Translation clients seeking an “official translation” of a document are generally interested in translation services for an official purpose. It might range from a translation for submission to a government agency or possibly for a legal purpose. The words “official translation” have no widely recognized singular meaning. Any party requiring and official translation (or sworn translation, or certified translation, et. al.) can and should specify constitutes an official translation according to them. In the absence of a clear description of what’s considered official by a particular government agency or legal entity, those attempting to comply with the conditions of obtaining an official translation are left to guess.
For a “certified translation” below are two definitions according to the identified organizations:
1) A certified translation is a translation accompanied by a signed statement attesting that the translation is accurate and complete to the best of the translator’s knowledge and ability. Any translator or translation company may certify a translation. -American Translator’s Association (ATA)
2) A formal statement in which a translator shows that they have accurately translated a foreign-language document into English. Any foreign language document must be accompanied by a full English translation that the translator has certified as complete and correct, and by the translator’s certification that they are competent to translate the foreign language into English. -USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services)
So when the objective is to satisfy the translation requirements for a particular official purpose, it’s essential to ask for an explanation in plain terms about what’s required to meet the conditions of an official translation. Present this definition or description to prospective translation companies you’re considering and allow them to comment on their ability to meet the requirements.