The legal validity of digital signatures in sworn translations

The expansion of companies beyond their borders requires extra care when writing texts in different languages, namely those of official nature. In these cases, the intervention of specialised professionals will be required, who can use the digital signature for their works, a tool which we will now go into more detail.

For companies and institutions working internationally, document management in several languages is key. This will require ongoing translations, which must be as accurate as possible to the original text and therefore require professional interpreting.

In addition, documents involved in administrative procedures with official bodies should be mentioned, which should be handled with great care, including sworn translations. But what are they? Who can make them? How can digital signatures be useful? 

What is a sworn translation?

The need to have official written texts translated into different languages has led to the rise of the sworn translators or interpreters, recognised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Spanish Government. The sworn translator certifies the translation of a text into another language, with full legal guarantees.

This recognition requires not only full knowledge of the languages involved, but also specific aspects related to the content of the translations, especially in the legal field, which is particularly important, since sworn translations are usually written texts intended for public administrations.

Legal aspects of sworn translations

As mentioned above, the work of sworn translators is articulated in the Order AEC/2125/2014. In this order, in addition to defining the path to follow to obtain this distinction, there are also aspects regarding this kind of career path. For the purpose of our article, we will highlight Article 8, which states the following:

  1. Sworn Translators and Interpreters may certify with their seal and signature the accuracy and fidelity of their work, whenever they are required to do so.

[…]

  1. For the purpose of verifying the authenticity of the original text from which the translation has been made, a copy of the original text must be enclosed, stamped and dated on all pages.

Hence, we can conclude that the sworn translator is obliged to sign his work in order to be considered legally valid by the authorities.

Validity and uses of the digital signature in sworn translations

Although the signing, stamping and sending of sworn translations was originally carried out manually, this has also evolved into a more digitized framework. This has been recently boosted given the current travel restrictions.

As a result, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (OIL) issued a statement on March 26th. Among other things, they recommended to work remotely using the available resources, and avoiding any unnecessary physical contact with clients.

As a result of this new situation, many professionals in the area of sworn translation asked the authorities to clarify whether or not electronic signatures are valid for their works.

Sworn translations

The response from the Foreign Ministry refers to Article 10 of Law 39/2015, on 1 October, Of The Common Administrative Procedure of the Public Administrations, which points out:

‘’Administrations being the main recipients of the documents translated by the ICJ, the documents may be signed electronically using any of the systems listed in the article’’

”This will in no way exempt anyone from complying with the requirements of Order AEC/2125/2014″.

Therefore, we are obliged to consult the aforementioned Article 10 on Law 39/2015, in its second paragraph:

In the event that the interested parties choose to interact with the Public Administrations through electronic means for esigning, the following will be considered valid:

(a) Qualified and advanced electronic signature systems based on qualified electronic signature certificates issued by Trust Service Providers from the ”Trusted List of Certification Service Providers”

(b) Qualified electronic seal and advanced electronic seal systems based on qualified electronic seal certificates issued by Trust Service Providers from the ”Trusted List of Certification Service Providers”

Therefore, both the electronic signature and the electronic seal shall be valid for the work of sworn translators if they comply with the aforementioned specifications.

At this point, it is clear that Viafirma solutions can be a very valuable tool for the work of sworn translators, as they are able to esign any of their written texts.

Viafirma allows you to use qualified and advanced electronic signatures based on qualified electronic certificates. We are also recognised by the Spanish Government as a Qualified Trust Service Provider, being able to provide qualified timestamping services. Therefore, establishing the date and time of the signature of the sworn translation.

For managing the required certificates for these signatures, we can use our centralised signature solution, which stores them in a secure cloud server, allowing the use of them from any device, without the need to have them installed, under a robust identification system (two-factor authentication).

Besides, Viafirma offers other advantages to speed up the work of sworn translators. For example, thanks to the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, printed texts can be digitized by simply taking a photo of the document.

In short, we can say that we have finally taken a step forward regarding the digital transformation of sworn translations, an essential process that has been accelerated due to the coronavirus disease. Viafirma is fully prepared to support these professionals throughout this process.