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What is a Certified Translation?

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

What does "certified translation" mean? Where can you find a certified translator in Singapore? How can you ensure that the translation will be accepted by ICA and other official bodies? Let's find out!

Let's start from the basics: what is "Certified Translation"?

A Certified Translation is the translation of a document or certificate meant for official use in a country or region where a different language is spoken.

Example: An Italian citizen who intends to apply for Singapore permanent residence (PR) will need his Italian education certificate to be translated in English and certified for official use in Singapore.

Depending on the purpose, certified translations are submitted to government agencies and official bodies in Singapore such as local embassies, ACRA, MOM, ICA, LTA or the Traffic Police.

The most common types of documents requiring certified translation are: Legal documents (including affidavit, written statements, will, bank statements), Official Certificates (including Birth Certificate, Death Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Divorce Certificate, Diploma, Driving License, Identification Card), Patents, Regulatory documents, etc.

Step 2: Legalisation and Notarisation

Official bodies in Singapore normally require certified translations to be legalised or notarised before submission. It is always advisable to consult each institution's official website before buying translation services, as certification requirements may differ.

For example, as seen in their official User Guide, ICA accepts:

  • Translations provided by the embassy of the country that issued the document, or by a notary public in Singapore or the country that issued the document;

  • Privately translated documents attested by the embassy of the country that issued the document, or notarised by a notary public in Singapore or the country that issued the document.

Therefore, unless translations are directly issued by an embassy or Notary Public, they must be compulsorily legalised or notarised before submission to ICA.

Where can you get legalisation and notarisation services in Singapore, and which one is more convenient?

Legalisation is often the cheapest and most convenient option. Several embassies in Singapore provide legalisation services, either free of charge or against a fee. For instance, the Italian Embassy in Singapore provides over-the-counter legalisation of certified translations for a small fee.

Alternatively, notarisation services are provided by a Notary Public in Singapore. By law, once the translation is notarised, the affixed Notarial Certificate must be authenticated by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL). Generally, notarisation is a more expensive service than legalisation.

Example: An Italian citizen applying for Singapore PR with ICA will first need to present the certified translation to the Italian Embassy in Singapore for legalisation. The consular officers will verify that the certified translation perfectly matches the original document and, once approved, they will legalise the translation for a small fee. As an alternative to legalisation, the certified translation can be notarised by a Notary Public in Singapore and subsequently authenticated by SAL. Once the legalisation or notarisation is complete, the certified translation is ready for submission to ICA.

What does a certified translation look like?

To be accepted by embassies and official agencies, a certified translation should:

1) be very accurate in terms of content: the terminology should be correctly translated, and proper names and dates should be flawlessly transcribed or transliterated.

2) closely reproduce the layout of the original document, which is achieved by carefully formatting the translation and inserting special parentheses in the locations where the original document displays official stamps and seals.

3) carry the translator’s signature.

4) carry the company's “Certified Translation” stamp.

Where can I find a reliable certified translator?

As an expat in Singapore, you might need certified translation services at some crucial stages of your life: maybe you wish to acquire PR status, you decided to get married or want to become legally able to drive in Singapore.

Whichever the reason, the stakes can be quite high and the process to attain your goal could be costly and/or time-consuming. Therefore, it is important to do it right the first time.

You want to entrust your translation to a reliable certified translation provider that has been legally registered in Singapore and owns a valid Unique Entity Number (UEN).

A good starting point? Check if your Embassy provides a List of Translators of reference.

Once you identify a few potential providers, do some basic checks:

  • Do they have a good track record of certified translations in the language combination you need?

  • Have they received any positive feedback for that specific service?

  • Does the company exclusively employ professional native translators?

If the above is not mentioned on the company's website, feel free to include such questions in your quotation enquiry. Do not be afraid to ask. A reliable, professional company will have no issues with providing all the information you need.

Document scan: is it OK to send it?

After your first contact, the certified translator/translation company will ask you to send them a clear picture or a scan of the documents to translate, so they can prepare a quote for you.

No need to worry - this is standard practice.

Why? The translator will need to visually ascertain how many pages the document contains and whether there are any "obstacles" that might complicate their job - for example, sections with very dense and tiny wording, hand-written text or faded parts. That way, they will be able to formulate a more accurate quote.

On the other hand, after viewing the scan, a conscientious translator or translation company will make flexible arrangements to ensure that you are being charged a fair rate.

Example: We were once asked by a client to translate his 2-page diploma. When he sent us a scanned image of the certificate, we realised that the second page merely contained 5-6 words. In that case, despite translating both pages, we were happy to count the job as one page only (and needless to say - when the client received our quote, he was very happy too).

Safety first!

Before sending any document scans and personal information, you might want to ensure that all your data and attachments will be treated as confidential. Did the language provider mention this point in their email? If that is not the case, it might be a good idea to request a copy of their privacy policy first.


Favella Translations is a Singapore-registered translation atelier specialising in Italian language and culture. We provide a range of Italian translation services including tried-and-tested certified translations for official use in Singapore. Get in touch to receive a quote!


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