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certified legal translation

How to Find a Certified Translator of Official Documents

certified translation sworn translation

While moving to a different country can be exhilarating, you’ll often be faced with a discouraging mountain of paperwork. Not only do the institutions ask you to find your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or university transcripts, but also to get a certified translation stamp on these documents. So what does certified translation mean, and how do you do it correctly?

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be hard to find a certified translator.

Certified translation does not mean the same thing in every country.

The kind of certified translation you need will depend on the country receiving the paperwork. A certified translation stamp in one country can carry a heavier weight than in another. If you’re from the United States and you’re moving to Spain, you’ll need your translation to be certified by a Spanish sworn translator (that means one that is sworn under the Spanish court).

Always check with the organization requesting you to find a certified translation professional. This guide will explain what certified translation means, how to get a professional translator certification, and generally how to deal with the translation of official documents.

Certified translation for the United States

The United States does not offer federal certification or licensing for translators. It is not legally required to be certified or licensed to provide a certified translation. This means any translator can ‘certify’ a translation for the United States by attaching a statement to the translation declaring that the text they have translated is to the best of their knowledge a true and accurate representation of the original.

That said, some receiving institutions might require that your translation comes from a translator accredited by an association. In this case, you wouldn’t be working with a certified translator, rather a professional that gives a certified translation stamp and signature.

American Translators Association offers reliable accreditation – “The ATA-Certified translator designation is a testament to a translator’s professional competence in translating from one specific language into another. The ATA-certified translator credential recognized in ATA’s Directory of Translators and Interpreters can only be attained by passing an ATA examination of translation skills, including comprehension of the source-language text, translation techniques, and target-language writing proficiency” www.atanet.org

These translators can add an official, ATA-certified seal to your text. Check this database for ATA-Certified translators. It’s a good idea to get an assessed, professional translator, even if your receiving institution does not require it. It might be more expensive, but it’s well worth avoiding expensive risks.

Note: Some entities will require that your translation be notarized. This does not certify the accuracy of the translation itself, but requires the certification to also be signed by a Notary Public and is used to hold the translator accountable.

Certified translation for the United Kingdom

If you plan to move to the United Kingdom and your documents are in a language other than English, you’ll need to have them translated and certified. Official documents, like a birth certificate translation in the UK , generally require a certified translation stamp or a seal.

However, like the United States, the UK does not require a translator to be sworn by the courts to provide an official, certified translation. There is no such thing in common law countries as a ‘sworn translator’.

Many universities or other institutions will ask that your translator has been ‘certified’ or ‘accredited’ by a prestigious or recognized translation association. It’s a good idea to get an assessed, professional translator, even if your receiving institution does not require it.  There are two that usually work for official documents in the UK:

The Institute of Translation and Interpreting – “To certify a translation, the translator must attest that the translation is a true, complete and accurate translation of the original document. Each page of the translation should be stamped and/or initialed (by the translator and/or certifying authority), to prevent any tampering or misuse. Qualified Members (MITI Translator or FITI Translator) and Qualified Members commissioned by ITI Corporate Members (Language Services Businesses) can certify translations and purchase ITI Certification Seals, to certify their work and confirm their membership of the Institute.” – www.iti.org.uk

Qualified Members of the ITI also must pass an assessment to ensure quality, and receive an official seal to place on their translations.

If you need a different language pair, check this database and make sure you tick the ITI-assessed box.

The Chartered Institute of Linguists also offers accreditation to translators, and is recognized by most institutions in the UK. Accredited translators in this association are called ‘Chartered Linguists’ and are listed in their database as a part of the CL register. Check for the initials CL under the column “Chartered?”.

Certified translation for Spain

Unlike the above two countries, Spain is a civil law country in which certified translations must be done by a Spanish sworn translator. These translators (traductores jurados) will be shown on an official list of translators who have been accredited by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation only. You’ll typically have to deliver a hard copy of the stamped translation to the receiving institution.

Certified translation for France

Like Spain, France is a civil law country and will require your translations to be certified by a French sworn translator (traducteur assermenté). Again, this is an official position given to the certified translator by the French courts.

You can find an updated list of sworn translators here, though the website might be a little hard to navigate.

You can also look for translators on the Société française de traducteurs’s database, where you can select criteria to find the translator you need.

Remember, a sworn or certified translation does not guarantee the quality of the translation. Finding professional translators who have been assessed is important and can be crucial to your document being accepted or not.

Need help finding the right translator? Get in touch with us and we’ll find the right person for you!

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