Certified document translation services
Please find below information for clients who have queries about certified translation services.
The answers apply specifically to German-English translation services. If you have queries concerning different language pairs, I can put you in touch with other linguists if you contact me.
What are you looking for?
- A translator who can provide certified German-English and some English-German document translation services? Contact me to discuss your requirements.
- Definitions of the terms used in connection with the need for certified document translation? You can find many definitions if you read on.
- Details on the certification process? You can find those here.
What do clients need to know about certified document translation?
Every day many translators provide certified document translation services in the UK and worldwide. Birth certificates, school leavers’ certificates, police clearance certificates, marriage or divorce papers, and financial documents such as bank statements and payslips are the most commonly translated documents which need certification.
Whether or not clients need a certified translation depends not only on the agency requesting certification but also on the country-specific rules for certifying documents. Agencies most often requiring certified document translations include state authorities, universities and registration offices. Occasionally employers request certified translations of official documents.
It is the authority which requires the translation which decides whether you need a certified, notarised or sworn translation.
Certification rules may vary a lot between countries. Therefore I have supplied you with a guide to regulations about the certification process for the UK, Germany and Austria. Please use the navigation bar on the right to get access to this information.
Please note that I have based my information on data available to me at the time of writing. All information given is for general information only (please read my legal notices). Certification requirements vary from case to case and country to country. It is the client’s responsibility to check with government agencies and departments, employers or any other parties involved which specific certification requirements apply to their documents.
Definitions of the terms “certified translation”, “notarised translation”, “sworn translation” and “apostille”
Clients are often confused about the meaning of words used in connection with “certified translations”. Please find below definitions of much-used terms during the certification process.
What is a certified translation?
When referring to “certified translations” or “certifications” authorities often mean different things. However, on this website, the term “certified translations” is an abbreviated version of “translations accompanied by a certificate of accuracy”. I do not mean any other forms of certification unless stated otherwise.
So, certified translations are documents accompanied by a certificate of accuracy supplied by the translator who carried out the translation. This process is also known as “self-certification”.
What does the term “notarised translation” mean?
When clients need a notarised translation, the translator visits a notary public. The notary will check the translator’s identity and possibly their qualifications. They will then bear witness to the translator’s signature on the certificate of accuracy attached to the translated document.
How do I obtain a sworn translation in the UK?
The UK is a common law country. To obtain a sworn translation in this country, translators signs the translation in front of a solicitor or notary public, confirming that the document in question is a true and accurate translation of the original and they carried it out “to the best of their ability”.
In civil law countries like Germany or Austria, translators become “publicly appointed and sworn translators” linked with one specific court or local authority. This is the local court of the area where they are resident. Therefore translators living in the UK cannot become sworn translators at a German court. For detailed certification rules that apply in the UK, Germany and Austria, please visit the relevant pages by clicking on the country of your choice.
What does the term “apostille” refer to?
Government agencies can attach an apostille to official documents that authorities issued within their country. An apostille is a certificate of authenticity provided for use in a foreign country.
What does the term “certification” refer to?
Clients often find this confusing, but in general usage, the term “certification” is often used as a synonym or refers to:
- The certificate of accuracy a qualified translator must attach to a translated document.
- The process that takes place when a notary witnesses (“certifies”) the signature on a translator’s certificate of accuracy.
- “Legalisation”: when an official body confirms (“certifies”) the authenticity of a signature, seal or stamp on a public document.
Find out more on “certifying a document” on gov.uk, the British government’s website. (Scroll to the bottom to read about how to have translations certified.)
The purpose of certified document translation
A certificate of accuracy states the translator’s credentials, address, qualifications and details of the translated document. It also contains an affirmation that the translator carried out the translation to the best of their knowledge and belief and that it is a true and faithful rendering of the original language, for example, German or English. The translator also states that they did the work to the best of their ability as a professional translator.
Neither a translator certifying the accuracy of their translation nor a notary witnessing their signature proves the authenticity of the original document. To prove authenticity the client must obtain an apostille.
Neither the certificate of accuracy in itself nor the solicitor or even a notary witnessing this signature guarantees the quality of the translation.
All certification proves is that a qualified translator translated the document in question.
Circumstances which often need certified document translation services
The following types of document may need certification, notarisation or a sworn translation:
- Job applications: translated school leavers’, university certificates or references;
- Applications to colleges/universities or other higher education institutions;
- Immigration or emigration application documents;
- Birth certificates, divorce certificates, certificates of no impediment when marrying a foreign national;
- Getting married in a country other than your country of residence;
- Documents needed when setting up a new company;
- Patent-related documentation.
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