Temporary Final Rule: Asylum Interview Interpreter Requirement Modification Due to COVID-19
In March 2023, USCIS published a temporary final rule extending the requirement for certain asylum applicants to use a USCIS-contracted telephonic interpreter to keep our workforce and applicants safe during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Effective until Sept. 12, 2023, if you are an asylum applicant and you cannot participate in your affirmative asylum interview in English, we may require you to use a USCIS contract interpreter at your interview instead of bringing your own interpreter. If a USCIS contract interpreter is unavailable, we may, at our discretion, allow you to bring an interpreter to your affirmative asylum interview.
This temporary final rule has been part of our precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our contract interpreters provide their services telephonically, which have helped reduce the number of people visiting USCIS facilities. The rule has helped us manage space restrictions, while maintaining efficiency and access to our asylum process, and improves the safety of our officers and the public.
During this extension period, if you are fluent in any of the languages listed below, we will require you to use a USCIS contract interpreter, which we will provide free of charge, at your affirmative 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 affirmative 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 must not be:
- A witness testifying on your behalf;
- An individual with a pending asylum application;
- Your attorney or accredited representative; or
- A representative or employee of the government of your country of nationality (or, if you are stateless, your country of last habitual residence).
If you cannot 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. We will provide a relay interpreter to interpret between the language you are fluent in, the language listed below, and English.
USCIS contract interpreters are available for these 47 languages:
- Creole/Haitian Creole
- Foo Chow/Fuzhou
If you need an interpreter for one of the 47 languages listed above 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 for the interview.
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 take appropriate next steps, which may include rescheduling your interview or trying to obtain a contract interpreter. If we reschedule your interview because an interpreter is not available, we will attribute the interview delay to USCIS for the purposes of employment authorization.
This March 2023 rule extends the requirements of the temporary final rule that USCIS implemented on Sept. 23, 2020, and extended on March 22, 2021, Sept. 17, 2021, and March 15, 2022. After Sept. 12, 2023, we will again require applicants unable to proceed with an affirmative asylum interview in English to provide their own interpreters. During this time, we will also assess the impact of providing contract interpreters at affirmative asylum interviews to determine whether a future permanent rule allowing us to provide contract interpreters would help the government and the public.