UK certification rules for translated documents
Please find below FAQs on UK certification rules for documents to be translated, certified and used within the UK.
If you are looking for an English-German UK-based translator, please contact me, Erika Baker.
For English-German or German to English certified translations, please get in touch with me. If you have different language requirements, I am part of a large network of translators, ask, and I’ll probably be able to recommend a UK-based colleague.
I am a long-term member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, as such, I am entitled to self-certify translations of official documents. Due to years of experience in this area, I am very familiar with UK certification rules.
What are the British Home Office’s requirements for certified translations?
The Home Office accepts self-certified translations provided by a UK-based translator under the following conditions:
- The translator is a member of an official professional organisation such as the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI) or the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL).
- The translator works for a company that belongs to the Association of Translation Companies.
I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, therefore government agencies have always accepted my translations.
For translations which were carried out by translators living outside the UK two requirements must be met.
- The British examiner must be satisfied that the translator is a member of an official body in the country they are resident in. Or
- The relevant Foreign Embassy has certified the translation as a true copy.
What does the term “certificate of accuracy” mean?
After translating an official document, translators usually provide a certificate of accuracy. This is a declaration confirming that they carried out the translation to their best knowledge and ability. In the UK, translations accompanied by this declaration are “certified translations”.
Who can provide a certificate of accuracy?
In England and Wales, authorities tend to accept certified UK translations accompanied by a certificate of accuracy when translators who are members of professional bodies have provided them. The two most important professional bodies for UK translators are the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.
Qualified translators can self-certify their own translations. Translation agencies who are members of the relevant professional bodies can also provide certificates of accuracy for translations carried out on their behalf.
Are there “publicly appointed and sworn translators” in the UK?
No. Due to the common law system of the UK, there are no sworn translators in this country.
However, countries such as Germany and Austria, which have civil law systems, have sworn translators. You cannot obtain a “sworn translation” in the UK, but you can obtain a certified translation that has been countersigned by a solicitor, or a notarised translation. Unfortunately, notarisation is a costly process.
Please check with the authorities involved whether a self-certified translation by a UK translator will be acceptable to them or whether the translation has to be countersigned by a solicitor or notarised.
How are certificates translated?
Translators have to translate absolutely everything that’s translatable and transfer everything they cannot translate (such as reference numbers) on official certificates. When translating official documents, translators must not “correct” certificates, even if there are “obvious” spelling mistakes. Translators can only transfer what’s there on the original document. If the certificate is inaccurate in any way, only the office that issued the certificate may be able to amend the details, not the translator.
When it comes to divorce decrees, the UK authorities will be looking for the equivalent to the British “decree absolute”. To give you an example, in Germany the appropriate document is the divorce decree (Scheidungsurteil). This contains a rubber stamp which states on which date the decree becomes final. The wording to look out for is: “rechtskräftig ab dem…”
How can a UK translator certify the accuracy of their translation?
Depending on specific stipulations by the authorities/employers involved, you can obtain verification of a translation’s accuracy in various ways. Please find below a list of options. To find out which of these options is the right one for you, ask the authority which requested the certified translation.
- Certificate of accuracy signed by a professional (freelance or staff) translator
- Certification provided by a translation agency official
- Certification of accuracy signed by the translator and countersigned by a solicitor
- Certificate of accuracy signed in the presence of a notary (notarised certification)
- Certification supplied by the applicant’s embassy/consulate
Can freelance UK translators supply certified translations for a German authority?
Generally speaking, German courts only accept certified translations of foreign documents that were undertaken by a sworn translator. This is a translator who is resident in Germany and registered and “sworn in” at a German court. German authorities do not usually accept certificates of accuracy signed in the UK, no matter how qualified the translator.
However, if you live in the UK and need to submit a certified translation to the German Embassy, you can use a translator from the UK. This translator has to be qualified and a member of a professional institute.
Always check with the Embassy first.
Can a UK-based freelance translator call themselves a “certified translator”?
In the UK no one has the right to call themselves “certified translator”. However, British authorities tend to accept certifications by qualified, experienced professional translators who are member of at least one relevant professional body, such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists.
What does “self-certification” mean?
Legally, anyone based in the UK can “self-certify” the translation they carried out. However, the Home Office and most other official bodies only accept translations by members of a professional body for translators, either the Institute of Translation and Interpreting or the Chartered Institute of Linguists. Alternatively, they must be in the employ of a translation company which is a member of the Association of Translation Companies.
The ITI (Institute of Translation & Interpreting) provides its members with a seal or sticker which translators attach to a translation. This proves their membership to the Institute. In turn, membership proves professional qualification.
The Chartered Institute of Linguists allows members to use a members’ logo for certification purposes.