Whether you are completing a citizenship application, marriage green card application, DACA renewal, or some other application, U.S. immigration law probably requires you to include supporting personal documents with your paperwork. If you are like most immigrants, many of these personal documents are written in a foreign language. Every document you submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that is written in a language other than the English language must be translated into English. In this article, we explain what USCIS's immigration translation requirements are, who is allowed to make these translations, how much professional document translation costs, and how to get a USCIS certified translation of your immigration documents.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Written December 3, 2020
What Are the USCIS-Certified Document Translation Requirements?
Whether you’re applying for a marriage green card, citizenship by naturalization, or DACA renewal, or some other immigration status, USCIS requires you to provide various common documents to prove that you are eligible. These documents are often written in a language other than English, and because of this, they will have to be translated and certified before you submit them to USCIS. Applicants must use a certified translator to translate these documents.
When submitting copies of any foreign-language documents to USCIS you must also submit English translations of the same documents but in English. For example, let’s say your birth certificate is in Spanish. You would need to submit a copy of the Spanish version along with a certified English birth certificate translation when you apply.
Translated documents must include a certificate from the translator or certified translation service to verify the document’s accuracy. By doing this, a translator shows that they speak and understand both the foreign language and English. Google translate cannot replace a professional translator.
Common documents that require an accurate translation include the applicant’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, police records, and bank statements. Passports do not need an English translation. You can learn more about the supporting documents needed for marriage green cards, K-1 fiance visas, and U.S. citizenship Applications, on our website.
Can I Translate My Own Immigration Documents?
Applicants, their spouses, or other family members may translate the applicant's foreign-language documents into English. However, the translator must certify their English competency by including a written or typed certification letter. The letter must include a simple statement that the translator is fluent in English and in the native language of the source document. The document must also include the translator’s signature, date, full name, and address.
Immigration officers that process applications decide whether translated documents meet USCIS’s standards. If the officer finds that the translation does not meet the requirements of a USCIS certified translation, then they may ask you to resubmit it with a new translation. This will delay your application. If you or your family member are unsure that your translation meets USCIS requirements, you may want to use a professional translation service to ensure that your documents will be accepted.
Check out the U.S. State Department website for a list of immigration translation requirements for documents in foreign languages.
How Do I Translate a Document for Immigration?
Non-English immigration documents that you are submitting to USCIS require (1) a copy of the original document and (2) a word-for-word English translation of the original document with a translator's certification. Immigration authorities require both an original copy of the document and a certified English translation. Even though immigration officers may not be able to read the original foreign language version of a document, they must still compare it with similar documents from the applicant’s home country. By doing this, your immigration officer can confirm that your documents are real and process your application.
When submitting a birth certificate, it is best to use the “long-form” version of the certificate when possible. The long-form version includes enough details to prove crucial information like family relationships. You can submit a short-form birth certificate, but the long-form birth certificate has more comprehensive information to aid immigration officers in processing your application.
You must submit typed translations of each of the foreign language documents you are submitting. The certification letter itself can be handwritten, but it is best to submit a typed certification letter if possible. This helps to avoid a situation where the immigration cannot read your handwriting. Processing immigration applications can take a long time, and you can avoid potential delays in processing applications by submitting typed documents.
USCIS requires that you submit a certification letter that confirms that your document’s translator is fluent in English and the foreign language of the document. A certification should state a translator's fluency in both English and the foreign language that they translated. The certification should also include the translator’s full name, address, and phone number; and the translator's signature and signing date.
There is no need to find a notary. You don’t need to provide a notarized translation of the documents. As long as you submit a certification along with your translated documents, you should be fine. Here is an example of a certification letter from the U.S. State Department that you can use:
What Should I Do if My Document Is an Abbreviated Version of an Original?
Many government agencies worldwide will generate an “extract” or abbreviated (shorter) version of birth certificates and other original documents. Agencies commonly do this because portions of their documents may only be used internally. Applicants should submit their long-form birth certificates when possible. However, if you receive a short-form document don’t worry — this happens!
Compare the information listed on the shorter document with USCIS’ information requirements. If the shorter document lists the information required by USCIS and the document was prepared by an official government agency, USCIS will accept the short document.
How Much Does a USCIS-Certified Immigration Translation Cost?
You can expect to pay around $20-$40 per page when you use translation services providers like RushTranslate, that ImmigrationHelp has vetted and recommends. This price depends on the document translation service, number of pages, location, and document complexity. For example, for a one-page translation of 250 words or fewer. RushTranslate charges $25.
In addition to being affordable, they translate immigration documents from more than 60 languages and you have a 100% guarantee that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept your translation. Please also note that ImmigrationHelp may receive a referral fee if you decide to use the service after clicking our referral link.
If you prefer to work with another translation provider, it’s best to check local listings and reviews before purchasing. Check the agency's reviews before purchasing their services. For example, average reviews of 4.5 and above on websites like TrustPilot or A+ ratings by the Better Business Bureau can indicate good service. Many services will also give you a free quote, so make sure that you do your research before you commit.
Proper document translation is a common challenge that applicants face when going through the immigration process. We hope that you found our guide on document translation for a green card application useful. Immigration Documents can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!