Many applications you may have to complete during your life will require certified copies of supporting documents to be submitted with the application package. This is especially true if you will be completing any Canadian or other immigration applications. But what is a certified copy?

This article will cover:

What is a Certified Copy?

A certified copy is a photocopy of a document that contains a statement made by a professional affirming that they have seen the original document, the information on the copy matches the original, and the photocopy has not been altered in any way. Because of the extra effort necessary to produce a certified copy, it is accepted by certain government agencies in place of an original document.

What is a Certified Translation?

Certified translations are frequently used in applications where none of the documents submitted will be returned to the applicant or, multiples of the documents need to be submitted to different government agencies. Often the only acceptable translations of documents must be certified copies to demonstrate the authenticity of those documents.

However, in certain applications, only original documents are accepted, and these will be returned to the applicant. You should make sure that certified translations are an acceptable substitute for original documents for whatever you are applying for.

Who can certify a copy?

Only people in certain fields, many of which are regulated, may certify copies. Who can certify the copies also depends where the copies are being submitted.  For example, to submit Cuban marriage documents to the Cuban consulate, only a lawyer can certify the copies; copies certified by a commissioner of oaths or another professional, which may be accepted by another government or organization, will not be accepted by the Cuban consulate and the application will be returned to the applicant.

However, for applications submitted to the government of Canada, members of several professions may certify copies, including

  • doctors,
  • lawyers,
  • dentists,
  • ministers,
  • police officers,
  • postmasters, and
  • teachers.

For a complete list of professionals who can certify documents for applications to IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), please see below.

For someone to certify copies of your documents, they do not need to know you personally. Many people ask their personal doctor or lawyer to certify their copies, but you may ask any professional to do it provided that is acceptable for your application. If the person who certifies the copies knows you as their patient or client, they may not charge you anything. However, if you are unknown to them, and sometimes even if you are their client, they may charge you a fee to certify your documents. It is perfectly legal for them to do so.

The person who certifies your copies cannot under any circumstances be your family member.

How to make sure a copy is certified

When you have found someone to certify your documents, it is not enough for them to simply make a photocopy and sign their name. The professional who is certifying the documents must also write the statement:  “I certify that this is a true copy of the original document”. Then, they must include

  • the name of the original document
  • the date of the certification
  • his or her name
  • his or her official position or title and
  • his or her signature.

Certified copies can come in a number of formats:

  • Certain professionals will put all of their information on the same page as the copied document.
  • However, others will place a cover sheet over the copy with the necessary information in typed format and staple the two together.

Both formats are usually acceptable.

Certain professionals such as lawyers frequently have stamps or seals that they use to add certain parts of the necessary information because of the number of certified copies they have to produce. A certified copy does not need a stamp or seal to be complete. These stamps are usually simply a matter of convenience for the person making the copy and the same information in handwritten form is also acceptable.

However, if the person certifying the copies uses a press seal to emboss the paper - to produce a stamp with no colour but with raised lettering - it is recommended that they do use a coloured seal so that the stamp will show up on a photocopy. Embossed seals done on plain white paper are easily visible, but do not show up easily on a photocopy of the certified copy.


Once you have the certified photocopy, make sure all of the above information is present.

Finally, make sure that the photocopy itself is of good quality. The certified copies may still not be accepted if they are too light, illegible, or if part of the document does not shown in the copy. For this reason, documents should be placed in the middle of the glass when making a copy rather than on the edge to ensure that no part of the document is lost.

Who can certify copies for applications sent to IRCC?

Persons authorized to certify copies submitted to the government of Canada include the following:

However, some applications submitted to IRCC must be notarized by a notary or lawyer. Check with IRCC, or a consultant or a lawyer, to see whether or not certification by a professional is acceptable, or if you need a lawyer or notary to certify your copies.

Who can certify copies for IRCC applications outside of Canada

  • Judge
  • Magistrate
  • Notary public
  • Officer of a court of justice
  • Commissioner authorized to administer oaths in the country in which you are living

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