No English = No Passport? What do you think? According to an article in The Telegraph, the latest translation bill makes a joke out of the Government’s pledge that migrants planning to reside in the UK must demonstrate a command of the English language. People applying for a passport should have already passed a citizenship test and are expected to be able to answer basic questions. However, translators are still needed for some newcomers at the latest face-to-face interviews. Some experts feel that it is downright absurd that interpreters are provided for people who according to the rules must be able to speak English in order to qualify for a passport.
While the government’s pledge of ensuring that the issuance of a passport is conditionally based on being able to speak the English language, it seems counterproductive to provide translators. In the meantime, the passport office continues to spend a vast amount of public funds on translation and interpretation services for passport applicants who can’t speak English.
Face-to-face interviews for adult passport applicants became mandatory in an attempt to prevent passport fraud. The interviews, conducted in order to securely establish identity, can last up to 20 minutes. During the interviews, passport applicants are questioned on personal information such as bank accounts and past addresses. Without translators present, the interviews could not be completed accurately. Even though the majority of passport applicants have been in the country for at least five years, most of them still need interpreters.
The British government is determined to ensure that British passports remain one of the most secure passports in the world. A Home Office spokesman stated “To become a British citizen, and apply for a passport, people must speak English, work hard and play by the rules. It is crucial that these interviews securely establish identity – therefore on occasion an interpreter may be called to assist. This can help satisfy us that the person attending the interview is the legitimate passport applicant.”