German Certification Rules
FAQs on certified translations in Germany
What does the term “sworn translator” mean in Germany?
Most importantly, under German certification rules, only a sworn or publicly appointed translator for the language in question may deliver a sworn/certified translation. A translator is either officially sworn-in at a magistrates court, higher regional court or court of appeal in the Federal Country where they are permanently resident or otherwise publicly appointed. What is more, translators must prove relevant qualifications before they are sworn in/publicly appointed.
Which details must the translator include in a German certified translation?
A certified document must bear the translator’s contact details and their seal containing the words “Öffentlich bestellter und vereidigter Übersetzer” (“Publicly appointed and sworn translator”). Furthermore, the certification document must contain the language for which the translator is officially sworn in.
Can I obtain a sworn translation for German use outside of Germany?
Yes, sometimes. Usually, when a German authority – be it court, school, university or registry office – asks you to provide a sworn translation, it is best practice to use a sworn translator resident in Germany.
According to German certification rules, a translator must be sworn in for whichever language pair you require, e.g. English/Spanish/French/Italian-German.
German courts will provide you with a list of “vereidigte Übersetzer” on request. German professional bodies for translators, like the BDÜ or the ADÜ Nord also offer lists of sworn translators. The official interpreters and translators database can be found here.
However, very often, the German Embassy recommends that people in the UK use a qualified German translator who is resident in the UK and a member of a professional association. This can be the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.
To summarise, sometimes a translator in the UK can provide your certified translation and sometimes you should ask a translator in Germany. Please contact the German Embassy for clarification.
If you do require the services of a sworn translator in Germany, I can highly recommend my colleague Jana Kohl.
Who can become a sworn translator at a German court?
Only qualified translators living in the relevant Federal Country may become sworn translators at a German court. Therefore a translator permanently resident outside of Germany cannot become sworn-in at a German court.
Can UK-based German-English and English-German translators certify translations?
Due to the above reasons stated, I cannot be registered as a sworn translator in Germany. However, I can self-certify translations for use within the UK including for the German Embassy. Because I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, my self-certification is usually acceptable to UK authorities and to the German Embassy.
Do I need to send original documents when requiring a translation for use in Germany?
In the UK, we do not work with original documents. I will usually ask you to scan the relevant document(s) or send smartphone images of all pages per email for this purpose. Please make sure that your image shows the complete page and any print on the back of pages as well. The image you send must include every number and every stamp because the translator must transfer every single detail on the page(s) into the foreign language.
This copy of your original document is printed and out and signed, and attached to the translation. you later submit it to the authorities together with your original document. The certification page also clarifies that the translation has been carried out from a copy.
If, however, your translation is for Austria, you will have to send me the original document, as the certification page must include confirmation that I have had sight of it.