Non-English Speaking Affirmative Asylum Applicants Require Interpreters from Sep 13

Effective September 13, 2023, affirmative asylum applicants in the United States must adhere to updated interpreter requirements during their asylum interviews, according to a release by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS has made this adjustment as part of its ongoing efforts to streamline and enhance the asylum application process.

In a USCIS press release issued today, the agency outlined the following key changes to interpreter requirements for affirmative asylum applicants:

Interpreter Attendance Mandate: Affirmative asylum applicants who are not fluent in English or prefer to conduct their interviews in a language other than English are now required to bring an interpreter to their asylum interview starting September 13, 2023. Failure to do so may have consequences for their application.

Consequences for Non-Compliance: If an affirmative asylum applicant needs an interpreter and fails to bring one to the interview, or if their chosen interpreter is not proficient in both English and the language spoken by the applicant, and the applicant cannot establish good cause, USCIS reserves the right to consider this a failure to appear for the interview. In such cases, USCIS may dismiss the asylum application or refer it to an immigration judge for further evaluation. The determination of good cause will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Interpreter Qualifications: USCIS has set specific qualifications for interpreters, including that they must be at least 18 years old and fluent in both English and the language spoken by the asylum applicant. Importantly, interpreters cannot be the applicant’s attorney or accredited representative, a witness testifying on the applicant’s behalf, a representative or employee of the government of the applicant’s country of nationality, or an individual with a pending asylum application who has not yet been interviewed.

This policy shift comes as a reversal of a temporary final rule (TFR) instituted on September 23, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The TFR required affirmative asylum applicants to use contracted telephonic interpreters during their interviews, rather than bringing their own interpreters. USCIS extended this requirement multiple times, with the last extension effective through September 12, 2023. With the expiration of the TFR, USCIS is returning to the longstanding regulatory requirement for affirmative asylum applicants to provide their own interpreters under 8 CFR 208.9(g).

These changes are expected to impact affirmative asylum applicants seeking protection in the United States and aim to facilitate a more efficient and standardized asylum interview process. Affected individuals are encouraged to review USCIS guidance and regulations to ensure compliance with the new interpreter requirements.