Certified Translation: What You Need to Know

Certified Translation: What You Need to Know

You may have heard of the term “certified translation” before. In fact, depending on where your translations will be used, you may be required to get one.

But did you know that in the United States, there is no such thing as a certified translator? That’s why obtaining a certified translation can be a bit confusing. Not to worry–in this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know regarding certified translations, certified translators, and notarized translations.

Who Is a Certified Translator in the United States?

Technically, there is no such thing as a certified translator in the United States.

This is because the United States in general does not oversee, regulate, or require licensure to work in the translation industry. Therefore, there is no such thing as an American certified translator in a general sense. In other words, anyone can become a translator in the United States as long as they possess the required language skills.

There are a few interesting quirks to note about the American system:

  • Various professional organizations such as the American Translators Association offer their own certification exams. Strictly speaking, a translator passing such an exam can say they are certified by that specific professional association. For example, if a translator passes the English to Spanish ATA exam, s/he can state they are ATA-certified in that pair.
  • Many states do offer certifications for interpreters. Unlike translators who work with the written word, interpreters work with the spoken. For example, New York State has a court interpreting exam. Interpreters who pass the exam become New York State-Certified Court Interpreters.
  • Some government bodies such as the State Department have their own translation and interpreting exams. Any translators or interpreters passing these exams can claim certification by that government body.

As you can see, the situation in the United States is a bit complex. Therefore, if you need a certified translator please be sure to specify what type of certification to ensure a successful project.

Certified Translators in Other Countries

In other countries the situation is a bit different. Many countries doregulate the translation industry and offer certifications. In these situations, the translators may receive a number, a stamp, or a seal to place on their translations.

If a person lives in one of these countries and wishes to become a certified translator, they must either take a test or join a professional government body which regulates its membership.

What Is a Certified Translation?

In the United States, a certified translation is one that is accompanied by a “statement of accuracy.” The translator types up a separate statement listing his/her professional qualifications and language combination, then signs it. This statement then gets attached to the original translation.

Outside of the United States, translators can also provide “statements of accuracy” or they can emboss the translation with their seal and/or swear to the accuracy of the translation in a local court.

When Do You Need One?

There are many instances when you may need a certified translation. If you are immigrating to another country, for example, you may need to provide certified translations of your birth, marriage, and other records.

You may also need a certified translation if you are enrolling in school abroad. Other situations requiring a certified translation involve legal matters such as adoption, court transcripts, contracts, and/or business agreements.


These types of translations, especially when used for immigration purposes, must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The original document must be translated in its entirety. All signatures, marks, stamps, seals, and dashes must be translated. The translator must mark parts that are not clear with “illegible” in the translation.
  • The translation must visually mirror the appearance of the original. If possible, the formatting of the original must be mimicked in the translation. All signatures, seals, and other marks should appear in the same place in both the translation and the original.
  • You must use a professional translator or translation company for certified translations. Even if you can speak English and know the source or target language, you aren’t qualified to do a certified translation unless you’re a professional translator.

What Is a Notarized Translation?

Think of a notarized translation as a certified one, but one step further. The translator still adds the “statement of accuracy,” but instead of just signing it and attaching it, the statement also gets notarized. The translator will present the translated document to a notary public who will ask the translator to swear an oath to the accuracy of the translation.

Then, the translator will sign an affidavit which must contain the notary’s official seal and signature. The notary doesn’t check the quality of the translation. Instead, the notary checks the identity of the translator.

Schools often require notarized translations when you enroll with foreign high school transcripts or diplomas.

With notarized translations, it’s not the quality of the translation at issue. It’s more about fulfilling the formal requirements of a government or institution.

Different Requirements for Different Countries

In the US, a professional translator can provide certified translations—this translator himself does not need to be certified. In other places like Quebec, Canada, the translator himself must be certified. When this happens, the translator must sign a declaration and either emboss or rubber-stamp each page of the translation with a Quebec professional order or his or her professional seal issued by the British Columbia professional association.

In other countries like Russia or Spain, for example, institutions will only accept certified translations done by government-certified or sworn translators.


Generally, most translation agencies will charge per word, per page, or for the number of hours it takes to complete the translations.

There is usually a minimal, additional fee for certified or notarized translations. In these cases, you can expect to pay the notary public fee (usually charged per page), shipping, handling, and a small administrative fee on top of your translation fee.

It is important to let your translation company know which country you’re using the certified or notarized translation in. This is because different countries have different requirements. Any translation you use must conform to the standards set by that specific country.

While in the United States, immigration services accept certified translations done by professional translators, other countries will only accept certified translations done by sworn translators who are on their official roster.


We hope this post has helped you understand what a certified translation is and how it differs from a notarized translation as well as the situations where you’d use each one. Further, whether you need a certified or a notarized translation, it’s important you choose a reputable translation company for your language needs.

Metropolitan Translations has the necessary qualifications to translate your documents for whatever purpose. We guarantee 100% accuracy and will conform to the requirements of the government, legal entity, or organization that will receive your translations.

Do you have further questions? Or perhaps you’d like to purchase certified translations? We can help! Get in touch today and we’ll walk you through the steps.

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