How to Apply FAQs
- Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to work for your office?
- How long is the application process?
- What languages are in high demand?
- What kinds of backgrounds do your contract interpreters possess?
- What kinds of backgrounds do your contract translators possess?
- Is travel required?
- How do I start the application process?
- Are references required?
- Am I required to submit a translation sample if applying to take the translating test?
- Where can I find the application form and instructions?
- What happens after I apply?
- Does having a clearance from another government agency help me obtain a position with you?
- What are your rates?
- Do you have any full-time, staff positions available?
No, but you must be able to legally work in the United States. This typically means that you are a permanent resident, have a green card, or have a visa that does not require sponsorship. The Office of Language Services (LS) does not sponsor visas or work permits. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must show proof that you are able to work legally in the United States when submitting your application.
In general, the process can take several months.
Our needs fluctuate on a regular basis.
Most interpreters on our language rosters have years of formal interpreting experience. Most interpreters working at the conference level have considerable conference interpreting experience if their language combination is one that is used regularly in the conference setting. Some contract interpreters, particularly in language combinations not used regularly in conference settings, have experience in legal, healthcare, and community interpreting settings. The requirements in these settings differ considerably from those of our assignments, which means that this type of interpreting experience does not necessarily carry over well to the area of diplomacy and policy. Strong interpreting candidates may have formal training in interpretation, such as a Master of Arts in conference interpreting, if such training is available in the language combination in question, and are often members of professional organizations such as AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) or TAALS (The American Association of Language Specialists).
Excellent reading comprehension in one or more source languages, excellent target-language writing skills and experience. In addition to knowing the language itself, an applicant must be well versed in the culture, government, society, economy, and daily life of source-language countries. Such knowledge may be acquired through a college education with studies covering a source-language country or region, lengthy residence in a source-language country, or other suitable experience.
Excellent target-language writing skills. An applicant must be able to write the target language well at an educated, native level with reasonable speed in a variety of styles. A successful college education or work experience are the best indicators of this qualification. LS generally tests applicants only into their first language. Applicants claiming an acquired target language must demonstrate lengthy residence in a target-language country or show other evidence of extensive experience writing the target language in a setting where writing on an educated native level is demanded on a frequent and regular basis.
Experience: LS cannot train contractors in the practice of translation or provide feedback on every assignment; applicants should thus have considerable recent professional experience translating written material comparable to the kind of work done by LS. Please note that bilingualism, interpreting experience, and spoken fluency in another language, though highly desirable, are not necessarily indicators of aptitude for translating written materials. Broad understanding of U.S. and foreign politics, government, history, economics, and culture, as well as current events and international affairs.
Travel is required for almost all interpreting assignments offered through Language Services. For liaison- and seminar-level interpreting work, a typical assignment involves traveling within the United States to various cities during a period of approximately three weeks. For conference-level interpreting work, the assignments are shorter in length and may involve domestic or international travel.
For written translation work, travel is usually not required.
A. Please visit our Information for Freelance Linguists page to download our testing application. You can find more guidance for the interpreting and testing application process under the Interpreting and Translating subsections of that page.
Yes. We request that you provide three professional references, preferably people who can speak to your translation or interpreting skills.
If you are applying for written translation work, submitting a typed translation sample is required. If no sample is submitted, you will not be considered for translation work regardless of whether you filled out the application section indicating that you are applying for translation work. Please refer to the application instructions for further guidance on translation samples.
Please visit our Information for Freelance Linguists page to download our testing application. You can find more guidance for the interpreting and testing application process under the Interpreting and Translating subsections of that page.
In general, if you have applied and you have sufficient experience and educational background, you may be contacted for a phone screening (interpreting) or to submit an additional sample (translating) to determine your suitability for further testing. Alternatively, you may be invited to come to Washington, DC, at your own expense, to sit for the formal test(s). Test lengths vary by discipline and level but generally range between one and three hours.
No. All applicants are required to undergo a background check conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security after passing a test to be a contractor. It is up to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to determine if clearances from other agencies can be considered as a factor in their review of your clearance application.
We do not publish our rates. Typically rates are not disclosed until after you have passed the exam. The rates are fixed per fiscal year and are competitive with those offered by international organizations.
Staff openings are extremely rare. If there are any staff positions available, they will be posted at the website of the Office of Personnel Management (www.usajobs.gov), where all Civil Service and other direct-hire openings are advertised.