Temporary Final Rule: Asylum Interview Interpreter Requirement Modification Due to COVID-19

On Sept. 17, 2021, USCIS published a temporary final rule that extends and modifies the requirement for certain asylum applicants to use a USCIS-provided telephonic contract interpreter in order to keep our workforce and applicants safe during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Effective until March 16, 2022, if you are an asylum applicant and are unable to proceed with your interview in English, we may require you to use a USCIS contract interpreter at your asylum interview instead of bringing your own interpreter. In limited circumstances, if a USCIS contract interpreter is unavailable, we may, at our discretion, allow you to bring an interpreter to your asylum interview.  

This temporary final rule is part of USCIS’ precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our contract interpreters provide their services telephonically, which will reduce the number of people visiting USCIS facilities. The rule helps us manage space restrictions, while maintaining efficiency and access to our asylum process, and improves the safety of our officers and the public.

If you are fluent in one of the languages listed below, you will be required to use a USCIS contract interpreter, which we will provide free of charge, at your asylum interview. USCIS contract interpreters are carefully vetted and must meet high standards of competency. If you refuse to use a USCIS contract interpreter, we will consider that a failure to appear without good cause and we will dismiss your application or refer your application to immigration court.

If you are not fluent in any of the languages listed below, you must bring an interpreter to your asylum interview who is fluent in English and your native language or any other language in which you are fluent. Your interpreter must be 18 years or older, and cannot be a witness, your legal representative, or a representative or employee of your country of nationality (or, if you are stateless, your country of last habitual residence). If you are unable to provide an interpreter who is fluent in English and meets the requirements above, you may provide an interpreter fluent in your language and one of the languages listed below. USCIS will provide a relay interpreter to interpret between the language listed below and English.

USCIS contract interpreters are available for these 47 languages:

  • Akan
  • Albanian
  • Amharic
  • Arabic
  • Armenian
  • Azerbaijani
  • Bengali
  • Burmese
  • Cantonese
  • Creole/Haitian Creole
  • Farsi-Afghani/Dari
  • Farsi-Iranian
  • Foo Chow/Fuzhou
  • French
  • Georgian
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Hmong
  • Hungarian
  • Indonesia/Bahasa
  • Konjobal
  • Korean
  • Kurdish
  • Lingala
  • Mam
  • Mandarin
  • Nepali
  • Pashto/Pushtu
  • Portuguese
  • Punjabi
  • Quiche/K'iche
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Sinhalese
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Tagalog
  • Tamil
  • Tigrinya
  • Turkish
  • Twi
  • Ukrainian
  • Urdu
  • Uzbek
  • Vietnamese

If you need an interpreter for one of these languages but a contract interpreter is not available, then we will either reschedule your interview and attribute the interview delay to USCIS for purposes of employment authorization under 8 CFR 208.7, or, at our discretion, allow you to provide an interpreter. If we know in advance that a contract interpreter will not be available for your interview, we will notify you that a contract interpreter is unavailable and that we are exercising our discretion to allow you to bring an interpreter. If you cannot find a competent interpreter, we will reschedule your interview, and we will attribute the interview delay to USCIS for the purposes of employment authorization. 

This rule extends the requirements of the temporary final rule that USCIS previously implemented on Sept. 23, 2020, and extended on March 22, 2021. After March 16, 2022, we will again require asylum applicants unable to proceed with an asylum interview in English to provide their own interpreters.

Last Reviewed/Updated: