Certified translation

Legal Document Translation Services

I am often approached by people looking for certified, sworn, or notarised translations. In my experience, clients use these terms interchangeably to mean a translation that is legally recognised. The truth is these are three different services. As every country has their own requirements for legally recognising translated documents, it is very important to understand the difference between them to avoid the risk of commissioning the wrong type of service.

So, what exactly is the difference between these types of translations?

The Differences Between Certified Translation, Sworn Translation and Notarised Translation

Certified Translation

Certified translations are intended for official use, such as visa or university applications in several countries, such as the UK. Usually, the translation of the documents that need to be certified are birth or marriage certificates, or school and university diplomas and transcripts.

Every country will have their own policies about who can provide certified translation services. The UK, for instance, does not have very specific rules about who can provide these translations, but many organisations, including the Home Office, expect the translator to be a full member of the CIOL or the ITI and be qualified with a translation diploma and demonstrate other professional qualifications.

On their website, the Home Office only states the need for certified to translations to include the following information:

  • That it’s a ‘true and accurate translation of the original document’
  • The date of the translation
  • The full name and contact details of the translator or a representative of the translation company

The website does not explicitly state their CIOL or the ITI membership expectations, which can make things tricky for clients who may not know this.

Regardless of the Home Office requirements and expectations, it is always important to look for a translator who is a qualified member of a professional association to ensure that your documents are in the right hands.

Sworn Translation

As the UK is a common law country, sworn translations are not used here. However, you may need a sworn translator for affairs in civil law countries. In Brazil, for instance, translations for official purposes must be provided by a Brazilian Sworn Translator. This means that the first thing you need to do is understand what type of translation you require.

If you have discovered that you need sworn translation services, the next thing to do is to find the appropriate translator. A sworn translator is a member of an official body that holds a list of authorised professionals. Since sworn translations are not used in the UK, this country also does not have a register of sworn translators. For this reason, it is important to check the registers of the country or country for which you need the translations. In Brazil, this is called “Junta Comercial”.

Notarised Translation

Certain organisations and consulates, such as the Portuguese one, may require translations not only to be certified, but also notarised. This simply means that in addition to being provided by an official translator, the translated documents must also contain a signature of a notary certifying it. This is done by having the translation signed in front of a notary public as being “true to the original”. The notary public adds their signature and official seal to prove it has been witnessed. It is important to note that notarisation is not an indication of a higher quality translation, but simply a legal requirement for certain organisations.

When it comes to notarised translations, clients must often pay for these services separately, as it is rare to find someone who can act as both a certified translator and a notary. Though a competent translator will give their clients the guidance they need, it is important to be aware of these matters to ensure that everything runs smoothly with your notarised translation.

Whether you need certified, sworn, or notarised translation services, it is always important to seek out qualified professionals to avoid disappointments. Additionally, if you are not sure which type of translation service you need, a professional will give you the needed guidance and, if they cannot provide the service themselves, may indicate others who can.