Sworn Translators in Brazil Should Not Fear the Apostille

Officially recognized under a title that literally translates into “Public Translator and Commercial Interpreter,” sworn translators are a fairly large subgroup of Brazil’s language services sector. On LinkedIn alone, there are nearly 250 translators using this title based in Brazil.

Sworn translators are certified and accredited by the Brazilian government, and produce the sworn translations in Portuguese required by law for all sorts of documents (from driving licenses to loan applications to patent filings) going into and out of Brazil.

Now comes news of Brazil’s acceptance of the so-called “apostille system” from August 14, 2016 that, on the face of it, should have an effect on sworn translators. Or will it, really?

At first glance, seeing how the apostille may expedite the process of legalizing public documents (i.e., consolidating everything needed to tell authorities that a public document is authentic), it looks like the apostille system may also impact translation. However, the apostille is just a stamp, a checklist of sorts, which certifies something as authentic—be it a single-page trade document or a voluminous US court ruling translated into Portuguese for use in Brazil.

What the apostille looks like
What the apostille looks like

Indeed sworn translations of public documents (the only kind legally acceptable in Brazil for non-Portuguese documents) will still be needed. According to Fabiano Cid, Managing Director of Brazilian language service provider Ccaps, “Sworn translators have nothing to fear since a translation of the original document will remain mandatory.”

Cid explains the apostille does not replace a sworn translation but serves as an authentication on top of it. “Both the original and the translation will require the apostille,” he adds.

Just like the apostille cannot replace a sworn translation, a sworn translation cannot replace an apostille. (A translated document is not made legal just because it is produced by a sworn translator; but the Brazilian government does require that non-Portuguese public documents be translated by sworn translators. Go figure.)

What the apostille replaces is not the sworn translation, but the tedious process needed to tell Brazilian authorities that a document is real and authentic.

Pre-apostille, a public document from, say, the US, had to go through a notary public, the US county clerk, the Brazilian diplomatic office in the US, then get translated under oath into Portuguese and, finally, registered in Brazil’s National Public Registry of Deeds and Documents.

“Sworn translators have nothing to fear since a translation of the original document will remain mandatory”—Fabiano Cid, Ccaps Managing Director

Post-apostille, the public document still needs to be translated into Portuguese and registered, but no longer needs the other steps.

As Ccap’s Cid points out, the apostille may escalate costs for the person in need of it. Yet he concedes it does facilitate “cross-border transactions, since consular authentication will no longer be needed.”

As to whether the apostille will, in any way, decrease the volume of sworn translations, we do not see how it can—nor does Cid. Besides, he concludes, “Knowing my country’s history and penchant for red tape, I doubt this will be happening anytime soon.”