Legalised, Sworn, Notarised and Certified Translation

questionYou need to have some important documents translated but you don’t know what kind of translation you require? Is it certified translation, sworn or notarised? With or without an affidavit? And what’s the difference? If all these expressions are making your head spin don’t worry, you’re not the only one. So let’s see how they are different.

  1. Common Law vs. Civil Law.

    First of all, there are differences beginning with the legal system in which the translation agency operates, so a certified translation will be something different in a country under civil law, such as France, Italy or Poland, and in the common law reality of the UK.

  2. Purpose.

    Perhaps one of the major questions to be answered here is why we need certified translations at all. The answer is responsibility: any kind of certification given to the translated document allows for identifying of the translator in case anything goes wrong later on. In other words, it is not the accuracy that is being certified but the declaration of the translator (or a solicitor/notary as well) that the translation is indeed accurate. The difference between certified, sworn and notarized translations is essentially that of the amount of the responsibility taken.

  3. Certified Translation.

    This is the most basic certificate, given to the translated document by a UK registered translation agency. It is generally accepted by most institutions, so for example if you need to translate some documents for the Home Office, this is usually as far as you need to go.


    Sworn Translation (with an Affidavit).

    The affidavit is the crucial word here. It is a sworn statement delivered in front of a solicitor, confirming the accuracy of the translation that the translator presented to them in person. The word “sworn” derives from the fact that the translator needs to swear that the document has been translated to the best of their knowledge and ability. Translations with an affidavit might be requested by institutions such as embassies, for example if you want to apply for a visa.


    Notarised Translation.

    This type is usually reserved for foreign institutions such Ministries of Foreign Affairs etc. If you need to use a legal document outside of the country, you might be asked to notarize it. As the name suggests, the certification is done by a notary public, who delivers not only an affidavit, but also puts a seal on the translated document.


    Legalised Translation with an Apostille.

    This is the crème de la crème of certified translations, usually needed for important documents submitted abroad. The apostille is a document which verifies the authenticity of the notary public’s seal and all the signatures and stamps. It is issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

 certified translationsTo sum up, certified translations have 4 types:

  • the basic certified translations
  • sworn translations (or translations with and affidavit)
  • notarised translations
  • legalised translations with an apostille.

And they come exactly in this order of importance. So, after reading this article, make sure that the person or institution that requires the translation from you provides you with specific instructions of which type you should choose. Good luck!