If you are looking to immigrate to the United States, you will need to submit documentation before USCIS. If those documents are in a language other than English, you will also need to translate them.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know before translating your foreign language documents. From the documents you might need to submit to USCIS, to translation requirements and we'll also cover certified translation costs. We’ll also discuss some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic.
- What is USCIS?
- Common documents USCIS requires
- What are the translation requirements for USCIS?
- Does USCIS need the translation to be notarized?
- Can you translate your own foreign language documents for USCIS?
- Who can translate documents for USCIS?
- Does USCIS have a translator?
- Can I use Google translate for USCIS documents?
- How to translate a birth certificate?
- What happens if my document is an abbreviated version of the original?
- What happens if USCIS rejects my translated documents?
- Final thoughts
What is USCIS?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, is the government agency in charge of lawful immigration. USCIS handles a variety of processes like naturalization, work visas, and Green Cards. It also deals with the adoption of non-US children and administers humanitarian programs.
Most English-language translations for USCIS are issued for naturalization or immigration documents, so we’ll focus on these in this article. You can find more information about USCIS on its website.
Common documents USCIS requires
Any foreign language document requires translation before being submitted to USCIS. Although you will definitely need to submit your translated birth certificate, you should check with USCIS to confirm which supporting documents they require for your application.
Here is a list of the foreign language documents commonly translated for USCIS:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Divorce decrees or certificates
- Death certificates
- School transcripts
- Criminal records
What are the translation requirements for USCIS?
These are the USCIS requirements when it comes to translating foreign language documents:
- Translations must be typed, not written
- They should follow the same format as the original
- Translations need to be certified
- 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 translation entails in the next section.
It’s essential to follow all of these requirements to ensure your English-language translation is accepted by 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 USCIS-certified translation?
A certified translation is a literal (word-for-word) translation of all of the text in a document. These translations are meant for official uses where the receiver (USCIS, in this case) requires the translator’s certification to verify that the translation is complete and accurate. This means the translator or translation service provider in charge of the certified translation will add a signed statement—also called “Certificate of Translation Accuracy”—that says the translation is a complete and accurate rendition of the original document.
It’s important to note that, in the United States, translators don’t 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 this type of translation. However, when it comes to immigration document translation, you should choose this person or agency carefully, as it is not rare for translations to be rejected. It is best to ensure that the translation provider who completes the work is properly qualified.
What does a Certificate of Translation Accuracy include?
You might be wondering what a Certificate of Translation Accuracy looks like. Well, this document 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 language of the original document and the translation language, respectively)
- The full name and signature of the person that is attesting to the document
If you want to learn more about certified translation, take a look at this article.
What’s the difference between a certified translator and a certified translation?
A certified translator is one who 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. The American Translators Association (ATA) is the primary institution providing translator certification. You can find more information about becoming a certified translator in this article.
Meanwhile, a certified translation is a word-for-word translation of the text in a given document that includes a Certificate of Translation Accuracy. As we’ve mentioned, translators don’t need to be certified to issue a certified translation.
In short, “certified translation” refers to a specific type of translation, while “certified translator” refers to a translator with specific qualifications.
How much does a USCIS-certified immigration translation cost?
Certified translation doesn’t have a fixed price. This varies depending on several factors, such as the length of the document to be translated, the type of document, and the specific language combination. A rush charge may also be applied if you need the foreign language documents translated urgently.
Translators tend to charge per word or page (the industry defines one "page" as 250 words). When it comes to cost per word, prices vary from $0.08 to $0.50/word. The cost per page usually ranges from $20 to $130.
RushTranslate provides certified translation services in more than 60 languages starting at $24.95 per page, with 24-hour delivery and 100% guaranteed approval by USCIS.
Now that we have some background on how to translate documents for USCIS, let’s look at some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic.
Does USCIS need the translation to be notarized?
No, USCIS requires translations to be certified but not notarized.
You might be wondering what notarization is. Well, a notarized translation entails a Notary confirming the identity of the person signing the Certificate of Translation Accuracy. The Notary’s signature and stamp on a notarized translation are meant to verify the identity of the person whose signature has certified the translation. It doesn’t authenticate the original source document or the quality of the translation itself. A notarized translation is simply an additional authentication for the certified translation.
Some cases where you might need a notarized translation include US passport applications, employment contracts, and school transcripts.
You can find more information about notarized translations in this article.
Can you translate your own foreign language documents for USCIS?
USCIS particularly bans you from translating your own foreign language documents. You shouldn’t ask for help from friends or family either, even if they are professional translators, as this is seen as a conflict of interest and a cause for rejection.
Who can translate documents for USCIS?
As we’ve mentioned, translators don’t need to be certified at a federal or state level to provide certified translation services. However, although anyone proficient in the relevant languages can issue an English-language translation, you should keep the previous question in mind. We’d also advise you to check your translator provider has a 100% approval rate with USCIS.
Does USCIS have a translator?
No, USCIS does not provide a translation service. You will need to find a translator and pay for the translations yourself.
Can I use Google translate for USCIS documents?
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 indeed 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.
Google translate is far from flawless and the potential errors it may make can prove disastrous when talking about immigration or naturalization paperwork. Moreover, USCIS 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 foreign language documents for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
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 are pretty much the same as any other immigration document and are subject to the same USCIS translation requirements. But if you want more information on the translation of birth certificates in particular, you can 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.
Although it is always better to have the full version of your document, you can check to see if the abbreviated version includes all the information USCIS needs.
For birth certificates, for example, USCIS asks for the document to include your first, middle and last name, your date of birth, the place you were born, your parents’ full names, and a seal verifying the document is original.
What happens if USCIS rejects my translated documents?
USCIS is very strict regarding documents submitted to support your application. If they find any issues with your translated documents, they might send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). USCIS will send an RFE if they find inaccuracies in the translation, there is not enough information about the translator, they believe the translation is not authentic, or the translator’s certification is not acceptable.
This will not only delay your application but can also lead to it being rejected. This is why it is crucial to pick a translation service provider that is able to meet all USCIS translation requirements.
We hope this article has given you all the information you need to translate your immigration and naturalization documents.
If nothing else, we’d like to impress on you that when translating foreign language documents, it is imperative to comply with all of USCIS translation requirements and find a qualified translator to avoid any issues.
Updated December 22, 2022 in Translation