The requirement for official documents in other countries, for the purpose of further education, employment, or any other instance, requires the use of translations that help the host country identify the documents and understand them for their intent. In this regard, there are two document types that are asked for routinely, and people mistake these two as interchangeable or ‘essentially the same thing.’ In this blog, we will take on this adage and understand the differences between a certified copy and a certified translation. While they are required for international affairs, within a country with many regional languages being spoken, this may be a requirement within that country as well. 

Let’s start by looking at each and understanding precisely what a certified copy and a certified translation actually mean. Then, we can progress onto the differences between the two and how, by using a notary public, you can ensure your document’s integrity and acceptability everywhere. 

What is a certified copy?

A certified copy is described as a certified photocopy of an original document required by a specific authority or government for public use or governmental purposes. Usually, a certified copy comes with a document or a certificate that attests to the fact that this is indeed a copy of the original document. However, it is essential to note here that the certificate does not imply that the contents of the photocopy are original or not, and it is entirely possible that some or all details might have been forged, doctored, or altered. The document or certificate does state that the copy is an ‘accurate representation’ of the source material. 

This is obviously not legitimate enough for government work; however, many countries, including the USA, UK, and Canada, accept certified copies provided they have a certificate attesting to the veracity of the document and its content, and on the caveat that upon arrival in person, the individual associated with the documents should be carrying them for verification purposes.

What is a certified translation?

As opposed to a certified copy, a certified translation, as the name implies, is a translation of the document that the host country initially requires. The requirement for a certified translation includes the fact that the translation should be accompanied by all the requirements as put forth by the country; for instance, in the case of higher education, many countries require that translations be provided for transcripts and degrees and in the case of a transcript, that sufficient explanation be provided with the translated transcript of the grades and the grading system. 

These requirements are essential: as explained beforehand, a certified translation is only acceptable when these requirements are satisfied alongside the document itself. Furthermore, as opposed to a certified copy, accepted worldwide aside from a few conditions, the acceptance requirements for certified translations vary from region to region and country to country. Here is a quick rundown of the certified translation requirements based on regions.


Requires translation to have been done by an internationally certified and qualified translator who can also assume responsibility for the integrity of both the document and its contents. In this regard, using certified translations in Europe can be a bit difficult and includes a lot of paperwork and other associated processes. 


 Countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do not have such stringent requirements for certified translations. For a translation, any translating service or professional individual can be contracted; however, the condition is that they ‘should be able to provide a statement or a declaration of veracity and authenticity against the document and its content, and the translation provided.

The difference between a certified copy and a certified translation

Given that a certified copy represents a photocopy of an original document, whereas a certified translation is the simple conversion of a document to another language, the difference between them relates much to the document’s intent. For a certified copy, the intention is to protect the official or original document from getting lost in transit, so this photocopy of the document, along with a declaration, is sent to the concerned department. This certified copy then doubles as the document on hold until the original documents can be received in person. 

On the other hand, certified translation refers to the translated document used for official purposes to convey the intent and the content of the document. For instance, certified translations are mostly used in academia, where transcripts, degrees, and other documents and diplomas are translated for the receiving country to gauge and make a decision on. While many universities and institutes of higher learning use English as their primary language, several others still use their own languages, which necessitates the use of certified translations to help the receiving institution make sense of the academic material on the documents. 

The difference, therefore, is very much apparent, and aside from the usage, it is important to note here that both are substitutes for original documents, which is why countries, immigration departments, and other concerned departments might look and question their veracity and authenticity. However, there is one way that this can be avoided. 

Notarising your documents for veracity and authenticity

By notarising your documents from a trusted notary public, you can ensure that your documents, whether certified copies or certified translations are considered perfectly authentic and verified. International authorities and countries look favorably at documents that have been verified by a notary public, and this increases the likelihood that additional authentication won’t be required or demanded. So, always look for notarising your documents, whether copies or translations, to avoid further delays in official proceedings as described beforehand.

The Notary Guy: bonafide notarization services!

The Notary Guy provides quick and reliable notarization services for all public and legal matters. In the case of government or court procedures, the notarization process can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but not with us. We provide services that will not only put you at ease but also catalyze the process and get you ever closer to resolving whatever situation you might have on your hands. Besides the attestation of official forms and documents, The Notary Guy also provides excellent notarization services for, 

  • Certified true copies
  • RIN letters
  • Visa invitation letters
  • Child travel consent letters
  • Statutory declarations 
  • Affidavits 
  • Bank forms requiring declarations
  • Name change applications
  • Common law declarations

And many more. Check out The Notary Guy for more details on our services and how our online notarization process can save you precious time.

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