If you’re ever presenting documents to an official in Germany (and chances are, you will find yourself doing so), you might need to provide certified translations. If it’s your lucky day, your case worker might also request a certified copy of something. Wait… what? What’s a certified translation? How does it differ from a certified copy? Where can I get my hands on one? These are the burning questions we’ll be discussing today.
What’s a certified copy?
A certified copy is a copy of an original document that has been legally authenticated in Germany – stamped by some sort of authentication VIP to verify that it is identical to the original document. Authorities request certified copies as a means of preserving the originals from loss or damage, or so that you don’t have to part with the original for long. Quite practical, really.
When we were researching where to go to get certified copies of various types of documents in Germany, it became so complex that we decided on a flowchart.
What if my documents aren’t in German?
On paper, you can get certified copies at the Bürgeramt or Standesamt if the originals were issued in Germany. In reality, people have been able to get foreign documents certified there – it’s pot luck. The Bürgeramt CAN certify foreign documents but it doesn’t have to. If time is of the essence, go to the embassy of the country in which the documents were originally issued, e.g. to get a certified copy of an Indian birth certificate, head to the Indian embassy. Or visit any notary.
- If you go to the Bürgeramt, your local municipal office, you might need to make an appointment to have your certificates authenticated, especially if you’re in a big city like Berlin. You can expect to pay ca. 5 euros per page for the pleasure.
- If you’re visiting the Civil Registry Office (Standesamt) to get certified copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates or death certificates that were originally issued in Germany, the typical price is around 5-8 euros per certificate.
- If you have a German diploma or graduation certificate, go to the school or university from which you graduated. It’ll either be free or a few Euros per copy.
- The Bürgeramt or Standesamt will only provide you with a certified copy if your original document was issued by a public authority or if the copy is needed for a public authority. For certified copies of any other private documents, they might do it or they might not. By all means, try your luck. To be safe, you’re better off forking out and going to a notary instead.
So then what does it mean for a translation to be ‘certified’?
Certified translations have about fifty aliases in each language – in German, they get called ‘beeidigte Übersetzungen’, ‘offizielle’ or ‘notariell beglaubigte Übersetzungen’, and in English, they’re often called sworn translations, official translations, legal translations or notarized translations. In Germany, all these terms refer to a translation that includes a declaration from a ‘state-certified and court-sworn’ translator (they get their own fancy stamp) that the translation is an accurate and true representation of the original document.
Sworn translators have been accredited or ‘sworn in’ by a court. In order to qualify for this position in Germany, you either have to have a university degree in linguistics or foreign languages, or pass a grueling state examination that rivals the bar exam for lawyers (you can read about Kathleen’s Quest for the Holy Stamp here!). It’s no wonder certified translations are recognized as official documents by German public authorities and administrative bodies – they’re done by people who really know their stuff.
Can certified translators certify copies of documents?
No. Use the flow chart above to figure out where you need to go,
Does Red Tape Translation offer certified translations?
Why,yes! We can organise certified written translations from English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian and Dutch into German and from German, Dutch and French into English. You can choose whether to have them posted to you or to come and pick them up yourself in Berlin.