Translating a French driver's license into American English
Thread poster: Troy D

Troy D
United States
Local time: 11:57
French to English
Sep 9, 2010

I just received a request to translate the French driver's license of a student who will be staying in the U.S. This student wishes to be able to drive here and has been asked by the Secretary of State to obtain an official translation of the document. It appears that as a sole proprietor I am eligible to provide such a translation, but I am wondering whether someone out there has any experience with this kind of work? It's my first time working on an "official" translation and my first time working on a license. The biggest problem right now, I suppose, is not knowing whether I am just supposed to give the client a couple 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper with the translated text of the "permis de conduire" or whether I should instead adhere to some kind of state or federal formatting regulations. Is someone out there willing to give me some advice on this and/or counsel me? Thanks in advance.
Troy


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
It might be easier... Sep 9, 2010

An International Driving Permit (IDP) translates information contained on your driver's license into 10 languages so that officials in foreign countries are able to interpret your license. An IDP supplements a valid government-issued license--it does not serve as a replacement for a license. If you are stopped by law enforcement, you will most likely be asked to produce both your IDP and your official driver's license. The United States does NOT issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you will need to obtain this document before traveling to the U.S.

http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Foreign_Visitors_Driving.shtml

This is an official US Govt. site.

You would then get no business, but it should be much better for this traveler, and much less potential for trouble. The job would not be worth more than a few bucks anyway.


 

Troy D
United States
Local time: 11:57
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks but this student is already in the U.S. Sep 9, 2010

Henry Hinds wrote:

An International Driving Permit (IDP) translates information contained on your driver's license into 10 languages so that officials in foreign countries are able to interpret your license. An IDP supplements a valid government-issued license--it does not serve as a replacement for a license. If you are stopped by law enforcement, you will most likely be asked to produce both your IDP and your official driver's license. The United States does NOT issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you will need to obtain this document before traveling to the U.S.

http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Foreign_Visitors_Driving.shtml

This is an official US Govt. site.

You would then get no business, but it should be much better for this traveler, and much less potential for trouble. The job would not be worth more than a few bucks anyway.


Thanks so much for a very helpful reply, Henry. Unfortunately, the student is already here.

I have checked the information available online with the SOS and it seems I need only supply a translation on my official letterhead. That still leaves me wondering how I should represent a document with several small pages on normal computer paper.


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:57
German to English
Contact Secretary of State Sep 9, 2010

Your profile indicates that you're in Michigan. You should contact the Secretary of State's office regarding all requirements for certifying a foreign driver's license. You're correct, the translation must appear on your business letterhead, but I got grief because my letterhead was printed with my laser printer. Each section of the of the driver's license should appear on a separate page with letterhead (assuming the French DL is like the German with endorsements for various types of motor vehicle). I went through this a few years ago and decided that it was too much hassle to do it again.

This will get you started, but you need to contact the Michigan Secretary of State directly for more information:
http://www.michigan.gov/documents/DE40_032001_20459_7.pdf

[Edited at 2010-09-09 03:57 GMT]


 

Jose Herrera  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Here is a suggestion" Sep 9, 2010

Troy,

I always translate birth ceritifcates for the court and you should attach a translation certification, notarized of the document you translate. Officials perceive as an official translation.

Hope this help you. If you wish, I can forward a sample of what I use for the birth certificates.

Jose Aherrera

Troy D wrote:

I just received a request to translate the French driver's license of a student who will be staying in the U.S. This student wishes to be able to drive here and has been asked by the Secretary of State to obtain an official translation of the document. It appears that as a sole proprietor I am eligible to provide such a translation, but I am wondering whether someone out there has any experience with this kind of work? It's my first time working on an "official" translation and my first time working on a license. The biggest problem right now, I suppose, is not knowing whether I am just supposed to give the client a couple 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper with the translated text of the "permis de conduire" or whether I should instead adhere to some kind of state or federal formatting regulations. Is someone out there willing to give me some advice on this and/or counsel me? Thanks in advance.
Troy


 

Troy D
United States
Local time: 11:57
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Everyone Sep 18, 2010

Sorry it took a little while for me to respond. I was pretty busy with other things over the last week or so.

I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to everyone who responded to my inquiry. I know that responding to a newbie's basic questions is not necessarily everyone's favorite thing to do. Kevin, thanks for encouraging me to just ask. I did in fact contact the SOS by email. Their response was useless, as they only linked me to a short webpage about becoming a volunteer INTERPRETER. Joy. But I followed up with a phone call and eventually got someone who looked up the information in some of their SOS handbooks. He told me I simply needed to submit the following info on normal computer paper containing my logo and address: date of translation, applicant’s full name, date of birth, country of issue, date of issue, type of license issued, expiration date, printed name of the person who prepared the translation, translator's signature, phone number.

I ended up giving the student my work, and I should find out within a few days whether the Ann Arbor SOS accepted it.

I'm sure I'll be back with more questions as I attempt to make something of myself in the freelance translation world. Until next time!

Thanks again,
Troy


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:57
German to English
Do you belong to MiTiN? Sep 19, 2010

If you haven't done so already, I might suggest joining the Michigan Interpreters and Translators Network
http://www.mitinweb.org/

You'll get a lot of support through this organization.


 

James Kirchner  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:57
Member (2008)
Czech to English
+ ...
Driver's license translation in Michigan Sep 19, 2010

First, to one of the previous posters, the state of Michigan does not honor the international driver's license. The bearer of the foreign license would still have to get a translation and obtain a Michigan driver's license if he wants to drive longer than about three months.

Like Kevin, I also began refusing to do driver's license translations. The format requirements set out by the Michigan Secretary of State are very clear (if you get them). However, even if you do everything correctly, many SOS clerks make up their own new rules on the spot. For example, there is no rule against the letterhead being done on a laser printer, and the clerk who hassled Kevin about it was simply making a rule up. The Department of State has a list of "suggested" providers -- many of which don't even do translation, such as university foreign language departments -- but the rules say that the translation can be done by any qualified translator from any state or country, as long as it meets the formatting guidelines. Nonetheless, the clerks frequently act as if the list contains the ONLY translators allowed to do driver's license translations for Michigan. This is simply untrue. Sometimes the clerks won't even accept translations done by people on the list, because they are using an outdated printout of it.

Once a manager at one office lied to me and said they had a "verification system" to determine whether I was "authorized to work as a translator in the state of Michigan". This was, of course, ridiculous, and as the authorities in Lansing verified, there is no such system.

So even following the rules doesn't work. What most translators do is produce a translation that meets the formatting rules, and then they shop for the right Secretary of State office. Some of them deal with foreign licenses and translations in a very businesslike manner, and you have no problems at those. Other ones obstruct you with one imaginary rule after another, and you'll never get a license there even if you do anything perfectly. The last time I did such a translation, I succeeded in getting the client the license only by going to the office myself and presenting the clerk and manager with an e-mail from the second in command at the state capital.

If you are on the list that the clerks accept, however, the department appears to accept even fraudulent license translations from you. Once one translator has done one or two such translations for an agency, they use it as a template and create the rest of them from that. A translation agency manager who can't even read the translation signs at the bottom saying they are proficient in Latvian or whatever, and the department accepts it.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:57
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
why making such a small job so complicated? Sep 19, 2010

You translate it, make its layout closely match that of the source copy, and sign a notarized certification of accuracy. That's pretty much about it. And you have done your job as a translator.

let the client fingure out everything else.


 

Troy D
United States
Local time: 11:57
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks And A Response Regarding Formatting Requirements Sep 19, 2010

Hi James,

This is exactly why it's important to talk to other translators. Thanks to all of you, I've found out a lot of information, even answered questions I didn't know I had. The poster after you wanted to know why I was making a simple job so complicated, to which I can only reply that I am totally new to all this (also it would be very difficult--and possibly pointless--to emulate certain documents for the purposes of a specific job). Both of you reference "format requirements," which was my biggest concern starting out. After talking to three different people at the SOS via email and phone, I came away with the understanding that there were no formatting requirements at all, unless you count the use of company letterhead. I simply included the information I was told the SOS needed (listed in my previous post).

I recognize your name from the link Kevin just gave me. Are you the same James Kirchner associated with MiTiN? I will probably be joining the group sometime soon. Thanks for the link, Kevin. I'd never heard of that group.


 


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