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How to legalise documents in the Netherlands so they will be accepted in Italy

Bureaucracy is difficult. Bureaucracy in a foreign language is a nightmare. There are so many terms that don’t quite make sense. Is a certified translation the same as a sworn translation? And what does it mean to legalise a document? If you live in the Netherlands and have some documents from or for an Italian authority, here’s a quick guide for you.

There are two possible scenarios to start with:

  • You have a Dutch document to be submitted to an Italian institution;
  • You have an Italian document to be submitted to a Dutch institution.

The process is identical for both scenarios until step 3.

Language

1. Language

The first question you need to ask yourself is “What language is my document? Is there an international version in English or a multilingual version with all the official languages of the EU?". For some documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, there are international versions in official EU languages. This means you don’t need to have this document translated. Dutch authorities also accept documents in English, French and German.

2. Apostille

The second step is to find out whether the document should be legalised or not. What does the word ‘legalisation’ mean? A document is only valid if it is signed by whoever is authorised to legalise a document. If you’re going to use that document in another country, the people at the receiving end will not have the means to check whether the signatures are valid. Legalising a document is an intermediate step that guarantees the authenticity of the signature on the document.

When should a document be legalized? In principle, a document must be legalised if you want to use it in another country. The EU Regulation 2016/1191 establishes that certain public documents issued in one Member State must be accepted as authentic in another Member State without needing to be legalised. It is also true that many offices still ignore this new rule. It is therefore wise to ask to the recipient if an apostille is actually necessary.

How can I legalise my document? If you have Italian or Dutch documents, you can simply get an apostille, which is a standard sticker that is applied to your document. In the Netherlands you can get an apostille at the court, in Italy you need to go to a prefettura. (Note: for documents issued by embassies or for countries other than Italy and the Netherlands the process may be different).

Translation

3. Translation

If your document needs to be translated, it is time to look for the right translator.

For official documents you need a so-called sworn translation or certified translation, a translation that contains a statement about the accuracy of the text translated.

Where do I get a sworn translation?

In the Netherlands there is a register of sworn translators, the Register beëdigde tolken en vertalers (RBTV). You can search for a translator on the RBTV website (in Dutch) or check the list of Italian translators published by the Italian embassy (in Italian).

These are qualified translators who have sworn an oath at the court and may therefore apply their stamp to their own translations.

NOTE: to be valid, a sworn translation must be inextricably attached to the original document. This is why a sworn translation is always delivered in paper format.

TheCrossroads

The Crossroads

At this point the paths diverge.

  • An Italian document that must be submitted to a Dutch institution is ready to be used. The Dutch institution will recognise the validity of the translation performed by a translator whose name is in the RBTV list.

  • A Dutch document that must be submitted to an Italian institution needs a second apostille, this time for the translator’s signature. The reason is the same as for step 2: without an apostille, people in Italy would not have the means to ensure that the sworn translator’s signature is authentic.

If after reading this short guide you think that legalising a document is a long and complicated process, I understand you perfectly. The thought of making a mistake and ending up wasting time and money can be discouraging. At Picobello Translations you can rely on a professional who knows the rules of the game and can advise you throughout the whole process. By doing so, you’ll be sure to have all the correct documents for your needs.

Contact me if you need help with legalising documents.

With thanks to Luigi Barone (Independent Italian-Dutch sworn translator) for his contribution.