The use of competent federal court interpreters in proceedings involving speakers of languages other than English is critical to ensure that justice is carried out fairly for defendants and other stakeholders. The Court Interpreters Act, 28 U.S.C. §1827 provides that the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shall prescribe, determine, and certify the qualifications of persons who may serve as certified interpreters, when the Director considers certification of interpreters to be merited, for the hearing impaired (whether or not also speech impaired) and persons who speak only or primarily a language other than the English language, in judicial proceedings instituted by the United States.
The professional knowledge, skills, and abilities required of a federal court interpreter are highly complex. Communication in courtroom proceedings may be more complex than that in other settings or in everyday life. For example, the parties involved may use specialized and legal terminology, formal and informal registers, dialect and jargon, varieties in language and nuances of meaning.
- Federal Court Interpreter Program
- National Court Interpreter Database
- Contract Court Interpreter Services Terms and Conditions (pdf)
- Rate and Information Sheet (pdf)
- Standards for Performance and Professional Responsibility (pdf)
Becoming an Interpreter
As of May 1, 2005 mileage and parking fees are payable only for interpreters commuting more than 30 miles one way from the contract interpreter’s residence to the court location. As of May 16, 2005 Federal Courts are required to conduct mandatory background checks on all contract employees, including interpreters. This background check will be performed by the FBI based on a fingerprint check. Background checks must be renewed every two years. See Fingerprinting Instructions below.
- Northern District of New York Court Interpreter Manual (pdf)
- Federal Court Interpreter Orientation Manual and Glossary (pdf)
- Court Interpreter Application (Electronic Submission)
- Court Interpreter Application (pdf)
- Fingerprint Instructions (pdf)
- Authorization for Release of Information (pdf)
- Fingerprint Codes/Data (pdf)
- Fee Schedule (pdf)
- Interpreter Payment Voucher (pdf)
- Mileage Rates (pdf)
- Travel Expense Form (pdf)
- Travel Regulations
NOTE: Contract Court Interpreters must maintain contemporaneous time and attendance records for all work performed. Such records, which may be subject to audit, must be retained by the contract interpreter for three years after payment of the final invoice/bill.
W2s are sent out only to interpreters who have earned $600 or more during the year.
Other Language Links
- American Translators Association
- Interpreters USA
- Language Identification Cards (pdf)
- Sign Language Interpreters and Other Auxiliary Aids/Services
Unofficial Dual Language Forms
- AO 85 - Notice, Consent, and Reference of Civil Action to Magistrate
- AO 85 A - Notice, Consent and Reference of Dispositive Motion to Magistrate
- AO 86 A S - Consent to Proceed Before a Magistrate Judge in a Misdemeanor Case
- AO 199 C S - Advice of Penalties
- AO 239 - Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees/Costs
- AO 240 A - Order to Proceed Without Prepaying Fees/Costs
- AO 246 A S - Order of Discharge and Dismissal Under 18 USC 3607(a)
- AO 398 - Notice of Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of a Summon
- AO 399 - Waiver of the Service of Summons
- AO 441 - Summons on a Third Party Complaint
- AO 455 S - Waiver of an Indictment
- AO 466 A S - Waiver of Rule 5 & 5.1 Hearings
- AO 466 S - Waiver of Rule 32.1 Hearing
- AO 468 S - Waiver of Preliminary Hearing
Certified interpreters have passed the Administrative Office certification examination. To date, certification programs have been developed for Spanish, Navajo and Haitian Creole. In these languages, the courts will select interpreters who have met the Administrative Office's criteria for certification if the judge determines that certified interpreters are reasonably available.
The Administrative Office's Spanish-English Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination is administered in two phases. Candidates must pass the written exam in order to qualify to take an oral examination. The oral examination measures a candidate's ability to accurately perform simultaneous as well as consecutive interpretation and sight translations as encountered in the federal courts. The certification programs for Navajo and Haitian Creole are no longer offered.
Professionally Qualified Interpreters
The category of professionally qualified (P.Q.) interpreters applies to all languages, except those for which the AO has certified interpreters (Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole). Credentials for professionally qualified interpreters require sufficient documentation and authentication, and must meet the criteria in one of the following:
(a) Passed the U.S. Department of State conference or seminar interpreter test in a language pair that includes English and the target language. The U.S. Department of State's escort interpreter test is not accepted as qualifying.
(b) Passed the interpreter test of the United Nations in a language pair that includes English and the target language.
(c) Is a current member in good standing of:
(1) the Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conférence (AIIC); or
(d) For sign language interpreters, someone who holds the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L) of the
Language Skilled/Ad Hoc interpreters
An Interpreter who does not qualify as a professionally qualified interpreter, but who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court the ability to interpret court proceedings from English to a designated language and from that language into English, will be classified as a language skilled/ad hoc interpreter. Certified and professionally qualified interpreters are paid at a higher rate than language skilled/ad hoc interpreters.