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What's The Difference Between a Notarized and a Certified Translation?

Certified Translation
What's The Difference Between a Notarized and a Certified Translation?
on September, 05 2017

Many people are still confused about certified translation and notarized translation. Some actually think that they are the same. The fact is that there is a huge difference between notarized translation and certified translation. Each one is used differently as well.

What is the difference between a notarized and a certified translation? It is a question often asked by people not familiar with translation or the specific type of translation required.

Related Post: The Many Definitions of Certified Translations



When To Use Certified Translation

A certified translation means that the translator or the language service provider (LSP) has issued a signed statement declaring that the translation that has been done is an accurate and true representation of the original document.

Certified translations are normally required when submitting legal documents. These include marriage, death or birth certificates, adoption agreements, supporting documents for immigration, court transcripts, service agreements or business contracts that are not written in the official language of the country where the documents are to be submitted.

Do not get confused between a certified translator and a certified translation, as these terms are also different from each other. When a professional translator passes an exam and is certified by the American Translators Association or other organizations, he or she is called a certified translator.

On the other hand, a certified translation does not need to be done by a certified translator. Instead, it is a translation that a qualified LSP or translator certifies to be an exact and accurate translation of the original or source document. A signed Certificate of Accuracy is included in the completed translation when submitted to the client.

Reputable translation companies usually assign translation work that needs certification to their most qualified and highly experienced translators. It is a standard for the translation company to have an editor proofread the final translation. Only when the translation has passed quality checking will it be certified.

A certified translation provides a legal record. It is the reason why government and legal bodies always require the submission of certified translations.

For all types of legal paperwork, a certified translation is most likely to be required. An example would be a trial transcript or evidence that is available in another language.

Immigration is one of the major areas where certified translation is necessary. If you are applying for a temporary visa or residency in a foreign country such as the United States, the country requires that all your personal documents must be submitted in the official language of the country. In case of the U.S., you need your documents translated into English and all of them must be certified.

Foreign students who want to further their education by applying to colleges and universities in the United States also need to submit a certified translation of their transcripts and diplomas. There are also schools that require submission of the original transcript of records along with the certified translation.

Other Examples

  • Legal documents required for court cases that are not written in English
  • Certificates needed for official use, such as birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates
  • Criminal record checks needed for recruitment and HR purposes and visa applications
  • Regulatory documents such as informed consents, research data forms, protocols and case reports
  • Patents

Related Post: What Are Certified Translations and When Do You Need Them?


Certified Translations

Requirements for Certified Translations

Certified translations, especially those that will be used for U.S. immigration purposes must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The original document must be translated directly in its entirety. All the signatures, marks, dashes, stamps and seals must be translated as well. The translator must mark the parts in the original that are not clear with "not legible" in the English translation.
  • The translation must visually match the appearance of the original. Seals, signatures and other marks should appear in the same place in the translation just like in the original.
  • Use a professional translator or translation company for certified translation. Even if you can speak in English and has knowledge of the source language you are not qualified to do certified translation. If you do not want to jeopardize your immigration application, follow the rules and work with a professional translator.
  • You use certified translations of documents not written in English if you are submitting your immigration application in the United States. If you are submitting your application to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you reside, the certified translations must also be notarized.

When to Use Notarized Translation

A notary public is authorized by the government to authenticate and oversee different legal formalities, which include notarized translations. These notarized documents are often required by some schools when submitting documents such as foreign diplomas and high school transcripts.

In notarized translations, the quality of the translation is not the issue. It is more about fulfilling the formal requirements of an institution.

A professional translator can present the translated document to a notary public, who will ask the translator to swear an oath to the accuracy of the translation.

Later, the translator will be asked to sign an affidavit, which must contain the official seal and signature of the notary public before it becomes valid. The notary public does not check the quality of the translation. Instead, the notary public is more concerned about the identity of the translator.

Only One Must Be Used

Today, the requirement is very specific. You should either submit a notarized translation or a certified translation. There are no instances where you would be required to submit both.

A few years back, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) required that immigration applicants should submit both a notarized translation and a certified translation. The rules have been changed and the USCIS now only require the submission of certified translations of all supporting documents for immigration application that are not written in English.

There are times when a certified translation is notarized. In this situation, notarizing a certified translation means adding another step (and document) to the requirement. Make sure that you double-check what type of translation you have to submit because in most cases the certified translation is sufficient.

Related Post: Certified Translations Are Required for US Immigration



Different Requirements in Different Countries

In the United States, a professional translator or an LSP provides certified translations. The translated document is accompanied by a certificate attesting to the quality of the translation and that it is a direct translation of the source document.

The certificate bears the name and signature of the translator or translation company and its representative, the date it was executed, contact information of the translator or the company and the official seal of the language service provider. The translator also certifies that he or she is qualified to translate from the source language to the target language.

When submitting the certified translation, it must include the certification letter and the original or source document. The original copy of the document does not need to be the source document itself. It could be a legible scanned copy or photocopy of the original.

In other places, such as in Quebec, Canada, the translator must also be certified. If the translator is an independent one, he or she must sign the official translator's declaration and either embossing or rubber-stamping each page of the translation with either a Quebec professional order or the professional seal of the translator issued by the British Columbia professional association.

Just like in the U.S., a notary public in Quebec only requires the translator to swear an oath and sign an affidavit for the translation to be notarized. It is a formal certificate of the translator declaring that the translation is a true translation of the source, without regard for its quality.

In Spain and Brazil for example, institutions will only accept certified translations done by government-certified or sworn translators.


Generally, a translator or an LSP will charge you per word, per page or the number of hours it would take to process the translation. Most LSPs and translators do not charge extra for providing certified translations. If there is a charge, it is minimal.

For notarized translations, the fee paid to the notary public is added to the usual charge of the translator or the translation company. The notary public usually charges per page.

It is important that you let the translator or the LSP know in which country you are using the certified translation or the notarized translation. Different countries have different requirements and the translation must conform to the standards set by each country.

While the United States immigration service accepts certified translations done by professional translators, other countries will only accept certified translations done by sworn translators.


In conclusion, you can answer your question, what is the difference between a notarized translation and a certified translation, by understanding the situations where one or the other is required. Moreover, whether you need a certified translation or a notarized translation, it is important that you work with a professional translator or a reputable translation company.

They have the necessary qualifications to translate from a source language to whatever target language you need. You are assured that your notarized or certified translation is 100 percent accurate and conforms to the requirements of the organization or legal entity that will receive your translated documents.

Do you need a notarized translation or a certified translation? Got further questions? We can help! Get in touch today and let us walk you through the process!

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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