The Complete USCIS Translation Guidelines for Immigration

February 22, 2024
The Complete USCIS Translation Guidelines for Immigration

If you want to work, study or live in the USA, you will have to deal with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The USCIS will want to see documents that prove who you are. If those documents are in a language other than English, you will need to provide certified translations of them.

In this article, I’ll run you through everything you need to know about US immigration requirements in terms of certified translation and the certificate of translation USCIS requires. I’ll also include some top tips for navigating the USCIS translation requirements.

Are you ready to explore the details of USCIS translation certification? Then let’s dive in.

What Is Certified Translation?

Before I delve into the details of what USCIS-certified translation is, let’s take a step back and look at what certified translation itself means.

In short, certified translation is a way to verify that your translated documents are an accurate representation of the original documents. Certified translations are accompanied by a certificate from the translator, which confirms the accuracy and completeness of the translation. Where provided by a translation agency, the certificate of translation will likely include a company seal.

Many government departments, academic institutions, employers and other professional bodies require certified translation when individuals present them with documents that are in other languages. The translation must be undertaken by a suitably experienced and authorised translator. So if you’re wondering who can translate a birth certificate for immigration, I’m afraid it can’t be just anyone. Even if you have a friend who speaks both languages fluently, they won’t be able to provide the translation certification you need.

There are several types of certified translation. These include:

  • Certified translation: this is where a certificate of translation is provided, under the seal of a translation agency

  • Sworn certified translation: this is where the translation is accompanied by a sworn statement, made by the translator, that it is true and accurate

  • Notarized translation: also called notarization, this is a translation that has been certified by a notary

  • Legalized or apostille translation: this is where the translation is accompanied by a government-issued certificate that authenticates its origin

Which Documents Require Translation for Immigration?

The USCIS can ask for a range of documents if you wish to spend a prolonged period in the United States, whether to work, study, or simply live there. In addition to birth certificate translation for USCIS, you might be asked to provide your passport, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, evidence of the qualifications you hold, and evidence of your financial status, including bank statements or other financial documents.

Depending on the nature of your application and your country of origin or current residence, you may also have to provide transcripts, affidavits, police records, and more.

What Are the USCIS Certified Translation Requirements?

The USCIS has many strict requirements about the documentation that it requires for immigration into the US. In terms of translation, it requires a certified English translation of all documents that aren’t written in English. You may also have to provide the original document. You will also have to provide the certificate of translation USCIS requires.

USCIS document translation is often a source of stress for those going through the US immigration process, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply a matter of finding a translation agency that is suitably qualified and experienced to undertake the translations and that will provide a certificate of translation with them.

How to Obtain the Certificate of Translation USCIS Requires

Here at Tomedes, we guarantee that the translation certificates we provide come under seal and are acceptable to USCIS. That means anyone using Tomedes for their USCIS document translation requirements can sleep easy at night, knowing that the quality of their translated documents will be good enough and that the accompanying certificate of translation ticks all the right boxes.

Not only do we provide peace of mind, but we also make it easy to access our solutions. Everything can be arranged through our website, where live chat and WhatsApp assistance are available for instant connection and discussion. Our website quote form clearly shows the price for each translation job, as well as the time it will take. And for those clients who need it, we have account managers who can provide quotes by phone and email, as well.

In order to maintain the quality and validity of our certified translations, including translating documents for USCIS, we vet our global translation team carefully. This means that when it comes to certified translation USCIS is happy to accept 100% of the translations and certificates that we provide as complete, correct, and proficient translations of the original documents.

Once we have the details of what you need, we will deliver an accurate certified translation, accompanied by the certificate of translation USCIS requires. For rush jobs, we can provide an expedited solution. All documents, including the USCIS translation certification, can be delivered digitally.

USCIS Translation Certification Top Tips

Immigrating to any country can be stressful. Countries such as Canada and Spain, for example, require an affidavit of translation. While the US does not require this, it is nonetheless strict in its paperwork requirements. This means that your USCIS translation needs to be right the first time.

However, one of the reasons that people stress about the need to translate documents for USCIS is that there is no state or federal licensing in the US. This means that a lot rests on the experience and reputation of the agency undertaking the USCIS document translation and providing the accompanying certification of translation. As such, it is wise to follow these top tips if you want to achieve successful USCIS-certified translations.

Use a Native English Speaker

For any kind of translation work, it’s always best to use a translator who is a native speaker of the target language. In the case of USCIS-certified translation, that means a native English speaker – specifically, a native US English speaker.

Focus on Translation Quality

For USCIS birth certificate translation or any other kind of translation for USCIS, choose a translation agency that guarantees acceptance of its documents. In addition, look for the reassurance that the agency holds ISO 17100 certification. This is a key indicator of the quality of the translations that you can expect to receive. You can read more about ISO certifications and translations by clicking the link below.

Once you have your translation, there are certain checks that you can undertake to ensure you are happy with it, before you share it with the authorities. Firstly, check that the translation is complete – it should directly mirror the original document in terms of content, although bear in mind that different languages may take up more or less space on the page, as not all languages use the same number (or length) of words to say the same thing.

Secondly, check that the translator or agency has included their information on the certificate of translation. USCIS will be looking for translations that are both complete and accurate. If they have any concerns that this is not the case, they will want to speak to the translator or agency who signed off on the document. That person (or agency) has taken professional responsibility for the quality of the translation when signing off on it. As such, if there are no contact details on the certificate of translation, it’s a matter you should take up with the translator/agency before submitting your translated document(s) and certificate(s) of translation to USCIS.

Be Organised

When it comes to translating USCIS documentation, it’s best to be as organized as possible. That means asking your translation agency for everything you need from the outset and letting them know any deadlines you’re facing. Doing so can result in a far less stressful process than feeding your USCIS translation requirements for immigration documents to the agency one at a time as a deadline looms.

Check Individual Document Requirements: Birth Certificate Translation USCIS Example

USCIS officials should have issued you with clear guidance around not just which documents they require you to produce, but what those documents should contain. This means that you can check your source documents contain everything that USCIS requires. After all, there is little point in translating a document if it doesn’t contain sufficient information for USCIS to accept it.

Let’s consider birth certificate translation USCIS requirements as an example here. If you need a birth certificate translation for immigration, your original document will need to show your full name (first and last names, plus any middle names), your parent’s full names, your place of birth, your date of birth, and the official seal of the issuing authority. If this isn’t legible, your translator will write “illegible” on that part of the translation. You will then need to discuss the implications of this with USCIS.

Using Machine Translation for Immigration Documents

Machine translation has advanced tremendously in recent years. When combined with expert machine translation post-editing (MTPE), it can serve as a fast, consistent method of translation that delivers high-quality results (click the link below for more on that).

However, you can’t use machine translation for document translation for USCIS. There are two main issues with doing so. Firstly, when it comes to your translated birth certificate USCIS will be expecting a translation that mirrors the formatting of the original, not just the language. This means your human translator will need to work with software that presents the information in the correct visual format, tweaking and adjusting the layout as required.

Secondly, a machine is not qualified to certify the translation work it undertakes. When human translators work on certified translations for USCIS, they are certifying the quality of the work that they are delivering from a quality perspective – something that unquestionably requires a human touch.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE)

How to Become a USCIS Translation Specialist

While my main focus in this article has been on those who need their USCIS immigration documents translated, I also wanted to include a quick section for those who are looking at USCIS from a translator’s perspective.

If you want to become a certified translator in the US, the quickest way to do so is to qualify through the American Translators Association. Translators must pass a three-hour exam, which tests a range of skills, including source language comprehension, target language writing quality, and translation techniques. Full details, along with information on becoming a certified translator in countries other than the US, are available via the link below.

Read more: How to Become a Certified Translator

Wrap Up

I’ve focused above on the practicalities of certified translation for immigration into the US. My goal was to try to shed some light on the topic and support all those looking to get their paperwork in order. But that’s just part of the story.

The purpose of providing USCIS translation documents is to facilitate a move to the US, whether to study, work, or live there for any other reason. As such, anyone who needs to deal with immigration translation certification for USCIS is actually in the middle of an exciting journey. Taking the stress out of the USCIS translation side of things means that individuals can relax and enjoy the momentous, life-changing journey on which they are about to embark.

If you have moved to the US, whether to work, learn, or simply enjoy soaking up the culture and lifestyle, why not leave a comment below to share your experiences and inspire your fellow immigrants?

And if you are currently dealing with immigration paperwork and need USCIS-certified translation, why not get in touch with Tomedes?

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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