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Using a translator at I-130 interview

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Should we use a translator at our spouse-based marriage case? Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.

You know, our office files a lot of marriage-based green card cases and every now and then we have a client who has the same question that Michael has today and that is, "What does USCIS think when you bring a translator to your spouse-based green card case.?" We've had interesting situations here. We once had a Bosnian American who sponsored a Brazilian fellow, and he didn't speak Bosnian, he didn't speak English, she spoke Bosnian, she spoke English, but she didn't speak Portuguese. In those situations, you're going to need to convince the officer that the spouses can communicate with each other.

I'm always a little bit wary, a little bit worried, a little bit nervous about bringing a translator to a spouse-based green card case. And what do I mean by that? Well, if the U.S. Citizen is a native-born speaker, they should be able to handle the translations of the officer's questions. Now, if the foreign-born national speaks very little English, then I'm going to be okay with them bringing a translator because the green card application asks a lot of serious detailed legal questions, and you're going to want to make sure that the foreign national is understanding what the officer is saying when they are being asked all those questions like, have you ever smuggled someone in the United States? Do you plan to practice polygamy in the United States? All these hyper-technical legal questions, you're going to want to make sure that the officer and the foreign-born applicant are speaking clearly and understanding each other.

But when it comes to the marriage part of the case, I'm really worried and nervous a little bit about when they want to use a translator for that, because I think the officer looks at that as it impacting the merits of the marriage. In other words, how in the world can this couple communicate if neither of them speak the same language, and is this translator sleep in their bed? Does this translator sit around their house and translate for them 24/7? That's very strange. You're going to have to be able to prove to the officer that you have a means of communication.

It's okay to bring a translator. If you can avoid it, I would avoid it. I'd rather you have a lawyer there who can help clarify if things go off the rails, but if the foreign national speaks very, very little English, and there is some way that the couple can communicate, then it might be okay to bring that translator. Officers sometimes view them as a pest, officers also sometimes you them as helpful. You're going to have to take it on a case by case basis, and if you have questions about this, give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can email us, too, at [email protected].

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