Although the process of obtaining a certified translation in China is well-established, for most foreigners it is complicated and difficult to understand. In this article, we’ll explain how certified translation works in the People’s Republic of China.
In order to study, work, or do business in China, you must provide documentation to local agencies and institutions throughout the visa application process. If any document is not already in Chinese, a certified translation must be provided as well.
What is a certified translation?
A translation is certified when a professional translator, translation company, or specialized organization provides a signed or stamped statement attesting that the translation is a complete and accurate translation of the original document.
This certification enables the receiving institution to contact the translator if there is any doubt about the veracity of the documentation. Thus, in addition to being responsible for the accuracy of his work, the translator must also remain available to local authorities.
Which documents require certified translation in China?
All public documents issued by foreign institutions that are required for administrative procedures in China must be certified. These include:
- Birth, death, marriage, divorce, kinship certificates.
- Elementary school, middle school, high-school certificates.
- Bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, post-doctorate degrees.
- Diplomas, certifications, academic transcripts, graduation certificates.
- Passports, recommendation letters, non-criminal record certificates.
- CVs, academic records, medical examinations.
- Memorandums of understanding, lease agreements, international contracts.
- Deeds of incorporation.
These and similar documents are required for such procedures as the following:
- Registering for Chinese language and culture courses.
- Enrolling in elementary school, middle school and high-school.
- Enrolling in bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral or post-doctoral programs.
- Applying for scholarships.
- Applying for a work permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
- Applying for visas from the Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security in order to study, attend family reunions, work, or do business.
- Processes at the National Administration for Industry and Commerce.
- Signing of agreements, memorandums of understanding and international contracts.
Who is authorized to certify translations in China?
In China, official institutions cannot offer certification licenses to individuals or freelance translators. Only companies are authorized by the government to provide certified translation services if they meet the following requirements:
- The company possesses a valid business license（营业执照 in Mandarin）。
- Translation is listed in their business scope（经营范围：翻译）。
- The company has an official seal（公章）。
- The company possesses a specialized translation seal（翻译专用章）。
How to obtain a certified translation in China?
In China, only companies registered with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce are authorized to provide certified translation services. Translation must be listed in their business scope.
Such companies must also obtain a specialized translation seal from the Public Security Bureau. Registration facilitates additional control by local authorities.
Translations must adhere to the original format. This means that they must display the same arrangement of text and graphic elements (such as emblems, stamps, and signatures) that are found in the original documents.
Content must be processed in a faithful and complete manner. The entire text must be professionally translated, and any elements of the document with no equivalent in the target language must be clearly and concisely labeled.
Certified translations in China are issued in a single original copy that consists of:
- A printed translation in Mandarin Chinese, each page of which is stamped with the specialized translation seal.
- A printed copy of the business license that is stamped with the company seal.
The institution reviewing the documents will request the original documents at the time of application. If you do not submit all of the original documents, the certified translations will be rejected.
What is the difference between a certified translation and a notarized translation?
A certified translation is produced under the supervision of a professional translator. A notarized translation emphasizes adherence to the official protocols between two nations.
A Chinese institution may require either type. Certified translations are often required to validate legal, academic, immigration, and civil registry documents. Notarized translations are often required to validate academic or civil registry documents in accordance with international protocols.
What should you prepare to obtain a Chinese certified translation?
- Check directly with the institution reviewing your application to confirm the type of translation required. In Mandarin, “certified translation” is written 翻译公司翻译盖章 ，and “notarized translation” is written 公证处翻译。
- Since the final version of the translation must include the graphic elements of the original document, prepare clearly scanned versions of original documents before requesting any type of translation.
- The translation company is responsible for the accuracy of the translation, so it cannot stamp translations performed by third parties.
- The normal turnaround time for one document is one business day. If you are requesting translation of several documents, be careful not to try to rush the process. Both the accuracy of the translation and the quality of the presentation are important. If either is deficient, a translation may be rejected.
We hope that this article answers all your questions about certified translation. Whether you are an expat currently living in China or are thinking about living in China for an extended period of time, the process will involve the requirements that we have described.