way of an apostille certificate.

In what circumstances does a translation require an apostille?

An apostille authenticates the signature on a document. It is issued by the Federal Chancellery. The apostille can also legalise the origin of a public document so that it is valid in a country other than the country in which it was issued, provided that the country receiving the certified document is a signatory to the relevant Hague Convention. Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland and the UK are included in the list of countries having adopted the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents. It is important to refer to the list (available online) of signatory countries to this Convention before requesting an apostille, as payment is required for this service and the apostille is not recognised in all countries.

To illustrate this point, let’s say you are of Portuguese nationality and you are resident in Switzerland. You need to have a document translated from Portuguese into French for a Swiss authority. Firstly, you should find out from the authority in question whether it requires an apostille certificate for the translation. If it does, then the apostille will be recognised since Switzerland is one of the signatory countries.

The team at Tradeo is on hand to undertake the appropriate steps from here on, and to ease the administrative burden for you. We can either have your document translated by a court-sworn translator and then have their signature legalised by way of an apostille, or we can assign the translation to a non-sworn translator and then append our official translation bureau stamp and request a declaration from a notary certifying that the translation is a true and faithful rendering of the original. In the latter case, it is the signature on the notary’s declaration that will be issued an apostille by the Federal Chancellery.

Before you proceed with having an official document translated, you can save time by ensuring that you have satisfied the following conditions. The issue date of the document must not exceed six months (with the notable exception of diplomas and marriage certificates). We will need to have sight of the original documents; you will be able to procure these from the relevant authority in your country of origin and then deliver them to us by hand or by registered post. In order for the process to run smoothly and to avoid any unnecessary expense, do take the time to contact the authority that has requested the translation (for example, the Swiss Register Office, the relevant embassy, etc.) to find out firstly whether the documents need to be certified by a notary and, secondly, whether an apostille from the Federal Chancellery is required. The authority may also provide you with a form to complete; this form relates to the Involvement of a translator. The team at Tradeo is well familiar with formalities such as these and will be happy to complete this form, which certifies that the translator has no personal association with you.

Don’t hesitate to call on our translation services for all your official documents – whether or not they require certification or an apostille!