Free interpreting and translating services for migrants in Australia

Language barriers can impact on some key elements of the settlement process such as obtaining medical care, finding housing or understanding a utility bill. For those struggling with pronunciation and understanding of what is said in English, help is available, and it can be free of charge.

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Source: Credit: Getty/Louise Beaumont Source: Credit: Getty/Louise Beaumont

Highlights
  • Translating and Interpreting Services provides free immediate phone interpreting service in more than 160 languages
  • When requesting a translator or interpreter you can choose to specify their gender
  • Free Translating Service is available for most permanent and some temporary visa holders
  • Immigration documents need to be translated by a NAATI accredited professional
Sometimes it is not enough to ‘get by’ in English.  Communication with professionals such as doctors, lawyers or government agents can be challenging and stressful for adult migrants.

The Department of Home Affairs provides free of charge interpreting services for people with low level of English proficiency. Furthermore, eligible migrants can access Free Translating Service to ease the cost of their settlement.

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Interpreting Services

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) provides free interpreting services for people who are not fluent in English and have to communicate with a private or government agency. 

There are over 22,000 agencies registered with TIS National including state and federal government departments, local councils, medical and health practitioners, pharmacists, utility companies, telecommunication companies, emergency services, legal services and settlement and community service providers. 

Rockiya Pirova is TIS National Director. She says the program contracts over 3,000 interpreters in more than  across Australia. 

TIS National works 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Their services include immediate telephone interpreting, pre-booked phone interpreting and on-site interpreting.  

To access an immediate phone interpreter, call TIS National on 131 450.

Once you are connected to an interpreter in the language you asked for; you will need to provide the name of the organisation and the number you need to contact before the phone conference can start.

Most of the agencies registered with TIS National will accept the charges for the interpreting services, so you do not have to pay. However, if the organisation does not accept the costs, you may open a personal account with TIS National and pay for the service yourself. 

The pre-booked phone service is convenient when you require specialist knowledge or when you want to ensure the interpreter approaches the complexity and sensitivity of your assignment in the most appropriate way.

If there's a sensitive assignment or if the client requests to have a specific gender, we can accommodate as well.
You can schedule a phone interpreting service in advance by submitting a  on the TIS National website. 

A pre-booked interpreting request needs to be submitted at least 24 hours before the proposed booking time and up to 90 days in advance of the date of request. 

When using a phone interpreter is not suitable, TIS National can organise on-site interpreting services. This service is not free; the cost is based on a fee-for-service calculation.

The on-site interpreting services are usually booked by the organisations that need to have a face-to-face meeting with their non-English speaking clients. This service is available for any location in Australia, subject to the interpreter’s availability. 
translating services, on-site translation
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Translating Services

The Department of Home Affairs offers a free translation for up to 10 documents for people who are settling in Australia. 

Most permanent and some temporary residents whose visa was granted within the previous two years are eligible for the Free Translating Service. 

Australian citizens, as well as people on bridging visas, tourist visas and working holiday visas, cannot access this service. 

The kind of documents you can get translated includes identity, medical, business, employment and education records, as well as marriage, divorce and death certificates, and academic transcripts, among others. 

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If you are not eligible for the Free Translating Service or you need a translation for more than 10 documents, there are many commercial providers that you can access.

When choosing a translator, make sure he or she is accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters or NAATI for short. 

Government bodies, Australian universities and employers require document translation to bear the NAATI accreditation stamp. 

NAATI CEO Mark Painting says that you can verify a translator's credentials on their online verification tool. 

If someone claims to have accreditation, the consumer who engaged them can verify or validate those credentials on our website.
To request the services of an interpreter for free, call TIS National on 131 450.  

For other TIS National services visit .

More information about Free Translating Service is available on 

To find out if your translator or interpreter is accredited by NAATI, visit .


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4 min read
Published 19 June 2020 at 3:06pm
By Josipa Kosanovic