Certified translation

Certified translation in the U.S.

Certified translation services are in demand. Clients often need a certified translation for USCIS, acceptance to an educational institution, or other government uses.

certified translation

But in the U.S. there is no an official definition of certified translation. Still, you can have a translation “certified” in the U.S. Confused? See the FAQ section below.

Certified translation: Frequently asked questions

What is a certified translation?
In many countries, a certified translation has legal significance. Translators who offer certified translation take an oath before a court of law. These translators are then “sworn translators.”

Note, however, that the translator—not the translation—is sworn. But the translations that such a translator produces are admissible in courts as official documents.

In the U.S., though, there is no state-sanctioned process by which a translator becomes certified.

A “certified translation” in the U.S. simply means that the translation includes a statement of accuracy. This document is provided by the translator (or the translation agency) and is notarized by a notary public.

However, this “certification” means only that the translator attests to the accuracy of the work and that a notary public has verified the identity (signature) of the translator. Nothing more.

Do I need a certified translation?
That depends. For most business documents, the answer is “no.” For civil registry or immigration documents, the answer is “most likely.” Ask the requesting party to be sure.

The UCSIS website, for example, instructs applicants to “[…] submit certified translations for all foreign language documents. The translator must certify that s/he is competent to translate and that the translation is accurate.”

Is a certified translation better than an uncertified translation?
As far as the requesting party is concerned, yes. But in terms of translation quality, there’s no easy answer. A certified translation may contain errors, and an uncertified translation could be error-free.

A “certified translation” may be no more accurate than an uncertified translation. But you do get peace of mind. After all, a translation agency that includes a statement of accuracy stands behind its work. (It’s as if the agency is saying, “We’re confident that the translation is faithful and accurate, so we’re willing to say so in a separate document, put identifying credentials on it, and sign it.”)

In other words, the “certification” is a statement of confidence from the translator or agency. It’s not an assurance from any third party that the translation is accurate.

Can translators in the U.S. be certified?
Yes. The American Translators Association (ATA) is the only organization in the United States that certifies translators. Translators wishing to become certified must pass a translation exam and meet certain other eligibility requirements.

So you may see the phrase “ATA-certified” behind a translator’s name. Again, the translator is certified, not the translation.

The translation industry is unregulated and is therefore different from law or medicine. You wouldn’t hire a lawyer who hadn’t passed the bar, for example. But many excellent translators are not certified. They’ve simply chosen not to seek certification. (Just as some physicians are board-certified and others are not.)

How much does certified translation cost?
At RedLine, we charge the client for the nominal notary fee (at cost) and the time we spend obtaining the notarization. This may include phone calls, document scanning and uploads, and travel time.

A certified translation may cost $50 to $100 more than an uncertified translation. The exact fee depends on the number of translations that have to be certified, the amount of travel required, and other miscellaneous fees (printing, mailing, etc.).

What’s the bottom line for certified translation?
In the U.S., a certified translation is a translation with a statement of accuracy attached. The statement of accuracy, provided by the translator, is then notarized. The translator performing the work may or may not be ATA-certified. (A notary is not qualified to judge the accuracy of a translation. See what a notary does.)

In many other countries, a certified translation may be produced only by a certified (or sworn) translator. A sworn translator has taken an oath before a court.

Read RedLine’s FAQ on translation to learn more about the qualifications of our translators.

Not sure if you need a certified translation? Call (616) 855-4044 or get in touch by email.

certified translation

certified translation

Matthew Kushinka is the founder and principal of RedLine Language Services LLC. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the company helps commercial clients create, revise, and translate their written content. Send your questions or comments to matthew@redlinels.com or connect with Matthew on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.