An 'official' translation is generally defined as a translation that has been stamped by an Authority. 'Official' requirements vary from country to country, depending on that country’s particular legal system. Each country will also have its own system for appointing and regulating official translators. Some confusion is therefore bound to arise over what constitutes an 'official' translation. 

In the UK, Qualified ITI Members (MITI Translator or FITI Translator) and Qualified Members employed by Corporate ITI Members (Language Services Businesses) can affix ITI Certification Seals in order to certify a translation. By doing so, this renders the translation 'official', in the sense it has been done and/or certified by a Qualified ITI Member.

Generally speaking, translations commissioned by a client are understood to be delivered as 'official' in the sense that they have been paid for and are fit for purpose. If you have any queries about the protocol surrounding 'official' translations, please ask the commissioning authority for clarification or seek advice from the Embassy of the target country.

Types of Official Translation

Please see below for the different terms applied to translations:

Certified: To certify a translation, the translator must attest that the translation is a true, complete and accurate translation of the original document. Each page of the translation should be stamped and/or initialled (by the translator and/or certifying authority), to prevent any tampering or misuse. Qualified Members (MITI Translator or FITI Translator) and Qualified Members commissioned by ITI Corporate Members (Language Services Businesses) can certify translations and purchase ITI Certification Seals, to certify their work and confirm their membership of the Institute.

Legalised or Apostilled: Translations cannot be sealed with an Apostille stamp unless they carry a declaration endorsed by a Notary Public. Generally speaking the original document (which may not be a UK document) will bear the Apostille. The competent authority for issuing Apostilles in the UK is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). An Apostille verifies the authenticity of the signature and ensures that the document is recognised in all States that signed the Hague Convention of 1961; it does not endorse the content of the document. For further information see If you require an apostille, please contact the Legalisation Office.

Notarised: A notarised translation usually means that the translation either a) carries a declaration by the translator that has been signed by the Notary or b) carries a declaration by the Notary Public concerning the original document and the translation. Notarised translations are usually for the purpose of making them 'official' for overseas use and for providing accountability in terms of the translator’s details. The Notary’s signature cannot endorse the quality of the translation, unless s/he is a Qualified ITI Member in the language of the translation.

Sworn: In the UK, as a common law country, there is no such thing as a sworn translator. However, in civil law countries such as France, Spain, Germany and Italy, sworn translators (usually with a degree or other equivalent qualification in translation) are appointed and accredited by the relevant government authorities. Depending on the country, only sworn translators who are listed on the official list of sworn translators may produce a 'certified', 'sworn' or 'official' translation. If in doubt, please seek advice from the Embassy of the target country. 

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