Sworn translations with digital signatures are now a reality

Sworn translations with digital signatures

Every day, people come to us requesting a sworn translation that they can use for official purposes and sometimes they have little idea what this means. Until recently, this type of translation was always carried out in print format. The user sent us the original document by post and a sworn translator translated it and then signed it with their personal stamp. This certified that the translation and the original document said the same thing. Recently, this type of translation type has been adapted to new technology, so we can finally say hello to sworn translations with digital signatures!

What exactly is a sworn translation?

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "translations and interpreting from a foreign language into Spanish and vice versa will be considered official if done by someone who has been awarded the title of Sworn Translator/Interpreter by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs". In other words, sworn translators can only obtain the title if they fulfil a number of requirements: have a university degree; have no criminal record; and pass the exam set by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Until recently, sworn translation was carried out in an extremely "low-tech" way, eschewing new technologies and remaining stuck in the previous century.

Fortunately, the pandemic forced the Language Interpretation Office (OIL), the body of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that regulates the work of sworn translators and interpreters in Spain, to review the procedure and modernise it. Sometimes, there can be a silver lining even in a time of crisis.

This step towards digital technologies has been revolutionary in such a traditional sector. How do sworn translations with digital signatures work in Spain? Is the digital signature valid for all sworn translations? Let's take a look.

The value of the digital signature for sworn translations

On 6 April 2020, the OIL published a statement in which the following was stated:

"In the event of repeated enquiries about the validity and official nature of translations by sworn translators which are sent digitally and signed electronically, we communicate the following:

Article 10 of Law 39/2015 of 1 October regarding the Common Public Administrations Administrative Procedure contains information regarding the signature systems which are accepted by Public Administrations. The Administration Bodies are the main recipients of documents translated by sworn translators, and it is admissible that they are signed electronically using one of the systems set out in the aforementioned article."

In other words, as long as the sworn translation meets the relevant validity requirements in Spain, it may be signed electronically and provided in a digital format. Finally!

Requirements for sworn translations with digital signatures

Sworn translations with digital signatures have the same characteristics as a sworn translation with a handwritten signature on a paper copy. In other words, the use of the digital format does not exempt compliance with the requirements established by the OIL with regard to the signature, stamp, certification and copy of the translated original. A sworn translation with a digital signature will be the same translation, printed, signed and stamped, but then scanned and digitised into the PDF format.

The translated document which is presented in digital format must contain the stamp and signature of the official translator on all pages and a certificate at the end of the document accrediting the accuracy of the translation. The sworn translation must be signed electronically by the sworn translator.

Any sworn translator who has an electronic signature certificate can sign a sworn translation digitally and this is 100% valid. The only requirement is therefore to use one of the two electronic certificates which are valid in Spain:

  • FNMT Certificate for Natural Persons: This is the electronic certificate issued by the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre (Royal Mint) that allows the electronic identification and then the signature or encryption of digital documents.
  • AutoFirma Certificate: This is the electronic signature application offered by the Electronic Administration Portal. It has been developed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation and needs to be downloaded and installed on to your computer.

For the purpose of verifying the authenticity of the original document, the translated document must be accompanied by a digital copy of the original document which is stamped and dated on each and every page. And that's it!

Once you have both electronic documents (the translation and the original) in a single PDF document, you can add the electronic certificate and your digital sworn translation is ready to send. This document can be presented electronically to any Spanish administrative body and holds the same validity as a physical document.

When do I need to get a sworn translation?

A sworn translation is required for documents written in another language that must be legally valid before an official body. A sworn translation will always bear the stamp and signature of the sworn translator, and it is officially recognised by the authorities.

Sworn translators certify that the translation is true and accurate by means of their stamp, signature and apostille. They give it the official status required by the public or private body requesting it.

Some examples of sworn translation

  • Statutes
  • Tenders
  • Medical certificates
  • Court judgments
  • Criminal records
  • Patent certificates
  • Contracts
  • Annual accounts
  • Company agreements
  • Powers of attorney
  • Court judgments
  • Deeds of incorporation

Does your company need a sworn translation with a digital signature? Get in touch!

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Written by ATLS

Translation and digital marketing agency
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