Notarized vs. Certified Translation: Avoid Costly Confusion
Quite often I deal with the clients who were turned away by a government agency after they had submitted their notarized rather than certified translations. For many people who are not familiar with the translation industry, the difference between a notarized and a certified translation is not obvious. To further confusion contributes the fact that both types are actually considered official translations. Unsuspecting people pay for a notarized translation, spend time and effort just to find themselves in a situation where they need to re-submit their documents after getting them translated once again: this time, by a certified translator. So, why does it matter so much?
A certified translation is a translation provided by a professional translator who is certified by a professional organization: in Ontario, such an organization that attests to a high level of competency of its members is the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO). In order to achieve the title of Certified Translator, translators must pass an examination and sign a strict Code of Ethics. A certified translation is preferred by most government and professional bodies in Canada. The reason behind that is a higher level of security that comes with a certified translation as opposed to notarized. The certified translator’s seal and declaration are sufficient enough to ensure an accurate and complete translation.
A notarized translation is not a translation notarized by a notary public, as it may be falsely deduced from the name of this type of translation. In fact, a notary public does not check the quality of the translation. Instead, they only authenticate a signature of the person who performed a translation: it can be any translator, regardless of credentials, who swears on oath to the accuracy of their translation in front of a notary public. Thus, there is no governance over the translation as with a certification, and the notarization can be obtained by a simple swearing on oath. A notarized translation is usually required when a translation needs to be validated out of the country and their legislation states that notarization is required for the document to be valid.
Sometimes I receive requests to provide a certified and notarized translation of the same document. In many cases it is not the case, and a source of confusion here is a requirement of some government agencies to submit a certified translation along with a notarized (certified) copy of an original. For example, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) specifically require having a copy of your original document certified by a notary public. A certified true copy is a photocopy or scan of the original document with the signature and/or stamp of a notary public stating that this is an exact copy of the original document. However, it is usually obtained before sending your document for translation and has nothing to do with a notarized translation. IRCC, like all other government agencies, does accept certified translations and never requires getting both a certified and a notarized translation of the same document. In rare cases, however, both types of translation are indeed required by government bodies, for example, by Global Affairs Canada.
From my experience, utterly concerned about the validity of a certified translation are those who are not familiar with the institution of certified translators. For example, in Russia, there is only one type of official translation, and that is a notarized translation. Neither certified nor sworn translators exist there, and notarization is considered the only secure way of providing a translation with some legal value. In Canada, however, a certified translation is preferred, including by the Russian (or Belarusian) Embassy and Russian (or Belarussian) Consulates in Canada.
To sum up the above, in most cases you will need a certified translation: of your immigration documents, academic credentials, personal documents, business and legal paperwork. However, if you have any doubts as to which type of translation is required, you can always find out the requirements on a competent agency’s website or contact them directly. Or rather, ask me!