In the United States, issues relating to immigration document translation can cause submitted documents to be rejected and, therefore, lead to delays. Making sure you fulfill USCIS requirements and working with experienced professionals are key to avoiding this.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about immigration document translation. We’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the translation of foreign language documents for immigration purposes. But first, let’s take a look at the types of documents you might need to translate.
- Which documents require translation for immigration?
- What are the USCIS translation requirements?
- What is a certified translation?
- How do I translate immigration documents?
- Can I translate my own immigration documents?
- Can anyone translate documents for USCIS?
- Using machine translation for immigration documents
- What happens if my document is an abbreviated version of the original?
- How much does a USCIS-certified immigration translation cost?
- What happens if USCIS rejects my translated documents?
- Final thoughts
Which documents require translation for immigration?
Any document in a foreign language should be translated before submission to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Although you will definitely need to submit your translated birth certificate, you should check with USCIS to find out what other documents you’ll need.
However, here is a list of the documents that are most commonly translated for immigration purposes:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Divorce decrees or certificates
- School transcripts
- Criminal records
What are the USCIS translation requirements?
When it comes to immigration document translation, the first thing is to check the relevant requirements. In this section, we’ll cover USCIS translation requirements and how to fulfill them.
Translations to be submitted before USCIS must be typed, not written; should follow the same format as the original; and be certified. Moreover, the certified translation should be printed with the translation service provider’s letterhead and include a certification statement. We’ll take a look at what certified translations entail below.
It’s essential to follow all requirements to make sure your translation is accepted by the USCIS and avoid delays in the immigration process. You can find the section from the Code of Federal Regulations that discusses the US Citizenship and Immigration Services translation requirements here.
What is a certified translation?
A certified translation is a literal (word-for-word) translation of all visible text in a document. These are meant for official uses where the receiver requires certification to verify that the translation is complete and accurate. This means the translator or translation company in charge of the translation adds a signed statement—also called “Certificate of Translation Accuracy”—that says the translation is a complete and accurate rendition of the original document.
In the United States, a translator does not need to be certified at a federal or state level to provide certified translation services. Anyone with sufficient skills in the relevant languages can issue the translation. However, when it comes to immigration document translation, you should choose this person carefully as it is not rare for translations to be rejected. It is best to make sure that the person or company who completes it is qualified to do the work.
What is included in a Certificate of Translation Accuracy?
If you are wondering what a certification statement or Certificate of Translation Accuracy looks like, it includes the following:
- A statement that confirms the translation is complete and accurate
- A reference to the source document
- A listing of the source and target languages
- The full name and signature of the person that is attesting to the document
If you want to learn more about certified translations, you should take a look at this article.
How do I translate immigration documents?
We have covered the requirements of immigration document translation. In this section, we’ll give you an overview of the translation process.
1. Find an appropriate translator or translation company
When you need to translate your document for immigration purposes, you should ensure the translator or translation company offers this specific service and has a 100% acceptance rate with USCIS.
2. Ask for a quote and delivery time
Both the quote and the delivery time may vary according to how many documents you need to translate. Other things 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 your documents to your chosen translator or translation company, there are some details you should include. They will need your name and email address (and sometimes your phone number), as well as 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, it will be reviewed for accuracy. You will then receive an electronic copy of the translation. Original hard copies are available, upon request, for an additional shipping fee.
Now that you know how to deal with your foreign language documents, let’s focus on some questions that often come up regarding this topic.
Can I translate my own immigration documents?
According to USCIS, anybody who has the required knowledge to translate from the origin to the target language is able to translate an immigration document. Whether this translation gets accepted or not will depend on the discretion of the immigration officer reviewing your application. It's always best to work with a certified translation professionals that have a 100% guaranteed acceptance rate for these types of processes to avoid any delays in your overall application.
Can anyone translate documents for USCIS?
As we’ve mentioned before, a translator does not need to be certified at a federal or state level to provide certified translation services. However, although anyone with sufficient skills in the relevant languages can issue the translation, you should consider the previous question. Checking your translator provider has a 100% approval rate with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is also advised.
Using machine translation for immigration documents
The use of machine translation—the automatic translation of text from one language to 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. Machine translation is currently used in many fields but usually paired with postediting (a revision by a qualified translator). This begs the question, should you use machine translation for immigration documents?
The answer is no. While there are many advantages to using machine translation, this is generally not the best choice when it comes to certified translations.
First of all, machine translation is far from flawless and the potential errors it may make can prove disastrous when talking about immigration paperwork. Moreover, immigration document translations have to follow the same format as the original and be certified, which a machine is not yet able to do.
Human translation is the best—and safest—option when it comes to immigration documents.
###How to translate a birth certificate?
Birth certificates are the most common immigration document in need of translation. The steps for translating your birth certificate for USCIS are pretty much the same as any other immigration document. But if you want more information on the translation of birth certificates in particular, you can take a look at this article.
What happens if my document is an abbreviated version of the original?
It is not uncommon for governments to issue abbreviated versions of certain documents. Whether this is ok to submit to USCIS will depend on their specific requirements for that particular document.
It is always better to have the full version of your immigration document, but you can check to see if the abbreviated version includes all the information USCIS needs.
How much does a USCIS-certified immigration translation cost?
There is no fixed price for a certified translation. It varies depending on different factors such as the length of the document to be translated, the type of document, and the specific language combination. There may also be a rush charge if you need the documents urgently.
Certified translation service providers usually charge per word or page (the industry defines one "page" as 250 words). When it comes to cost per word, prices range from $0.08 to $0.50/word. The cost per page usually ranges from $20 to $130 per page.
RushTranslate provides certified translation services in more than 60 languages starting at $24.95 per page (according to the 250 words-per-page definition), with 24-hour delivery and 100% guaranteed approval by USCIS.
What happens if USCIS rejects my translated documents?
USCIS is very strict when it comes to documents submitted to support your application. If they find any issues, they might send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). Some of the reasons USCIS sends an RFE are that they found inaccuracies in the translation, believe the translation is not authentic, or the certification is not acceptable.
This will not only delay your application, but it can also lead to it being rejected. This is why it is important to pick your translation service provider carefully.
Immigration document translation should be handled with care. It’s important to find the right translation provider to work with your document to ensure a good result.
We hope this article has given you a clear overview of how immigration document translation works and provided you with the tools to manage your foreign language documents in the future.
Updated January 10, 2023 in Translation