Translation of official documents – what does it really mean?

Written by Dr Aga Gordon                                       Find me on Twitter @acgtranslation

I have recently received several enquiries about the meaning of ‘sworn’ translation in the UK.  Therefore, I thought it would be useful to clarify a common misapprehension among Polish people regarding the translation of the official documents in the UK. Sworn translators do not exist in the UK, as the country does not accredit translators with seals subsequently used to confirm the translation’s authenticity. You can still find sworn translators from Poland, Germany or France, but their stamp is not required by local authorities.  In the UK translations needed for official purposes are certified or notarised.


There are three main levels of the official translations:

Certified translation – this is when the professional translator performs the translation, and then certifies it by putting a clause at the end that they are a qualified translator, and that the translation of the official document is accurate and true to the best of translator’s knowledge and ability. A certified translation is usually sufficient for most governmental bodies, universities, schools, insurance providers or employers for documents such as birth, divorce and marriage certificates, study transcripts, diplomas, medical reports, contracts, power of attorneys, household bills etc. Translators do not have to be members of professional translators’ organizations.

Notarised translation – this type of translation might be required for certain governmental or legal bodies. In this case, a qualified translator will perform their translation as in the case of certified translation, but will have to collaborate with a notary public, in whose presence the affidavit is sworn to declare true and accurate translation of the official documents. This will be confirmed by the notary public with their official stamp and signature.

You should always check with the body concerned whether you need a notarised translation. Such a translation carries an additional cost of about £70 for notary public fees.

Apostille – this certification might be required for documents needed overseas, especially concerning countries complying with the Hague Convention.  Examples might include when you plan to marry overseas, adopt a foreign child, or obtain a job abroad.

The process follows the same procedure as for a notarised translation, after which the notarised document is sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). They will confirm that the signing notary public was authorised to do so. Similarly to an affidavit, the apostille will incur an additional cost on a top of the cost of the translation.



About acgtranslation

Highly qualified English Polish translator and entrepreneur, business coach and consultant, quantum chemistry researcher and lecturer. Translation specialities: Business, Scientific and Medical Translation. Bilingual with two bilingual daughters; vivid reader.

Posted on June 5, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Hi, I’m glad to have discovered your excellent blog via a link on Twitter. I often get enquiries from Brazilians about “sworn translators” in the UK.
    This post is really useful. However, I think it is slightly misleading to say that for certified translations to be valid in the UK the translator does not have to be a member of a professional organization. This may be true legally, but in practice the rules of many UK organizations state that the translator must have recognised credentials, and usually the easiest way to prove the required qualifications is with a stamp or membership number from either the ITI or the CIOL.

    • Hi Sarah. Thank you for your kind comment. I am glad you like my blog and that the post is useful. I plan to put some more translation and entrepreneurial/business related articles soon, so watch the space…
      Regards, Aga

      • Thank you also for a very useful comment regarding the professional organisation membership/accreditation through ITI or IoL. There is indeed no formal requirement for it in order to perform certified translation for official use. I only can say what I know from my experience, and so far my translations were reported by clients to be accepted witout problems. I agree however that the MITI or MCIL status proves your credentials straigt away.

  2. Also the MCIL status presumably means you do not need the notary public services if the client needs translation of the documents for legal purposes? Affidavit/apostille serves as the credential here and makes the translator liable for any translation mistakes should they occur (unlikely for highly professional services).

  3. Awesome article, good page style, maintain the good work

  4. Translators play a vital role in any business. They help in conveying the information precisely from one language to another in various countries across the globe. These translators offer different services. Usually, translators deal with written communication.Globalization is the trend today and hence, it becomes extremely important to get your global facts and language right while planning to expand your educational or professional horizon. While English is the accepted language in most of the world, it is always good to have a command over one more international language to take you to the heights you aspire to reach.

  5. Have you tried processing a translation through the FCO? After 2 attempts and rejections I eventually got an apostille service to do the job for me. I think I only paid about £50 and they had the apostille issued in just 2 days. May be of use to some of your visitors. I went with in Coventry. I just wish I had used the straight away. Hope it helps anyone else who struggles. Dave.

  6. Thanks for your tip Dave! As you said it might be useful to somebody who needs it. I find that most of my clients don’t, but you never know:)

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