Certified/sworn translations and apostilling documents

Before a public instrument (official government document) can be used in a country other than the one it was issued in, the local authorities may require higher authentication. This is precisely the purpose of an apostille (also known as apostillisation).

Join our community of 7,461 entrepreneurs, marketers, and managers and get practical tips on the translation industry and doing business abroad.
Review the Translata Briefing

UPDATED IN AUGUST 2021

An apostille is a higher form of authentication for a document or person (sworn translator, notary public). It replaces what’s known as superlegalisation – another form of higher authentication for official documents. By affixing an apostille to an official document, it can be used within the territory of any signatory country that has ratified the Apostille Convention (or Hague Treaty Convention). If a document is to be used in a country that’s not part of the Apostille Convention, a higher level of certification is required in the form of superlegalisation, which is done at the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

What’s an apostille?

An apostille is a certificate issued by a competent authority of a state that’s a signatory party to the Hague Convention. An apostille authentication shortens the process of obtaining higher authentication for foreign public instruments. A public instrument that’s affixed with an apostille may be used without further verification in the territory of another contracting party to the Convention and in dealings with any said party’s authorities. An apostille is issued for use in a particular signatory state to the Convention, therefore an apostille certificate should not be translated in another state.

The foreign authorities can thereby be sure that the document you’re submitting is not forged and has been issued by a body authorised to do so.

What does an apostille look like?

An apostille is generally a stamp or sticker on the back of a certified document. It includes 10 standardised and numbered bullet points that confirm the authenticity of the attached document. A duly completed apostille certificate confirms the authenticity of a signature, the function of the person who signed the document and, where appropriate, the authenticity of the seal or the imprint of the stamp on the document (Article 5 of the Convention).

Apostille example.

Who issues an apostille?

In Slovakia, we don’t have one single authority that handles all issuances of apostilles. An apostille is always issued by the authority that’s directly superior to the authority that issued the original, relevant document. Individual documents can be apostilled with the authorities who have jurisdiction.

A list of the most frequently translated documents and the office that apostilles them:

In what language is the apostille issued?

The apostille is issued in the official language of the state that issued you the relevant document. In Slovakia, bilingual apostilles are issued in Slovak and English, other countries issue apostilles in their official language or in English. If you want to use a document with an apostille abroad, a certified translation of the document and the apostille is required.

When is an apostille needed?

You don’t always need an apostille. It’s only needed if the authorities you’re submitting the translated document(s) to require it. We recommend checking with the foreign office in advance what documents require higher authentication (apostille, superlegalisation).

What should you do if you need to provide a certified translation of a document abroad?

What documents can’t be apostilled?

Electronically issued documents are not public instruments in the Slovak Republic, as they are not stamped with the state coat of arms and are not signed by authorised employees. Therefore, documents in digital format cannot be apostilled. If you need to authenticate an electronic document, we recommend asking the state institution in question to issue a physical document for use abroad.

Be careful also with notarised documents. It’s not possible to apostille a document in Slovakia if it has been certified by a trainee notary (it must be verified by a notary public or a notary candidate). The competent authorities also have the right to refuse to certify a document that has been issued in violation of applicable legislation of the Slovak Republic or that contravenes the principles of international law.

Authenticating documents from private companies

Legal entities, banks, companies, or agencies do not issue official documents (public instruments) in Slovakia. If foreign partners (in a country that has acceded to the Hague Apostille Convention) request their authentication, you can proceed as follows: The original document will be signed by the company statutory seat in the presence of a notary public, and then the notary public will be apostilled by the relevant regional court. The Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry will confirm the existence of the business entity on the original document. A sworn translator will then translate the document. The translator can then be apostilled by any regional court.

 

Remember that there’s a difference between an ordinary translation and a sworn/certified translation. Sworn translations (also known as “official translations”, “certified translations”, “court translations”, “translations with a stamp or seal”, etc.”) can only be done by professional translators who’ve been appointed by the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic. They’re required for official dealings with state administration or public institutions.

 

Úradný preklad - vzor

Backside of a certified translation.

It's a dream come true for me to work for a company where I trust the people and the services 100%. Peter Drucker was right about one thing: "The best way to predict the future is to create it," which is why it'll be my pleasure to brief you on the future direction of the translation sphere as well as the hidden pitfalls of marketing.