One of the essential documents for submission when emigrating from Korea to another country is one’s Korean birth certificate and a translation of the Korean birth certificate. However, when it comes to Korean immigration documents, the term “Korean birth certificate” is actually a misnomer. There are a few other pitfalls in the translation process that you must avoid as well.
This article explains what the term “Korean birth certificate” usually means, what your certification options are, where to get your documents and how to translate or get your documents translated.
Translate your Korean birth certificate the right way and fly through the immigration process.
Photo by Steven S. Bammel
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What is a “Korean birth certificate”?
The term “Korean birth certificate” refers to a group of documents, none of them an actual “birth certificate.” In fact, you do not need to submit an actual “Korean birth certificate” in the immigration process. A Korean birth certificate is issued by a Korean hospital when a baby is born. However, this certificate is only used for registering the baby in the registry and is not used for official business after that.
In the past, important events in every Korean’s life were recorded in the Korean family register (호적부). A person was removed from this register only upon death or forfeiture of citizenship. These records were based on a family unit concept, with one person (usually the oldest male) functioning as the head of household. In addition to the head of household, the family unit would include the head of household’s spouse, unmarried children, and possibly other relatives, such as a widowed mother. Under this system, the primary document for handling official personal matters was a certified copy of the family register (호적 등본).
However, the system was revamped in 2008 and given a new name: family relationship registration system (가족관계등록부), and the documents issued under this system have changed. The new documents are called the “family relationship certificate” (가족관계증명서), the “marriage relationship certificate” (혼인관계증명서) and the “basic certificate” (기본증명서).
For immigration purposes, a married person should obtain and submit a family relationship certificate and a marriage relationship certificate (the basic certificate is optional), along with certified translations of these. A single person needs to submit originals and translations of the family relationship certificate, along with the basic certificate.
Make sure you understand your certification needs.
Clarify certification requirements with the immigration official (if you are handling the paperwork yourself) or with your immigration lawyer (if you are having a lawyer do the work for you). These specifications vary by country and locale.
You will not be allowed to translate and certify your Korean family documents yourself. At the very least, you will need to have the “Korean birth certificate” (actually the family relationship certificate, marriage relationship certificate, and/or basic certificate mentioned above) translated by an independent translator and provide a print-out of a scanned certificate of translation accuracy from that translator.
However, you may also need to go a few steps further, such as have the translator mail you the hardcopy original of the translation with the signed original certification. The translator may even have to notarize the certificate first. For notarization, double-check which jurisdictions are valid, as well. If immigrating to the UK, can you use a US-based translator with a US-based notary? Or do you have to do it in the UK or in Korea?
Keep in mind that notarization does not have the same meaning everywhere. In some places, the notary is only attesting to the signature; in others, the notary also certifies the accuracy of the translation itself.
Be sure to find out and let your translator know what your certification and notarization needs are before starting the work. This information may affect his/her pricing for the task, as well as availability and delivery schedule.
Know where you can get the original Korean documents.
The “Korean birth certificate” documents (meaning the Korean family relationship certificate, marriage relationship certificate, and basic certificate) are available through a variety of channels. If you are in Korea, simply go to the local government administrative office for the certificates. The individual him/herself or a close family member may obtain these documents at a very low cost from the government offices.
If you are overseas, you can apply in-person at any Korean consulate or Korean embassy in the country in which you are located.
Finally, if you can figure out the process (not an easy feat sometimes) and don’t mind installing a bunch of new security programs on your computer (a typical hassle of many Korean financial and official-business sites), you may also apply for the certificates over the Internet at http://efamily.scourt.go.kr.
Translate the names right
Match the English spellings on the translations to the spellings you are using on your immigration forms. Korean names can usually be transliterated to English with more than one acceptable spelling variation. Make sure the names of people closely related to the applicant (his/her parents, spouse, and children), as well as the immigrating person him/herself, are spelled in the same way on the English translation of the Korean “birth certificate” documents as they are spelled on the immigration paperwork. It is a good idea to even match dashes, word order, capitalization, and spacing.
For example, the following list contains several acceptable ways to write out the Korean name 박승복.
- Park Seung-Bok
- Seung-bok Park
- Park Seungbok
- Seungbok Park
- Park Sungbok
- Park Sung-bok
Keep in mind that Korean women do not take their husband’s name upon marriage. Therefore, all paperwork should be filled out with official (“maiden”) names, not married names.
Pick the right Korean “birth certificate” translation resource.
You have several options for getting your “Korean birth certificate” translated. One of these is a translation office near the Korean consulate in the country to which the applicant is emigrating. You can also find many translation agencies gathered around the embassies in Korea.
Translation agencies offer translation of Korean family relationship certificates, marriage relationship certificates, and basic certificates. Some of these companies will outsource your project to a freelance translator, and then deliver it back to you after adding a markup. If the agency has experience with these documents, you can get a good job done promptly through this channel.
However, working directly with a professional translator of Korean birth certificates (i.e., Korean family relationship certificates, marriage relationship certificates, and basic certificates) means you benefit from working with an experienced translator, and being able to communicate directly with the expert on issues of concern.
By following the guidelines above, you can expect that the translation of your Korean family documents (i.e. “Korean birth certificate”) will not slow you down in the immigration process.
Also, if you need to have your Korean “birth certificate” translated, get information on my best-practice translation service for Korean family documents, Korean vital records, and Korean “birth certificates” for immigration purposes.
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