What is a certified translation?

A certified translation is a translation accompanied by a signed statement confirming that the translation is a true and accurate copy of the original document, completed to the best of the translator’s knowledge and ability. It also provides confirmation that the document has been translated by a professional translation company.  

The specific challenges of legal translation

The scale, depth and range of legal translation is vast, so choosing a translator with specific experience of your legal sector will not only safeguard the accuracy and precision of your translations but also speed up the translation process. Familiarity with legal terminology, writing styles and a wider knowledge of systems and areas of expertise will be beneficial. For example, in complex contract law scenarios, it is important to look out for the small print as slight nuances in language could be the crucial difference between a patent being accepted or rejected.

The importance of using a professional

Guaranteeing that a document is a true and accurate translation of the original is incredibly important, as even minor tone changes can alter the meaning and significance of certain documents. A professional language service provider will understand the importance – and potential consequences – of any slip-ups and be capable of supporting their clients within these most intricate constraints.

certified translation

A step-by-step guide to the translation process

Whether you have worked with translators previously or are considering using a translation company for the first time, understanding the process will help to ensure you get the most out of it.

  • Step 1
    Determine the language and audience required for your translation project and identify all the documents that require translation.
  • Step 2
    Send the documents to your translation company, making sure to include all relevant reference materials. Ensure complete transparency as regards deadlines and other expectations.
  • Step 3
    The translation company will review the project requirements, provide costs, timescales and key project milestones.
  • Step 4
    Once the schedule of works has been agreed, you will sign off on costs and the translation specialists will begin to work.
  • Step 5
    A good translation company will handpick a specific translator who is the ideal match for both your project and specific legal field.
  • Step 6
    Once the text has been translated, the translation company will complete a thorough review, examining consistency, punctuation, terminology, spelling and formatting.
  • Step 7
    When the translation company is satisfied that your project meets all quality standards, they will deliver it in the requested format, on time and ready for you to use with confidence.

Certification or notarisation?

A certified translation – also known as a Statement of Truth and a Certificate of Accuracy – is signed and stamped in official confirmation that the document has been translated by a competent translator. It certifies that the document is a true and honest translation.


Notarised translations are often required for official documents, so they are more formal than certified translations. After the translation has completed and certified, the translator will declare under oath and in writing before a Public

Notary that the translated document is a true and accurate translation of the original document. The Notary will then sign and stamp the certifying letter and an Apostille (embossed seal and signature of official and date) will be attached to the document to certify that it is a genuine document.

How to request a certified translation

When requesting a certified translation, you will need to know:

  • What country you need the translation forFor example, if you want your document translated into German, are you presenting this to an official body in Germany or the German embassy in the UK?
  • What the translation is for
    Is it to register you as a citizen or a business? Is it part of a court proceeding? This information helps the translation company select the most suitable certification process.

The translation company can then certify that it is a ‘true and accurate translation of the original document’, confirm the date of the translation and the full name and contact details of the translator at – or representative for – the translation company.

Levels of Certification

Translation Certification usually has four levels of certification, depending on how it will be used and to whom it will be submitted:

  1. Certified by the translation professional or the translation agency acting on their behalf
  2. Sworn in front of a person of legal standing (usually a solicitor)
  3. Notarised (by a notary public)
  4. Legalised (apostilled) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO ) in UK or at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland

Before submitting your certified translation request, you should check with the organisation you are submitting the translation to about the level of certification required.

Specific requirements for certified translations in different countries

  • United States
    There is no federal licensing or certification requirement in the US. A professional translator providing certified translations is not legally mandated to be licensed or certified. The translator only has to provide certification that the translation they have produced is an accurate and true representation of the original document. However, it is also possible for translators to earn certification. The American Translators Association (ATA) provides training for translators who want to be certified.
  • United Kingdom
    Translators in the UK do not need to be sworn by the courts or certified by a government organisation or accredited institution to be able to provide official translations.
  • Spain
    The requirements for certified translators in Spain differ from those in the UK and the U.S. In Spain, only translators sworn by the country’s courts are allowed to provide certified translations.
  • France
    France stipulates that certified translations may be only be completed by certified translators who have been sworn by their courts. These translators are called Traducteurs assermentés.

Civil law legal system

Countries following the Civil Law legal system include France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, etc. In Civil Law countries, only official sworn translators – or translation agencies working with sworn translators – can certify translations. You can recognise sworn translators by their job titles. Certification in Civil Law countries can take longer as the translator needs to stamp their documents. Often this means posting original documents to the translator to be signed.

Common law legal system

Countries following the Common Law legal system include Ireland and England. Certified translation is performed by an accredited translation professional or a translation agency collaborating with an accredited translator who attests that the translation is complete and accurate and signs and stamps the translation accordingly.

In the England and Ireland, translation certification is usually required for documents in a foreign language that need to be translated into English for submission to official UK or Irish organisations such as the UK Border Agency (Home Office), Passport Office, DVLA, Universities, General Register Office, etc.

The next steps

The experts at Albion Languages are on hand to guide you through the legal translation and certification process. If you would like general information or to discuss a specific project, please get in touch.