Have you been asked for a certified translation of your documents and need help figuring out where to start? You’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll explain what a certified translation is and how to get one. We’ll also cover which documents often require certification and why you should find a professional translator for the job.
- What is a certified translation?
- What do you need to certify a translation?
- What is a notarized translation?
- How does certification work?
- Common documents that require certification
- How do I certify my document?
- The importance of working with a professional translator
- Do I need to find a certified translator?
- Can I certify my own translation for USCIS?
- Can I use Google translate for certified translations?
- Final thoughts
What is a certified translation?
If you need to certify a translation, you might be wondering what this means. Well, a certified translation is a word-for-word translation of all visible text in a document.
These are done for documents with official uses where the receiver requires certification to verify that the translation is complete and accurate.
When you have to submit a document written in a foreign language before a government or educational institution in the United States, it generally requires a certified translation. This type of translation is commonly required for submission to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), universities, courts, and government agencies
What does certification entail? Well, the translator or translation company in charge of the translation will add a signed statement that says the translation is a complete and accurate rendition of the original document. This statement is also known as a “Certificate of Translation Accuracy.”
Though it might seem confusing, in the United States, a translator does not need to be certified at a federal or state level to provide certified translation services. As long as the translator has sufficient skills in the relevant languages, they can issue certified translations. However, the translation must follow certain quality control protocols and you should ensure that the person or company who completes it is qualified to do the work.
What do you need to certify a translation?
To certify a translation, the translator will write a Certificate of Translation Accuracy or certification statement. As we’ve mentioned, this is a statement through which the translator verifies the translation issued is complete and accurate.
What is included in a certificate of translation accuracy?
The certification statement or "Certificate of Translation Accuracy" includes the following:
- A statement of the translator’s qualifications
- A statement that confirms the translation is complete and accurate
- A reference to the translated document and the language it is in
- The date of issue
- The translator’s full name and signature
Other information you may find in certificates of accuracy is the name of the document, the number assigned to the translation project, and some contact information for the translator or translation company.
Some government or educational institutions have additional requirements regarding what the certification statement includes. They may even have a set certification statement ready for the translator or translation company to fill out. This is the case for the Alaska DMV, for example. You can take a look at their required certificate here.
Another possible requirement is for your certification of accuracy to be notarized.
What is a notarized translation?
A notarized translation is one where a Notary Public will have to sign and seal your certified translation. Since notaries are not language specialists, they don’t certify the quality of the translation. What they do is confirm the translator’s identity.
A notarized translation is often required for US passport applications, DMV documents (in some states), school transcripts, employment contracts, and vital records (such as birth, marriage, and divorce certificates)
Depending on the institution that requests the documents, you might only need to have your translation certified, or both certified and notarized.
It’s important to note to check the specific requirements before requesting your translation. You can find more information about notarized translation here.
How does certification work?
We’ll explain how certification works by comparing it to a regular or non-certified translation.
In a certified translation, the document must be translated in its entirety, remaining as faithful as possible to the original text, even when it comes to formatting. The translation must include all visible text (even symbols, stamps, and signatures found in the original). If any section of the document is not clear, the translator must add a “not legible” note.
In contrast, when it comes to regular translations, these may be partial. This means the client can decide how much of the original text gets translated. Moreover, translators may paraphrase the text to provide a better understanding of the content. Finally, the format of the original content may be changed to meet the client's requirements.
While the content or formatting of non-certified translations can be changed to meet client requirements that lead, the purpose of certified translations is to reflect exactly what is in the original document for legal and official purposes.
Moreover, unlike a regular translation that usually includes only the translated text, a certified translation requires the inclusion of a signed Certificate of Translation Accuracy.
Common documents that require certification
Translations are usually certified for legal purposes. This includes procedures with government entities, applying to educational institutions, and civil or criminal proceedings.
For example, if you are applying for a visa, you’ll need a certified translation before submitting your documents to the relevant immigration service agency. Any documentation in another language to be submitted as evidence in a trial must also be certified. Furthermore, if you are applying to a university, you’ll often need a certified translation of your diploma and transcript.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), and the LLM Credential Assembly Service (CAS) are some of the institutions that require certified translations.
Here are some examples of documents that often require certified translation services:
- Documentation for visa applications or immigration
- Legal documents for court cases
- Birth, marriage, divorce, and death certificates
- Passports and driver’s licenses
- Patent filings
- Medical records
- Diplomas and transcripts
- Criminal record checks
- Adoption records
- Bank statements
If you’re wondering what kind of documents don’t require certified translation services, these would be texts or documents that won’t be submitted for official purposes. Web content and marketing materials are a couple of examples.
How do I certify my document?
Now that we understand what certification is and what documents are often certified, let’s focus on the process. Here is a step-by-step overview.
1. Find an appropriate translator or translation company
Make sure the translator or company you hire is qualified to issue certified translations. If you need to translate your document for immigration purposes, we advise you to check they have a 100% acceptance rate with USCIS to ensure they meet USCIS translation requirements.
2. Ask for a quote and delivery time
The quote and the delivery time will vary according to how many documents you need to translate. Other factors that affect cost and time are the length of each document, the format, the specific language combination, and if you need the certified translation urgently.
3. Submit an electronic copy of your documents to your translation provider
When you send a copy of your original documents to your chosen translator or translation agency, there are some details you should include.
These are: your name and contact details, the language of the original document (source language), and the language you need the translation into (target language).
4. Receive your certified translation
When the certified translation is complete, the translator or translation agency will review it for accuracy. You will then get an electronic copy of the translation. Original hard copies are usually available, upon request, for an additional shipping fee.
The importance of working with a professional translator
As we’ve seen, certified translations have a specific set of requirements. Although anyone with knowledge of the two languages in question can issue a certification, it is advisable to find a qualified professional.
In this section, we’ll answer some of the questions that often come up on this topic.
Do I need to find a certified translator?
A certified translator has proven the quality of their work in some way. In the United States, translators earn their certification when satisfactorily tested by the government or a professional institution.
As we’ve mentioned, translators don’t need to be certified to provide certified translation services. However, finding someone who is fit for the job is important.
Can I certify my own translation for USCIS?
According to USCIS, anybody with the required knowledge to translate from the origin to the target language can translate an immigration document. Whether this translation gets accepted or not will depend on the discretion of the immigration officer reviewing your application.
We’d also advise you not to seek help from friends or family, even if they are professional translators, as this is seen as a conflict of interest and a cause for rejection.
It's always best to work with certified translation professionals for your immigration documents. You should check they have a 100% guaranteed acceptance rate for these types of processes to avoid delays in your overall application.
Can I use Google translate for certified translations?
Google translate or machine translation (the automatic translation of text from one language into another) has been a hot topic for quite a while. There has been incredible progress over the last couple of decades, with excellent results in some areas. However, this is generally not the best choice for certified translation. Here are the two main reasons why:
- Google translate is far from flawless and the potential errors it may make can prove disastrous when talking about documents for official purposes.
- Moreover, certified translations have to follow the same format as the original and be certified, which a machine cannot yet do.
Human translation is the best—and safest—option for translating and certifying foreign language documents for official purposes.
As we’ve seen, certifying a translation is not a complex process, but it is important it is done by professionals.
We hope this article was able to answer all the questions you had on how to certify your translations.
Updated December 27, 2022 in Translation