My wife is a US citizen and I'm applying for green card with I-130 and I-485 concurrent filing. Birth certificate is listed in the checklist for I-485 here. But I'm in New York City and my birth certificate is in China, and it's in Chinese. I assume I need it to be translated at a notary service.

Can I bring a photocopy of my birth certificate to a Chinese notary service in NYC? Do they only notarize original copy? Is the original copy needed in future processes, such as interviews with USCIS and what not?

Basically I just want to know if it's necessary to have my family mail the original copy to me from China. Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    I would suggest that your birth certificate is a sufficiently important personal document that you should keep the original copy in any case. If you had it with you, then the rest of your question would not need to be asked. Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 1:03

3 Answers 3


It does not need to be notarized, but it needs to be translated if the information is not in English. For all the documents that you plan to submit with the form, you should submit photocopies of the original documents; if you submit originals they will not return them to you. However, if and when you go to an interview, you will need to bring the original documents for which you submitted photocopies with the application, for them to physically examine and compare with the photocopies you submitted.


https://www.boundless.com/immigration-resources/translating-immigration-documents-english/ seems to be a useful resource on translating birth certificate and other immigration documents.

Basically you need a copy of your birth certificate (not the original), and a certified translation. You should ask the office you are applying to if they have rules about who can certify translations. The translation and the letter certifying the accuracy of the translation needs to be typed, and the certifying letter should probably be notarized.


Unlike some other countries, US notaries (including State of New York) have no training in international documents. Also, according to this summary, New York State notaries are not allowed to certify copies at all. Even if you go to a neighboring state, you will probably find notaries will refuse to certify copies of birth certificates. Generally, even where notaries can certify copies, they are forbidden from certifying copies of vital records of their own state, and certifying foreign vital records is highly questionable.

Also, notaries cannot notarize a document which contains the notary's signature. So the translator must be a different person than the notary. The translator can swear in front of the notary that the letter and translation written by the translator are true, and the notary will prepare and sign a short statement that the translator appeared before the notary and took an oath.

I have never dealt with any immigration matters, but the instructions the original poster linked to seem to indicate that only a copy of the birth certificate is required. So that would make three birth-certifiate documents to be submitted: (1) a copy of the birth certifcate, in Chinese, (2) an original English translation, (3) an original letter from the translator certifying the translator is conversant or fluent in both languages, the translation is accurate, the other required details about the translator, and the notary's certificate that an oath was administered to the translator.

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