If you need to get a document professionally translated, you may be asked to provide proof that you used a qualified service. This proof usually comes in one of two forms: a certified translation or a notarized translation. The differences between the two – and when they are used – are significant.
A certified translation means that the LSP or translator has provided a signed statement that the translation is a true and accurate translation of the original. Certified translations are usually required for legal documents such as business contracts, court transcripts, immigration documents, adoption agreements, and birth, death, or marriage certificates.
A certified translation and a certified translator are not the same thing. A certified translator is a professional translator who has passed an exam and received certification from an organization like the American Translators Association. However, a translator doesn’t need to be certified in order to provide a certified translation. Any qualified translator or LSP can provide a certified translation by signing and attaching a certificate of accuracy to the completed translation.
A notarized translation is less about quality control and more about following official procedures. A notary public is a person who is authorized by the government to oversee and authenticate various legal formalities – one of them being notarized translations. Notarized translations are usually required for education-based documents like high school transcripts or foreign diplomas.
Any self-proclaimed translator can take their work to a notary public, swear an oath to its accuracy and sign an affidavit. The affidavit will be considered valid once the notary public has signed it and put his or her official seal on it. The translator does not have to be certified and the notary does not assess the quality of the work – they verify the translator’s identity, but that’s about it.
Use one, not both
Today, it’s usually one or the other that is required – either a certified or a notarized translation, but not both. This was not always the case, as just a few years ago the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) required that all certified translations also be notarized. However, the USCIS has since changed the rules and dropped the notarization requirement, making certified translations the standard U.S. requirement for all immigration purposes.