Understanding Legalised Translations in the UK

by neilpayne on May 1, 2014

  • SumoMe

Within the legal field, especially in the UK, language translation is very much something lawyers at all levels have to deal with. As well as having to learn about the different languages, the processes and other areas that impact the legal sector, “legalised” translations is something many struggle with.

Why? In short, because there is no one type of legalised translation as in other countries. Here in the UK, we have options and as a result it can be confusing as to what type of legalised translation is needed and when.

To ensure you ask for the right type of legalised translation, I have set out the main types of legalised translation below.

  1. Legalised translations
  2. Notarised translations
  3. Certified translations
  4. Sworn translations

Legalised Translations

A legalised translation is generally required for legal matters that occur outside the UK. Legalised translations must be companied by the original document and, in some cases, affixed with the Hague Apostille. Nations that work under the Hague Convention require this stamp. In other situations, the translated document may simply need a stamped legal declaration. Documents that typically require this level of authentication include marriage certificates, visas, adoption papers, birth certificates, and others. Again, legalised translations are almost exclusively used for translations that occur in nations other than the UK.

Notarised Translations

Notarised translations are similar to legalised translations in that they must be authenticated in some way. With notarized translations however, the translator must appear before a Public Notary to certify that they are a qualified translator and that the document has been accurately and thoroughly translated. They provide their signature for the Public Notary, and the Notary will keep copies of the documents for their own records. The Notary will then provide a special certification stamp on each page indicating that the translation has been certified and notarised. Notarised translations are frequently required by official governmental organizations within the UK.

Certified Translations

Certified translations are effectively translations that have been certified by the translators or the translation agency themselves. With these translations, the translator does not need to appear before the Public Notary. Instead, the translator certifies that the translation is accurate and thorough to the best of their knowledge by affixing a stamp to each page of the document. This is commonly used in employment and sometimes academic areas. Certain legal proceedings may accept certified translations.

Many different types of documents can receive a certified translation. Some of these include marriage certificates, academic records, medical transcripts, birth certificates, divorce certificates, regulatory documents, and household bills. These are typically used if you’re seeking employment, academic verification, or legal documents of some kind. This is the most common type of translation for many individuals.

Sworn Translations

Typically used in legal proceedings for individuals in the UK, sworn translations occur when the translator testifies in front of a commissioner, solicitor, or notary that the translation is accurate. This is similar to a notarised translation, but it is considerably less formal. The notary does not have to keep any documents for their records, and sworn translations are typically inexpensive by comparison to notarised translations.

If you need a legalised translation in the UK, then you will likely use one of the options above. Always make sure you fully understand where the translated document will be used and ensure you know the level or type of legalisation needed. Even within courts there can sometimes be a difference in what they deem as “legalised”. With this information, you can then ensure you go down the correct route in either dealing with the document.

It is also important to note that outside of the UK, the nature of a legalised translation is very different. In some countries you can only use translators from a government approved list of translators. In others there are certain formats and stamps that must appear on all documentation…so ensure you do your homework!

Neil Payne is the Founder of Kwintessential - an agency specialising in language services for business. 45% of their work is for the legal sector.

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