Official documents, such as certificates of births, marriages and deaths, criminal record checks, driving licences and no-claims bonuses, bank statements, education certificates and similar records are of such importance these days that a sound translation produced in good time is vital.
The translation obviously needs to be accurate. Most translators will have seen each type of document many times before and it is therefore a relatively straightforward job to translate it. Less helpfully, official language and practices can vary a lot from language to language and country to country so the translation should reflect the meaning even if it cannot offer terms or concepts that exactly match those in the original language.
Clients should also ensure that their deadlines can be met. A translation agency should normally be able to provide a translation within even quite tight timescales, though the longer the client allows, the more likely it is they will get a quality translation back. In addition, it can cost more to get a job done in a last-minute rush than at a more natural pace.
Often relevant authorities require the translator to certify that the translation is accurate and produced by a professional. Therefore, clients should seek certified translations from full members of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting or the Association of Translation Companies.
The British system of certifying translations is very straightforward, rarely requiring more than a declaration from a translator that they are a member of the relevant professional organisation. In many other countries, translations may need to be sworn before a lawyer or notary and officially stamped, but this is almost never necessary in the United Kingdom. As a result of practices in their home country, clients can sometimes feel that legal approval is required for translations but, again this is rarely the case in the UK, and usually only if the translation needs to be used in court.
Although these documents are important to clients, they represent small jobs for translators. Do bear in mind that, although costs may appear high for a page or two of text, the translator or agency has overheads and administration time to include in their fees.