The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines a certified translation as a translation for which completeness and accuracy have been certified, ensuring the translator’s competence. In short, it is a guarantee that the translation itself is of a certain quality given the quality of which the translator is capable.
Guaranteeing all this, of course, is a task much easier said than done, and very often, it entails an involved process. For marriage certificates, birth certificates, and other official documents that are not in English, though, it is a process that is unavoidable, as all these documents must be translated with certification anytime they are used to support a USCIS application. There are four key points that we must explain to thoroughly understand that a certified translation is.
For a document to be considered a certified translation, everything must be translated, from the text itself to any signatures within the document to official stamps to punctuation. Everything counts here, and if any part of the text is illegible, the document must include a “not legible” or “illegible” notation. In addition to content, the visual format is important, and seals and other insignia need to match up to their original document positions.
Accuracy, you would think, is a given, but it bears repeating: the translation needs to add up, both regarding the original intent of the document and regarding the text within the document as well. There is no way to overstate the importance of accuracy, and mistakes both big and small can prevent a document from being considered a certified translation document.
For the most part, documents submitted to USCIS do not require notarization, as they clearly state that you should submit a certified translation. You can learn the difference between a certified translation and a notarized translation here. This is not the case for documents that are submitted at foreign embassies, consulates, and other locations outside the United States. For documents submitted outside of the United States, a notary is always required.
The last point and the one that is perhaps most easily misunderstood pertains to the length and necessity of the information within the document. For documents that are overly long, official extracts are acceptable, which would entail only the information from the document that is necessary for official purposes. In every instance, only the authorized official of a document is permitted to prepare extracts from the document.
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