Juliana Mello

Juliana Mello

The Brazil Business


Contract Language in Brazil

Juliana Mello

Juliana Mello

The Brazil Business


As the Brazilian economy becomes more and more internationalised, knowing the legal effect of documents written in foreign languages becomes crucial for companies. This article provides information about foreign contracts in Brazil and the procedures to take in order to ensure the validity of those documents in the country, including the necessity of sworn translations.

The validity of foreign contracts in Brazil

In Brazil, the use of foreign languages for communications within companies and for the establishment of their practical guidelines and procedures is allowed. Meaning that any company in Brazil can operate using foreign languages within its fields, as long as the parties involved possess a proper knowledge of that language. There is nothing actually written in the legislation that requires private contracts to be written only in Portuguese, even if they are signed in Brazilian territory.

However, according to Virginia Randmer, executive partner of Global Translations.BR, contracts produced in foreign languages must meet several legal requirements in order to be effective in Brazil, against third parties and before the departments of the Federal Union, Brazilian States, the Federal District, Territories and Municipalities, as well as in any stage of jurisdiction, before any court or tribunal.

Randmer also points out that the signatures on documents from abroad must be certified in accordance with the local laws. In many countries, such certification is made by a notary public. The signature of the notary public must be acknowledged by the nearest Brazilian Consular representative office, in order to produce legal effect in Brazil.

These requirements are foreseen in the Brazilian legislation. The Civil Procedure Code states that all documents written in foreign languages must be accompanied by a sworn translation in order to be valid for their purposes before federal, state, or municipal authorities, for courts of all instances, or for entities maintained, supervised, or directed by the public powers.

A translation alone is not enough. To be valid as evidence before Brazilian public offices, the contracts must be translated by certified translators whose qualifications are officially recognized by the Brazilian state Chambers of Commerce (Junta Comercial). In other words, the contracts must be accompanied by sworn translations in Portuguese.

Sworn Translation (Tradução juramentada)

Sworn translation is a certified translation, conducted by officially authorized translators. As well as translating the contracts in their entirety, the sworn translation also describes accurately all elements contained in the original document, including stamps, seals, crests, acronyms, signatures and other specific marks.

In Brazil, a certified translator is called a tradutor juramentado or tradutor público. These professionals are only authorized to perform this activity if registered at the Chamber of Commerce of their state of residence, after going through a public exam, which will test their qualifications.

It is not up to the sworn translator to verify the contract’s content. His job is only to accurately translate the document. A counterfeit original contract remains counterfeit after being translated, and the professional in charge of the translation has no power to identify irregularities or excerpts from the contract that go against the law. So the sworn translation is not a guarantee that the contracts will be recognized by the public authorities, it only makes them acceptable.

The certified translation is always printed in at least two copies: one to be handed to the customer that requested it, and the other to be archived by the certified translator. There are no sworn translations made by fax or email.

It is important to note that the sworn translation does not substitute the original contract. The official version must always be attached to the translation. Only this way can it have legal validity.

The sworn translation will only be made after the documents are properly legalized by the Brazilian consulates (for contracts produced abroad). It is not up to the translators to check this. Therefore, the translation is the final step in validating a document in Brazil.

How much does it cost?

The price for sworn translation services is fixed by the Commercial Chamber of each Brazilian state. As determined by Brazilian law, the statutory price is calculated by the number of "standard pages" (laudas, in Portuguese) of the final, translated text, each lauda comprising about 1.000 characters, not including spaces.

The Chamber of Commerce of the São Paulo state for example, fixed the price for special documents (documentos especiais), such as contracts, as BRL 45.81 per lauda. If there is any urgency in the procedure the prices can go much higher, in some cases, they can double. Each additional original copy of the document translated will cost around 20% of the sworn translation’ price.

How to find a sworn translator?

By consulting the local Chamber of Commerce, you can gain access to all the registered certified translators of each Brazilian state. Every sworn translator has a registration number that must be checked before contracting his services. The translation will be considered valid throughout the country, regardless of the state in which it was performed.

It is also important to hire a translator that has official certification in the language used in the original contract. As this profession requires a high level of expertise, translators are on average only certified in one or two languages. For this reason they tend to choose more “commercial languages” such as English, Spanish, French and Italian. Because of this it can be very difficult to find available translators in Nordic, Slavic or Oriental languages, for example.

There are also companies specialized in translation services in Brazil, who can guarantee with greater certainty that the translations will be done as requested. As well as having professionals certified in several languages, these companies are also better equipped to perform urgent translations and larger translation orders.

In addition, if you do not have any references for sworn translators in Brazil, it is better to look for professionals working for specialized companies. That way, you can avoid problems such as illegal or counterfeit translations, overpricing, suspicious payment methods, delays in the delivery of the services and so on.

This article was written in association with Global Translations.BR, a company with 25 years of experience specialised in legal and financial translations. For more information visit their website.