Sworn Translations – Are They Necessary?

Sworn Translations – Are They Necessary?

If you live in France you have most probably heard of sworn translations ("traductions assermentées" in French). If you have somehow managed to escape this annoying requirement and don’t know what it is, here’s a short intro:

What is a sworn translation?

A sworn (a.k.a. certified) translation is an official translation done by an "expert", court sworn translator, bearing his/her official seal. A court sworn translator is someone who, "subject to certain requirements in terms of education and experience, has taken an oath before a court of law, whereupon the translations he or she produces are accepted as a full and faithful rendering of the original." In simpler terms, it means that the documents they translate are legally considered valid. If you decide to use the services of a translator who is not sworn, you may face problems when submitting these documents French authorities or government agencies. Remember, everything in France has to be official. 

Are they Necessary or Not? 

This, dear readers, is the question playing on a lot of Expatriates' minds. When I was in the process of applying for my carte vitale I was told that I needed a sworn translation of my birth certificate. However, a lot of other Expatriates told me that they weren't required to do that and therefore saved themselves around fifty euros in translation fees. I was confused, did I have to do it or not? I settled on yes because I came to the conclusion that maybe each caisse maladie was different and required different things (depending on how difficult the people working there wanted your life to be).

Jumping forward to 2017, the question I asked a few years ago seems to be popping back up and more than ever people are questioning the necessity of documents being translated. People are also questioning whether or not it's legally required.

A Change in the Game

On the 9th of June 2016 the European Parliament "adopted the regulation, proposed by the Commission, to cut costs and formalities for citizens who need to present a public document in another EU country." And, you guessed it, one of their areas of cutting costs was sworn translations. The European Parliament decided that:

  • Public documents (for example, birth, marriage or the absence of a criminal record) issued in a Union country must be accepted as authentic in another Member State without the need to carry an authenticity stamp (i.e. the apostille);
  • The regulation also abolishes the obligation for citizens to provide in all cases a certified copy and a certified translation of their public documents. Citizens can also use a multilingual standard form, available in all EU languages, to present as translation aid attached to their public document to avoid translation requirements;
  • The regulation sets safeguards against fraud: if a receiving authority has reasonable doubts about the authenticity of a public document, it will be able to check its authenticity with the issuing authority in the other country through the existing IT platform, the Internal Market Information System or IMI. (Information taken from the European Commission press release)

These decisions were made after the red tape and complex bureaucratic requirements were deemed to be obstacles for citizens' right to free movement guaranteed by the Union treaties.

So this means we don't need to get our documents translated anymore right?


Union countries have two and a half years from the date of entry into the Regulation to adopt all necessary measures. This means that by the beginning of 2019 this will be the regulation adopted by all European Union countries. For now, the old rules can still be applied so French administrative offices can still ask for stamped and translated documents.

However, we should keep in mind that deadlines can always be postponed and that it could be a while before these regulations are actually adopted by every EU country. We should also note that Britain will most probably be outside of the EU by this time so this regulation won't apply to UK citizens. Let's wait and see what the future holds!

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