Do I really need a certified translation?

As a general rule, town halls, prefectures, commercial courts and other governmental bodies always require certified translations. Judges, lawyers, notaries and other justice department authorities often require certified translations, but they are independent (thank goodness) and will decide according to their ability to understand the source-language document, just like university registrars, banks and insurance companies.


If in doubt, ask for our opinion and/or that of the receiving authority. If, however you have a rarely translated document and yet you can’t get a definitive answer from the receiving authority, we advise you to opt for the choice without any risk because a certified translation will never be refused.

What's the difference between a certified translation and an ordinary translation?

The short answer is the peace of mind for all civil and legal authorities to be able to count on a translation knowing that there is a registered and legally responsible translator behind it. For the long answer, read on!


What is a certified translation exactly?

A certified translation is very detailed; even the name of the authority that signed the original document and a description of their stamp are included. It is recognisable by the presence of the translator's official seal, signature and contact details. A certified translation will also carry a dated and numbered pledge stating that it is a true and legal copy (in translation) of a source document* and that the registered Sworn Translator has the required authority. This pledge makes a certified translation acceptable to all officials: Judges, Lawyers, Notaries, Registrars (civil and university) and immigration officers around the world who can always contact the translator for verification.

* The source document (which comes attached) also carries the same seal, date, number and signature, be it an original document or a scanned copy.

What's the difference between a "certified" translation and a "sworn" one?
The two translations are both the same, as are the translators who do them. These are two commonly used names for the same thing. If you want to be strict about it, a translation can't take an oath, so it can't really be sworn, but the term is in wide use. Other widely-used terms are ‘traductions juridiques’ and ‘traductions légalisées’.

Can I ask for a certified translation of any document?
As a general rule, a certified translation can be made of any original document that is written in a language for which there is a state-registered, sworn translator (see the 'Translators' page).

A certified translation can also be made from a scanned copy of an original document, however it's always a good idea to check that the receiving authorities (town halls, commercial courts, prefectures, insurance companies, universities, etc.) will accept a certified translation done this way as the type of source document used (an original document or a scanned copy) will be indicated on the translation.

Since starting out in 1994, we have completed and returned thousands of certified translations, in English, French and Spanish. We keep a list of the authorities that don't accept translations that are done from scanned copies, but it is too constantly changing to publish and although most translations are quite standard, every month brings something new.

Do I need to have a translation legalised?
First of all, in France, there are several levels of translation legalisation and sometimes you have to do all of them:

- the legalisation of the translator's signature by a town hall, Chamber of Commerce or notary;
- legalisation by apostille which certifies the signature of a public officer who has certified the translator’s status. An apostille is issued by the Court of Appeal at which a sworn translator is registered;
- legalisation for sending overseas by the Legalisation Office of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs;
- legalisation for sending overseas by the embassy or consulate of the country concerned.

Secondly, the need for legalisation and the number of steps needing completing, depends on three things: the type of document, the recipient country (including whether or not it's a signatory to the Hague Convention), and the present requirements.

In order to advise our clients, we follow a summary table published by the Ministry, but in fact the decision on whether legalisation is necessary or not, and what type(s), is not up to us. It’s not up to the client either. It’s up to the authority receiving the translation as to whether legalisation is necessary as well as the translation. Fortunately, legalisation is rarely necessary in France, for translations done in France.


At TRADUCTEURS ASSERMENTES SARL, we have two types of certified translations
Back in the 90s, when most sworn translations tried to look like the original documents, we developed standard translation templates which were (and still are) easier for French authorities to read. They often explain foreign abbreviations, acronyms, institutional standing, qualifications and accreditation in footnotes. Over the years, these standardised and self-explaining translations have been officially recognised.
Standardised translations are always single-page documents such as birth, adoption, marriage and death certificates, degree certificates, professional qualifications and certificates, company registration certificates, passports, driving licences, non-impediment certificates, P60s, police reports and UK divorce papers.

The other type of translation is the one that needs doing from scratch every time. These are unique, full-text documents including full adoption applications, wills, Articles of Association / Incorporation (a.k.a. Corporate Charters), court summonses, judgements, academic transcripts, employment and sales contracts, letters of recommendation, insurance claims, insurance bonus certificates and pre-sale property agreements.

Are my confidential documents safe in your hands?
Yes, and here’s some proof: each and every translation is treated as completely confidential, none are subcontracted, nor stored in any clouds, not translated using CAT software (Computer Aided Translations) all are double checked internally and posted back to you by coded pdf and by priority recorded post, your personal details are stored in compliance with  Article 6(1) of EU Regulation 2016/679 of 27 April 2016, and, the cherry on the cake, if, in two years' time, you write asking for another copy of an old translation, you'll need to prove who you are again.


Traducteurs Assermentés S.A.R.L

Boîte Postale 13119

La Poste – courrier d’entreprises

17033, La Rochelle cedex


Tel.: +33 (0) 6 01 17 65 33

© 2020 by Traducteurs Assermentés SARL