The information on this website concerning certification of translations is based on data available to me at the time of writing (July 2007 plus later additions) and is for general information only. Certification requirements depend on the agencies involved in each individual case. It is up to individuals to check the certification requirements of the agencies, employers, government departments or other parties that have stipulated certified documents.
Please note that authorities mean a number of different things when they refer to “certified translations” and “certification”. See my definitions under: What is a certified translation? and “What does the term certification mean?” When I refer to “certified translations” in the FAQs below, I mean “translations accompanied by a certificate of accuracy”, not any other form of certification unless expressly stated.
- What is a certified translation?
- What does the term certification mean?
- What is certification not?
- Who can provide a certified translation?
- What is an apostille?
- What is a certificate of accuracy?
- Do you provide certified translations?
- How do I obtain a certified translation from you?
- Do I have to send you original documents?
- Which language pairs do you work in?
- What does a certified translation cost?
- Why are the costs for certified translations relatively high?
- How much time should I allow to have a certified translation done?
- I was divorced in Germany/Austria/Switzerland; how do I prove this to the British authorities?
- Can a certified translation be sent out by email or fax?
- Under which circumstances is certification required?
- Which types of documents may need to be certified?
- What is the difference between the various forms of certification in the UK?
- In which country should certification be sought?
- How do I find a UK-based translator who can certify his translation?
- Is there such a thing as a "certified translator"?
- How is certification obtained in non-UK countries?
- What is a sworn translator?
- Can I obtain a sworn translation in the UK?
- What is a notarised translation?
- What are the requirements of the British Home Office/ UK Border Agency for "certified translations"?
- What are the New Zealand Immigration Office (Immigration New Zealand) requirements for a certified translation of a "Polizeiliches Führungszeugnis/Criminal Record" or other official documents?
- Do you fulfil the New Zealand Immigration Office's requirements for translating a Polizeiliches Führungszeugnis?
- What are the translation requirements of the Canadian immigration authority (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)?
- What are the United States’ requirements for a certified translation of foreign-language documents?
What is a certified translation?
a) A certified translation is a translation which is accompanied by a declaration signed by the translator (mostly, but not necessarily, a professional translator), a company official who facilitated a translation, or an (embassy) official confirming the accuracy of a translation.
b) A certified translation is a translation accompanied by a certificate of accuracy, the signature on which has been certified by a solicitor as being by the person signing the declaration. (When a notary public provides this service, is it called a notarisation.)
What does the term certification mean?
With respect to public documents, certification can mean at least three different things:
- Certification can refer to the certificate of accuracy attached to a translated document.
- Certification can refer to a solicitor certifying the translator’s signature on his/her certificate of accuracy.
- Certification can be used as synonym for legalisation. Legalisation is the confirmation by an official body that a signature, seal or stamp on a public document is genuine. Legalisation is carried out by attaching an apostille to a document. Legalisation does not certify the authenticity of a document and does not express the approval by the body carrying out the legalisation.
Legalisation is carried out in the country in which the original public document was signed or in another country by the embassy of the country in which the document was signed.
Documents originating in the UK can be legalised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.fco.gov.uk).
Documents originating in Germany can be legalised by the German embassy in London (if you are resident in the UK) or the Federal Office of Administration in Germany (Bundesverwaltungsamt), however, prior certification needs to be obtained (see www.bva.bund.de for details, this website is available in English and German).
What is certification not?
Having a translated document certified by a qualified translator, or having the translator’s signature on the certificate of accuracy witnessed by a solicitor, does not prove authenticity of the original document. It is merely proof that the document was translated by a suitably qualified translator (for information on certification by non-professional translators please read Certificate of Accuracy by a Non-professional Translator) or that a solicitor witnessed the signature of the person signing the certificate of accuracy. It does not guarantee the quality of the translation other than by the assumption that a person holding relevant qualifications and being member of the relevant professional bodies will provide a good translation.
Who can provide a certified translation?
In England, authorities tend to accept certificates of accuracy from professional translators who are members of professional bodies like the Institute of Translation and Interpreting or the Chartered Institute of Linguists and who are qualified in the two languages concerned. There is no system of sworn translators as there is in Germany, for example.
It is advisable to check with the institution stipulating a certified translation what their particular requirements are. Some educational institutions may only require the translated text to be certified by a person knowledgeable of both languages while others may require a notarised translation. In some cases an interpretative translation may be acceptable, other agencies stipulate literal "word-for-word" translation of the original document.
What is an apostille?
An apostille is a legal certificate that confirms the authenticity of a signature, seal and/or stamp on a public document. Apostilles were agreed as a uniform way of legalising documents for foreign use for states which have signed up to the Hague Convention of 1961. They follow a strict format, stating country of origin, name of official signing the original document, his/her capacity, the seal used, place of issue of the apostille, date, reference number, official seal of the legalising authority and signature of the legalising official.
What is a certificate of accuracy?
A certificate of accuracy is a translator’s declaration (Certificate of Accuracy by a Professional Translator) that the translation was carried out to his/her best knowledge and ability. If a translation is accompanied by this declaration, the translation is classified as “certified translation” (but see also: What is a certified translation?) For details of what information is to be included in a certificate of accuracy, please see Certificate of Accuracy by a Professional Translator.
Do you provide certified translations?
Yes, I provide certified translations from English into German and German into English. I am a qualified professional translator, a member of two professional bodies and my certified translations have never been challenged by any authority.
How do I obtain a certified translation from you?
Contact me by phone or mail to find out my availability. Once we have agreed that I can undertake your translation within your required time scale, please check whether the agency stipulating a certified translation requires you to send originals or copies of the relevant documents. You should then send me whichever they require. I will then undertake the translation, attach the documents you sent me and my certification, and send it all back to you (by recorded delivery if the documents are originals), so that you receive the documents ready to be sent on to whoever requires them.
Do I have to send you original documents?
If the agency which requires a certified translation also stipulates the translator to work from the original document or a certified copy, then you will need to supply me with one of these. I will attach that original/certified copy to my certified translation, and send it back to you after completion of the translation, so it's all ready to be sent off to the agency involved. Please send originals by recorded delivery.
If you are told that a photocopy of the original document suffices for the purpose you need the certified translation for, then you only need send me a legible photocopy.
I mostly work from photocopies which are often sent to me as a PDF file.
Which language pairs do you work in?
I undertake certified translations from English into German and German into English.
What does a certified translation cost?
The certified translation of a 1 page document costs £35. This includes certification and first class postage. Guaranteed Next Day Delivery will be invoiced at cost, currently £6.20.
For all other documents, please send me a scan so I can assess them before giving you a quote.
If your translation has to be legalized by a solicitor, an additional charge of £25 applies.
If your translation has to be notarised, the additional cost is £95 for the notary public.
Because I have to pay my solicitor and notary public at the time of my visit, I have to ask you to pay for legalized and notarised translations in advance.
Why are the costs for a certified translation relatively high?
The process of providing a certified translation is much more time consuming than other translation work and requires proof of qualification.
Documents cannot be overtyped as they are not in a machine-readable format. Copying the lay-out takes some time and care. Furthermore, the process of printing out and labelling, possibly visiting the post office to arrange recorded delivery and posting hard copies takes up considerably more time than sending documents off by email which is how the vast majority of translations are delivered to clients at present.
To be able to certify translations, a translator has to prove his professional status. This is achieved by being member of one or more professional bodies (I am a member of two such professional bodies). Membership fees are considerable.
How much time should I allow to have a certified translation done?
If the translation can be done from a copy and you are able to send me a PDF file (please make sure that the complete document is visible and readable), I can usually undertake a one-page translation within one week of receiving it.
In any case, the time needed depends on the volume of documents requiring translation and my current work load. Please check my availability before sending any documents.
I was divorced in Germany/Austria/Switzerland, how do I prove this to the British authorities?
You need to have the equivalent of the British "decree absolute". In Germany that is the divorce decree (Scheidungsurteil) document which is clearly marked with the date from which the decree becomes final. This tends to take the form of a rubber stamp stating "rechtskräftig ab dem..."
Can a certified translation be sent out by email or fax?
Unless the translator has the means for electronic verification (this is a service I do not supply), documents are usually certified on paper which will then be sent to the recipient per post. It is not possible to fax these documents to you as the original certificate together with the corresponding original source language document (in some cases photocopies may be accepted) plus its translation have to be submitted to the agency requiring the certified translation. Please allow sufficient time for this process.
Under which circumstances is a certified translation required?
There are many circumstances when the accuracy of a translation may have to be certified. Certification may be required for:
- Applications to universities or other educational institutions
- Job applications
- Immigration or emigration applications
- First marriage in this country with a foreign national
- Proof of previous marriage having been dissolved upon re-marriage in the UK
- Patent related documentation
- Technical manuals
Please check with the agencies involved whether or not they require translated documents; if yes, whether or not they need to be certified and what form of certification they require before instructing a translator with the work.
Which types of documents may need to be certified?
Documents often requiring certification by the translator include:
- Birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde)
- Marriage certificate (Heiratsurkunde)
- Certificate of No Impediment (Ehefähigkeitszeugnis)
- Death certificate (Sterbeurkunde)
- Divorce decree (Scheidungsurteil)
- Job references (Empfehlungsschreiben/Arbeitszeugnisse)
- Police clearance certificate (polizeiliches Führungszeugnis)
- Driving licence (Führerschein)
- School leaver's certificate (Abschlusszeugniss)
- Apprenticeship certificate (Gesellenbrief)
- Academic qualifications
What is the difference between the various forms of certification in the UK?
Verification of a translation's accuracy can be obtained in different ways, depending on the requirements by the individual agencies involved. Please click on one of the links below to obtain information on that particular type of certification:
- Certificate of Accuracy by a Non-professional Translator
- Certification by a Professional Translator
- Certification by a Translation Agency
- Notarised Certification
- Certification by a solicitor
- Certification by the Applicant's Native Country's Embassy/Consulate
In which country should certification be sought?
As a rule, documents should be translated and the translation certified in the country of application. Some agencies will accept translations from the country of the document's origin. Check with them!
As a general rule, British certifications are accepted in all English speaking countries, but some require notarisation. It is always advisable to check with the authorities have requested a certified translation what their individual requirements are. Occasionally it may be cheaper to place the translation in the country that has asked you to provide a certified translation.
German language certified translations from Britain are accepted in Austria and Switzerland but not in Germany. If you require a certified translation of a British document for Germany you must use a German translator in Germany who is registered to a local German court.
How do I find a UK-based translator who can certify his translation?
Either find a translator on the Internet or via Yellow Pages and ask him if he is qualified to certify translations. Alternatively, contact the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translating and Interpreting or visit their websites to find a qualified translator.
Is there such a thing as a "certified translator"?
There is no official title of "certified translator" in the UK. It is the institution requiring the translation which defines who they regard as "authorized" to certify a translation. As a rule, this is a professional translator, qualified in the languages concerned and member of at least one professional body.
How is certification obtained in non-UK countries?
Different rules apply in different countries. For suggestions on finding a translator to provide a certified translation in non-UK countries please read "Certification of Translations in Countries other than the UK". As a general rule, try to find out which professional body represents translators in the country concerned. They will know how to obtain a certified translation. Alternatively, ask the agency requiring the translation how to find a certified translator.
What is a sworn translator?
In the Federal Republic of Germany, a translation must be certified by a sworn translator for that specific language. A translator is sworn-in at the local court in the Federal Country where he is permanently resident. Most courts require the translator to prove that he has relevant qualifications before he is sworn in.
In Germany, a translation should be undertaken and certified by a translator who is sworn-in at the court requiring the translated document. The certification document must bear the translator's seal containing the words "Öffentlich bestellter und vereidigter Übersetzer" ("Publicly appointed and sworn translator"), also indicating the language for which the translator is officially sworn. Furthermore, the translation must display the translator's address. For more detailed information on the system of sworn translators in Germany read "Certification of Translations in Countries other than the UK".
Can I obtain a sworn translation in the UK?
If you have been asked to provide a German court with a sworn translation, you need to find an English-German translator who is sworn-in at the court requesting the translation. Ask the court for a list of "vereidigte Übersetzer". To become a sworn translator at a court in Germany, the translator has to have his main residence in the relevant Federal Country. It is therefore currently not possible for a translator who has his permanent residence in the UK to become a sworn translator to a German court.
The system of sworn translators is not used in the UK. A translator can "certify" his translation or - to make it "more official" - he can swear an oath in front of a notary and thus have his translation "notarised". This is a very expensive option and time-consuming for the translator.
Some government agencies require notarisation: A notary confirms the identity of the person signing the certification document. The translator has to visit a notary, prove his identity to him and sign the certificate in the notary's presence. This process is significantly more costly, and it adds to the required time for obtaining the translation. Notarisation does not guarantee the quality of the translation. For related information, read "UK Translation Certification Options".
What are the requirements of the British Home Office/ UK Border Agency for "certified translations"?
The Home Office seems to distinguish between "certified translations" and "fully certified translations".
For a "certified translation" (see for example www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/employers/points/sponsoringmigrants/supportingevidence/), the translator must provide his or her credentials and confirm officially that the translation is accurate.
A "fully certified translation" (see: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier5/youthmobilityscheme/applying/documents-to-send/) must be carried out by a professional translator. The translator must include information about him- or herself and their work as a translator. Furthermore, the translator must confirm that the translation is an accurate translation of the original document. The certified translation must be signed and dated.
What are the New Zealand Immigration Office (Immigration New Zealand) requirements for a certified translation of a "Polizeiliches Führungszeugnis/Criminal Record" or other official documents?
When last checked, in February 2009, the New Zealand Immigration Office stipulated the following requirements for certified translations (see: www.immigration.govt.nz/NR/rdonlyres/4CE744A0-9431-4115-9075-80241E335041/0/Translations.doc):
- Translations may not be made by a family member or a person who has an interest in the outcome of the application.
- The translated document must be certified as a correct translation made by a person who is familiar with both languages and competent in carrying out translation work.
- The translation must be prepared and certified by a recognised translator from a recognised private or official translation service.
- The translation must be made on paper with the official letterhead of the translation service.
- The translated Criminal Record must bear the translator’s stamp or signature.
- The Translation must be accompanied by a copy of the relevant police clearance certificate. (The application form will specify whether that copy is required to be an original, a certified copy or a photocopy.)
- The translation work must be paid for by the applicant.
A client I worked for told me that she was informed by the immigration authorities that it was not necessary to provide the translator with the original "Polizeiliches Führungszeugnis".
Do you fulfil the New Zealand Immigration Office’s requirements for translating a Polizeiliches Führungszeugnis?
Yes, I fulfil all the requirements detailed above: I always certify my translations on headed paper, am familiar with the English and the German language and regularly translate "Polizeiliche Führungszeugnisse" and other official documents. I am "recognized" in as much as I have been working as a freelance translator since 1992, I can be found in local directories and on the Internet with my own website; I am qualified as a translator, and I am member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the German Translators’ Association, BDÜ. I always sign and date my translations.
To my knowledge, none of my certified translations have ever been rejected by any authority.
What are the translation requirements of the Canadian immigration authority (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)?
Where translations are required for documents that are not in English or French, the translation must be accompanied by:
a) the French or English translation; and
b) an affidavit* from the person who carried out the translation; and
c) a certified copy of the document.
Translations must not be carried out by family members.
The translator must be accredited.
Whether these conditions apply depends on the type of application you make. Please visit www.cic.gc.ca to confirm the translation requirements for your particular case.
* The affidavit must be sworn in the presence of a commissioner authorized to administer oaths in the translator's country of residence. The affidavit must state that the translation is a true translation and representation of the original document's contents.
What are the United States’ requirements for a certified translation of foreign-language documents?
US requirements as to the submission of translated documents (e.g. Polizeiliche Führungszeugnisse/police clearance certificates or Geburtsurkunden/ birth certificates) for visa applications seem to depend on the type of visa you are applying for. There are two basic types, immigrant and non-immigrant, and numerous visa categories.
As a rule, foreign language documents are required to be translated into English, and the translator must certify the accuracy of the translation by stating that the translation is complete and correct, and that he or she is competent to translate into English from the language used in the document.
This seems to be the minimum requirement.
Customers have contacted me requiring notarised translations for US immigration purposes. I believe that the need for notarisation depends on the type of visa required; but, having tried to ascertain from the UK website of the US embassy what the precise requirements are, there are so many entry visa categories with varying requirements, that I cannot give a conclusive answer.
Therefore, please check with the American embassy which supporting documents are required for your particular application and whether translations need to be certified and/or notarised.
Some common misconceptions, misunderstandings and problems about translating documents that require certification.