Which documents need to be translated into English?
Any document that the U.S. government requires for a green card application must be translated into English — whether that document applies to the sponsoring spouse or the spouse seeking the green card. Some examples include:
- Birth certificate (this is the most common document needing translation)
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce papers (if you were previously married)
- Police records
- Bank statements
Who is qualified to translate a foreign-language document into English?
Any person who considers themselves competent in both English and the document’s original language (such as Mandarin or Spanish) can be the certified translator. (See below for a full explanation of the certification requirement.)
Although the current immigration law allows you or your spouse to be your own translators — if you can certify that you are truly competent in both languages — the decision to accept a certified English translation is always at the discretion of the immigration officer reviewing your documents. It is therefore a good idea to seek the help of a professional translation service or a friend or family member with such experience to avoid any delays or complications with your marriage-based green card application.
Some U.S. embassies and consulates also restrict acceptable translators to certain agencies. The U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece, for instance, will only accept translations from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Make sure to check the specific requirements of the U.S. embassy or consulate in your area before enlisting a service.)
Should the translation be typed, or can it be handwritten?
The translation itself must be typed. It must also be accompanied by a certification letter from the translator (see below for more details). Although technically it’s allowed for that certification letter to be handwritten, it’s best to type it up — nobody wants a green card application delay due to poor-quality documents.
Does the translation need to be notarized?
The government’s official rules do not formally require a translation to be notarized. According to the U.S. Department of State’s website, however, “the certification of the translator’s credentials is usually notarized.” In other words, it’s generally a good idea to have the certification letter notarized if possible.
At what stage are translations required?
Most supporting documents, along with any necessary translations, are submitted as part of the initial green card application package. However, you may need to submit your documents at other stages of the green card application process, such as if the government sends extra questions through a request for evidence (RFE). You will also bring original copies of your documentation, including translations, when you attend the green card interview.