Passport translation: when is it required?

Learn when to have your passport translated and why it is so important for your next international trip

Passport translation can help you ensure smooth travel plans. Whether visiting, studying or working abroad, many people need a passport – an international travel document providing authorization to enter a foreign country.

However, under what circumstances would someone need a passport to be translated?

Although it seems a passport should be recognized and accepted in any country around the world, you may need to have your passport translated by a sworn translator. Quality translations offer peace of mind, enable smooth travel plans and are sometimes even mandatory to enter a country.

That’s what we are going to talk about today, but first, let’s put some things in perspective:

What is a passport?

A legal document that certifies the identity of the holder and his/her country of citizenship.

It is generally considered to be an international travel document. However, simply having a passport does not necessarily mean you can stay indefinitely in a foreign country.

People who wish to stay in a country for a long period or who wish to study or work abroad must generally get a visa that will ensure a legal stay for the entire period.

Is it really necessary to have your passport translated?

Translating your passport is not always necessary. When you go to a country that speaks the same language as your country of origin, there is obviously no reason to translate, even considering different dialects and regional linguistic differences.

In many other cases, for example, a translation is usually not required for European citizens traveling throughout Member Countries of the European Union, since specific agreements are in place allowing travelers to move or stay for longer periods without the need for a visa, as well as free access to public services. 

This is applicable in many other cases – most countries make their passports universally understandable including with a second, a third and even a fourth language. 

English is the main choice, but it can be accompanied, for example, by French, Arabic and so on.

Obviously, when it comes to identity documents, translations must be accurate. You should rely on the services of qualified professionals and choose the most suitable format according to your need.

A good example is sworn translation, a type of translation that ensures the validity of the translated information.

When to have your passport translated?

We have listed below some circumstances in which having your passport translated might be a good idea:

  • If you plan to travel to a country where the use of universal languages, such as English or French, is limited;
  • If you plan to stay for a long time in the destination country. Longer periods of stay are associated with higher risks of different types. Some of them include falling ill or being involved in accidents – and that would involve benefiting from local medical assistance. Even if you have valid travel insurance, it is still safer to have your passport translated as well;
  • If you plan to interact with local authorities or plan to sign important documents. Therefore, having your passport translated can be useful if you plan to get married, adopt a child, legalize inherited property, play extreme sports that require your written consent (of which you are aware and responsible for your actions).

Benefits of having your passport translated

Passport translation is often used before visiting a country where your native language is not considered official. 

The translation of a legal document that confirms your identity and citizenship can be very useful for common transactions involving travel.

Government and immigration agencies usually request a translation if the country’s official language is not one of the predominant languages in the passport.

Quality translations can save time, avoid problems and help you have a smooth visit to your destination.

In which languages are passports issued?

In 1920, a meeting of the League of Nations – the forerunner of the United Nations – decided that all passports should be issued in French and another language, depending on the issuing country. French was chosen as the primary language of passports, as the League agreed that it was traditionally “the language of diplomacy”.

Many passports are still issued in French, but others are not. Some are issued in several languages, eliminating the need for passport translation. In some countries, you can even choose the language of your passport.

Here are some of the languages in which passports are issued worldwide:

  • United States: After the 1920 League of Nations meeting, US passports began to be issued in English and French. Spanish was added to US passports in the late 1990s in recognition of the US Spanish-speaking community in Puerto Rico;
  • New Zealand: New Zealand passports are issued in English and Maori;
  • European Union: Each member state of the European Union has a passport that includes all the official languages of the EU;
  • Pakistan: Pakistani passports are issued in Arabic, English, French and Urdu;
  • Belgium: Belgian passports include Belgium’s three official languages (Dutch, French and German), but Belgian citizens can choose which language is listed first in their passports.

Always be prepared

We cannot describe all theoretical situations in which you would benefit from having your passport translated into the local language. However, it is possible to conclude that you will have more peace of mind if you have a translated passport in your hands.

In addition, the translation is valid for many years, so the only thing you will have to do when you return to that country is taking your document and its respective translation and take them with you.

Also, when it comes to document validity, check your passport expiry date in advance and, if necessary, renew it before you travel.

How can Fidelity help you?

Passport translation can be especially useful when you are traveling abroad – keep this in mind when planning your next trip.

Make sure your passport is translated accurately and accordingly by contacting Fidelity today. We offer sworn translation services according to your needs.

Where are you traveling to? Have you ever had your passport translated? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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