BlogGeneral ArticlesHow do I get a legal translation certified?

How do I get a legal translation certified?

How do I get a legal translation certified?

You know you need to get the translation of your document certified, but what does that actually mean and what’s involved?

Many people believe that a professional translator has to be “certified” or “sworn” to do the job. However, in the common law system in the UK, we do not have the "sworn translator" concept that exists in civil law countries, for example Germany, France or Spain.

Translations sometimes still have to be "sworn" or certified, such as when providing official translations for public authorities. In the UK, certifying or swearing has no bearing on the quality of a translation. It just identifies the translator and his qualifications, so that he is accountable.

In the UK, a translation can be certified or notarised in three ways. These are: basic certification, sworn certification and legalisation or Apostille. Which version you require depends on the nature of the document and its use. It’s wise to check very carefully with the body you are providing the translation to, to see exactly what they need.

Here is a breakdown to clarify the differences:

Certified Translation

MTT provide a signed certificate on our headed paper, (usually) bearing the ITI seal. This declares that the document has been translated from the original document, or from a copy of the original, and that the translated text is correct and complete. This type of certified translation is accepted by British government offices, the Passport Office and most courts.

The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) provides its Qualified Members with special seals, or stickers, which can be attached to a certification to add confirmation of membership of the Institute. MTT are corporate members of the ITI and therefore able to certify translations for you, which we do free of charge in most cases.

Sworn/Notarised Translations

This type is used for official documents that have been requested by public authorities or government bodies. The translator needs to take the translation to be certified or notarised by Affidavit. It is a declaration which is made in writing and on oath (sworn) by the translator in front of a solicitor/attorney or a public notary that the translation is, to the best of the translator’s knowledge, complete and accurate. The translation is marked with a certified stamp.

When a translation is sworn before a solicitor (or a notary in Scotland), the legal professional does not verify the quality of the translation but merely satisfies himself as to the translator's identity. Certification does, however, lend weight to a translation: if, for example, a document is wilfully mistranslated or carelessly translated, the translator could be charged with contempt of court, perjury or negligence.

Legalisation (Apostille)

This is required for documents which will be presented to overseas authorities. Legalisation is the same as the previous formats except the signature of the public notary or solicitor on the sworn certification is checked (Apostilled) by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to be accepted by a foreign country (as part of the Hague Convention). The FCO usually takes up to 4 weeks to process postal Apostilles.

Special requirements

It’s worth being aware that certain embassies have a list of approved translators and will only accept translations from these people or organisations. For example the Greek embassy will check the signature of the translator against their approved list, so it is worth while checking you are sure what is needed.

If you need a document translating and certifying, get in touch with us on and we’ll help you decide what’s needed.

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