What is the difference between sworn translation and certified translation?

    Danilo Coviello

    It is important to understand the difference between a sworn and certified translation, particularly if you have been asked by legal authorities to provide official translations. 

    Not only is it vital to distinguish between the two, but the context in which the translation will be used is key. For use in legal, medical or other official administrative procedures, different countries will have varying requirements for document translation. An example is UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), which usually requires certified translations while Italian authorities will insist that a sworn translation is submitted to validate the authenticity of the translation. 

    While both sworn and certified translations confirm the translation is a true representation of the original document, only the sworn translation is recognised as being legally valid in Italy. In contrast, UK authorities do not require documents to have sworn translations but will stipulate that official documents must be accurately translated by a certified translator.  

    We are going to help you understand when your document should be translated by a certified professional and when you might require sworn translations. This will help you to find the translation service you’re most likely to need.

    How does sworn translation differ from certified translation services?

    difference between certified and sworn translation

    Certified and sworn translations are both completed by qualified, professional translators who attest to the accuracy and integrity of the translations they provide. However, there are important differences to note outside of this similarity. 

    Certified translations have to include an affidavit or a statement of truth. This statement from the translator is attached to the translation and states that it is an accurate translation of the original document. The statement of truth is signed or stamped by the translator, or the translation company that they work for, thereby assuming accountability for the veracity of the translation. 

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    The affidavit or statement of truth must include the contact information of the translator, or the company that they work for. This includes the full name of the translator and the date on which the translation was completed. All statements of truth must be printed on official letterhead and in the target language. Some countries also require the affidavit to include the qualifications of the translator. Despite the statement of truth, a certified translation may not be considered to be legally equivalent to the original document in some countries. 

    Many countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States accept certified translations for documents such as business papers, certificates, and diplomas. UKVI recognise certified translations as valid and this type of translation is required when submitting documents to them. In contrast, Italy does not recognise certified translations as having any legal value 

    For a translation to be legally valid in Italy however, it must be completed by a sworn translator who is qualified and recognised as such. So for a translated document to have any legal value in Italy it must be a sworn translation. 

    Instances where a sworn translation may be required include submitting an application for citizenship or documents that are requested by a court. If legal authorities ask you to provide official documents, these will need to be sworn translations. These include birth certificates, marriage certificates, diplomas, wills or business contracts. Certified translations are accepted in Italy but only for non-legal documents such as manuals, advertisements, business papers and internal communications. Translation of legal documents must be sworn. 

    In general, the type of translations required in different countries correspond to the legal framework in that country. For example, the UK, Canada, Australia and the US have a Common Law structure whereas most European countries operate a Civil Law system. In Civil Law countries sworn translations are generally needed while in Common Law countries they are not deemed necessary. 

    The differences between a sworn translation and a certified translation lie in the legal weight of the translation. This legality typically stems from the purpose of the translation and where it is going to be used. 

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    Below is a table that demonstrates the differences between the two types of translations. 

    Certified TranslationSworn Translation
    Translated by a professional translator who attests to its veracity and accuracyTranslated by a sworn and court-registered translator
    Has a statement of truth attachedSworn as authentic in a court of law
    Holds no legal weightIs recognised as having the same legal value as the original
    Stamp duty is not payableStamp duty is payable
    Process of a sworn translation

    What is a certified translation?

    A certified translation is a translation that must be stamped, signed and accompanied by an attached statement of truth bearing the date that it was done. This type of translation declares that it is a faithful representation of the original document and is accurate and true in reproducing its content in the target language.

    A certified document translation must be done by a qualified translator who then signs the document to attest to its authenticity and includes a statement of truth. We always recommend that you hire a professional translation service for documents that require a certified translation. Costs for this type of translation will depend on the document’s length, as well as the complexity of the content. How quickly you need the translation completed will also affect how much you pay.

    If you are not required to provide a sworn translation then a certified translation is generally accepted.

    Also Read: What is a certified translation in the UK?

    When do I need a certified translation?

    Any documents that do not require a legal attestation may be translated as certified translations. Academic certificates, diplomas, commercial records or personal documents that demand a statement of truth but don’t need to have legal value can be provided as certified translations. 

    Be aware that in some countries, certified translations will only be accepted if they have been done by a certified translator. In other countries, any bilingual individual can certify a translation. Make sure you know what is required for your translation.

    Examples of when certified translations will be required include:

    1. Business documents: Accurate translation of business documents such as contracts is very important for companies working across borders.
    2. Academic records: A certified translation of your academic records ensures that your qualifications will be recognised abroad by attesting to their veracity.
    3. Personal records: When applying for a visa or citizenship in another country, having certified translations of supporting documents will help your application.

    Whatever your situation, you can trust Espresso Translations to provide accurate, timely and professionally completed translations of your documents.

    Who can provide a certified translation?

    In most countries, only a qualified professional can supply a certified translation. To produce a faithful representation of the original document a translator must have expertise in the relevant field e.g. law as well as the language skills to accurately translate the text. A translator must also be experienced enough to provide a translation that reflects the context and purpose of the source document.

    What is the process of obtaining a certified translation?

    If you are required to produce a certified translation of a document for official purposes, you must engage the services of a specialist translation agency or professional translator. A certified translation, signed by a qualified translator and accompanied by an affixed statement of truth guarantees the integrity of the translation. As such, it will be accepted as an authentic representation of the original document. 

    In the UK, official documents such as contracts, educational diplomas and birth certificates are all required to have certified translations. Other documents such as patent certificates, medical reports or adoption certificates also need to be certified translations.

    How much does a certified translation cost?

    The cost of a certified translation will be dependent on several factors including the length of the document, the source and target languages and the requested turnaround time. Complex language or specialised formatting may also increase the price.

    Certified translations start at £30 (+ VAT). however, each document is different so it’s important to request an exact quote for your project before ordering a translation. 

    Espresso Translations offers transparent and consistent pricing, so you should never be faced with any surprises. Contact us today and get a free quote for your project.

    Also Read: What is the cost of a certified translation?

    What is the meaning of sworn translation?

    A sworn translation can only be produced by a translator who has been officially appointed or sworn. The translation must be signed and stamped by the translator and this translation is then considered to have the same legal value as the original document. 

    Countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia do not use sworn translations but many European countries require them for official purposes. For example, if you have to translate your marriage certificate, birth certificate, or academic diploma for the Italian, Spanish or French authorities, you would need to have sworn translations of your documents. 

    As with a certified translation, the translator takes responsibility for the accuracy and truthfulness of the sworn translation by signing and stamping the document. In some countries, the translation also needs to be notarised or registered with the courts. For this service a stamp duty is often payable. 

    For both sworn and non-sworn translations, the translator attaches a form that attests to the accuracy and faithfulness of the translation to the original document. However, there is a difference between the two in that the sworn translation is legally guaranteed under the oath taken by the translator.

    Also Read: What is a sworn translation?

    What is the process for a sworn translation?

    A sworn translator will translate the document in question and check it for accuracy by proofreading it. They will then take the translation to a court with proper jurisdiction and complete the oath-swearing confirming it is a true translation that accurately and faithfully corresponds to the original text. 

    In some European countries like Italy, this process may take place before a Justice of the Peace or the Chancellor of the Sworn Translations Office of the Court. The oath is taken under the penalty of perjury. The completed translation package will include the original document, the translation and the signed oath of the translator. All of the pages have to be stapled together as they constitute a single document. 

    Some countries may require an apostille to be attached to the sworn translation. An apostille authenticates the signature of the official who presided over the oath swearing process, thus adding an extra guarantee to the translation. Other authorities may ask for a notary public to add their seal to the translation and it is then considered sworn and notarised. 

    Sworn translations are often required by foreign authorities for official or legal documents while certified documents are more widely used in the UK and for non-legal documents abroad. However, both need to be accurate and precise.

    Also Read: Sworn translation: Who can do it?

    When do I need a sworn translation?

    Sworn translations are most often needed in civil law countries such as Italy, France and Spain for official and legal documents. However, you can also provide sworn translations of business or personal documents to foreign authorities if you want to give extra reassurance that the translation is accurate and true to the original.

    When moving abroad for work or to study, authorities may request sworn translations of your identity documents, academic records or certificates. This form of translation is necessary for the documents to be recognised as legally valid in these countries.

    For international business and legal transactions, sworn translations offer guarantees that the translation is a precise and true representation of the original text.

    When do you need a sworn translatiom

    What is the purpose of a sworn translation?

    When a sworn translator swears an oath to the authenticity and reliability of the translated document, they are assuming civil and criminal responsibility for it. The oath, taken in a court of law or chamber of commerce, holds the translator legally accountable for the veracity and accuracy of the translated document’s content. This is then attached to the translation as an oath certificate also known as a sworn statement.  Without this certificate or statement, the translation cannot be said to be sworn. 

    To be considered a legal document in many countries, a translation must be sworn. This is particularly the case for legal or official documents that need to be submitted to government departments or courts of law. A sworn translation has the same legal value as the original in countries where they are required. 

    As the process of a sworn translation is quite involved and requires the participation of more people, the price is higher than for a certified translation. Having said that, a sworn translation carries more legal weight in countries that recognise them and for international business, legal or administrative procedures, they are invaluable. A sworn translation demonstrates an authenticity that can ensure that your documents are regarded as legally equivalent to the originals. 

    What is a legally sworn translator?

    Some countries like France, which require sworn translations, have official registers of sworn translators while others such as Italy do not. The French register contains the name, working languages, location and current status of all sworn translators entered on the register. This official list guarantees reliability as each translator has undergone a comprehensive evaluation process and has been appointed by the legal authorities. 

    In countries where there is no official register, translators may be required to enrol with the chamber of commerce. However, other jurisdictions don’t require any mandatory registration as the sworn translator has already assumed legal responsibility for the veracity and accuracy of the translation. 

    If you need a sworn translation the experienced translators at Espresso Translations have the knowledge, skills and professionalism to provide you with exactly what you need.

    How do I get a sworn translation of a document?

    Sworn translators are officially appointed professionals who have a detailed knowledge of their relevant fields as well as being qualified in translating. They assume legal responsibility for the faithfulness of the translation to the original document by taking an oath which testifies to this fact. Once the translator has sworn the oath over the translated document, it can be called a sworn translation and has the same legality as the original. 

    When you require a sworn translation, you will need the services of a reputable and reliable translation agency that can demonstrate quality and integrity. Espresso Translations can provide you with unparalleled service in all aspects of translating and offer expert sworn translations. Get in touch today for a free quote.

    What are the requirements for sworn translation?

    Sworn translations are done by highly qualified and experienced linguists who have extensive knowledge in their relevant fields and who have sworn an oath in front of a legal entity that their translation is true and accurate.

    European countries where sworn translations are required will certify sworn translators who may then be entered on an official register. As the UK does not require sworn translations, it doesn’t have a register of sworn translators. This means you will need to find a respected and trustworthy translator who can carry out your sworn translation.

    However, the swearing of an oath over the translation carries legal weight regardless of whether the sworn translator is included on a register. The translation is attached to a sworn statement or oath certificate that validates the legality of the translated document.


    Do I need a certified or sworn translation?

    A certified translation is issued with a statement of truth that is signed and sealed by the translator. This is a guarantee that the translated document is a true and faithful representation of the original but it carries no value under the law and is not a legal document.

    A sworn translation is often done for official or legal documents required in civil law countries such as Italy, France and Spain. The translator swears an oath before a legal authority that the translation is an authentic and precise reproduction of the original document. Sworn translations are equivalent under the law to the original.

    If you need a legal translation a sworn translation will be necessary, but if the translation doesn’t need legal weight, a certified translation is adequate in many cases. Some foreign authorities will only accept sworn translations so make sure you know what you are being asked for to ensure you produce the correct type of translation.

    What is the meaning of official translation?

    When you are asked by authorities to provide official translations this refers to documents that have been translated and then certified, notarised or sworn. The translation is done by a qualified translator who reproduces a faithful copy of the document in the target language while maintaining its meaning, context and validity.

    When you need to produce translations of official or legal documents, it is recommended that you use a professional translation service. Even if you or someone you know is fluent in the source and target languages, the translation is unlikely to be accepted by authorities if it is not certified, notarised or sworn by a professional translator or agency.

    Don’t risk having your translated document rejected, contact the knowledgeable translators at Espresso Translations today and get a free quote for your project.

    Certified vs. sworn translation: Which is better?

    Whether you need a certified or sworn translation will depend on the purpose of the translation as well as who the requesting authority is.

    A qualified translator may be able to provide sworn translation services as well as certified translation, but they will need to know which is required so they can provide the proper supporting documentation. This will either be the certificate of accuracy for a certified translation or an oath certificate also known as a sworn statement for a sworn translation.

    To reiterate the difference between certified translation and sworn translation, a certified translation is a precise and faithful translation of the original document but has no legal validity. In contrast, a sworn translation is the legal equivalent of the original while also being an authentic and accurate reproduction of the original document.