What is a Certified Translation?


May 25, 2016 by atacompass

In the United States a certified translation consists of the following three parts:

1)       The source-language (original) text

2)       The target-language (translated) text

3)       A statement signed by the translator or translation company representative, with his or her signature notarized by a Notary Public, attesting that the translator or translation company representative believes the target-language text to be an accurate and complete translation of the source-language text. Sometimes this statement bears the title “Certificate of Accuracy” or “Statement that Two Documents Have the Same Meaning.” ATA-certified translators can attach their certification stamp to the notarized statement.

Please note that any translator and any translation company representatives, regardless of credentials, may “certify” a translation in this way. A translator does not need to be “certified” in order to provide a “certified translation.” It is also important to realize that the Notary Public seal assures only that the signature is that of the person who presented him or herself to the notary; The Notary Public is not attesting to the accuracy of the translation.

What is a certified translator?

In contrast to many other countries, in the United States there is no federal or state licensing or certification for translators. There are some credentials available to translators working in some language pairs in this country, but they do not carry the same weight–in the marketplace or in the translation community–as federal licensing or certification in other countries.

The American Translators Association offers translator certification in various language pairs. ATA-certified translators are required to specify the language pairs and directions in which they are certified. For example, a translator certified in German to English is not necessarily certified in English to German.

Please note that there are many languages for which there is no type of certification or screening available in this country. There are many excellent, experienced translators and interpreters who are not certified.

In the United States it is not necessary to be certified or licensed in order to provide a certified translation for official use, unless the entity receiving the translation specifies that the translation must be done by an ATA-certified translator.

Written by Caitilin Walsh, CT; French/German to English translator and ATA President-Elect

12 thoughts on “What is a Certified Translation?

  1. windhof says:

    This is seriously a great post as there is no “official” governmental information on this in the US. When I first moved to the US I was not sure if I was allowed to certify translations or not. Thank you, Caitlin.

  2. Kathy Quinn says:

    Actually in the United States a “certified translation” does not necessarily need to be sworn to before a notary. Notarization is needed only when required by the agency requesting the certified document. At our agency, we refer to the different documents a “Certificates of Accuracy” and “Affidavits of Accuracy” for purposes of clarity.

  3. claudette roland says:

    How does an ATA- accredited translator become a certified translator?
    Claudette Roland

  4. Charlene Saavedra says:

    So if I have a document in Spanish and needs a certified English translation for USCIS purposes, what do I need to do or where do I go? If it doesn’t say it needs to be notarized just certified, then what?

  5. […] Caitilin Walsh Reblogged from The ATA Compass blog with permission from the […]

  6. […] For more in-depth understanding, information is available from the ATA Compass. […]

  7. I’ve always wondered how federal documents get translated into different languages. I recently filed my taxes, and there were many different language options. I didn’t know that a translator could be certified from English to a different language, but not necessarily from a different language to English. That’s a cool fact I’ll remember.

  8. Reblogged this on Riverside Notary Services and commented:
    So helpful on translation and notary services.

  9. TridIndia says:

    The way you wrote about certified translation, I loved. Thanks for sharing.

  10. translatenow says:

    Good information. Certified translation services become even more important when dealing with Apostille translations. For details please see:

    “How to Get a Document Apostille to Obtain Certified Translation of Public Documents for Use Abroad”



    “Apostille Translation Services,in the Practice of Law”


  11. Very useful information. Thanks.

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© American Translators Association and The ATA Compass, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the American Translators Association and The ATA Compass with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Reprints may be used with permission from The ATA Compass, published by the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org). Requests for permission to reprint articles should be sent to atacompass@atanet.org.
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