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Guidance for using an interpreter for immigration interviews and hearings

A guide for Applicants and Appellants on giving evidence through interpreters.   This blog is also written with interpreters in mind to provide guidance to interpreters on how to ensure interpreting is conducted with minimal errors.

If you are an Applicant with the intention of giving your evidence in a language other than English, you must consider the impact this could have on your evidence.  Any representative will inform you that interpreting errors are commonly complained about by Applicants and Appellants and it is important that you follow these rules if you intend to give your evidence through an interpreter.

Make sure you understand each other

Check first of all you understand the interpreter, both Home Office interviews and Tribunals can feel intimidating, but it is crucial that you understand one another.  It is important that if there are language issues, problems with dialect or anything else that may affect your evidence, you ensure that either the Tribunal Judge, or the Home Office interviewer are aware of these and deal with any issues effectively.   It may be that despite some problems, you are able to continue, but it is important that the interviewer or judge is aware of these issues.

How you phrase answers when giving evidence through an interpreter.

One of the key requirements when speaking through an interpreter is to speak sufficiently slowly and clearly that they are able to interpret your answers for you.  Also be aware that whilst it may be easier for you to answer the question fully at the time of being asked, if you do this, then the interpreter will have to remember your full answer before interpreting this to the relevant person.   It is much better to speak in short sentences and wait for the interpreter to interpret each sentence.   In doing so, ensure that the interpreter is aware that you haven’t finished answering your question.   Interpreters should always confirm with the speaker to confirm when they have finished answering the question.

Third party confirmation

If you are legally represented, your legal representative should discuss with you whether you would like a qualified interpreter to attend any interview or court hearing with you.  The interpreter can make notes throughout the interview in respect of errors and should interrupt to advise the officer or judge of errors.  A record should be made of any errors in interpreting.

After interview

After a Home Office interview, where there have been interpreting errors it is extremely important to ensure a record is made of concerns on the interview record itself and in writing following the interview.  As an interpreter working at the Home Office any issues with interpreting should also be raised.  For example, if the applicant was difficult to understand due to their accent or speech style, a written record should be made of this.

It is considerably more difficult to challenge interpreting at a later date, however, if challenged at the time of the hearing or interview and re-stated at a later date, then it is more likely to be found to be a real and truthful problem.

Although it is often embarrassing for Appellants and Applicants to inform the interpreter that they didn’t understand aspects, it is extremely important that this is done so that the case is not prejudiced, and errors or discrepancies can be dealt with effectively.

A final note for interpreters at the Home Office or Tribunal

It is rarely appropriate to speak with the Applicant or Appellant outside of what is being said by the Judge or by the Home Office interviewer.  It is likely that you may face problems or enquiries if you proceed on this basis.

Difficulty with language barriers?

Westkin Associates is a leading law firm with an international team of solicitors who are fluent in a range of language including Ukrainian, Spanish, Czech, Russian and Arabic.

If you need an immigration lawyer who can communicate effectively with you, please contact us at: 0207 118 4546 or at

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