• Mariana Roccia

A Quick Guide to Official Translations in the UK


Confused about what “official translations”are? You are not alone. What constitutes as an “official” translation largely depends on the recipient country’s legal system. In countries where translating and interpreting are unregulated activities- such as the UK- determining what counts and does not count as official translations also adds to the confusion.


According to Roberto Mayoral Asensio (2003), official translations are “translations that meet the requirements to serve as legally valid instruments in a target country.” Typically, documents that require official translations include birth, marriage and death certificates, academic records, police checks, and wills, to name a few.


These documents may be translated for a variety of purposes such as to comply with legal requirements regarding immigration status, to be admitted to university or to work in a foreign country.


In this article, I will briefly refer to four types of official translations. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of what requirements to check before having your documents translated.


Certified Translations

As per the UK government’s guidelines, for a translation to be certified it must include: a) a certification statement that confirms that the translation is a true an accurate translation of the original document; b) the date; c) the full name and contact details of the translator. This statement is intended to identify the translator in terms of accountability and shall not be deemed to guarantee the quality of the translation.


Depending on the requirements, some institutions specify that only members of the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting can certify translations. These professional associations also include a list of best practices to avoid any kind of tampering such as a) sending translations only by hard copy; b) stamping, and/ or initialling each page; c) affixing the certification statement to the source document.


Sworn Translations

Unlike civil law countries where the translation profession is usually a highly regulated activity, the UK does not have a sworn translator system. Broadly speaking, sworn translators are translators with a relevant degree in the field who are appointed by the government authorities.


In Spain, for instance, sworn translators (traductores jurados) are appointed by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. In Argentina, translation is regulated both as an activity and as a professional practice, and it is compulsory for public/ certified translators (traductores públicos) to belong to a professional society (Mayoral Asensio, 2003).

The British equivalent to sworn translations are notarised translations. However, it is advisable to check with the relevant authorities whether a notarised translation will be sufficient to meet the legal requirements of the country where they will be used.


Notarised Translations

These translations are usually required for overseas purposes. A notarised translation contains a declaration that confirms that the translation is true and accurate to the original as well as the translator’s contact details and credentials.


The documents are then sworn and signed before a Notary Public who notarises the declaration. It is important to note that neither the stamp nor the signature of the Notary Public guarantee the quality of the translation, but rather it is a step further in verifying compliance with official procedures and identifying who carried out the translation.


Legalised Translations

Also, known as “Apostilled Translations.” These are one of the highest levels of certification for overseas use. An apostille is a declaration issued by the government of a country signatory to the 1961 Hague Convention confirming the authenticity of the signature and stamp or seal of a registered official- such as a Notary Public- of the country where it is issued. The apostille replaces the need for legalisation of foreign public documents for countries which are members of the 1961 Hague Convention.


For a British translation to be used as an “official” document abroad, first it needs to be certified and notarised (see above). Once these steps have been completed, the documents are then sent to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) for legalisation. If the signature or stamp of the Notary Public is deemed valid, the documents will be returned with an apostille. The legalisation process does not endorse the quality and accuracy of the translation. To request an apostille you need to get in touch with the Legalisation Office.


It is often the case that the original document needs to be legalised before being translated. Therefore, it is essential to check all the requirements with the relevant authorities before commissioning the translation to avoid any delays and redoing the process.

Download Official Translations: A Checklist for Preparing your Documents.

Your documents matter.

Translating your documents for official purposes should not be another source of stress. At M.R. Language Services, I strive to give you a stress-free experience so you can have your documents ready for when you need them.


Let’s discuss your project today.


Mariana Roccia is a certified translator and language teacher working between English and Spanish. Her specialisms are law, business, and academia. She holds an MA in Linguistics and an MA in Environmental Humanities. In addition to working as a translator, she is also involved in language research and regularly presents her findings in the field to the industry. She co-convenes the International Ecolinguistics Association, a network of over 1,200 researchers around the world, and is the Co-Editor of the book series Bloomsbury Advances in Ecolinguistics. She is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), Member of the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) and Committee Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting’s Western Regional Group. Keep in touch with Mariana on LinkedIn, Facebook and Academia.edu.