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Can I seek asylum if I do not speak English?

Thanks to the asylum laws of the United States, people from other countries suffering persecution due to their political opinions, religion, race, or their membership in a specific social group can seek safety in this country. But sometimes time is of the essence. People who need asylum do not always have time to learn English before attempting asylum.

Fortunately, U.S. immigration law allows for people who are not English speakers to apply for asylum. If you or someone you know is in this position, the USCIS describes what must happen going forward.

Bringing an interpreter

U.S. law has no problem with a non-English speaker bringing an interpreter to an asylum interview. However, the USCIS has some requirements for your interpreter. Whoever it is cannot be your attorney or your representative of record. The interpreter also cannot be a person who represents your home country or serves as an employee of the country.

You might want to bring witnesses with you who can testify to your case at the interview. Witnesses can be helpful, but they cannot interpret your words for you, so your interpreter must be a different party. The person who can interpret your words must also be no younger than 18 years of age and be fluent in both English and your present language.

Bringing translated documents

You or your immigrant friend may have little to no experience with English writing. You have only dealt with documents in your home country’s language. But if you have to present important documents to a hearing, you have to present these documents in English. The documents must have a certification that will help show that the documents have a complete, correct and proficient translation.

Fulfilling these steps may put you on the road to securing permanent residence in the U.S. It can also help you bring family members into the country. If the U.S. government grants you asylum, you may file a Form I-730 that can petition your spouse and children for entry into the United States. Hopefully, these actions may secure you and your loved ones from any further harm from your home country.