Five Facts About Certified Translation

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Many European countries have certified translators who need to take specific exams in order to certify their translation by affixing an official stamp. In some cases, such translators are registered with courts and are referred to as “court-certified translators”, “public translators” or “sworn translators”.

In the United States, no such concept of government regulated certification is in existence and when someone is asked to deliver a certified translation, for immigration or other official purposes, misunderstandings are frequent. Here are a few ambiguities and questions we frequently encounter:

  1. Do I need a certified translator to carry out this job? Contrary to popular belief, a translator does not need to be certified by anybody, not even the American Translators Association, in order to be qualified to provide certified translation.
  2. Can you certify a copy of my original? A translator does not verify the validity of the original, or its copies, only that the translation of the original was completed to the best of his/her ability. In other words, we cannot certify that the diploma from XYZ University you want us to translate is actually valid or that the content of the original document is in any way true or accurate representation of any facts.
  3. Is an Apostille the same thing as certification? A certified translation is not the same as a document with an Apostille.  An Apostille is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. The Apostille is usually issued by the Office of the Secretary of State and its sole purpose is to identify any stamp or seal affixed to an official document, certify the signature on the document and the capacity in which the person signing the document acted. For more information see
  4. My document says “Certified translation” in the footer. Is that all I need? Declaring a translation “certified” is not enough. The cover sheet of the certified document should include a statement that the translation was completed by a qualified translator to his/her best knowledge and ability; it should also include the language combination translated, identification of the document (e.g. “Birth Certificate”) and the name of the person(s) referenced in the document. Our certificates also include a unique tracking number based on which we can verify the translation if such verification was ever requested, and, of course, a date. A notary public then notarizes the document to confirm the identity of the person signing the statement.  The notary public must be a person different than the translator.
  5. Can you email me the translation? Certified translation must be delivered in hard copy. Due to the notarized certification (cover sheet) and translator’s initials on each page, the resulting packet consisting of the certification, the original and the translation must be delivered as is. While it can be emailed for information purposes, only the hard copy can be used for official work.

Regardless of what the purpose of your certified translation is, or what special requirements the requester of the document has, consult with your translation provider for best results. As always, we are here to help.

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