New Guidelines and Form for Applicants Bringing Interpreters to USCIS Interviews

Immigration authorities take a closer look at interpreters' competence to assist at interviews.


A Policy Memorandum issued by USCIS on January 17, 2017 explain the standards that interpreters (sometimes called translators, though technically translators handle only written text) who assist at interviews at field offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be held to. This new guidance does not cover situations where USCIS itself provides the interpreter; nor does it cover asylum, NACARA, credible fear/reasonable fear, naturalization, or overseas interviews.

The biggest change is that the interpreter will have to jointly submit a new form, called Form G-1256, Declaration for Interpreted USCIS Interview. This form advises the person being interviewed about the importance of using a competent interpreter. It also requires the interpreter to adhere to the principle that he or she must accurately, literally, and fully interpret what’s being said and keep the information confidential.

Both the interviewee and the interpreter will sign this new form at the start of the USCIS interview.

The declaration states that the interpreter must accurately, literally and fully interpret for both the interviewee and the interviewing officer. It also reminds the interviewee that an interpreter may hear personal information, and requires the interpreter to agree not to disclose any such information learned in the interview.

Certain people are ineligible to serve as interpreters, namely minors under the age of 18 (though an exception for good cause, such as lack of local interpreters who speak that language, may be made if the person is at least 14), witnesses in the case, and the applicant/interviewee’s attorneys and legal representatives.

The guidelines also give USCIS the power to disqualify someone from serving as interpreter, if the person is not sufficiently fluent in both English and in the interviewee’s language, and able to interpret competently, impartially, and without bias. This means that, for example, a family member with a personal interest in the outcome of the case might not be allowed to serve as interpreter.