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Fact Sheet 91 – Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)

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The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) provides interpreting services for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

TIS National provides immediate phone interpreting services 24 hours a day, every day of the year, delivering services to all states and territories in Australia. TIS National has a panel of over 2600 interpreters speaking more than 160 languages and dialects.

The TIS National contact centre routinely handles over 5500 calls each business day. During 2012–13, the highest demand languages for phone interpreting were Mandarin, Arabic, Persian, Vietnamese, Tamil, Hazaragi, Korean, Cantonese, Dari and Turkish.

Multicultural Access and Equity Policy

The Multicultural Access and Equity Policy reflects the principle that all Australians should be able to access government programmes and services equitably, regardless of their cultural, linguistic or religious backgrounds. More information about access and equity is available on the Department of Social Services website.

TIS National delivers access and equity to the community by:

  • providing an immediate phone interpreting service 24 hours a day, every day of the year
  • providing free interpreting services to non-English speakers
  • providing free interpreting services to eligible agency clients
  • providing a range of interpreting service options to meet client needs
  • providing a range of informative publications and promotional materials about our services.

Services provided

TIS National provides access to the following interpreting services:

  • immediate phone interpreting
  • automated voice-prompted immediate phone interpreting
  • pre-booked phone interpreting
  • on-site interpreting.

Immediate phone interpreting

The immediate phone interpreting service can be accessed by agency and non-English speaking clients who need to use an interpreter immediately over the phone with the assistance of a contact centre operator.

To access the immediate phone interpreter service contact the TIS National 24 hour contact centre on 131 450.

TIS National also has priority phone lines for emergency service organisations, some parts of the department, and medical practitioners in private practice.

Automated voice-prompted phone interpreting

Automated Telephone Interpreting Service (ATIS) Voice is an automated voice-prompted immediate phone interpreting service. ATIS Voice is a service for agency clients to access an interpreter in high demand languages without assistance from a TIS National operator.

ATIS Voice uses voice recognition technology to identify the language requested, and automatically connect you with an interpreter in that language. ATIS Voice allows you to avoid lengthy call wait times you may experience when calling the contact centre for an immediate phone interpreter.

You can access ATIS Voice through a single free call 1800 number to reduce flag-fall costs for high volume users. ATIS Voice users also receive a 10 per cent discount off TIS National's immediate phone interpreter charges.

More information is available from the TIS National website.
See: TIS National website

Pre-booked phone interpreting

Pre-booked phone interpreting is available for agency clients to book a phone interpreter in advance of an appointment.

Pre-booking a phone interpreter will ensure any special requirements can be catered for and that the best available interpreter can be secured for a nominated time. Pre-booking an interpreter is recommended when the assignment may be complex, requires specialist knowledge or the availability of interpreters in a particular language is limited.

More information is available from the TIS National website.
See: TIS National website

On-site interpreting

On-site interpreting is available for agencies to book an interpreter to attend an appointment with a client face-to-face.

When a phone interpreter is not suitable, TIS National can arrange for an interpreter to visit your location. On-site interpreting services can be arranged for any location in Australia (subject to interpreter availability).

An on-site interpreter may be most appropriate when:

  • you have a scheduled appointment with a client
  • the appointment is of a sensitive or serious nature
  • you anticipate that the appointment will go for an extended period of time.

More information is available on the TIS National website.
See: TIS National website

Service charges

TIS National provides interpreting services on a fee-for-service basis.

Interpreting service charges are available from the TIS National website.
See: TIS National website

Free interpreting service

The Department of Social Services, through TIS National, provides free interpreting services to non-English speaking Australian citizens and permanent residents communicating with certain approved groups and individuals.

Eligible individuals and organisations may include:

  • Private medical practitioners (defined as general practitioners and medical specialists) providing Medicare rebateable services and their reception staff to arrange appointments and provide results of medical tests.
  • Incorporated, not-for-profit, non-government, community-based organisations for case work and emergency services where the organisation does not receive funding to provide these services.
    Note: Organisations that require language services (such as interpreting) and receive substantial government funding should incorporate the cost of these services into their application for funding.
  • Members of Parliament for constituency purposes.
  • Local government authorities to communicate with non-English speaking Australian citizens and permanent residents on issues such as rates, garbage collection and urban services.
  • Trade unions to respond to members' enquiries or requests.
  • Pharmacies for the purpose of dispensing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medications.

A list of approved categories of medical specialists is available on the Medical Board of Australia’s website.
See: Medical specialties and specialty fields

Real Estate Agencies Pilot

In 2013 the Department of Social Services' Real Estate Agencies Pilot was expanded to include more eligible areas of new settlement. The pilot provides free telephone interpreting services for real estate agencies, through TIS National, to help them communicate with non-English speaking, newly arrived permanent residents and humanitarian entrants on a range of private residential property matters.

Free translating service

The Department of Social Services also provides a free document translating service for Australian citizens and new migrants settling permanently in Australia.

Within the first two years of arriving in Australia, eligible individuals can have key personal documents such as birth or marriage certificates, drivers’ licences, educational and employment documents translated into English, free of charge, to assist with settlement into the community. This does not include documents that are required for a visa application. Applications for the free document translating service can be lodged at any Adult Migrant English Programme (AMEP) provider in Australia.

For more information about free interpreting and translating services contact the TIS National Language policy liaison team.
Telephone: 1300 575 847

More information

For more information about TIS National interpreting services contact the Client liaison and promotions team.
Telephone: 1300 655 820

More information about TIS National is also available on TIS National’s website.
See: TIS National website

Fact Sheet 91. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed December 2013.