Sworn translation, legalisation or apostille: how do they work?

Do you want a translation of a document that needs to be submitted to an official organisation? In that case, this translation will often need to be sworn or legalised. But what does that mean exactly? In recent years, there have been many changes relating to sworn and legalised translations. We will describe how the system works.

What documents are involved?

A sworn or legalised translation is a legally valid document. However, not all legal translations need this. Usually, it concerns documents that need to be submitted to an official organisation, like passports, birth certificates, diplomas and legal documents for lawsuits. Not sure whether you need a sworn or legalised translation? Contact the organisation for which the translation is intended. They can provide the best advise on what procedures to follow.

What is a sworn translation?

A sworn translation is made by a translator who is registered in the National Register for sworn translators, interpreters and interpreter-translators of the FPS Justice. These translators must demonstrate that they have sufficient professional skills and legal knowledge, based on their previous education or work experience. They must also take regular refresher courses.

Until the end of 2022, the translators used to place their official physical stamp on the documents. This stamp has now been replaced by an electronic signature via eID. With this electronic signature, documents that are intended for use in Belgium are immediately legalised and ready to use.

Apostille or legalisation?

Translations intended for international use also need to be legalised. The procedures may vary, depending on the country where the translation will be submitted. If the country is party to the Apostille Convention – officially ‘The Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents’ – then the translation can simply be legalised by means of an apostille. A list of the countries involved is available on the HCCH website.

For countries that are not party to the Apostille Convention, there is a longer procedure. After legalisation by the FPS Foreign Affairs, the translation must also be submitted to the diplomatic representative (embassy or consulate) of the relevant country in Belgium. More detailed information about the procedures for legalisation by a diplomatic representative can be found on the web page of the relevant country at diplomatie.belgium.be.

We can manage the entire apostille or legalisation procedure for you, so that you don’t need to find out how everything works yourself. You will receive a ready-to-use and legally valid translation.

Everything digital

In recent years, the government has resolutely chosen a digital and electronic path. Besides using an electronic signature via eID for sworn translations, legalisation procedures also use the eLegalization platform of the FPS Foreign Affairs. The legalised document is available online and ready for use abroad in digital form. Apostilles are now also only issued electronically. If you would like a physical copy of the translation too, alternative procedures are available.

Translation agency Wilkens c.s.

Do you need a legally valid translation but are uncertain about the procedures to follow? Wilkens c.s. will be happy to help! We have all the know-how and an extensive network of sworn translators. So, we can help you with sworn and legalised translations in various language combinations.

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