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All you need to know about certificate translation

June 23, 2016


Also referred to as certified translations, and official translation, certificate translation focuses on the translation of official legal documents such as marriage, birth, death and degree certificates which have been certified as accurate and are therefore authorized for submission to a wide range of official bodies both in the UK and abroad.


There are various reasons why you might need to get a certificate translated; for example if you are getting married abroad, the marriage certificate will be written in the local language and will therefore need to be translated into your mother tongue for official use in your home country. A birth certificate may need to be translated for a newborn with dual nationality or for proof of identity if moving to a different country at any time in their life. Students may need academic documents such as diplomas, degree certificates and transcripts translating if they are applying to courses in colleges and universities abroad, have completed education programs abroad or are looking for work in a different country. A death certificate, for example, is required if someone passes away whilst in a country other than their own, and a permission for burial and cremation certificate will be needed to give the go-ahead for a person’s body to be buried or to apply for cremation.


Translators and clients can get very confused about all the different terms used to refer to ‘official’ translations. In addition to certified, authorities may require a translation to be notarised, sworn or legalised. Does this sound like a foreign language in itself? Let me explain the differences so you can be sure of the degree of certification you require.


The most common type of certificate translation is a certified translation which simply means that it has been performed by a professional qualified translator and is an accurate rendition of the original. A signed and dated letter  (‘affidavit’ or ‘certificate of accuracy’) from the translator will also be required stating that the translation is faithful to the original. The translator’s credentials must be visible and this is enough to prove the legal provenance of the translation. Bodies that ask for this type of translation are often official institutions in the United Kingdom such as the UK Border Agency (Home Office), Passport Office, universities, etc.


A notarised translation might be needed if the translation is for a serious legal matter such as for use in a court case where the translation must be proven to be 100% accurate. For a translation to be notarised, the translator must visit a Public Notary’s office where they will be required to swear before the notary that they are a professional qualified translator and that the translation is accurate to the best of their knowledge. The Notary Public does not verify the quality of the translation but rather the translator’s identity, so that they can be held accountable if necessary. The Notary Public then adds his or her seal and a certified copy of the original text is attached. This type of translation is normally requested by foreign governmental institutions and authorities as it provides a higher degree of faithfulness than that achieved with basic certified translations.


As the certification process is not standardized globally, a sworn translation has a different meaning in each country. It usually means an officially accepted translation performed by a professional translator approved by the competent authority in the field in each country. In the United Kingdom, a sworn translator is verified on a national level and has earned the rights to verify the authenticity of their translation. The advantage of using the services of a sworn translator is in the fact that there is no need to address two separate officials. An ordinary translator cannot verify the authenticity of document translation; instead, the papers have to be sent to a notary- see above.


The most exclusive form of certification is a legalised translation, and might be used for court cases outside of the UK. The most common form is apostilling under the Hague Convention. An Apostille, put simply, is a sheet of paper that is stapled to your document to legalize it for use in other countries. It is essentially the international equivalent of a domestic notarization. UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office will confirm a previous certification or notarisation, and then issue an Apostille, which is often added to documents that have been signed by a notary, lawyer or other public official and then certifies the translation for legal purposes in various countries. Before requesting this service from any translator or translation company, check that the institution where the document is to be sent accepts this type of legalisation and that the target country is a member of the Hague Congress.


It is very important to obtain a correct translation of a legal document, and this why you should contract a professional translator with experience in the field. To get a document translated from Spanish or Italian into English, all you need to do is email me with the document as an attachment (a scanned copy is fine) and confirm that certification is the only level of certification required (the only level I provide). I will then offer a quote, and state the delivery time. Certificates can usually be turned around within 24 hours.


I have translated hundreds of certificates from both Spanish and Italian into English for various UK agencies, and have a wide range of experience in the following categories:


  • Academic Transcripts/Diplomas

  • Passports / ID cards

  • Birth Certificates

  • Marriage Certificates

  • Death certificates

  • Permission for cremation certificates

  • Divorce Decrees

  • Driving Licences

  • Medical Reports

  • Police Clearance CRBs

  • Insurance Claims

  • Bank Statements

  • Reference Letters