Certified translations are usually issued as a hardcopy and physically signed and sealed by a sworn translator. However, the qualified electronic signature has been a legally valid alternative to the "classic" certification on paper for some time now. The digital certification is becoming more and more popular.
According to EU Regulation 910/2014 (eIDAS), the qualified electronic signature must be recognised as a personal and legally valid signature. On this basis certified translations can be issued in a purely digital form. Such translations can be directly sent and forwarded via e-mail, saving time and money.
Qualified electronic signatures are valid in legal communications across the EU. For example, the qualified signature by a German translator will be accepted by authorities in Ireland or Poland. The digital certificate includes a so-called professional attribute, which confirms the professional title of the issuer. This way, any authority can recognise that the translation was verifiably prepared by a state-certified and sworn-in translator.
Applicability & Security
Electronic signatures can be attached to various files, including PDF, Word, and Excel files. The signature ensures data integrity: once the file has been signed, the document cannot be altered in an unauthorised way. Otherwise the certification will expire automatically rendering the document invalid. The qualified electronic signature offers protection against any subsequent changes by third parties and prevents possible cases of fraud. In addition, the document can be time-stamped indicating the exact time of the signature.
A qualified electronic signature is impossible to forge and thus even more secure than the traditional handwritten signature. The issuer must obtain a signature card from a state-recognised certification authority and their identity and professional title must be officially verified. This enables the independent certification authority (e.g. the Federal Chamber of Notaries) to guarantee that the signature comes indeed from the person whose name appears on the certificate.
Keep in Mind Limitations!
Even though the legal validity of the qualified electronic signature is ensured by the EU law as well as by corresponding legislation of the individual EU states, not all authorities will in fact accept such documents (yet). The reason for that can be the lack of appropriate equipment, software or security architecture for processing electronic documents. Therefore, to be on the safe side, you are well-advised to make sure beforehand that the receiving entity will indeed accept and process the translation signed this way.
All contents on legal topics provided on this website are for information only and shall not be construed as legal advice. Every reference herein is made to the best of knowledge and belief. However, no liability whatsoever can be assumed for any information.