Based on a question we received this week, I thought it might be helpful to review USCIS guidelines and policies for interpreters at naturalization interviews (when, of course, an applicant has an exemption from or waiver of the English language requirement). USCIS instituted a new policy regarding interpreters at interviews on May 1, 2017.
First, and perhaps most importantly, the applicant must bring an interpreter with him or her to the interview. USCIS is only required to provide an interpreter if an officer disqualifies the applicant’s own interpreter. (Note that this obligation to provide an interpreter for the applicant when USCIS disqualifies an interpreter is only applicable to naturalization interviews and does not apply to other interviews.) In very rare circumstances, USCIS may provide an interpreter but the applicant should not count on it. We have had one experience where the interpreter brought by the applicant was inadequate and USCIS used a phone interpreter.
In order to qualify as an interpreter, the individual must be:
- sufficiently fluent in both English and the applicant’s language;
- able to interpret competently between English and the interviewee’s language; and
- able to interpret impartially and without bias.
If the officer determines that an individual does not meet these standards, the officer must disqualify the individual from being an interpreter.
The following individuals cannot serve as an interpreter:
- minors under age 18 (minors age 14-17 may be allowed with good cause)
- witnesses (may be allowed with good cause); and
- attorneys and DOJ representatives (never allowed).
Both the interpreter and the interviewee must sign Form G-1256, Declaration of Interpreted USCIS Interview (attached) in the presence of the USCIS officer.