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When might you require a sworn or certified translation in the Netherlands?

Updated: Jul 30, 2019


After quite a few years supplying the cheapest certified translations around in the UK, we’re very familiar with what’s required for getting them accepted with the requesting institutions of this country. We’ve recently however started to spread out net a bit wider and take advantage of the international nature of our group. We’re now offering certified translations to be used abroad. This is less simple than it perhaps sounds since almost all countries have their own rules and regulations regard how a certified translation must be carried out in order for it to be accepted. However, thanks to our large and international group of translators, we are able to tap into a vast amount of local knowledge and get certified translations done by our representatives “on the ground” so to speak. So, over to our main man in the Netherlands to explain a little about how the process works in his fair country.

Foreigners who might want to come to live in the Netherlands will very often be required to present their official documents to a variety of institutions in our country. These may be the local town council, the immigration or naturalisation departments, a possibly a lawyer or notary public. It may also occur that foreigners who have obtained Dutch documents after staying a while, will then need translations back into their own language to present to requesting institutions back at home or in a third country. In any of these very common cases an official translation is likely to be needed.

As stated above, the requirements for official translations very much depend on the type of system in place in the particular country in which the translated documents must be presented. In the case of the Netherlands, there is a distinction between two kinds of official translation, these are certified translations and sworn translations. In many of the countries we provide translations for, a sworn translation is required by law, but in others, however, the rules are not so strict and they are not necessarily required. It should be noted that a significant extra charge is often made for a sworn translation. A certified translation is often a cheaper option for use in the Netherlands, since they are very widely accepted. Having said this, you should always check with the requesting organisation about what exactly is required.

Generally, the system is quite flexible for certified translations in the Netherlands, and it is fairly cheap and straightforward to have the carried out by a certified translator in to Dutch or from Dutch to another language. It is a little more tricky when an official translation is needed from one foreign language to another. For these requirements, the cost would be a little higher since there are fewer certified translators working between one foreign language and another. Fortunately, these type of combinations are not very widely needed in the Netherlands, and most translations are carried out from or into Dutch or English.

If you are uncertain about what kind of official translation you require - either certified or sworn - or whether you can submit English documents, it is usually best to ask the requesting institution or a language service company or organisation such as ourselves for more details.

What does “sworn translation” mean?

A sworn translation in the Netherlands receives a stamp and signature from registered and recognised translator whose name will appear in the official list of sworn translators. The stamp and signature show the client that the translation has been carried out by an official sworn translator. There will also be a statement accompanying the translation stating that the authenticity and accuracy of the document. The original version of the text or copy of will be stapled to the sworn translation so that the two versions may be compared. Any interference with the texts or the staples invalidates the sworn translation. If you have a Dutch sworn translation it may be used in an application for an apostille or for the process of legalisation.

Certified translation

What does “certified translation” mean?

The difference between a sworn and a certified translation is quite small but also quite significant. A certified translation in the Netherlands will also bear the translator’s stamp and signature, but it will not have been carried out by an official and recognised sworn translator. The stamp and signature may be added by the translator or also by the project manager or other representative if the job has been done by an agency or a non-profit translation group such as our own. You would also receive a separate certificate along with the translation which state that they are an independent and professional organisation and they declare the certified translation to be a true and faithful reproduction of the original document into the Dutch language. Similarly to the case of the sworn translation, the original (or copy), the translation and the certificate are all stapled together and presented this way to the requesting authority.

If the client choses to go for a certified translation, the translator does not need to be one who appears on the official list of Dutch sworn translators; it can be carried out by any professional translator. This means that they are simpler to organise and that the price is significantly cheaper than sworn translations. While these standard certified translations are very widely accepted in the Netherlands, there are cases when they will not be enough, and this is why it is so important to check exactly what is required before commissioning any kind of official translation in the country. If you are in need of an apostille to attach to your translation or you need it for the process of legalisation, you should not go for the standard certified translation, but the legally recognised sworn translation. If in doubt, just ask - we can help in that regard. Another option is to speak to the requesting authority.

What does “apostille” mean?

Countries that have signed up the Apostille Convention, which include all of the countries in the European Union, have agreed to accept a document with an apostille from one of the other states that are party to the convention as legally valid in their own country. This agreement means that official document do not need to be legalised or notarised again in the receiving country, and that they will be accepted as valid as they are. In the Netherlands an apostille will be issued by a district court, which will verify that the name and signature of the sworn translator who has carried out the job are true and correct. If all is in order the apostille will be then be issued and the document can be used abroad without further checks.

What does “legalisation” mean?

As stated above, those countries that are signatories of the Apostille Convention will accept translations with an apostille that have come from another signatory state. But what if an official translation has been carried out in a country which has not signed up to this convention? Or similarly, if a translation carried out in the Netherlands is going to be used in a non-signatory country. In this case the original documents and the corresponding translation must be legalised. In the Netherlands this will also be carried out in a district court, and once again, the translation must have been done by a nationally recognised sworn translator. What’s more, the original documents must also be legalised in a similar manner by the authorities of the country of origin, and also by the authorities in the country where the translation is going to be submitted. As you can see, it’s a complicated process, and this is usually reflected in the price of having all of this carried out. We tend to stay away from such complicated procedures in whcih we cannot control the process from start to finish. We prefer to work on project that we can ensure the quality of all the way through. It’s not very often that clients need this option, but if you do we can point you in the right direction. We tend to stick with the translation itself, so if you need a certified or sworn translation for use in the Netherlands, or anywhere, else, just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. As you can see, the situation for general certified translations is not that complex in the Netherlands, and is actually quite similar to how they're carried out in the UK. Stay tuned for our explanations of how the process works in some other countries soon.

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