Must French officials accept documents in English now?

A friend said the EU had passed legislation meaning documents in official EU languages no longer had to be translated into local languages for official purposes, such as applying for a carte de séjour or nationality. He was adamant that this applies to ones in English. Is it correct? K.L.

23 January 2019
By Oliver Rowland

There is an EU law related to this, but it has not yet come into force – although it is imminent.

It is Regulation (EU) 2016/1191 of the Euro­pean Parliament and of the Council of July 6, 2016 on promoting the free movement of citizens (see tinyurl.com/yb7rsp6p).

EU states are supposed to have taken steps to comply with it by February 16 this year. An Interior Ministry source confirmed it will apply in France.

However, the fine print of the regulation shows it is not as helpful as it first appears.

It relates only to “public documents”: that is, those issued by the state or courts. It concerns primarily birth/marriage or death certificates etc, and means that, in theory, presenting one of these issued by an EU state should mean there is no need for it to be translated, legalised or apostilled. Note: the issuing state has to be an EU state, so it is not just a question of the language, unlike an older EU regulation that documents in an EU language should not need to be translated for social security procedures.

Up to now, the legalisation requirement has not applied to British documents, though this may change post-Brexit in the case of no deal or after a transition period. However, UK documents do currently have to be translated by a traducteur assermenté.

Unfortunately, the regulation says they only have to be accepted without translation if they are accompanied by a “standard multilingual form” in the languages of the country of issue and the country where you want to present them. The Interior Ministry source said: “This would concern the UK during a transition period. Every official body in the EU countries [issuing documents] will have to supply the standard forms, in effect to some extent providing a translation service. However, I doubt if the UK will have time to apply it…”

We asked a UK Home Office spokeswoman, but she was unable to confirm that the UK will be issuing these forms – and, in any case, it would apply only to new copies.

As for the current regulation that social security documents needed, for example, for obtaining a carte vitale do not need translating, this should still  apply to documents in English, as English will continue to be an official language of the EU.

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