Persons acting as interpreters (instructions for citizenship officers and case processing agents)

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada 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 officer determines that the applicant cannot continue the interview or hearing, then the hearing should be rescheduled, and the applicant should be asked to bring an interpreter.

Introduction

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.

Criteria for interpreters

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.

It is strongly recommended that a person should not act as an interpreter if they are under 18 years of age and/or if they 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 citizenship officials. 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. However, in cases where the interpreter is under 18 years of age and/or has a citizenship application in progress, the citizenship officer or the case processing agent has the discretion to take into consideration a variety of factors, particularly the potential hardship on the applicant if the interpreter were excluded from the proceedings, to determine whether to allow the interpreter to attend the proceedings (refer to the Assessment factors section).

Legal framework

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 officers or case processing agents may allow an interpreter to assist an applicant to understand the procedures and to facilitate communication during an interview, a hearing or any other interaction with the applicant during the citizenship process; and
  • an interpreter is allowed to attend the citizenship ceremony and the signing of the Oath of Citizenship.

When interpreters are not allowed

The use of an interpreter is not allowed during the following specific activities:

  • the screening of the applicant’s ability in one of the official languages of Canada during an interview;
  • the assessment of the applicant’s knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada at a hearing;
  • the written knowledge test session (except for the instructions); and
  • the assessment of the applicant’s knowledge of Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship at a hearing (for applications received on or after June 11, 2015).

Exception: In cases of deaf applicants, American Sign Language (ASL) or Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) interpreters are allowed to attend the language and knowledge hearings.

Before the proceedings

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 officer or a case processing agent and should accompany the Notice to Appear.

Considerations for deaf applicants

Procedural fairness 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 that they require.

When applicants declare on the application form that they are deaf and require a sign language interpreter, IRCC will give the applicants the choice of bringing their own interpreter to the interview, hearing or citizenship ceremony, or of using the services of a competent and independent sign language interpreter, arranged and paid for by IRCC.

Procedure for sign language interpretation services

The local office contacts the applicant before the scheduled appointment to give the applicant the choice of bringing a sign language interpreter or of using one supplied by IRCC. If the applicant wishes IRCC to arrange for an interpreter, IRCC will make arrangements for sign language interpretation through Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). The local office will contact the PWGSC Translation Bureau for visual interpretation services. IRCC is not charged for sign language interpretation services for a hearing with a citizenship officer, and, in this instance, the costs are covered by PWGSC. IRCC covers the cost for sign language interpretation services at any other appointment (e.g., interview with an officer, ceremony).

If an applicant is successful at a hearing with a citizenship officer, the citizenship officer or case processing agent will follow the regular process towards granting and scheduling the applicant at a citizenship ceremony. Applicants requiring a sign language interpreter are expected to participate in regularly scheduled ceremonies. If requested by the applicant, the local office will arrange and pay for a sign language interpreter to be present at the ceremony.

Note: Many people who are deaf use a hearing aid to assist them. However, background noise and other sounds can be bothersome if they use a hearing aid during the test period or the hearing session. These background noises are sometimes amplified by several decibels and may be painful or distracting for the applicant. In some cases, it might be more appropriate to extend the test period or to administer the test in a separate room in order to meet the applicant’s special needs.

One or two interpreters for deaf applicants

In most interactions with citizenship officers (see exception below), it is acceptable to have a deaf applicant use one interpreter to interpret from their native sign language to ASL, LSQ or another spoken language, and to have another interpreter to interpret from that spoken language to English or French for the citizenship officer.

  • Scenario 1: Deaf applicant signs only Korean Sign Language
    1. An interpreter signs from Korean Sign Language to ASL.
    2. Another interpreter interprets from ASL to English.
  • Scenario 2: Deaf applicant signs only Mbour (Senegal) Sign Language
    1. An interpreter interprets from Mbour Sign Language to spoken Arabic.
    2. Another interpreter interprets from Arabic to French.

Exception: For deaf applicants whose application was received on or after June 11, 2015, only ASL and LSQ interpreters are allowed at the citizenship knowledge hearing.

Knowledge hearings with deaf applicants whose application was received on or after June 11, 2015

For applications received on or after June 11, 2015, paragraphs 5(1)(e) and 5(2)(d) of the Citizenship Act require that the knowledge of Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship be demonstrated in either English or French or in ASL or LSQ.

Consequently, only ASL and LSQ interpreters are allowed at the citizenship knowledge hearing with deaf applicants (aged 14–64) whose application is received on or after June 11, 2015. If the applicant does not use ASL or LSQ, refer to the instructions on the ministerial discretion to waive some requirements.

Note: IRCC covers the cost of ASL and LSQ interpreters.

Requesting interpreters from PWGSC

PWGSC provides conference interpreting for the federal public service through the Translation Bureau. Visual interpretation services include ASL and LSQ interpreting, English and French oral interpreting (lip reading), and deaf-blind intervening (tactile interpreting).

Services provided by federal government departments or agencies

When a deaf person from the private sector (non-public servant) requests the services of an interpreter or intervener, it is the responsibility of the federal department or agency to ensure that the person’s needs are met. In this case, the Conference Interpretation Service can provide the local office with a list of local agencies.

Procedure

The request for visual interpretation must come from a governmental office. It is important to organize visual interpretation services well before the date of the event, as it is not always possible to respond to last-minute requests.

In the event that all or part of the activity is cancelled, or the dates are changed, the Translation Bureau will bill the client for the interpretation fees, unless the client has given notice of the change or cancellation at least two full working days before the set date.

Clients should contact Visual Interpretation Co-ordination, Translation Bureau, by telephone (613-996-3332), by fax (613-996-4460), by TTY (613-992-3056) or by email (interpretation-vis@pwgsc.gc.ca). Before calling with their requests, clients should ensure that they have all the information required to open a file. A list of this information is available on request.

At the proceedings

Verification of the interpreter

When an applicant brings a person to act as an interpreter for them at citizenship proceedings, the following steps should take place prior to the interview or hearing:

  1. 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.
  2. An IRCC official will then require the interpreter to fill out and sign the Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath 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 (i.e., during interviews and hearings). With respect to ceremonies, this form should be completed if a citizenship officer or a case processing agent is required to conduct an interview or questioning that is not part of the standard ceremony. If an applicant brings the same interpreter to a subsequent interaction, a new Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath must be completed.

    The Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath form is also 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 officer or the case processing agent must ensure the interpreter reads and signs the form. The citizenship officer or the case processing agent witnesses and dates the form. This oath becomes part of the applicant’s file.

    In cases where the interpreter is under 18 and/or has a citizenship application in progress, the citizenship officer or the case processing agent administering the interview or hearing will be responsible for assessing and determining whether to allow the interpreter to be present during the proceedings (see the next section for more information).

    A minor who is 10 years of age or older and who acts as an interpreter must sign the Accompanying Person Declaration and Interpreter’s Oath form.

  3. After the verification of information by the IRCC official, the interpreter will bring the completed form with them to the interview or hearing session.
  4. At the beginning of the interview or hearing, the citizenship officer or the case processing agent should have a short conversation with the interpreter to ensure that the interpreter has sufficient knowledge of English or French to be able to understand the officer’s instructions and questions.
    • If the officer or the case processing agent has doubts that the interpreter has adequate knowledge of English or French, the officer or the case processing agent should use the Language Assessment Tool for Interpreters (LATI) before starting the interview or hearing. Refer to the section on language assessment of interpreters below.

Important: The interpreter must have sufficient knowledge of English or French in order to act as an interpreter for an applicant during a hearing. This requirement cannot be overcome on the basis of hardship to the applicant when determining whether to allow the interpreter to attend the proceedings.

Cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress (undue hardship)

Assessment factors

In cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress, the citizenship officer or the case processing agent responsible for administering the interview or hearing may take into consideration a variety of factors, particularly the potential hardship on the applicant if the interpreter were excluded, to determine whether to allow the interpreter to attend the proceedings. To assess hardship, the officer or the case processing agent may wish to consider the following:

  • applicant’s health condition (e.g., the applicant has a mental or physical disability that makes them uncomfortable communicating with the officer in the presence of an alternative interpreter);
  • cost and time to travel to the IRCC office for an interview or hearing if it is rescheduled (e.g., the high cost of travelling to the IRCC office, the length of time for the applicant to travel to the IRCC office, the applicant’s job or other commitments that would make it difficult for them to return to the IRCC office with a different interpreter); and
  • availability (or lack thereof) of another person to act as an interpreter (e.g., the applicant lives 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).

In addition, the officer or the case processing agent may also consider the maturity and level of understanding of the interpreter if they are under 18 years old.

The determination is unique to each case and must be analyzed on its own merit by citizenship officers or case processing agents when deciding whether to allow an interpreter to attend the proceedings.

Assessment process and steps

In cases where the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress, the following may take place:

  1. The citizenship officer or the case processing agent should let the applicant know that the interpreter may not be allowed to attend the interview or hearing session because they are under 18 years old and/or have a citizenship application in progress.
  2. The officer or the case processing agent may ask the applicant whether the exclusion of the interpreter would cause the applicant any hardship or difficulties and why.
  3. The officer or the case processing agent may take other factors into consideration in their determination of allowing the presence of the interpreter during the proceedings.
  4. If the officer or the case processing agent determines that the interpreter should be allowed to attend, then the officer may proceed with the interview or hearing in the presence of the interpreter.
  5. If the officer or the case processing agent determines that the interpreter should not be allowed to attend, the officer or the case processing agent may ask the applicant if they would like to
    1. proceed without the interpreter; or
    2. have their interview or hearing rescheduled and bring another interpreter.
  6. The officer or the case processing agent 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 handed out to the applicant following the interview or hearing.
  7. At the end of the interview or hearing, the officer or the case processing agent must document all the evidence used to determine why the interpreter was allowed or not allowed to attend the proceedings. The officer’s or case processing agent’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 presence of the person in question is not allowed, could potentially result in a Charter violation.

Language assessment of interpreters

Interpreter evaluation

Before starting the interview or hearing, the citizenship officer or the case processing agent should take the time to have a conversation with the interpreter on everyday topics. Based on this conversation, if the officer or the case processing agent has doubts that the interpreter has adequate knowledge of one of the official languages, the officer or the case processing agent should use the Language Assessment Tool for Interpreters (LATI) to assess the interpreter before starting the interview or hearing. Refer to the LATI guidelines to perform the assessment. The assessment should take five minutes.

LATI guidelines

  • 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.
  1. The officer or the case processing agent 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 officer or the case processing agent has the discretion to postpone the interview or hearing and recommend that the applicant bring another 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.
  2. The officer or the case processing agent writes down their assessment for each criterion (pages 3-5).
  3. For scoring, the officer or the case processing agent 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 officer should stop the evaluation and postpone the interview or hearing.
  4. The officer or the case processing agent reports the scoring on page 1 along with their comments and decision as to whether or not the interpreter is successful.
  5. When the evaluation is done, the officer or the case processing agent makes their decision to begin or to adjourn the hearing with the applicant.
  6. The officer or the case processing agent keeps the record of the decision in the file of the applicant.
  7. The officer or the case processing agent informs the applicant and the interpreter of the decision.
  8. If the interpreter is not successful, the officer or the case processing agent 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.
  9. The officer’s or the case processing agent’s notes are placed on the applicant’s file and in GCMS to document what has transpired.

During the proceedings

When to cease the use of an interpreter

Citizenship officers and case processing agents have the discretion to end the participation of an interpreter at any time. The following situations may be grounds for the officer or the case processing agent to ask the interpreter to leave the proceedings:

  • the interpreter is over-assisting the applicant (e.g., they seem to provide the answers to or on behalf of the applicant);
  • the interpreter’s behaviour is disruptive to the interview or hearing;
  • the interpreter is taking notes;
  • the interpreter does not pass the LATI;
  • the citizenship officer or case processing agent becomes aware that the interpreter is under 18 years old and/or has a citizenship application in progress. In these instances, the officer or the case processing agent may wish to assess if asking the interpreter to leave the interview or hearing session would cause hardship to the applicant. The officer or the case processing agent could also refer the attestation to the office supervisor to conduct a determination on misrepresentation.

If the citizenship officer or the case processing agent ends the participation of the interpreter, the officer may ask the applicant if they would like to

  • proceed without the interpreter; or
  • have their interview or hearing rescheduled and bring a different interpreter.

The officer’s or case processing agent’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.

Misrepresentation

If the citizenship officer or the case processing agent 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 officer or the case processing agent 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 officer or the case processing agent, the interpreter is not providing a faithful interpretation of the questions asked or the answers provided by the applicant.

When misrepresentation is suspected, the office supervisor should consult with Nat-Cit-Operations before proceeding.

Authorized representatives

When citizenship officers or case processing agents 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 follow office investigation procedures and potentially share this information with a regulatory body. See chapter IP 9, section 9, Procedure: CIC office investigation process.

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