There’s a great deal of misinformation out there when it comes to understanding the difference between a certified translation and a notarized translation. 

The standard misconception is that these two things are one and the same. However, both are, in fact, mutually exclusive, and the difference in how and when they’re used in the translation process is detailed and vast.

So, who can certify documents? Who can notarize documents? And more to the point,  how do you know when and where you’ll need to use them?

Let’s break down these often misunderstood terms, and elaborate on why certified translation services are invaluable to making sure you’re prepared, well-informed, and have all the information necessary to ensure a smooth and stress-free translation experience.

What is a notarized translation? 

Notarised translation relates to official documentation that’s translated accurately from an original source into the necessary language, which is then verified by a Public Notary.  In order for a document to be verified and approved by a Notary, it requires the stamp of the sworn translator, in addition to several other stamps.

Well-trained professionals are essential to sworn translation.  It goes without saying that in such a meticulous and complex area, adequate experience is needed to fully appreciate and comprehend the terminology within this niche.

In other words, it can’t just be any translator who performs this task. A translator must be fully qualified and authorized by the Notary Public. 

This is important to remember because no matter how much detail you’ve included in your documentation, any stamps or signatures from a translator without a Notary Certificate are invalid. 

To summarise in a sentence, any kind of documentation that’s signed by a translator in front of a Notary is a notarized translation.  

When to use a notarized translation

A Notary Public is fully authorized and entrusted with overseeing the notarization process with a government-authorized stamp that legally confirms the validity of the documentation. This includes notarised translations.

Educational academies and institutions can be very strict about this and will only accept notarised documents. So be sure to include a notarized translation in any educational correspondence for:

  • Submitting a foreign diploma
  • Sending any kind of school transcripts
  • Submitting any high school or middle school documents
  • and any other documents intended for educational purposes

When it comes to notarised translations, emphasis is placed on adhering to the particular requirements of an institution or body, as opposed to the quality of the translation itself.  

However,  schools can be an exception to this rule, so try to keep the translation quality clear, detailed and easy to understand, 

The notarized translation process

The notarized documents translation process begins with the professional qualified translator delivering the translated content to the appointed Notary.  The translator will then officially swear to the accuracy of their translation and even sign an affidavit in front of the Notary.

A document is not officially considered a notarised translation until the Notary public puts their signature on it and puts an official seal on it. When this is done, the document is legally considered notarized. 

As you can see, the translator takes on a great deal of responsibility when dealing with a Notary. Therefore, it’s critical that you research and find a fully qualified translator from a reputable translation service. 

What is a certified translation? 

A certified translation is a document or official statement that’s been signed by the translation company, or a qualified translator who performed the actual translation. 

Unlike a notarized translation, a certified translation is an extremely accurate and comprehensive translation of a text from its original language. 

When a translation is certified, it means that the certified translation services have confirmed that the translation in question is an accurate depiction of the original documentation. 

The main importance of a certified translation is that it’s a legal record, hence, the emphasis on attention to detail and accuracy in the required translation process. These documents can be anything from government correspondence to detailed legal affairs involving lots of paperwork.

Due to how detailed and varied any given certified translation can be, its requirements can change due to the regulations of the countries involved. 

To summarise in a sentence, a certified translation is a translated document that adheres to differing legal requirements to be used in formal proceedings.

When to use a certified translation

Almost anything that relates to providing supporting documents or transcripts of legal communications will need certifying documents, both public and private. 

Some of the situations that will require the assistance of certified translation services are:

  • Marriage, death, or birth certificates
  • Agreements for adoption
  • Courtroom transcripts
  • and support documents for immigration

In addition to the above examples of certified translation, business agreements and contracts in need of being translated from their original language would also fall under this category.

Due to the high importance of each and every translated document, the margin for error is nonexistent. For instance, a certified copy of a passport, or an interpreted witness testimony must be meticulous, well-checked, and thorough, or the ramifications could be catastrophic to the individual.

The certified translation process 

If you’re concerned about how to certify a document when beginning your certified translation process, a credibly certified translation service can assign the job to an experienced and highly qualified translator.  The translation is then proofread before the final translation is confirmed. 

When the translated content has been through proofreading and quality control, it will then be officially certified as an accurate translation of the original document and submitted. 

Once this happens, you’ll be given an official certificate confirming this. The certificate will include the full name, address, and signature of the translator, and the date it was certified.

To get to this point in a certified translation, you’ll need to ensure that your documents adhere to the particular rules.  

Your original documents must be translated word for word and in their entirety. It must also include translations of any signatures, seals, and stamps, and these must appear in the exact same place as they are in the original document. 

If a translator cannot translate something, they must label any indecipherable content in translation as “not legible.” There’s no room for error; misspellings or poorly translated documents won’t be accepted, so it’s always best to hire a professional.

Certified translation and immigration 

Immigration is perhaps the biggest area of certified translation, and so applying for residency or a visa in a different country requires adhering to certified translation requirements as best you possibly can.

You’ll be expected to submit all of your personal information and documentation in the native language of the country and have it all certified by a professional translator. 

International students who are looking to pursue higher education will need to submit officially certified translations of all diplomas and transcripts. 

Governing policies can change depending on the country you’re submitting to, and they can be very strict about oversights, or not providing all of the required documentation. 

In particular, the long, drawn-out application process to get into the United States of America can be stressful, and one small error can result in your immigration application being halted indefinitely.

This is why there is such an emphasis on the importance of supporting documents when getting a certified copy of a passport or looking into who can certify documents. 

Notarised and certified translations: one or the other

With the increasingly difficult and lengthy process of submitting documents to be notarized or certified, the provisions have been made simple – you’ll either submit documents for certified translation, or a notarised one, but having to do both is extremely rare. 

However, on some occasions, an officially certified translation can be notarized. This simply means that you’ll require one extra step in the process, so be sure that you consult an expert at certifying documents in the event of the unlikely chance that you’ll need to do both. 

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the difference between a notarized translation and a certified translation, you’ll be better equipped to decide which of these processes you’ll require, and where to find the help needed in order to fulfill your needs.

Knowing the various situations and scenarios associated with your application will ensure your translation journey runs smoothly. Being prepared means getting your documentation to be proofread, well-translated, and signed off by an experienced professional.

Enlisting the services of a qualified and professional translation service, such as Global Lingo, gives you the best chance at getting it right the first time, by confirming your notarized or certified documents are officially translated and conclusively checked by someone who knows how to certify a document.

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