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The Difference Between Certified and Notarized Translation

Certified and notarized translation are not the same thing. Though some people think they’re interchangeable terms, it’s important to know the difference if you’re ever asked to provide one. If you present a certified translation when you were supposed to provide a notarized one, you’ll face setbacks.

What Is Certified Translation?

A translation is certified if the translator or translation agency provides a statement that the translation is an accurate and true representation of the original document. Although all translations should be accurate by default, certified translations come with an official certificate affirming their accuracy.

Certified translation is most common with legal documents, from birth, marriage, and death certificates to immigration documents, court transcripts, and even academic transcripts. The translations of official documents like these must be as accurate as possible to be considered reliable and fulfill their purpose.

The term “certified translation” can be confusing because of its similarity to the term “certified translator,” referring to a translator who has passed the assessment of a translator’s organization such as the American Translators Association and has been awarded the title of “certified translator.”

However, a translator does not have to be a certified translator to provide a certified translation. Similarly, just because a translation is done by a certified translator, that does not mean it is a certified translation. To be certified, a translation must be accompanied by a statement affirming its accuracy, regardless of the certification of the translator.

The American Translators Association says the following:

In the United States anyone can certify a translation. A translator does not need to be certified in order to provide a certified translation. The individual translator can certify their translations, as can an employee of a translation company.

A translator may also certify someone else's translation—as long as the translator has fully reviewed the translation for accuracy and completeness and the translation will not be changed after being certified. That is why translation companies can certify translations provided by their employees or freelance translators.

Most translation agencies put particular effort into ensuring the quality of certified translations. They generally assign their top translators to these tasks and run the translated material past a proofreader to weed out oversights and typos. When the translation has passed the quality assurance procedures, the agency provides a certificate, and with that, the translation is certified.

Certified translations must be as similar to the original document as possible, including in appearance. Signatures, seals, and other visual elements must be placed in the same position as in the original document, and the entire document must be translated, including the visual elements. In the case of illegible elements, the translator must add “not legible” in the target language.

If you require a certified translation for immigration or a similar process, you cannot translate the document yourself, even if you speak both languages and provide a signed statement affirming the accuracy of the translation. Immigration officials accept certified translations only by professional third-party translators.

What Is Notarized Translation?

Notarized translations are like the next level up from certified translations. The translator must also affirm the accuracy of the translation in this case, but a notary public must witness the translator’s oath to the translation’s precision. Afterward, the translator must sign an affidavit with the official seal and signature of the notary public. In a notarized translation, the translator ensures a high-quality translation, and the notary public confirms the identity of the translator.

In certain cases, the body requesting the translation may require a notarized certified translation. In such cases, you need a certificate from the translator or agency as well as an affidavit. However, these cases are rare.

How Much Do They Cost?

In most cases, translators do not charge extra for certified translations, and if there is a fee, it’s only small. Worth noting is that while general translation is normally priced per word, certified translation is normally priced per page. Notarized translation does, however, incur an additional fee because the notary public must be paid and the translator must be paid for the time spent traveling to and completing the notarization appointment.

When ordering certified or notarized translation, you must also let the translator know what country you will be using it in, since different countries may have different regulations and standards.

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