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Sworn Translation and Interpreting

The profession 

The title of sworn (or certified) translator or interpreter is obtained after the person has sworn an oath before a court. In Belgium, only those who are registered with the National Registry of Sworn Translators and Interpreters (RN TIJ in French, NR BVT in Dutch) and have received an ID number (VTI number) may have this title. Being sworn in allows the professional to carry out assignments for legal and administrative bodies as well as for private individuals or companies that require official translations of documents (certified translations recognised by the authorities). 

In their assignments for the courts and legal circles, STIs, as they are called, are as a rule entrusted with the translation of, summonses, rulings, international Mutual Legal Assistance requests, , expert appraisals, and so on. Their assignments can also concern individuals who need translations of official documents such as notarised instruments, deeds, civil status certificates (birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.), diplomas, and all other necessary official documents. 

Sworn interpreting is done in the context of court sessions, hearings, depositions and any other stage in the judicial proceedings where it may be required (wiretapping, searches, reconstructions of offences, etc.). Other legal professions can also call upon sworn interpreters’ services. Examples are notaries who must draw up a deed in the presence of people speaking different languages and officers officiating at a wedding ceremony, to mention just a few instances. 

Working as a sworn translator or interpreter calls for great flexibility due to the number of subjects covered and the unforeseeable, even haphazard working hours occasioned by the many emergencies that crop up. So, sworn interpreters often have to go into action at a moment’s notice, especially for the police. 

It goes without saying that sworn translators and interpreters must keep the information that they learn in the course of their assignments absolutely confidential in compliance with the specific code of professional ethics set by the law. 


The majority of the STIs trained in Belgium have, like their non-sworn counterparts, master’s degrees in translation or interpreting (formerly ‘licentiates’ in translation or interpreting). The law requires having an ad hoc degree or enough experience to authorise the candidate’s inclusion in the National Registry of STIs. 

The sector has undergone major changes in recent years. The Justice Ministry now requires candidate STIs to submit proof that they have sufficient legal knowledge or, lacking this, to complete a training programme on the law and legal institutions. This training, which is offered by various universities in Belgium, enables participants to get the necessary certificate to be able to swear the oath and, consequently, accede to the status of sworn translator or interpreter. 

This training came on the scene with its little sister, the National Registry of Sworn Translators and Interpreters. As its name indicates, this registry is a directory of the people who have completed the university certificate of legal knowledge – or for whom this training is waived fully or in part because they have met specific waiver conditions – and are consequently the only ones empowered to intervene in their quality as experts in sworn translation or interpreting. The national registry can be consulted at the following site:   

The Justice Ministry also requires STIs to get continuing training in order to keep abreast of new developments and continually to optimise their skills. 

Stages of a sworn translation 

Unlike ‘conventional’ translation, sworn translation is not limited to electronic document exchange. The translations must be done by a sworn service provider. This entails legalisation of the translation, which takes the form of signing the document digitally to authenticate the translator’s identity and to confirm their registration in the national registry. The conventional procedure of legalisation on paper remains possible, but is fated to disappear. The digital signature in the PDF document of the sworn translation must be preceded by the following statements : “Certified to be a true translation ‘ne varietur’ from (language) into (language)” and, “Done at [place], on [date]”, followed by the translator’s name and VTI number. 

Concretely, here is the procedure to follow in five simple steps: 

  1. Selection of a STI in the directory on this site:  <lien vers le module TIJ du moteur de recherche>. 
  1. Negotiation over the conditions of the job: price, deadline, terms of payment and delivery. 
  1. Translation per se
    NB: A good-quality scan or photograph may suffice without jeopardising the validity of the translation. 
  1. Legalisation (see the next section). 
  1. Email transmission of the document to the client or delivery of the paper document according to the agreed terms of delivery. 
    NB: The administration for which the translation is intended may require the original document to be stamped with the translator’s seal and attached to the sworn translation. 

Two types of legalisation 

When you get in touch with a service provider for a sworn translation, telling them if your documents are going to remain in Belgium or be sent abroad is CRUCIAL, because the 

legalisation procedure differs completely for the two cases. 

For Belgium

Since 1 December 2022, the physical stamps that sworn translators used have been replaced by a digital signature. Signing a translation digitally effectively legalises it. This signature suffices to authenticate the translation without having to submit it to a judicial authority.

For sending abroad 

Signing the translations digitally does not suffice, however, if the documents for translation are intended for a foreign authority. In such cases, the translations must be submitted to the Foreign Ministry (Federal Public Service of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) via the new “eLegalization” platform. This platform makes it possible to obtain a legalisation or an apostille much faster than before. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

When must I call upon a sworn translator or interpreter?

Generally speaking, any translation for a judicial or administrative authority requires the intervention of a sworn translator. To avoid losing valuable time, it is always preferable to ask what type of translation is required before contacting a sworn translator or interpreter. 

What is legalisation? 

Legalisation is the term used for the procedure for certifying the authenticity of the signature put to a document. If the latter is a public instrument, the quality of the signatory and the identity of the official seal or stamp placed on the document are also confirmed. 

Legalisation is a simple administrative formality that says nothing about the authenticity of the content of a document, since your sworn translator is the one who guarantees the faithful and “non varying” translation of the original document. This service nevertheless gives Belgian and foreign documents the necessary probative force for use either in Belgium or abroad. 

For more information about the legalisation process, please consult the following page:

How can I find a STI? 

The CBTI-BKVT’s membership includes more than 100 sworn translators and interpreters with various language combinations. You can find them here: <lien vers le module TIJ du moteur de recherche> 

How much will a sworn translation cost me? 

The Justice Ministry (FPS Justice) sets the rates for sworn translations and interpreting, but only for assignments required in the case of criminal proceedings. Outside such assignments, including in civil proceedings, the service providers are free to set their own rates, just as any self-employed businessperson may do. These rates will usually vary with the circumstances, given that various criteria must be factored into the price, e.g., the volume (number of pages/lines/words to translate), technical difficulty of the text, deadline, terms of delivery, etc. A set amount is usually invoiced for the legalisation procedure itself, especially for documents to be sent abroad.