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  • Writer's pictureNikolaj Widenmann

I Need a Certified Translation

Updated: Jan 15, 2018

This is a common request that I receive as a translator and as the owner of a translation company. But what is a #CertifiedTranslation? What are the requirements? Where will the translation be used? Who can certify a translation?


The definition of a certified translation depends on the country where it will be used and the laws that govern certification of a translation.

Generally speaking, a certified translation is a document translation performed by a professional translator, accompanied by a signed statement by the translator certifying that the translation is accurate and that the translator is qualified to perform the task. In some cases, the certification verbiage and signature are affixed on the translation itself. In most cases, however, the translator attaches a separate document, which can be titled “certificate of accuracy” or something similar. The translator may stamp or seal the statement, but this is not a legal requirement.


A certified translation “into English” can mean many things. Is the client applying for a visa to the U.S., a driver’s license, or for conversion of a foreign medical degree with the California Medical Board? Or will the translation be submitted as evidence to a court in New Zealand or South Africa? And what about other languages in other countries?

The United States has no universal rules governing certified translations; each entity sets its own requirements. Below are some examples:

USCIS (U.S. immigration):

  • Requires the translator to sign a statement certifying the correctness of the translation and the translator's ability to translate competently.

ECFMG (Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates):

The translation must, among other things:

  • Be prepared by a government official, a medical school official, or a professional translation service (such as WTS Translations, LLC)

  • Appear on official/company letterhead

  • Bear the signature and title of the government/medical school official or a representative of the translation service

Medical Board of California:

  • Requires the translator to send the translation directly to the medical board.

Utah Drivers License Division:

Non-English documents must be translated by someone who is on the roster of the driver’s license division (I am on that roster).


It is crucial to use a reliable, highly-skilled professional translator. Saving a few dollars is not worth it if the translation is rejected because of inaccuracies or failure to meet the certification requirements. The potential consequences can be serious and include loss of immigration status and educational benefits, adverse impact on a legal case, lost business opportunities, etc.

At WTS Translations, we work with high-skilled, experienced translators with different areas of specializations.

In the U.S., the most reliable indicator of a translator’s skill level is certification by the American Translators Association (ATA) in the language combination in question (e.g., German into English). With a pass rate of only about 20%, the ATA exam is a rigorous test of a translator’s abilities. That having been said, there are many language combinations for which the ATA does not offer certification.

In many other countries, including countries in Europe and Latin America, the translator must be certified, licensed, or sworn by the respective country's certifying authorities (typically courts or other government institutions). Often, the translator must hold a certain academic degree.


In Denmark, as of July 3, 2017, all translations can be notarized by a Danish notary court or by the Danish Chamber of for purposes of verifying the identity of the translator.

In Mexico, certified translations for official use require the services of a translator who holds the degree of perito traductor (“expert translator”) from a Mexican university and who is registered with the courts.

In an upcoming post, I will post a more in-depth article on requirements for certified translations in different countries around the world.

WTS Translations, LLC, provides certified translations and other legal translation services for use in the U.S. and other countries. We keep ourselves current on the frequent changes in certification requirements in the U.S. and abroad, and we make sure to use translators who meet local requirements.

Because of the different requirements, when ordering a certified translation, it is imperative that you provide us with information on the country and entity/organization where the translation will be used. This will enable us to verify and ensure compliance with the applicable requirements.


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