What is a Certified Translation?

When presenting documents overseas the need for a translation will often arise. Not all translations will be accepted at face-value and different authorities overseas will stipulate how they expect a translation to be prepared.

In many cases we are asked if we can provide a ‘certified’ or ‘official’ translation. The meaning of this is contentious as different translation systems exist in countries with different legal frameworks.

Civil law countries, such as France or Spain, often have sworn translators who are appointed and accredited by the appropriate government authority in that country. As a result of this, authorities in these countries will often expect translations created in other countries to be prepared in a similar fashion, namely for a certified translation to be prepared by a sworn translator.

This is not always possible. As the UK is a common law country there is no formal translation system in place. As such, “sworn translators” do not exist in the UK and there is no clear definition as to what a certified or official translation is.

Nonetheless, there are various ways a translation can be prepared and certified in the UK which may still be considered acceptable in other countries. We have outlined the different ways in which a translation can be prepared and certified below.

Certified Translation

In most cases, a certified translation will refer to a translation that has been certified to be a true and accurate translation by the person who has prepared this.

This should include the contact details of the person or company who prepared the translation and will often be added to the document in such a way so as to prevent the translation being tampered with, namely a legal fastening and/or embossed seal.

This adds credibility to the translation and the authority this is presented to can verify the document with the translator if required. We include this with all of our translations as standard.

Solicitor Certified Translation

In addition to the simple certification referenced above, the translator can sign the declaration, confirming the accuracy of the translation, in the presence of a solicitor or notary public. This adds further accountability to the certification. This will serve to ensure the translation has more legal value than a translation that has a basic level of self-certification from the translator.

Sworn Translation

This term may be used to refer to a solicitor certified translation above. In this case the translator will make a sworn statement attesting to the fact the translation is accurate to the best of their knowledge in the presence of a solicitor.

This is not to be confused with a document that is prepared by a sworn translator outlined earlier in the article. Sworn translators do not exist in the UK.

Legalised Translation

If a translation has been prepared and certified by a practicing solicitor or notary then this would also be eligible for the apostille. The apostille is a form of legalisation that ensures a document from one country can be recognised in another country.

If a translation is issued with the apostille then this should be legally recognised in other countries that are part of the apostille convention without the need for any further legalisation or certification. We can provide the apostille for translations we prepare should this be required.

Embassy Approved Translation

Some authorities, in particular, the embassies of certain countries, will have a predetermined list of translators they recognise. The authorities in question will ask for documents to be translated by one of these pre-approved translators. Some examples of embassies in the UK that require this include the Greek, Italian and Romanian embassies.

This is not to say that a Greek, Italian or Romanian translation prepared by an independent firm like ourselves will not be accepted when presented to authorities other than the embassies. If the translation is to be presented to a different authority in the country in question then the need for embassy approved translations is rare.

How can we help?

As the UK is a common law country there is no formal translation system in place within this legal framework. As such, there is no clear definition of what an official or certified translation prepared in the UK is.

We can provide most of the various levels of certification for translations we prepare. It is strongly recommended to check with the person our authority to whom you intend to present the translation to ensure you follow their guidance on what they deem to be an acceptable translation.

We can translate your documents into more than 140 languages and take pride in offering a fast and professional service. If you have been asked for a certified or official translation please get in touch today to discuss your translation requirements.

About the Author

The Apostille Service are pleased to provide advice on a wide range of document legalisation matters. Our team of advisors contribute to the blog.