Frequently Asked Questions for agencies

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) has produced some Frequently Asked Questions designed to answer some common questions for agencies and businesses about our services.

If you cannot find what you are looking for on our website please contact us and a TIS National staff member will help with your enquiry.

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TIS National services-Expand content

Does TIS National provide document translation services?

TIS National does not provide a commercial document translation service. If you need to complete a commercial translation, you can search for a credentialed translator through the National Accreditation Authority for Translating and Interpreting (NAATI) website.

The Department of Social Services provides a free translating service for people settling permanently in Australia. Permanent residents and select temporary or provisional visa holders are able to have up to ten eligible documents translated, into English, within the first two years of their eligible visa grant date.

From 1 July 2017, applications for the Free Interpreting Service are made online at www.translating.dss.gov.au. Clients need to provide evidence of their eligibility for this service when applying. More information about the Free Translating Service is available at www.translating.dss.gov.au.

TIS Online for agencies-Expand content

How are interpreters allocated to bookings?

New booking requests are automatically posted out to all interpreters who meet the job requirements, to self-nominate for the job. Job requirements include:

  • the language they interpret in

  • their National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) credential level

  • their location

  • their availability

  • other criteria you have requested, such as gender.

Using TIS National services-Expand content

Can I request a specific interpreter?

TIS National’s policy is to allocate work to interpreters on the basis of their:

This ensures that clients receive the most qualified available interpreter. 

In some circumstances, limited additional factors such as those outlined below may be taken into account in determining allocation. However, the highest available credential level always remains a primary criterion.

Gender:

TIS National accepts that there are sometimes circumstances where an interpreter of a specific gender is required.  For example, this may be necessary for sensitive matters, especially those of a medical nature. To facilitate this, clients can indicate the gender of interpreter required (where this is important). TIS National will then allocate the highest credentialed available interpreter of that gender, wherever possible.

Working with Children’s Check:

Occasionally, clients may advise TIS National that they require an interpreter with a Working with Children’s Check (or equivalent). Such requests are made in order to comply with relevant legislation and TIS National will therefore give such requests priority when determining allocation. In these circumstances, allocation will be to the most highly credentialed available interpreter who holds the required Check.

Specific Interpreter Requests:

TIS National strongly encourages clients to avoid requesting specific interpreters where possible.

Such requests:

  • limit TIS National’s ability to supply an interpreter, particularly for urgent requests (the specified interpreter may not be available when requested); and
  • may not result in allocation of the most highly credentialed interpreter available for your appointment.

In exceptional circumstances, TIS National may agree to fulfil a client’s request for a specific interpreter.  However, the client must first clearly demonstrate what exceptional circumstances apply to warrant allocation outside of normal policy. 

Whilst such requests are assessed on a case by case basis, they are more likely to be considered favourably where a client can demonstrate that allocation of the nominated interpreter is:

  • essential to maintaining the quality and continuity of care or service; and
  • of clear benefit to the non-English speaking client.

Clients will be required to complete an indemnity form, including details of the exceptional circumstances which apply, before TIS National will consider a specific interpreter request.

Specific interpreter requests must generally be made at least three business days prior to the appointment date. Requests made less than three business days in advance will only be considered in exceptional circumstances and will generally result in an interpreter being allocated in accordance with standard TIS National interpreter allocation policy.

If a specific interpreter request is declined, the client will be offered the highest credentialed interpreter available at the time. Where a client chooses not to accept the interpreter allocated in this manner and decides to cancel the request, this must be done with sufficient notice, in accordance with TIS National’s Cancellation Policy in order to avoid charges. Cancellations must be made in TIS Online or in writing, as appropriate.

No other considerations are ordinarily taken into account when allocating assignments. 

TIS National:

  • does not keep records on interpreters’ ethnicity, nationality, country of birth, religion or political affiliations and is unable to allocate interpreters based on these considerations
  • will not provide a specific interpreter simply to meet the personal preferences of the client or non-English speaker (NES)
  • will not agree to allocate a specific interpreter outside of the usual allocation policy where there is no evidence to substantiate a history or continuity of care or service.

Can I request an interpreter based on their cultural background or religion?

No. TIS National assigns work to interpreters on the basis of National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) credential (qualification) level and availability to ensure you receive the most qualified available interpreter. TIS National cannot assign work to an interpreter on the basis of cultural background or religion.

I'm having difficulty securing a phone interpreter. What can I do?

If TIS National has not been able to find a phone interpreter for your request, the following tips and hints may help.

Credential level - On your original request you may have asked us to only consider interpreters with a Certified Interpreter/Professional level credential from the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). It may be helpful to re-assess whether it is crucial that you only use an interpreter with this credential, as considering using a lower or nil-credentialed interpreter can significantly improve your chances of securing an interpreter. TIS National’s procedure when filling requests is to always allocate the highest credentialed available interpreter first. Also note, NAATI certification/accreditation is not available in all languages. We will be unable to fill your request in these languages if you have requested we only consider certified/accredited interpreters.

Other languages spoken by your client - Does your client speak more than one language other than English? If they do, it may improve your chances of securing an interpreter if you request an interpreter in another language they speak as it increases the pool of interpreters we can contact and the likelihood of an interpreter being available.

Have the information ready - Having all of the necessary information with you when you call TIS National for an immediate service assists our operators to source the required interpreter as quickly as possible, allowing them to answer as many calls from clients as possible each day. When you call 131 450, you can assist our operators by having the following information with you:

  • your client code
  • your agency's name and the section you work in
  • the language required
  • your name and contact phone number
  • the non-English speaker's name (you can choose to keep this confidential)
  • the non-English speaker's phone number (if you need us to call them)any required information your agency has requested be recorded by TIS National (for example, an identification number or claim number).

Off-peak times - High demand for interpreting services during peak times can affect the amount of time it takes for our clients to connect with an operator and be allocated an interpreter when using our immediate service. To avoid lengthy wait times and improve your chances of being connected with an available interpreter it may be helpful to call TIS National during our quieter times. If you have the ability to call during our off-peak times between 8 am and 10 am Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) from Monday to Thursday and all day on Friday, you may have a better chance of finding an available interpreter.

ATIS - Using TIS National’s automated voice-prompted immediate phone interpreting service, ATIS, allows agency clients to access an interpreter in a range of high demand languages without assistance from a TIS National operator. ATIS automatically connects you with an interpreter in the requested language allowing you to avoid lengthy call wait times you may experience calling the contact centre for an immediate phone interpreter. Register for ATIS online or call our Client liaison and promotions account managers on 1300 655 820 for more information.

I'm having difficulty securing an on-site interpreter. What can I do?

If TIS National has not been able to find an on-site interpreter for your request, the following tips and hints may help.

Credential level - On your original request you may have asked us to only consider interpreters with a Certified Interpreter/Professional level credential from the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). It may be helpful to re-assess whether it is crucial that you only use an interpreter with this credential, as considering using a lower or nil-credentialed interpreter can significantly improve your chances of securing an interpreter. TIS National’s procedure when filling requests is to always allocate the highest credentialed available interpreter first. Also note, NAATI certification/accreditation is not available in all languages. We will be unable to fill your request in these languages if you have requested we only consider certified/accredited interpreters.

Other languages spoken by your client - Does your client speak more than one language other than English? If they do, it may improve your chances of securing an interpreter if you request an interpreter in another language they speak as it increases the pool of interpreters we can contact and the likelihood of an interpreter being available.

Send your request in advance – Sending your request approximately two weeks before the scheduled appointment time will generally give you the greatest chance of securing an interpreter. This will increase the pool of interpreters who are available to accept the assignment as they haven’t already made prior commitments. While TIS National can accept on-site booking requests up to 90 days in advance of an appointment, these requests can be difficult to fill as many of our interpreters will not be able to commit to a booking too far in advance. When TIS National receives an urgent job request (i.e. within three business day of the requested time) it will be processed within a 24 to 48 hour period. Booking requests for an interpreter for the same day the request is submitted are actioned immediately. However it’s important to note that in these cases the pool of interpreters available to accept the request will be somewhat limited, as it’s likely our interpreters will have already accepted other bookings at that time.

Schedule your appointments together - If you need an interpreter in a particular language for more than one of your clients, try to schedule your appointments with them on the same day. By scheduling the appointments together, you can book a single interpreter for a longer period of time and use them for multiple client appointments.

Provide an alternative date and time - When sending your booking request, if possible, provide an alternative date and time for your appointment. This will provide our booking team with another option to find you an available interpreter in the case no one is available at your preferred time.

Include accurate booking details - When completing your booking request it is important you include accurate booking details to ensure we can process and complete your booking as required.

Use a phone interpreter instead - If you have been notified that we can’t provide an on-site interpreter for your booking, consider if it would be possible to use a pre-booked or immediate phone interpreter. Using a phone interpreter allows us to draw from a pool of interpreters across Australia, rather than only considering interpreters based in your location. Using a phone interpreter also provides a greater level of privacy for your client, particularly when the only suitable on-site interpreter may be known personally to your client.

Working with TIS National interpreters-Expand content

How do I know that my interpreter is competent and qualified?

TIS National is committed to providing the highest quality interpreting service to our clients.

TIS National ensures that interpreters are competent and qualified by:

TIS National also maintains an active feedback register to record both positive and negative feedback and follow up issues when required. We strongly encourage you to provide feedback as it helps us identify issues we may not be aware of.

What are the levels of interpreter credentials and what do they mean?

Credentials from the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) are the only qualifications officially accepted for the interpreting profession in Australia.

There are three main levels of interpreter credentials available through NAATI.

Certified Interpreter/Professional Accreditation (or higher):

Suitable for specialisations such as health, legal and formal proceedings. 

Certified Provisional Interpreter/Para-professional Accreditation:

Suitable for general conversations and interpreting non-specialist dialogues. 

Recognised Practising Interpreter/Recognition:

Granted in emerging languages or languages with low community demand for which NAATI does not offer certification. Interpreters with this credential have recent and regular experience as an interpreter. Suitable for general conversations and interpreting non-specialist dialogues.

Some TIS National interpreters hold none of the credentials outlined above and are referred to as ‘Nil credentialed’. This generally occurs in very low demand languages where NAATI offers neither certification nor recognised practising status. These interpreters undergo TIS National interview and reference checking processes to ensure their work is of a high standard. For languages where certification/accreditation is not available, TIS National may be able to allocate a Recognised Practising or nil-credentialed interpreter. 

 

What should I expect when using a TIS National interpreter?

TIS National gives priority to interpreters who have National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) credentials, which provides a guarantee of interpreter skill and accuracy.

TIS National interpreters understand their responsibilities and perform under the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) Code of Ethics. Our interpreters maintain professional behaviour and keep the content of a conversation confidential whilst abiding by their Code of Ethics. Our interpreters facilitate communication with the non-English speaking client and do not conduct interviews, give advice, complete forms or provide their own personal opinions.