Certification by Translator: Translating Foreign Language Documents into English

When submitting an immigration related application, you must have all foreign language documents translated into English. Translation can be done by you or someone you know, as long as the translator is competent to translate the foreign language into English. Another option is to hire a professional firm that specializes in immigration translation services. 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 documents 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 ______________________________.

Signature________________________________ Date_________

Typed Name__________________________________________


This is another sample, provided by the Immigration Court:


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 seen any official statement from any government authority supporting that claim. So I would say yes. If anyone can point me to the official source suggesting one way or another, I would highly appreciate it.

In any case, you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional translator. Anyone who is competent can translate the document(s) and certify them. If you’re not comfortable, however, it is a good idea to use a translation service company to make sure the translation is done correctly.

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 non-English document 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 someone 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.

1 thought on “Certification by Translator: Translating Foreign Language Documents into English”

  1. I’ve just gotten a letter back from the USCIS. It says that they are requesting me to send them new translations of the documents that are certified by someone other than the petitioner or beneficiary.

    So, as far as I can tell, no, you cannot translate your own documents.

    This was for Thai to English, submitted to the USCIS at the Bangkok field office.

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