Package Insert 38
Interesting facts and figures for customers and partners of mt-g.
September 2016
Courts, authorities and stamps – authenticated translations
Certifications, apostilles and legalisation – these words create a certain amount of uncertainty when they occur in the context of translations because customers are frequently unfamiliar with the basic procedure. Added to this is the fact that every state and sometimes every authority (!) requires different proofs to recognise the accuracy of a translation. Due to these complex requirements and problems, mt-g makes conveying basic information about the authentication of translations a fixed part of its training programme for project managers. With this article, we would like to share our knowledge with you so that you can get an idea of the background and procedures involved when translations are to be certified, have an apostille affixed to them or be legalised.

Before we cover the different types of certification, we should first take a closer look at the technical terms used in this area and clarify some of the inaccuracies in the language used: there is no such thing as “certified” translations issued by the translator directly. The term “certification” (“Beglaubigung”) is used by courts or notaries and describes an official certification, which confirms the accuracy of a signature or copy. However, if a translator is to confirm the accuracy and completeness of translations, the term used in legal texts is the “authentication” (“Bescheinigung”) of translations. In common parlance, this procedure is nevertheless called “certification” (“Beglaubigung”) and this is accepted colloquially. This inaccuracy is accompanied by a further curiosity: even the designation of translators who are permitted to authenticate their translations is not regulated uniformly across Germany. It makes no difference whether we talk about an authorised/(publicly) appointed translator or a sworn translator, these translators are permitted to authenticate translations and affix their stamp to them. In order to use uniform designations at least in this article, we will talk about authorised translators, who authenticate translations.

Authentications within Germany

First, a brief but important point, which we always impress upon our customers: if it is not clear what type of authentication an authority needs, it is a good idea to ask for precise information about the type of authentication required; matters can then be taken from there. It is very foolhardy to trust to luck in ending up with the correct stamps and signatures in this process because authorities always set deadlines and insist on prompt document submission - not to mention what the consequences might be if authentications have to be prepared twice or even three times and then sent by post or courier. Therefore, do not be afraid of asking your authority; doing so has already completely changed the course of a large number of projects.

However, if the translation really does need to be authenticated, the authorised translator will be required to carry out this confirmation in a prescribed manner. The exact procedure is handled in different ways. Nevertheless, a stamp plus a signature and the date are the most important requirements for an authenticated translation. The translator’s confirmation wording is usually also placed at the end of the translation. The pages of the translation must be consecutively numbered and all the sheets bound in such a way that they cannot be separated. This point is very important for our customers’ documents: if originals are sent, they will be bound inseparably to the authenticated translation! It is preferable for certified copies of these original documents to be prepared prior to translation and authentication. Our project managers make our customers aware of this situation in all authentication projects. One more small point on a personal note: before mt-g undertakes authentication, our customers are first given the translation to approve. Only after this does the translator produce the authentication and put it in the post.

Other types of authentication

Some authorities require higher-level certifications (known as “Überbeglaubigungen”). These are not, for example, a duplicate authentication of accuracy and completeness – rather, they involve confirming the translator’s identity and/or his signature. This step is essential, particularly if international use is sought: this higher-level certification constitutes the basis for an apostille or for legalisation. Higher-level certifications are prepared by notaries (public certification) and by regional courts (official certification) and require the translator’s attendance in person. In this context, the term “certification” (“Beglaubigung”) is actually being used correctly.

All this applies to translations which are dealt within Germany and in which German is at least part of the language combination. However, if you need a translation in which German is neither the target nor the source language, you could have it authenticated abroad. But do remember that the German system is not necessarily also used abroad. The laws abroad regulate the preparation and authentication of translations in a different way than may be the case in Germany.

Authentications for other countries

If authentications have to be submitted to foreign authorities, the situation gets even more complicated. As has already been mentioned, every country has its own regulations and laws for handling authenticated translations. It goes without saying that this makes international document exchange more difficult. For this reason, in October 1961 the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents introduced the apostille, which is intended to facilitate the exchange of public documents between states. Each apostille is used exclusively between convention members and contracting states. Member states can also raise objections against the accession of new states – this always happens if there are doubts about the correctness of the document policy in the applicant state. Before starting an authentication project involving an apostille, our project managers therefore always check whether any such objections exist for the desired destination country. If the path is clear, it is issued by the courts. So that the apostille can be processed swiftly in the contracting states, its external structure and the details that have to be completed are strictly defined – it is square in shape with a side not less than 9 centimetres long and its text contains 10 items for completion. A document with a correctly executed apostille will be accepted for bilateral exchange without any problems.

This therefore raises the question of what happens to documents for all those countries which are not party to the Hague Convention or against whose accession there has been a vote. The situation in these states is that the documents must go through a legalisation process – a lengthy procedure that was designed to be bypassed with the apostille. In this case, the foreign diplomatic mission in the destination state confirms the authenticity of the signature, the capacity in which the signatory has acted and, where necessary, the authenticity of the seal. The legalisation, like the apostille, is affixed directly to the document. The authorities entitled to perform legalisation frequently require further proofs and/or certificates from competent authorities in the state from which the document originates to establish the authenticity and correctness of the document. The process is very lengthy because it involves several official channels.

So, authenticating translations within Germany as well as abroad involves a certain amount of effort and takes a certain level of background knowledge. We hope that we have given you an insight into the extensive and detailed work of project managers on such projects to ensure that nothing stands in the way of prompt authentication of your document. Should you have an authentication project in the future, please do not hesitate to ask our project management colleagues about it.
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