Extracts of Record for Visa Purposes


A colleague and I were discussing translations of personal documents for visa applications recently, and I was surprised to learn that attorneys regularly ask her for form-based translations of birth certificates. Rather than have her produce a full, alternate-language copy of the original record, they want a data table filled out (similar to the new, multi-lingual extract of record in the EU). In all my years providing translations of birth, marriage, and divorce certificates, I have never had this request from any agency or direct client—and the news went against all my training.

According to both the US State Department website, and to my great relief, the attorneys are not technically correct to ask for this format change:

Translations. Any document containing foreign language submitted to the Service shall be accompanied by a full English language translation which the translator has certified as complete and accurate, and by the translator’s certification that he or she is competent to translate from the foreign language into English.

(emphasis added; source: www.state.gov)

The USCIS website says the same thing:
11.3 Foreign Language Documents and Translations.
(a) Document Translations .
All documents submitted in support of an application or petition must include complete translation into English. In addition, there must be a certification from the translator indicating that the translation is complete and accurate and attesting to his or her competence as a translator. See 8 CFR 103.2(b)(3) .
(emphasis added; source: www.uscis.gov)
USCIS notes that, for countries with lengthy and dense civil recording practices, the “keeper of a record” will sometimes issue an extract (a simplified or abridged version), which can be accepted as long as it comes from an official, authorized record-keeper and contains adequate information about the individual(s). Translators are only meant to provide complete and accurate translations of the record—not shorten it.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if these websites were maybe out of date, or (more likely) out of sync with actual practices used by civil servants to process requests.  The truth is, neither my colleague who translates into a form template nor I have heard of issues with the applications that use either of our methods. So now, I am curious…
What has your experience been? Have you been asked to translate a document into a different format? Have you had issues with providing translations for visa applications? Please share below!



US Citizenship process to change May 5

Beginning May 5th, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be requiring the use of a new naturalization application that is 21 pages long, compared to the 10-page form currently used. Eligibility requirements have not changed. (Click here to see them.)

naturalization ceremony

USCIS claims that the longer application includes more detailed instructions and information about eligibility, and thus should be easier to understand, while others argue that a lengthier form will intimidate citizen-hopefuls who speak English as a second (or third, or fourth…) language and take more time to fill out—a daunting prospect for organizations that assist prospective citizens.

Shortly after releasing news of the updated form, USCIS issued a press release about the availability of a grant for organizations that assist people interested in naturalizing.

What does this mean for translators and interpreters? I’m not sure, but I suspect that legal aid and similar organizations you might do pro bono work for may need extra help after May 5, and again in September when grant winners are announced. Consider offering your volunteer services now. You can help sight-translate forms, prepare supporting documents in English, give short presentations in non-English languages… and I’m sure you and your pro bono clients can think of others. The New Americans Campaign has a list of partners around the country you can contact.

Good luck to all the prospective Americans out there!