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Which documents require an official translator in France?

In some cases a certified translation of a document is required, which must be undertaken by a traducteur agréé

Official translations for documents are much more than a simple case of knowing both languages Pic: pogonici / Shutterstock

Reader Question: I am getting Pacsed to my French partner, and have been asked to translate my birth certificate into French. My neighbour is bilingual and an English teacher at school, can they translate it for me?

Many administrative tasks in France, such as applying for a visa or civil partnership, require documents such as birth certificates or driving licences to be submitted during the procedure.

If you are not from a Francophone country, these documents will not be in French, and to be accepted by the authorities, may need to be translated.

If this is the case, they will need to be translated in an official capacity by a traducteur agréé (sometimes known as a traducteur assermenté or traducteur expert)

These are translators officially authorised by the French legal system, and are the only accepted source  of translated documents for administrative actions.

The costs will vary depending on the complexity and size of the document, but it is likely you will pay around €30 – €60 per page translated.

Where can I find a translator? 

The easiest place to find an official traducteur agréé is through the courts of appeal’s official website.

It lists the translators based on their local court of appeal – you can also find your nearest court using your communal postcode or commune name here on the justice.gouv website. 

Be aware, however, this function lists all local courts, and you are looking for your local cour d’appel from the list of results (in addition, the website crashed more than once for us at The Connexion office when we tried to use it). 

Alternatively, you can use the Société française des traducteurs (SFT) or Union Nationale des Experts Traducteurs Interprètes près les Cours d’Appel (Unetica) websites to find a translator.

Another option is through word of mouth, such as a lawyer or notaire you work with. 

They may have their own go-to translators (especially for English, a commonly used language) they can put you into contact with, or be able to translate documents themselves.

Always make sure however, that the translator from any of these options above is certified through the cour d’appel as some translators do not have the official recognition.

If looking for a translator from abroad, service public states you should look for translators on your consulate’s website.

However, in some cases these translators’ documents will not be accepted (because they do not have a certification from the courts), so it is usually better to get a French translator you know is certified.

Note that these translators usually all work at a distance, for example by you emailing them a scan of the relevant documents, so it is not essential for them to live near to you.

Which documents need to be translated

Not all documents need to be translated in every case.

You will usually be informed during the application procedure if your documents require translating, and if you are unsure you can ask if a specific document needs to be translated.

You should also be careful about when you get the documents translated – in some circumstances, the documents need to have been translated within the last six months to be used. 

Note, however that The European Commision told The Connexion that French bodies may not refuse documents such as birth certificates in another EU language for health and social security issues.

English continues to be an official EU language despite Brexit – it is one of the official languages of Ireland and Malta. As a result, Cpams should not demand translations, although some reportedly ask for them. 

If a Cpam requires a document in French it may ask the European social security advisory body Cleiss to provide the translation, the Commission said.

Related articles 

How long do I need to keep old French documents?

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