Can I Bring Anyone I Want to Translate at My USCIS Interview?

Standards and qualifications for who can serve as interpreter in an immigration interview in the United States.

Question

USCIS has scheduled me for an interview regarding my marriage-based green card. But my English is not good. I would like to bring an interpreter along. Can I use my American husband? He will be there anyway. Or do I have to find someone else? If so, does that person need to have some sort of official status to be an interpreter?

Answer

Because your husband has an interest in the outcome of your immigration application, the interviewing officer of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is unlikely to allow him to serve as your interpreter. To put it crudely, USCIS is worried that he might lie for you, or change your words to make sure you successfully pass the interview.

According to agency standards, the interpreter you bring to your interview must be someone who can accurately, literally, and fully interpret for both you and the interviewing officer and be able to interpret impartially and without bias. USCIS has explicitly said, within its policy guidelines on The Role and Use of Interpreters, that “family members will generally be disfavored as interpreters if there is another qualified interpreter available to the customer.”

Exceptions may be made—for example if a member of your family were the only local person able to speak your dialect—but your better bet is to plan ahead and bring someone else as interpreter.

Fortunately, you need not necessarily pay a professional. The USCIS policy memo says nothing about this sort of objective qualification, only that the person must be able to do the job. It also requires that the person be age 18 or over and not be a witness in the case or be your attorney or legal representative.

So it’s possible that you can find an adult friend who is capable of handling this role. If not, talk to local nonprofits serving immigrants or search online to hire someone.

The two of you might want to practice beforehand. It’s not easy to stop every few sentences (as you will have to do in order to let the interpreter repeat your words in English without forgetting what you said). And, practice gives your interpreter a chance to get used to your pronunciation and so forth.

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