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Asylum Applicants Now Required to Bring Own Interpreters

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Oct 21, 2023 | 0 Comments

Affirmative asylum applicants have had some differing information given to them over the last few months, as USCIS has fluctuated in their interpreter policies.

Earlier this year affirmative asylum applicants were allowed to bring their own interpreters to asylum interviews, but in the spring USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) changed course - announcing that asylum applicants had to use the contracted USCIS interpreters. While it took off pressure from asylum applicants to find their own interpreters, at times it strained the interview process as the USCIS interpreters did not appear in person, they only interpreted telephonically. 

On September 13, 2023, USCIS reversed course again, stating that all affirmative asylum applicants who don't speak English now need to bring their own interpreters to their asylum interviews. 

The only exception to this is for applicants who need sign language interpretation. Sign language interpreters will continue to be provided for those who need it because it is a disability accommodation. 

Who Can Be My Interpreter?

It's important to know that there are specific guidelines as to who is allowed to serve as an interpreter at an asylum interview. According to USCIS, an interpreter must be fluent in English and a language the applicant speaks fluently, must be at least 18 years old, and cannot be:

  • Your attorney or accredited representative;
  • A witness testifying on your behalf;
  • A representative or employee of the government of your country of nationality (or, if you are stateless, your country of last habitual residence); or
  • An individual with a pending asylum application who has not yet been interviewed.

Although previously not all USCIS asylum offices have been consistent with interpreter policies, this USCIS announcement makes clear that not bringing an interpreter to an asylum interview can have severe and serious consequences. If you need an interpreter and do not bring one to your asylum interview, or if your interpreter is not fluent in English and the language you speak, USCIS has the ability to dismiss your asylum application or refer your asylum application to an immigration judge (if you do not establish good cause for the interpreter failure). 

If you don't have any family or friends who meet the above criteria to be an interpreter at your asylum interview, we recommend reaching out to a language interpretation service located in the area where your asylum interview will take place. Interpreters must appear in person at the asylum interview

If you need assistance with filing an asylum application or any other immigration petition, please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.

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