Are you planning a wedding abroad? Do you want to study at a foreign university? Do you need to present a document to a foreign office? To do so, you will need to have your documents translated by a court translator.
Court translation versus regular translation
All official documents (e.g. registration documents, school documents, documents issued by judicial authorities, etc.) must be translated by a court translator appointed by the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic in accordance with Act No. 354/2019 Coll.,on Court Interpreters and Court Translators. Such translation is referred to as a “court translation” or as a “certified translation” or as a translation with an official stamp”. A translation made in this way meets the same requirements as any ordinary translation, plus the formal requirements of relevant law: the translation must be firmly bound to the original document or to a notarised photocopy of the original document (if available) and endorsed, stamped and signed by the translator, who confirms that they agree with the text of the original document.
(Note: In the future, it will also be possible to produce an electronic court translation. This option was introduced by the amendment of the above law. The amended law entered into force on January 1, 2021. The Ministry of Justice is currently preparing methodology related to the electronic form of translation services.)
Verification of the original document
A court translation alone may, however, not be sufficient abroad. Some states require verification of the authenticity of the court-translated document or confirmation of the appointment of the court-certified translator. It depends in which country and for what purposes the translated document will be used. In such scenario, the court translation process depends on the relevant agreement concluded between the Czech Republic and the other country.
Exemption from verification
The easiest way is when a bilateral international agreement on legal assistance has been concluded with the foreign country. Based on this, agreement documents issued or verified by a competent foreign authority share the same probative value as the original public document and may be used during official proceedings without any need for higher verification. You may find the list of countries participating in the Convention here.
According to EU Regulation 2016/1191 the same procedure is applicable to certain types of public documents used throughout the European Union, regardless whether these countries concluded and participate in this Convention or not.
Authentication is not required for any private (non-public) documents..
Apostille or superlegalisation
However, if the Czech Republic did not conclude this bilateral international agreement with the relevant country and the document does not fall into the category of documents that do not need to be verified within the EU, and if the document is a public document (i.e. a document issued by a public authority or declared by the law as a public document), it is necessary to have it verified before the translation – either by an apostille or by superlegalisation. This process proves that the document was issued or verified by a certain judicial or administrative body of the Czech Republic or that it was signed before the given authority. This thereby confirms the authenticity of the official stamp and the signature on the document – not the content of the document.
However, foreign authorities sometimes do not respect international treaties and require higher verification, even where there is an exemption from such verification for use abroad, or where such exemption has been directly established by the applicable legislature of the European Union.
It is therefore important to find out in advance, preferably directly from the relevant institution that requests the court translation, or from the embassy of the given country, what forms and what verifications the country accepts in terms of court translations.
An apostille clause is attached to documents which will be used in countries that have signed the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (these include all EU Member States and some non-EU countries). You may find the list of participating countries here. This convention has replaced the need for superlegalisation (see below). There is no need to verify the document at the embassy of the foreign state.
The final verification and attachment of the document apostille is performed bythe International Department of the Ministry of Justice (applies to documents issued by judicial authorities, including documents issued by or notarised by notaries), or by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (applies to other documents issued or verified by state administration bodies or other institutions)..
A document already attached with an apostille must be submitted for translation, as the apostille must be translated as well.
Pursuant to Section 62 of Act No. 361/2004 Coll., on private and procedural international law, the process of superlegalisation applies to documents used in states or countries with which the Czech Republic does not share exemption from higher verification, and which are not members of the Hague Convention. This applies to some countries outside of the EU.
Judicial documents and documents issued or endorsed by notaries are verified bythe Ministry of Justice. The additional verification is done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and finally, the document is superlegalised by the embassy of the state where the document is to be used. In case of documents issued or verified by state administration bodies, this verification is performed directly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then bythe relevant embassy.
Sometimes, the first step in the process (in case of apostille and superlegalisation), includes a verification done by the authority of a higher instance than the body that issued the document (e.g. a school assessment report is verified by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth, and only then by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
More information on the legalisation of documents may be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website or from the relevant departments.
Verification of the translator
Should the relevant institution require confirmation of the authenticity of the court translator’s signature, the document may contain two types of verification, e.g., two apostilles. One is submitted for the court translation and shall demonstrate to the foreign state that the document is genuine and signed by the authorised person (see the procedure above), and the second apostille is attached if the foreign state requires verification of the translator. In such scenario the apostille is attached after the translation. In this case the translator shall have their signature under the translator’s endorsement verified directly by a notary, after which the Ministry of Justice verifies the notary’s signature with this apostille.
The process may be even more complicated if the document is intended for countries that do not recognise court translations performed by translators appointed in the Czech Republic. In such scenario, the relevant embassy shall be able to provide the required information. To comply, the translation must be performed by a translator certified according to the requirements and regulations of the given country. This solution is usually financially more demanding and more time-consuming.
So how should you proceed to make sure that your court translation will be accepted abroad?
- 1. Find out in advance what requirements must be met in order for a court translation to be recognised as an official document submitted in a foreign country, i.e., whether and what verification of the source document is necessary and whether the destination country recognises court translations from translators from the Czech Republic.
- Have a notarised copy of the document (if possible) and attach it with all necessary verifications before translation.
- Submit the document for translation.
- Have the translated document attached with any other required verifications.
- Submit the translated and certified document to the relevant institution.
Skřivánek translation agency cooperates with court translators appointed in the Czech Republic and abroad and able to handle all language combinations. If you need a court translation, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to advise and help you.