Persons acting as interpreters (instructions for citizenship judges)
This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.
An interpreter is a person who interprets and translates the proceedings from the language of the applicant into the official language being used in the proceedings and vice versa.
An interpreter should be used in circumstances when applicants are not able to understand, read or speak one of Canada’s official languages during the citizenship process. For example, if the citizenship judge determines that the applicant cannot continue the hearing, then the hearing should be rescheduled and the applicant asked to bring an interpreter.
Who can be an interpreter?
An interpreter can be a friend, a relative of the applicant or any other person.
The Department recommends that applicants use the services of an accredited interpreter.
The person acting as an interpreter
- should be at least 18 years old;
- should not have a citizenship application in progress;
- must have sufficient knowledge of English or French to communicate with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials; and
- must be able to provide the required assistance.
Section 14 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that a party or witness in any proceeding who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceeding is conducted has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.
To uphold this right,
- citizenship judges may allow an interpreter to assist an applicant to understand the procedures and to facilitate communications during the hearing; and
- an interpreter’s presence is allowed during a citizenship ceremony and the signing of the Oath of Citizenship.
Section 12 of the Citizenship Regulations states the following:
- 12 (1) When an applicant appears before a citizenship judge, the judge may require the applicant to give evidence under oath.
- 12 (2) A citizenship judge may permit an applicant to be accompanied by
- (a) a person who does not have a citizenship application in progress;
- (b) a person acting as an interpreter who is at least 18 years old and who does not have a citizenship application in progress; and
- (c) any other person, if their exclusion would cause the applicant undue hardship.
- 12 (3) A person referred to in paragraph (2)(b) or a person referred to in paragraph (2)(c) who also acts as an interpreter must have sufficient knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages in order to be able to understand the judge’s instructions and questions and to communicate with the judge.
The relevant provisions for the use of interpreters are paragraph R12(2)(b), paragraph R12(2)(c) and subsection R12(3).
As per paragraph R12(2)(b), the person acting as an interpreter should
- be at least 18 years old; and
- not have a citizenship application in progress.
This is to ensure the interpreter is mature enough to understand and appreciate the importance of the proceedings and the questions from the judges.
Additionally, this prevents an interpreter who is also applying for citizenship from becoming privy to information about the citizenship process that would give them an unfair advantage over other applicants and therefore weaken the integrity of the citizenship process.
Exceptions to criteria
- Paragraph R12(2)(c) provides that a person who is under 18 years old or who has a citizenship application in progress may act as an interpreter if their exclusion would cause undue hardship to the applicant.
- Subsection R12(3) provides that interpreters must have sufficient knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages in order to be able to understand the judge’s instructions and questions, and to communicate with the judge. This requirement cannot be overcome on the basis of undue hardship.
Before the hearing
Send the Information on Accompanying Persons and Interpreters form
The Information on Accompanying Persons and Interpreters form should be sent to applicants prior to their appearance before a citizenship judge and should accompany the Notice to Appear.
This is to ensure that the applicant is well informed about why the judge takes the time to assess whether the presence of the interpreter should be granted.
Considerations for deaf applicants
Procedural fairness considerations for deaf applicants
To respond to a situation where a person who may need accommodation is required to appear at a local office, the application form permits applicants to identify the type of accommodations they require.
When applicants declare on the application form that they are deaf and require a sign language interpreter, IRCC will give applicants the choice of bringing their own interpreter to the hearing or citizenship ceremony, or of using the services of a competent and independent sign language interpreter arranged and paid for by IRCC.
Procedures are provided in the instructions for officers and case processing agents on persons acting as interpreters.
One or two interpreters for deaf applicants
In most interactions with citizenship officials and judges, it is acceptable to have a deaf applicant use one interpreter to interpret from their native sign language to American Sign Language (ASL), Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) or another spoken language, and to have another interpreter to interpret from that spoken language to English or French for the citizenship judge or official.
- Scenario 1: Deaf applicant signs only Korean Sign Language
- An interpreter interprets from Korean Sign Language to ASL.
- Another interpreter interprets from ASL to English.
- Scenario 2: Deaf applicant signs only Mbour (Senegal) Sign Language
- An interpreter interprets from Mbour Sign Language to spoken Arabic.
- Another interpreter interprets from Arabic to French.
At the hearing
Verification of the interpreter and signing the appropriate forms
When an applicant brings a person to act as interpreter for them at the hearing with the judge, the following steps should take place prior to the hearing:
- An IRCC official must ask the person whether they will be acting in the capacity of an accompanying person or an interpreter for the applicant.
- An IRCC official will then require the interpreter to fill out and sign the Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath form authorizing IRCC to verify information in the Global Case Management System (GCMS) on the age of the interpreter and their application status. An IRCC official will also ask the interpreter for their identity document to establish their age and identity.
An Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath form must be completed whenever an interpreter is present. This form is used to provide IRCC with authorization to verify that the interpreter is at least 18 years old and that they do not have a citizenship application in progress.
The citizenship official or judge must ensure the accompanying person reads and signs the oath form. The citizenship official or judge witnesses and dates the oath. This oath becomes part of the applicant’s file.
In cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress, the citizenship judge administering the hearing will be responsible for assessing and determining whether the exclusion of the interpreter from the hearing would cause the applicant undue hardship (see the next section, Undue Hardship, for more information).
A minor 10 years of age or older who acts as an interpreter must sign the Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath form.
- After the verification of information by the IRCC official, the interpreter brings the completed form with them to the hearing before the judge.
- At the beginning of the hearing, the citizenship judge should have a short conversation with the interpreter to ensure they have sufficient knowledge of English or French to be able to understand the judge’s instructions and questions.
- If the judge has doubts that the interpreter has adequate knowledge of one of the official languages, the judge should use the Language Assessment Tool for Interpreters (LATI) before starting the hearing. Refer to the section Language assessment of interpreters below.
Cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress (undue hardship)
When to assess undue hardship
- At the hearing before a citizenship judge, the judge may permit an applicant to be accompanied by an interpreter who is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress.
- In cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress, the judge may permit the interpreter’s presence at the hearing if the judge determines that the exclusion of the interpreter would cause the applicant undue hardship.
What is undue hardship?
Paragraph R12(2)(c) provides the judge with the discretion to allow a person who does not meet the criteria in paragraph R12(2)(b) to act as an interpreter for an applicant if the exclusion of that person would cause the applicant undue hardship.
Undue hardship is a difficult threshold to meet. In some cases, refusing the presence of an interpreter at a hearing will cause hardship, inconvenience or awkwardness to the applicant, but this does not meet the threshold of undue hardship. The hardship faced by the applicant must be excessive or disproportionate to be considered undue.
Undue hardship may differ for each individual and is determined on a case-by-case basis. It is assessed by weighing all the evidence presented by the applicant about the hardship they would face if the interpreter were excluded from the hearing.
Factors on which an applicant might rely to show undue hardship if an interpreter is excluded from the hearing could include, but are not limited to, the
- applicant’s health condition;
- cost and time to travel to an IRCC office for a hearing if it is rescheduled; and
- availability (or lack thereof) of another person to act as an interpreter.
Guidelines for the assessment of undue hardship
The following are guidelines for the assessment of undue hardship in cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress:
- The determination of undue hardship is done on a case-by-case basis.
- The onus is on the applicant to provide all the relevant facts to support the claim of undue hardship.
- The judge should document the evidence and considerations that resulted in the applicant’s request for an interpreter to be granted or refused on the basis of undue hardship. The judge’s notes should be placed on the applicant’s file and in GCMS to document what has transpired.
Assessment process and steps for undue hardship
In cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress, the following steps may take place:
- The judge should let the applicant know that, as per paragraph R12(2)(b), interpreters may not be allowed at the hearing if they are under 18 years old and/or have a citizenship application in progress.
- The judge may ask the applicant whether the exclusion of the interpreter would cause the applicant undue hardship and why.
- The judge must consider all the undue hardship factors presented by the applicant, which may include factors such as
- commitments that would make it difficult for the applicant to return to the IRCC office with a different interpreter;
- the length of time for the applicant to travel to the IRCC office for a hearing, if rescheduled;
- a mental or physical disability of the applicant’s that makes them uncomfortable communicating with the judge in the presence of an alternative interpreter; and
- the applicant living in an area where there are few people available who speak the applicant’s language or dialect, making it difficult or impossible for the applicant to find an alternative interpreter who speaks their language or dialect.
- If the judge determines that undue hardship exists and the interpreter is permitted to attend the hearing, the judge may proceed with the hearing in the presence of the interpreter.
- If the judge determines that undue hardship does not exist and the interpreter is not permitted to attend the hearing, the judge may ask the applicant if they would like to
- proceed without the interpreter; or
- have their hearing rescheduled and bring another interpreter.
- The judge should ask the applicant if they received the Information Sheet on Accompanying Persons and Interpreters with their Notice to Appear. If the applicant has not received the Information Sheet on Accompanying Persons and Interpreters, the information sheet should be provided to them following the hearing session.
- At the end of the hearing, the judge must document all the evidence used to determine why the presence of the interpreter was allowed or refused. The judge’s notes should be placed on the applicant’s file and in GCMS to document what has transpired.
Important: Access to an interpreter is important, given that section 14 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that “[a] party or witness in any proceedings who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter”. Therefore, the inability of an applicant to have access to an interpreter if the person in question is excluded could potentially result in a Charter violation.
Language assessment of interpreters
Before starting the hearing, the judge should take the time to have a conversation with the interpreter on everyday topics. Based on this conversation, if the judge has doubts that the interpreter has an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages, the judge should use the Language Assessment Tool for Interpreters (LATI) to assess the interpreter before starting the hearing. Refer to the LATI guidelines to perform the assessment. The assessment should take five minutes.
- The LATI used during the interpreter evaluation should be in the interpreter’s language of choice (English or French).
- Before starting the assessment, the identification section on the first page of the LATI must be completed.
- The judge asks one question for each of the three criteria to test whether the interpreter meets the three criteria. If the interpreter is unsuccessful in providing answers complying with each criterion, the judge has the discretion to postpone the hearing and recommend that the applicant bring a different interpreter.
To succeed, the interpreter must
- describe or explain in detail a process or a series of events with proper use of the present tense and a logical explanation of the process;
- compare experiences or activities, using the past tense and an adequate vocabulary; and
- express an opinion or give suggestions, using connecting words and provide an explanation to support the opinion expressed.
- The judge writes down their assessment for each criterion (pages 3-5).
- For scoring, the judge ensures that
- the interpreter obtains 3 out of 3 to pass;
- one point is awarded for each satisfactory answer to a question;
- the total marks given for successfully answered questions are recorded under each criterion; and
- the interpreter obtains 0 for each incorrect answer. As the interpreter must be successful in each criterion, as soon as the interpreter fails a question, the judge should stop the evaluation and postpone the hearing.
- The judge reports the scoring on page 1 along with comments and their decision as to whether the interpreter is successful.
- When the evaluation is done, the judge makes their decision to begin or to adjourn the hearing with the applicant.
- The judge keeps the record of the decision in the file of the applicant.
- The judge informs the applicant and the interpreter of the decision.
- If the interpreter is not successful, the judge explains the situation to the applicant and proceeds with postponing the hearing, unless the applicant is willing to proceed with the hearing without the support of the interpreter.
- The judge’s notes are placed on the applicant’s file and in GCMS to document what has transpired.
During the hearing
When to cease the use of an interpreter
Citizenship judges have the discretion to end the participation of an interpreter at any time. The following situations may be grounds for the judge to ask the interpreter to leave the proceedings:
- the interpreter is over-assisting the applicant (e.g., they seem to be providing the answers to or on behalf of the applicant);
- the interpreter’s behaviour is disruptive to the hearing;
- the interpreter is taking notes;
- the interpreter does not pass the LATI;
- the citizenship judge becomes aware that the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress. In these instances, the judge may wish to assess whether asking the interpreter to leave the hearing session would cause undue hardship to the applicant. The judge could also refer the attestation to the office supervisor to conduct a determination on misrepresentation.
If the citizenship judge ends the participation of the interpreter, the judge may ask the applicant if they would like to
- proceed without the interpreter; or
- have their hearing rescheduled and bring a different interpreter.
The judge’s notes should be placed on the applicant’s file and in GCMS to document what has transpired.
Note: Applicants can be directed to local community organizations that provide interpretation services.
If the citizenship judge becomes aware that the interpreter has a citizenship application in progress and attested on the interpreter’s oath form that they did not, and/or is under 18 years old and has declared otherwise, the judge may refer their findings to the office supervisor to conduct a determination on misrepresentation.
Misrepresentation could also apply in cases where, in the opinion of the judge, the interpreter is not providing a faithful interpretation of the questions asked or the answers provided by the applicant.
As per subsection 14(1.1) of the Citizenship Act, a citizenship judge is not authorized to make a determination on residence until the completion of any investigation or inquiry for the purpose of asserting whether misrepresentation has occurred.
When misrepresentation is suspected, the office supervisor should consult with Nat-Cit-Operations before deciding on a future course of action.
When citizenship judges have concerns that an interpreter who is an authorized, paid representative is affecting program integrity or not complying with the intent of the Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath form, they should raise the matter with the local office supervisor, who will take the necessary steps to determine if a local investigation is warranted. See chapter IP 9, section 9, Procedure: CIC office investigation process.
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