Preparing a Translation for Submission to the United States Government

Written by Helen Eby in collaboration with Jamie Hartz

Many documents that are submitted to U.S. Government agencies must be submitted along with a statement indicating that the translator is skilled to perform their task. This can be called a translator’s statement, statement of accuracy, certification, translator’s declaration, etc. I’ll call it a “translator’s statement” here as I dive into the requirements that you are most likely to see when preparing documents like this. I’ll also offer some tips on how to best ensure that your translation will make the client’s process easier and not harder – for instance, don’t forget to sign the statement!

First of all, keep in mind that “certifying” a translation (by creating and signing a translator’s statement) is different from being certified (by ATA or any other entity), having a certificate, or having any other validating credentials. See more about the difference between a certificate and certification at this post on The Savvy Newcomer from April 2017: https://atasavvynewcomer.org/2017/04/04/translation-certificate-vs-certification/.

If a client requests that the translator be “certified” in order to “certify” the translation, you should also bear in mind that multiple entities can offer certifications and you will need to look into what certification is required and what language pairs that certification is available in. For example, ATA certification is widely accepted in the United States, but the credential is only offered for the language pairs listed here: https://www.atanet.org/certification/aboutcert_overview.php. In other words, Somali into English is not a language pair in which you can receive ATA certification, so keep this in mind if your language pair is not highly common in the U.S. and clients are asking for you to provide proof of certification – you may not be able to! However, in most cases you can still “certify” the translation by providing the written and signed translator’s statement.

A few elements are required by nearly all entities requesting translator’s statements, whereas some are based on preference of the individual agency or client.

Generally accepted and required:
Translator’s name and signature
Certification that the translator is competent to translate the language in question
Certification that the translation is complete and accurate

Sometimes required:
Date
Translator contact information
Notarization

N.B.: Notarization may involve charging the client for my time going to the notary’s office and back, waiting there, and paying the notary. In addition, some notaries are not willing to work with documents in foreign languages. I charge the official certified court interpreting rate for my time when running this errand, for the sake of objectivity.

I like to use the following template as a translator’s statement. (I’ve inserted nonsense text here in place of the information you will need to fill out on your own.) This template is a combination of the two sample templates I’ve included at the bottom of this article by NCSC and USCIS, respectively, and it contains all the information I have found necessary in a translator’s statement. In other words, this template is comprehensive enough to be accepted by USCIS, state courts, and the State Department (and hypothetically the IRS, whose requirements at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf do not specify what constitutes a “certified translation”). I try to include this statement as a footer on the document in question so that it does not get separated from the translation itself.

Element Purpose
I, Jane Brown, Translator’s name
certified by the American Translators Association for Klingon to English translation, Certification to support competency statement to follow; other credentials listed by the NCSC include court certification and graduation from a translation program. List all that apply.

Yes, I know ATA does not certify from Klingon to English!

hereby certify that I am competent to translate the attached Statement of competency
[marriage certificate], identified with serial number __________________, from Klingon to English and have translated it fully and accurately. Description of document and its markings
I have translated it on February 43, 2059. Date of translation (completion or delivery)
I can be reached at 123 SW Hot Dog Street, Town, State, Zip Code or by email at zipityzip@something.com. Address and email contact information for backup.
[Signature] I usually sign across the full translator’s statement, which is included as a footer on the document. I sign in blue ink (handwritten, not a digital signature) so it contrasts and it is clear that this is an original. In Oregon, where I live, legal signatures must be in blue ink or at least ink that is not black.

Full text of my translator’s statement (go ahead and copy it! I even created an autocorrect setting in Word so that if I type “certrans” it automatically converts the text to the following paragraph):

“I, Jane Brown, certified by the American Translators Association for Klingon to English translation, hereby certify that I am competent to translate the attached marriage certificate, identified with serial number __________________, from Klingon to English and have translated it fully and accurately. I have translated it on February 43, 2059. I can be reached at 123 SW Hot Dog Street, Town, State, Zip Code or by email at zipityzip@something.com.

[Signature]”

Resources:

  1. National Center for State Courts recommended template (from Guide to Translation of Legal Matters, page 12):

“I, ______________, certified by the (state name) Administrative Office of the Courts for Spanish-English court interpreting and accredited by the American Translators Association for Spanish to English translation, do hereby declare that the attached birth certificate, identified with serial number ___________, is a true and correct translation of the Spanish original.”

  1. USCIS recommended template (as stated in form N-400’s application instructions):

“I [typed name], certify that I am fluent (conversant) in the English and ________ languages, and that the above/attached document is an accurate translation of the document attached entitled ______________________________.
Signature _________________________________
Date
Typed Name
Address”.

  1. Instructions document for the following forms (you will need to click the link to “Instructions for Form ___” once you click on the hyperlink below:

Annual Certification of a Regional Center (https://www.uscis.gov/i-924a)
Application to Register Permanent Residence (https://www.uscis.gov/i-485)
Application for Naturalization (https://www.uscis.gov/n-400)

  1. USCIS requirements (https://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/154965.htm)
  2. USCIS form filing tips (https://www.uscis.gov/forms-filing-tips)
  3. IRS Form W-7 instructions (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf)
  4. National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Guide to Translation of Legal Matters

What are your thoughts, readers? Have you been asked to create a translator’s statement before, and if so, how did you go about it?

Image credit: Pixabay

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