Most Asylum Applicants Need Not Bring Foreign Language Interpreter to Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic

September 23, 2020 New temporary rule requires asylum applicants to use a DHS foreign language interpreter instead of bringing their own, with exceptions for less commonly spoken languages.

By , J.D.


For health and safety reasons you will, if applying affirmatively for asylum in the United States, probably encounter changes to the usual procedures for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, government guidelines for visitors include that, during the asylum interview, you wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth if you are unvaccinated. Children under the age of two need not wear a mask. You might also be interviewed in a room that's separate from your attorney (if any), interpreter (if any), and asylum officer.

A new temporary rule also requires you to use a DHS foreign language interpreter instead of bringing your own (if you aren't fluent in English). You will communicate by phone or using iPads, for televideo.

There's an exception, however. If your language is not one of the 47 languages listed on the "GSA Schedule.", you will need to bring your own interpreter to the interview. That person will need to be fluent in both your language and in English, and be ready to interpret word for word between you and the asylum officer.

In rare cases, if you can't find an interpreter fluent in both English and your language, USCIS might agree to a "relay interpreter." If, for example, you can find an interpreter who can interpret from your dialect into Spanish, then USCIS might be able to provide an interpreter who can turn the Spanish into English (and vice versa).

Read any instructions that you receive concerning your asylum interview carefully.

Effective Date: September 23, 2020