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Interpreter Services

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.

Interpreter Categories

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.

Interpreter Services


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.


Unofficial Dual Language Forms


Certified Interpreters

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
(2) The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS).
The language pair of the membership qualification must be English and the target language.

(d) For sign language interpreters, someone who holds the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L) of the
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).


 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.