Certificate of Translation – How to Get One

Danilo Coviello

Do you need a certificate of translation? If the answer is yes, then keep reading.

If you have some old documents lying around the house in a foreign language, it can be fun to have them translated. In those cases, all you need is someone fluent in the language to read them for you.

You don’t need them to be official translators because it’s merely for fun. But if it were a more serious issue, like a contract or a will, you should give official translation services serious consideration.

What Does Official Translation Mean?

This process is required for legally valid documents. Say, for example, that your divorce settlement is issued in a French court, but you’re now in the United States. If you want the terms of the agreement to be upheld, you’ll need a certificate of translation.

In the eyes of the law, this means that the translation is equal to the original. The only difference is in the language. These documents will generally need to be accompanied by a statement by a sworn or a certified translator.

In the statement, the translator will attest to the fact that their work is an accurate representation of the original. They are essentially swearing that the translation faithfully relays the information in the original document.

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Is This Always Necessary?

No, not all documents need to be translated in this manner. However, documents that have a legal implication may need to be. Another example of when you might need an official translation certification statement is when you need proof of your degree.

What if your qualifications were issued in a language other than English? You’d either have to have a certificate of this nature or hope the company that you’re applying to can interpret the document for themselves.

And, let’s be honest here, relying on that happy-yet-unlikely circumstance makes it more likely for your application to end up in the slush pile.

A certified translation is also useful if you’re conducting business internationally. Both parties should be able to read and understand what they’re signing. Which is fine if you both speak English, but tricky if there’s a language barrier.

What Makes a Translation Legally Valid?

That depends on the country. In the United States, for example, there is no such thing as a sworn translator. There are certified professionals, but the translation can always be challenged in court.

That said, there are different layers of credentials. In the case of a legally valid document, the translator must be familiar with the legal aspects of translation. They need to understand precisely what they are attesting to and what their responsibilities are. If a translator fails to translate a particular section of the document properly and a loss results, they may be held personally liable.

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When in doubt, consult the consular authority of the country in question. Consular staff will be able to advise you exactly what the requirements are in terms of a legally valid translation.

Adding Content in Different Languages

It all starts with the translation, keeping the current regulations in mind. It’s essential that the translation matches the meaning of the source document as closely as possible.

Once the translation is complete, the translator usually reads both documents through again. Think of this as proofreading; the idea is to ensure that both documents convey the same meaning.

Depending on the country concerned, the translation may need to be stamped. The translator’s attestation of the document’s accuracy can be completed within such a stamp, or as a separate document, the certificate of translation.

The attestation will include the translator’s full name, the date, and a statement that the translation is an exact copy. In some instances, it may be necessary to attach an apostille—read on to learn more about that.

What is an Apostille?

This document is usually issued by the courts confirming the integrity of the original. These will typically be written in the language of the country they originate in, and do not need to be translated.

How Do I Get a Certificate of Translation?

Work with a reputable company or freelancer. It’s important to choose someone who has already established an excellent reputation—you need someone that you can trust to get the job done properly.

If it’s a legal or medical document, hiring a company with experienced staff in those areas makes good sense. Also, ensure that the company concerned can translate your document’s language.

From there, it’s simply a matter of finding out what the fees are, and what the procedure is. Ask up front how long the process will take, and when you can expect your documents back.

Then all that’s left is to submit the documents and wait for the translation. It’s as simple as that if you choose the translator wisely.

When Do You Need a Certified Translation and Why?

Before we figure out the when, let’s figure out the what. A certified translation is a translation where both the source document and the translated document are accompanied by a signed statement attesting that the translation is accurate and complete to the best of the translator’s knowledge and ability. 

This documentation is required if you see that a document needs a “certification,” or that a translation requires a “Certificate of Accuracy.”

It should be noted that a certified translation is not a ‘notarised’, ‘sworn’, or ‘legal’ translation, so if the body or organisation in question has requested one of these types of translations, the chances are a certified translation will not suffice.

Below are some common situations that you may come across that require a certified translation.

College & University Applications

Applications to universities and colleges often require certified translations of documents such as diplomas and transcripts. Depending on the school’s document policies, you may be required to submit the original report card and grade logs along with a certified translation.

That may not always be the requirement though, so we suggest you check with the school before you submit any documents to them to confirm what they do and do not require.

Legal Paperwork

Certified translations are almost always required for legal paperwork, such as documentation used in trials or hearings. For example, a trial transcript or any evidence in another language would need to be translated and certified. The same thing usually goes for government paperwork and other official documentation.

It is not uncommon or unexpected for countries to require commercial certificates and licenses that were earned in another country to be submitted in the native language of both the person submitting the document and of the professional body itself. That includes safety training certificates, health licenses, drivers’ licenses etc.

It’s also a good idea to have certified translations for things like criminal record checks for employment, recruitment or immigration. Also, any marriages that happen outside the home country will need licenses and certificates translated for the record keeping purposes of the home country.

Immigration Documentation

Immigration is an important area that nearly always requires a certified translation. If you are applying for a residency (or even a temporary visitor’s permit) in a foreign country, it will likely require that all documents such as identification documents or birth certificates be submitted in the country’s official language and that translations of these documents be certified. 

The translation should also match the visual appearance of the original document, including the placement of stamps, seals and signatures.

International Business

Anytime business is done internationally, there is always the potential for legal disputes. That’s a part of business. Any disputes that will need to be mediated or fought in court will need all documents that are entered into the dispute to be certified translations.

Businesses often use certified translations when they are translating documents, contracts, and legal agreements with overseas suppliers, investors or other parties. It is a way for everyone involved to know that they will have the same understanding of the document in question regardless of the language they read it in.

Business relationships that span the globe and last long term take a lot of time and attention to detail to nurture the relationship. These certified translations ensure complications and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum while undergoing a transaction between two parties.

Personnel Documents

Human resources departments are also using certified translations more frequently as they know employment contracts and agreements are legally binding once they are signed, so they want to make sure there is no miscommunication and that these documents mirror their originals exactly in content and context.

Business policy documents that employees must abide by could have huge negative impacts on a company if they are translated incorrectly. So it’s always suggested when companies are converting their policy and procedure documents into another language that they take the route that will help them avoid future legal ramifications and use a certified translation.

You don’t want to be caught in a mess later because of an incorrect translation. Obviously, these are guidelines. Companies are not legally bound to obtain certified translations for these things, but it may just be good and cautious business sense.

When You Don’t Need A Certified Translation

If you have personal documents that would not be submitted for legal proceedings, then you can sit back and relax. You do not need certified translations of these sorts of things. It could be anything from old family letters, other personal documents or family histories. There also is no need to have the translated content of a website certified. That has remained a fairly common guideline except for in a few rare cases.

You might still have questions though and that’s ok. The best advice we can give you is to ask the institution, government body, or company that is requiring the documents. They will know what they need and whether or not they need it to be certified. Every institution will have their own requirements.