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Passports: Languages

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what language facilities other than English have been required to assist staff in dealing with non-English speaking passport applicants at the passport office in Belfast during 2008. (248423)

[holding answer 19 January 2009]: The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) Belfast does not keep records of all instances when language facilities other than English are required in dealing with non-English speaking passport applicants. All applications are made in English and when foreign documents support these and require translation, customers are asked to provide a translation from an independent and verifiable translator. Given the range of applications submitted from persons whose birth, marriage, divorce, or change of name may take place abroad, it is impossible to provide a definitive list of the number or type of translation services that may be required.

On the rare occasion when a caller making an application or inquiry at the public counter does not speak English, they may communicate through a friend or family member. Given the infrequency of the requirement for translation or interpreter services at Belfast, it would not be cost effective for IPS to make separate permanent provision for this.

The only exception arises in the case of interviews to authenticate identity at the regional office public counter at Hampton House High street Belfast or at the IPS Interview Office at Norwood House, Great Victoria street, Belfast. In such cases for security reasons IPS will provide an interpreter if required.

In 2008 no interpreter services were required at the Hampton House public counter. Eight cases arose at the Interview Office in Norwood House, comprising six cases interpreting Chinese Mandarin, one case interpreting Cantonese and one case interpreting Bengali.