Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 1, 2014

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Yes, you may submit a document completed in a foriegn language with your asylum application, but it must have a certified English translation with it. The certification must include the name, signature, and address of the person who prepared the translation. When the translator signs to certify the translation, he or she must also date when they completed the translation and state which languages they are fluent in. This certification requirement applies to documents submitted at any stage of your asylum application. For example, if you submit a foreign-language document with your application, obviously, it must include the certification. If you are required to bring additional foreign-language documents to an interview after your application is filed, those documents must include a certified English translation as well to be considered. 

Selecting a Certified Translator

Because the documents represent at least part of your explanation of why you are requesting asylum, take care in selecting a competent certified translator. When searching for a translator, make sure you seek one that is fluent in your native language. Obviously, do not select a Russian certified translator if you speak Vietnamese. Less obvious though, is dialects. The Spanish language, for example, is riddled with different dialects depending on where you were raised (i.e. Mexico, Spain, areas of South America, or even different regions within the United States) Choose a translator with experience in the language in your region. If you are working with an immigration attorney, chances are that they already have a relationship with a translator they trust. Most states will also have lists of certified translators that can provide a starting point for finding a translator near you. Choosing a less-than-qualified translator could result in a negative interpretation of your supporting documents. 

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Translation vs. Legal Advice

Even though you are submitting certified translations, do not neglect the quality of your original foreign-language documents. They must also be submitted in a legible form. Conversely, many forms and guides prepared by the U.S. government for immigration applications are available in different languages. Even though it may be tempting to use your translator to explain the asylum process to you, keep in mind they are only certified to translate, not give legal advice. If you don’t know what a document says, use your translator. If you don’t know what a document means, seek the advice of a licensed immigration attorney.