Dr Amal Al Qubaisi (left), a Federal National Council member, and Dr Hadef Jua’an Al Daheri, Minister of Justice, during the session in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Translators who do not pass a certification test and have licence from the Ministry of Justice will either face a jail term of up to two years or fine of not more than Dh100,000 or both, according to a draft law.

However, courtroom translators would be exempt and can do translation only after they take oath before the judge.

The bill, which was passed on Tuesda by the Federal National Council, is meant to ensure all translations and interpretations are performed by skilled and qualified individuals.

The draft law requires approval of the Cabinet and the President's signature before it is enforced as law.

Under the draft law, which consists of 3 articles, translators who are already licensed and registered with the Ministry of Justice have to adjust their legal status within a year from the date the law is enforced.

According to the bill, governmental and non-governmental organisations can request from the Justice Ministry to register translators from among their staff, provided that they do the job in their organisations only.

Grace period

No authority would be allowed to attest or recognise a translated document unless the translation is done by a certified translator.

Translator licences will be renewed every three years, and translators will be provided a grace period of 90 days to get their licences renewed, failing which the registration of a translator will be cancelled.

An ad hoc committee said in a report the bill was prompted by the fact that nearly 7.3 million foreigners of more than 200 nationalities are living in the UAE.

The report estimated that more than 13,000 labour disputes were filed with the labour courts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in 2010.

The bill, which would replace regulations that varied among emirates, also requires translation firms to obtain an operating permit from their emirate and to have insurance.

Courts which often suffer from a shortage of translators would be entitled to assign uncertified translators after they take oath.


The house's committee said the UAE was suffering a severe shortage of translators, with only 345 translators registered with the Justice Ministry, 37 of them are Emiratis.

Translators will also be required to take an oath, undergo a certification test at the Justice Ministry and have professional training.

Translation firms would also need to be operated by a licensed translator.

Under the law, a translation firm's manager has to prominently post the certification licence and the firm's permit, inform the Justice Ministry of translators working in the firm and any change in the staff within a month of its occurrence, and keep a record of translation jobs, their dates and names of clients. The House has amended the law to include simultaneous translation, legal translation, and sign-language translation.