Important Update: Changes in Interpreter Requirements for Affirmative Asylum Interviews Starting September 13, 2023


If you’re an affirmative asylum applicant in the United States, there’s an important change coming your way that you need to be aware of. Starting September 13, 2023, you’ll be responsible for bringing your own interpreter to your asylum interview if you aren’t fluent in English or choose to conduct the interview in a language other than English. This article outlines what you need to know about these changes, so read on to stay informed.

The New Rules

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that from September 13, 2023, forward, all affirmative asylum applicants will need to bring an interpreter to their interview. The reason for this change is the expiration of a temporary final rule (TFR) that had previously allowed the use of contracted telephonic interpreters due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

The Risks of Not Complying

Failure to bring a suitable interpreter to the interview could have serious repercussions. If you do not bring an interpreter or if your interpreter doesn’t meet the necessary criteria, and you can’t establish a valid reason for this oversight, your asylum application may be dismissed or referred to an immigration judge. USCIS will determine the validity of any “good cause” excuses on a case-by-case basis.

Criteria for Interpreters

So, what are the requirements for interpreters? The interpreter you choose must:

  • Be fluent in English and a language you are fluent in.
  • Be at least 18 years of age.

However, they must not be:

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

A Look Back: The Temporary Final Rule (TFR)

On September 23, 2020, USCIS had implemented a TFR that mandated the use of agency-contracted telephonic interpreters for asylum interviews. This rule was enacted as a measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the national and public health emergencies. There were four extensions of this TFR, the last of which remained effective until September 12, 2023. This extension allowed USCIS time to revert to the prior regulatory requirements specified under 8 CFR 208.9(g).


With the expiration of the COVID-19 TFR, USCIS is reverting to its long-standing regulatory requirement for affirmative asylum applicants to provide their own interpreters. If you are applying for asylum and have an interview scheduled on or after September 13, 2023, make sure to secure an interpreter who meets the newly reinstated criteria to avoid any complications in your application process.

Stay informed and prepared to ensure a smooth asylum application process!