Qualifications Required to Serve as an Interpreter
There are certain qualifications required to make a good interpreter. The officers at USCIS evaluate and determine whether the candidate meets the qualifications required to make a good interpreter, including the option of granting exceptions for worthy causes when the need arises. An interpreter can be said to be a person who is fluent in more than two languages and can comfortably translate between two persons who speak different languages.
Fluency in languages
The basic quality required for an interpreter for immigration interview happening in a USCIS domestic office, is that the interpreter must be fluent in English and the interviewee’s language. Fluency can be defined as the ability to speak or write easily, smoothly without any hesitation, difficulty or any significant effort. The interpreter must also be able to provide oral interpretation as the conversation goes. In order to do that, the interpreter must be proficient in both the languages, English and the interviewee’s language.
The interpreter must satisfy the evaluating officer while demonstrating fluency of the languages. In order to evaluate efficiently the interviewer should be able to speak and communicate in both languages along with the subject area to be covered during the interview process. Even if the proposed interpreter may be fluent in both the languages, it always does not mean a competent interpreter.
The information in the conversation must be translated accurately in both the languages efficiently. The information must be translated without any kind of bias and in an impartial manner between English and the interviewee’s language. The evaluating officer takes into consideration the full interpretation of the interview and the accuracy level of the translation. Competency and efficiency of the interpreter is not easy to determine. Communicating effectively in one language does not necessarily indicate a fluency to interpret messages into and out of English, from the other language. If the officer evaluating the interpreter finds that the individual does not meet the required conditions, the individual will be disqualified from the services as an interpreter.
Other conditions that disqualify an individual from becoming an interpreter are if they are minors who have not attained age 18, witnesses and attorneys and if they are a representative of the interviewee. Individuals below the age of 14 cannot be interpreters. Any attorney or a lawful representative of the interviewee is also disqualified from serving as an interpreter during the interview.
The only exception for the above condition is if the interpreter is between the ages 14-17. (Section (c)), which grants exception under Good Cause. This section also grants exception to witnesses, allowing them to act as an interpreter for good cause.
When minors are evaluated for interpreting, the age of the minor is considered. As minors, they are not capable of understanding the consequences or weighing the importance of contracts or oaths, especially regarding confidentiality. This seriously undermines the validity of the Declaration that the interviewee and the interpreter must sign before the interview begins. Moreover, the sensitive content of the interview may sometimes affect the accuracy of their interpretations. Taking all this into consideration, minors are generally restricted from serving as interpreters. If a minor is considered for an interpreter, then the minor must suitably demonstrate fluency along with impartial translation of content before the interview as well as throughout the interview. Any minor less than 14 years are not considered to be competent and are disqualified. Certification from individual organizations declaring an interpreter to be competent in the said languages does not always guarantee the individual to be competent as expected by the interviewer. Since all the interviewees may not be able to obtain the services of a professional, USCIS evaluates the competency of all interpreters regardless of their certification.
Impartial and Unbiased Individual
The most important quality of an interpreter is the ability to be impartial to the content and translate without bias. An impartial individual is one who does not have any preconceived notion or a strong opinion about a particular topic. Predisposition about a given matter disables an individual from interpreting information accurately and also making a reliable interpreter declaration.
Other circumstances that may prevent an interpreter from providing an unbiased interpretation are also considered which may include any conflict of interests between the interviewee and the interpreter. This is bound to affect the ability of the interpreter to provide an accurate, unbiased interpretation. For such an unbiased interpretation, it is required that both the interviewee’s and the interpreter must disclose any relationship, preconceived notion. This is expected for an objective interpretation during the interview. No person who has either a conflict of interest or a strong personal interest in the interviewee obtaining the immigration benefit is deemed fit for the role of an interpreter during the interview. This includes family members, friends of the interviewee or anyone with financial ties to the interviewee.
When a qualified interpreter is available, family members are not preferred as interpreters. When such relationships or circumstances are disclosed, the officer at USCIS uses his or her discretion to conclude if the disclosed information regarding the relationship or circumstances will affect the interpreters’ ability to make an unbiased true and accurate interpretation of the interview. If the officer concludes that the interpreter can provide an impartial and unbiased interpretation, the interpreter can be accepted and provided for the interview.
Under some circumstances, the spouse or child of the interviewee, who can obtain an immigration benefit if the interviewee’s petition is granted, also may be the proposed interpreter. In this circumstance, the officer at USCIS must make a vigilant decision as to, if the derivative, being the spouse or the child, can perform an unbiased and impartial interpretation of the interview. This vigilance must be maintained by the officer throughout the interview, in order to determine if the derivative meets the unbiased interpretation requirement and also to determine if the interpreter is violating the Interpreter’s Declaration.
However, the officers at USCIS cannot disqualify a derivative beneficiary on a predetermined basis. No derivative can be disqualified from acting as an interpreter, just because he or she is a derivative beneficiary.
There is a special subset of individuals who are also generally restricted from serving as interpreters. They are the witnesses who are involved in the current case, and they are likely to be biased, hence cannot provide an accurate and complete interpretation of the interview. For this reason, witnesses of the current case are generally restricted from serving as interpreters. As an exception, the officer at USCIS may exercise discretion, if there is a good cause (Section(b)) – Restricted individuals, Section(c) – Exceptions for good cause). Such a witness, who is permitted to serve as an interpreter must be fluent and impartial before the evaluation and throughout the course of the interview.
Some derivatives, spouse or children may be witnesses in the current case but not all derivatives are witnesses. It also means, witnesses need not be derivatives or family members of the interviewee. A good cause exception is exercised only when a family member or derivative is a witness in the case and if the interviewee wishes to have his or her own derivative interpret the interview. Even in such a case, the officers carefully evaluate the competency of the proposed interpreter and determine if the derivative is capable of impartial and unbiased interpretation.
The final subset of individuals for whom no exception can be made are the attorneys who have filed Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative (‘G-28’), to represent the applicant or petitioner. They are inherently biased towards their clients’ interest. As a result they cannot perform an unbiased interpretation in accordance with the Declaration. Hence, they are restricted from serving as interpreters and no exceptions are made for good cause.