How To Translate Immigration Documents (and Why You Need To)

In a Nutshell

Applying for immigration benefits requires a lot of paperwork. In additional to official forms from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), most applicants will also have to submit supporting documents with their application. These are personal documents, such a birth certificate or passport, that help prove the information on your application. If any of your supporting documents aren’t in English, you must submit a certified English translation of the document to USCIS with your application. 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
Updated September 26, 2023

What Are the USCIS-Certified Document Translation Requirements?

Whether you’re applying for a marriage green card, citizenship, or  another immigration status, USCIS requires certain supporting documents to prove your eligibility. If these documents are written in a language other than English, you must have them translated and certified before submitting them to USCIS. 

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. Applicants must use a certified translator to translate foreign-language documents. 

What Does “Certified Translation” Mean? 

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: 

  • Birth certificates

  • Marriage certificates 

  • Divorce certificates 

  • Police records

  • Academic transcripts

  • Bank statements

Passports do not need an English translation. 

What Is a Certification Letter?

USCIS requires applicants to submit a certification letter that confirms that the document’s translator is fluent in English and the language of the document that they translated. This helps certify the accuracy of the translation.

The certification should also include the translator’s full name, address, and phone number, along with the translator's signature and signing date.

There is no need for notarization. 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 for your reference:

Example of an immigration translation certification

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?‍

Yes, 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 certificate of translation letter. T

he 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 the document 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 both of the following:

  • A copy of the original document

  • A word-for-word English translation of the original document with a translator's certification

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. 

Visit our learning center if you are interested in learning more about the application processes for immigration applications like green cards or naturalization.

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 translation 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.  The American Translators Association also (ATA) has great resources.