Translation of Personal Documents under new EU Regulation

New EU Regulation on the legalisation and translation of personal documents

It’s been three weeks now since the results of the EU Referendum in the UK were announced. For the notarial and translation professions, the impact of Brexit may have far-reaching consequences. However, a new EU regulation, which will affect many areas of notarial practice and translation work, has been largely ignored – even though it will enter into force well before the UK leaves the EU. The regulation concerns the requirements for notarisation, legalisation and translation of personal documents.

Notarisation and Translation of Personal Documents

Just before the referendum, on 9th June 2016, the EU Parliament approved a new regulation that will simplify the circulation of public documents between Member States. Known by its official title – “Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on promoting the free movement of citizens by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents in the European Union and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012” (the “Regulation”) – it will have a significant impact on notaries and translators.

No longer will EU citizens moving to live or work in another part of the European Union have to prove the authenticity of their personal documents by means of an Apostille. Similarly, the Regulation will also avoid the need for certified or notarised translations of birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates, etc. For the purposes of the Regulation, a public document is a document issued by the authorities of a Member State that evidences or establishes one or more of the following facts (Art. 2(1) of the Regulation):

  • birth
  • a person being alive
  • death
  • name
  • marriage, including capacity to marry and marital status
  • divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment
  • registered partnership, including capacity to enter into a registered partnership and registered partnership status
  • dissolution of a registered partnership, legal separation or annulment of a registered partnership
  • parenthood
  • adoption
  • domicile and/or residence
  • nationality
  • absence of a criminal record and
  • the right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections and elections to the European Parliament

Should you be worried about changes to the notarisation and translation of personal documents?

Notaries and translators will be all too familiar with the above list of documents; they are often encountered in Spanish probate proceedings, marriages abroad and cross-border adoptions. Clearly, then, there will be an impact on fee income earned from this type of work.

However, conspicuous by their absence are any documents pertaining to companies, such as certificates of incorporation, certificates of goodstanding or extracts for the commercial register. Therefore, there will continue to be a need for notaries and translators to assist with the translation, certification and legalisation of Companies House documents.

What will happen after Brexit with the notarisation and translation of personal documents?

According to Article 27(1), the Regulation is set to enter into force on the twentieth day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. The Regulation was signed into law on 6th July 2016, and its publication is now just a formality. Nevertheless, things won’t change overnight; the Regulation gives Member States around two years to implement the necessary steps for the issuance of multilingual certificates to avoid the need for translation of personal documents and the removal of legalisation requirements. This two-year transition period will probably overlap with the UK’s formal withdrawal period (Article 50 Treaty on European Union).

What will happen to the notarisation, legalisation and translation of personal documents post-Brexit is less clear. On the one hand, Article 2(3)(a) of the Regulation specifically excludes public documents issued by third countries – the UK would count as such if it did not join the European Economic Area. However, Article 19(4) permits Member States to conclude separate agreements with third countries concerning the matters governed by the Regulation, which could be the case after the UK leaves the EU. Therefore, notaries and translators will want to keep a close eye on developments.