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Affirmative asylum applicants must bring an interpreter for their interviews

Beginning Sept. 13, affirmative asylum seekers must appear before immigration authorities with an interpreter if they are not fluent in English, USCIS said.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, people arrive before the start of a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami Field Office in Miami. USCIS, The cash-strapped federal agency that oversees that nation's legal immigration system, scrapped plans Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, to furlough 13,000 employees, or nearly 70% of its workforce. The agency said it would maintain operations through September when the the fiscal year ends. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

DENVER — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Monday that starting Sept. 13, affirmative asylum seekers must appear before immigration authorities with an interpreter if they are not fluent in English or want their interview to be carried out in another language. 

According to USCIS, if an applicant needs an interpreter and does not bring one, or if the interpreter brought is not fluent in English and the language the applicant speaks, and the applicant does not establish good cause, USCIS may consider this a failure to appear for their interview and may dismiss their asylum application or refer their asylum application to an immigration judge. 

USCIS will determine good cause on a case-by-case basis.

According to USCIS, the interpreter must be fluent in English and the language the applicant speaks fluently and must be at least 18 years old. The interpreter must not be:

  • Your attorney or accredited representative;
  • A witness testifying on your behalf;
  • A representative or employee of the government of your country of nationality (or, if you are stateless, your country of last habitual residence); or
  • An individual with a pending asylum application who has not yet been interviewed.

USCIS reminded people that on Sept. 23, 2020, it published a temporary final rule (TFR) requiring affirmative asylum applicants to use their contracted telephonic interpreters for their asylum interviews, instead of bringing an interpreter to the interview. They published this TFR to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during asylum interviews with USCIS asylum officers while the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency were in effect. 

USCIS published four subsequent TFRs extending the requirement, with the current extension effective through Sept. 12, 2023. 

This fourth extension provided additional time after the national and public health emergencies expired to allow USCIS to prepare to return to the prior regulatory requirement. 

With the expiration of the TFR, USCIS will be reverting back to the long-standing regulatory requirement for an affirmative asylum applicant to provide an interpreter, the USCIS website says. 



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