Notarised, sworn and certified translations are often required when you are submitting documents for official purposes. Whenever you need to provide evidence that the translation work you’ve had done is professional and accurate.

You might be moving into or out of Singapore for work purposes. You might be applying to a college or university in another part of the world.

Wherever you’re moving to and for whatever reason, getting official translations of your important documents is almost always the first step.

But it’s important to understand the differences between these three types of translation certification. Notarised, sworn and certified translations might sound like synonyms. Yet you need to pay close attention to what is being asked for in each specific case.

What kind of documents commonly need official translation?

The most common documents you would need to translate and have certified might include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Your passport or driving license
  • Permanent residence registration
  • Court documents
  • Your employment contract
  • Your degree documentation, academic transcripts or supporting information for overseas stud
  • Medical documents
  • Singapore citizenship documents

What is the difference between certified, notarised and sworn translation?

Certified translations

A certified translation can only be completed by a professional translation company. The translated document comes with a signed statement by the translator that confirms the translation is a full and accurate representation of the original and has been handled by a qualified professional.

Another important aspect of the statement is the name and address of the translator and their agency, along with their official stamp. This is seen as a measure of quality and confidence in the standard of the translation. A certified translation gives you – and the authority requesting it – the knowledge that your translation has been accomplished by legally registered linguists.

Targets: passports and immigration documents, court transcripts and documents as well as birth, death and marriage certificates often call for certified translation.

Notarised translations

A notarised translation calls for the services of a specific type of public official known as a notary public. The linguist who has handled the translation needs to go before this official and sign an affidavit that it is a true and accurate representation of the original document.

You don’t strictly need an official certified translator if the requirement is a notarised translation. All that’s necessary is that the person who completed the translation go in front of the notary and sign the document to say it’s accurate.

However, if you want to ensure the quality of the translation you are getting is high, using a qualified professional is always a good idea.

Targets: academic transcripts, diplomas, degrees and other types of education-related documents are the most common targets for notarised translation.

Sworn translations

In order to deliver a sworn translation, a translator must be “sworn in”. This means they take an oath in a court of law that the translations they provide will be accurate representations of the original document.

Sworn translators are the only kind who can provide this kind of translation – and usually only in the specific national jurisdiction covered by the court they were sworn in at. They can then add their stamp or seal to the translated document.

Targets: unsurprisingly given the legal nature of swearing-in, legal documents are those most commonly in need of sworn translation. This might include things like documents of incorporation or patent certificates.

Apostille translations (also known as Hague Apostille)

Another common type of official translation is the Apostille or Hague Apostille.

This takes advantage of an international agreement, sometimes called the Hague Convention, Apostille Agreement or Apostille Convention. As of 2021, 120 different states have signed this agreement. All of these states have agreed that as long as certain requirements are met, a translated document that has been notarised in one signatory state acquires the same status in all of the others.

Singapore is one of these states. Within each signatory state, there are specified competent authorities who can attach the Apostille to documents. In Singapore, this is the Singapore Academy of Law.

When do I need official translation in Singapore?

In Singapore, two of the most common reasons organisations that require official translations of documents submitted to them are the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

The MoM has particularly exacting standards, so it’s important to always choose a translation agency that will meet them. For example, Asian Absolute has not yet failed to meet those expectations.

You can find detailed instructions of the translation requirements each organisation asks for on their websites. For instance, the ICA accepts:

  1. Translations provided by the national embassy of the document issuing country.
  2. Translations created by a notary public in Singapore or the document issuing country.
  3. Professional translations signed by a notary public in Singapore or the embassy in the document issuing country.

It is important to note that as of relatively recent changes in the law, all notarised translations in Singapore need to be additionally authenticated by the Singapore Academy of Law. This organisation licenses hundreds of notaries public in an effort to centralise the process and guarantee all notaries are qualified professionals.

It’s also worth noting that there should not be any occasions where you need to submit multiple types of official translation. Either a certified translation or a notarised translation – whichever the authority you are working with requires – should be enough.

How do I get the most effective official translation?

1) Choose a reliable translation agency

Does the translation agency you have chosen have experience of providing this kind of official translation? If not, using them may be risky.

As mentioned, some translations companies – such as Asian Absolute – have extensive experience meeting the high standards expected by the Ministry of Manpower as well as other important institutions in Singapore that require this kind of certification. This might include organisations such as the ICA, the Land Transport Authority, educational institutions, and many others.

Don’t simply assume that your usual Language Service Provider (LSP) has matching levels of experience.

2) Make sure they use subject matter specialists

Even for notarised translation, where technically the fact that it is notarised counts more than the actual quality, you should always aim to use a professional linguist who is a specialist in the given field.

For instance, Asian Absolute only ever uses linguists with qualifications and/ or experience in law to handle the translation of legal documents such as patents. That’s because subject matter expertise is vital if you want your document to feature accurate translations of important legal terminology and the like.

If you want your translation to be accurate as well as certified, notarised or sworn, this is always a question worth asking your Language Service Provider: who exactly will be handling my translation?

3) Pay the necessary official fees

Both the notary public and the Singapore Academy of Law charge to notarise documents. The size of this charge may depend on the number of documents you have.

The fact that you are being charged means it’s always worth putting the effort in to ensure that the translation you have created is competent and of high quality.

4) Check to make sure your LSP handles the correct type of translation

Armed with your newfound knowledge of notarised, sworn and certified translations in Singapore, it’s easy to see how important it is to select a Language Service Provider that knows the difference – and that has experience of delivering the specific type of official translation you are looking for.

If in any doubt, it’s always worth asking your go-to translation agency for advice. They’re the experts and should be able to give you a detailed report on what you need.

Do you need certified, sworn or notarised translation in Singapore?

Asian Absolute has not yet failed to meet the standards expected by the Ministry of Manpower – as well as numerous other official bodies.

Tell us what you need to translate today. Contact us and we’ll provide a free, no-obligation quote.