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7-Step Ultimate Guide to Legal Translations

Legal Translation is a translation done by an approved and licensed translator from the Ministry of Justice or its equivalent designated by law of any country. It is often mistaken as translation done by a legal professional. Legal professionals are not legal translators; their proficiency is in law and not in translation. Legal Translation is a term that is synonymous with terms such as Sworn-in- Translation, Authorized Translation & Certified Translation. Here, it is important to note that there are many international private certifying institutions across the world, to name a few are NAATI, ATA, ISO 17100, CIOL etc. Translation done by companies or individuals with certifications from these institutions does not qualify to be legal translation.

As an individual or representative of a commercial or non-profit organization you need to know the 7 steps to be followed when you need to have legal translation of your documents.

The main domain of legal translation is translation of documents that must be filed at court in civil and criminal litigation proceedings where the claim is to be served within the jurisdiction. Legal translation is also required for processing documents to be submitted for immigration, intellectual property registration, patents registration, marriage, divorce, contracts, agreements, business set-ups and in many more situations.

Step 1: Notarization of Documents

Documents that are issued with in the jurisdiction need be taken to a public Notary and Notarized at first. In a few countries like the United Arab Emirates, notarization is possible for only certain kind of documents and not any and every document can be notarized. In such a situation the document has either to have been issued by a government department or it has to be attested / legalized from the Chamber of Commerce in UAE to proceed to the next step.

If the documents are issued outside the jurisdiction of the receiving authority it has to be notarized, attested, legalized and legally translated from the home country before bringing inside the country of jurisdiction of the receiving authority.

Step 2: Attestation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The notarized documents need to be taken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the jurisdiction and get them attested/ legalized. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs attestation is essential to proceed to the next step. Without the attestation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs no legal translator is authorized to translate documents. This is often a bone of contention between a legal translator and the client as many clients do not understand that the license of the translator may be cancelled by the Ministry of Justice if found to have translated a document without checking the attestation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on it. This is something that no responsible legal translator will risk at.

Step 3: To Construe to the Guidelines of the recipient Authority

If you need to submit to court you must consult your legal officer or the advocate to get the list of documents to be translated. If you need them to submit in an Embassy, Consulate or any Government Department you need to go through the guidelines mentioned in their website and also provide a copy of the guidelines to the legal translator along with your documents. The requirement of documentation varies from authority to authority and it is mandatory to follow word by word.

It is very important for a customer to make his preparation before proceeding to approach a legal translator. A customer must make a list of documents that need to be legally translated along with a file with all supporting documentation like official id and passport copies and all other supporting documents.

Step 4: Translation of the Documents

Not translator approved and licensed by the Ministry of Justice can do real justice to your work unless you explain to them about the case and what is that you want to achieve by submission of the translation to a recipient authority.

You must tell the translator where you intend to submit the translation and for what purpose. This will help a translator apply the right tonality in the translation. Language is something that is not just words but it has a tonality embedded in it. The tonality of a language may be in the form of just information and sometimes it is necessary to add the tonality of plea and request as well while drafting the translation. The translator can do his job well when he/she is aware of all these facts.

Step 5: Proof Reading of the Translation

You must advise the legal translator to send you a draft of the translation once finished before the translator proceeds to printing & stamping of it. This is a precautionary step to be taken by you to save yourself from any damages that may arise out of miscommunication or mistranslated content in the documents. Legal translators are human beings and are not errorless. To make sure that there is no informational mistake in the translated documents, you must check it before printing and stamping. If you don’t know the language you must refer to someone from family or friends to check if all the information mentioned in the translation is correct.

Once confirmed you can ask the translator to print, stamp and seal the translations as per law of the land.

Step 6: Oath of a Legal Translator

Make sure the legal translation is carrying an oath of the legal translator at the end of each page, stamped and signed by him. The signature must carry the following information:

  1. Name of the legal translator.
  2. His License number issued by the Ministry of Justice.
  3. The language pair for that he is authorized.
  4. Name of his/her Legal Translation Services.
  5. The words: Sworn-In- Translator

The legally translated pages must be attached to a copy of the original document and sealed in a way that if there is any tampering made with he documents it will be evident and caught on the face of it.

Step 7: Legalization from Ministry of Justice

Finally you have to get the translated documents legalized from the Ministry of Justice of the country to make it acceptable in courts, immigration authorities and other ministries, embassies and consulates.