When submitting an immigration related application, you must have all foreign language documents translated into English. You don’t have to hire a professional translator to do the job, however. In fact, the translation can be provided by anyone who is fluent in both English and the foreign language. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not judge or determine the translator’s qualifications, but does require a Certification of Translation attached to the document being translated.
There is no formal template for a Certification of Translator. However, the translator (you or someone else) must certify that s/he is competent to translate the foreign language into English, and that the translation is accurate to the best of his or her abilities. The certification should also include the person’s name, address, signature and date of translation.
Below is an example preferred by the USCIS:
Certification by Translator
I, ____________________________ [typed name], certify that I am fluent (conversant)
in the English and ____________ languages, and that the above/attached document is an
accurate translation of the document attached entitled ______________________________.
This is another sample, provided by the Immigration Court:
CERTIFICATE OF TRANSLATION
I, __________________________, am competent to translate from
(name of translator)
_______________________________ into English, and certify that the translation of
(names of documents)
is true and accurate to the best of my abilities.
(signature of translator) (typed/printed name of translator)
(address of translator)
(address of translator)
(telephone number of translator)
Question 1: Can I, as a petitioner, translate my own documents?
I’ve seen articles on the Internet stating that a petitioner or beneficiary of an immigration application/petition cannot translate their own documents. However, I have not been able to find any official statement from any government authority supporting that claim. So I’m not sure. If anyone can point me to the correct source, I would highly appreciate it.
In any case, you don’t necessarily have to use a professional translator. Anyone who is competent can translate the document(s) and certify them.
Keep in mind that what we are discussing here is about translating documents for immigration purposes. It is different than acting as an interpreter during an immigration interview. In that case, I know a petitioner is not allowed to be an interpreter for his/her relative during interviews.
Question 2. Do I still have to submit my documents in foreign language if I already have them translated?
Yes, the English translations are required to accompany those documents in a foreign language, not replacing them.
Question 3. Must each document have its own certification for translation?
Each document not in English must have a translation attached, but if you have multiple documents in the same foreign language in the same package, my personal opinion is that you can include one certificate of translator listing all documents translated and certified by the same person. However, if you choose to attach a certificate to each document (in addition to the English translation), it is certainly acceptable too.
Question 4. Do I need to have the translations notarized too?
Notarization of the translations is not officially required, but obviously won’t hurt. I personally wouldn’t do it, but if you’re extra cautious, go for it.
Question 5. Can I use a computer or Website-based automatic translating service?
I wouldn’t recommend it. Although you can use them, such as Google Translate, for certain words, you really don’t want to rely on them for translating an entire paragraph or even a full sentence. As a minimum, you need to double check and verify its accuracy before using it as your translation. Your birth certificate, marriage certificate, degree certificate, etc. are all important documents supporting your application, and you want to make sure they are translated completely and correctly. If you don’t feel comfortable, you should consider hiring a translating service to do it for you.
Question 6. Should I follow the same format of the original document while doing translation?
Yes, absolutely. Your translation must resemble the original document in layout and general formatting.