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Under AIIC rules, is it possible to work in a city different from my professional address under some circumstances?

Assuming that I'm living in Spain (Barcelona is my professional address) but I'm visiting friends/family in Hamburg for a couple of weeks or just staying there on holidays... Assuming that I get an urgent call from a client in Hamburg and he needs a consecutive interpreter in three days... Would it be fair to accept the job without charging the travel/hotel expenses and per diem allowances?

asked 03 Nov '11, 10:14

Andreas%20C's gravatar image

Andreas C

edited 04 Nov '11, 08:06

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

It's perfectly OK under AIIC rules, provided that you work for private clients, which is what you're asking about.

It's not OK at all if you somehow were to lead international organisations that recruit interpreters under a collective agreement with AIIC to believe that you operate from another professional address than that listed under your name in the online AIIC directory of members. Doing so will land you in trouble.

Why is that? Simply because the professional address - or homebase - is used to determine how much an interpreter can claim in terms of allowances (perdiems, travel time, etc.) and reimbursement of expenses (your return plane ticket to the conference venue, for instance).

By the way, the same principle generally applies when working for private clients. An interpreter, like any other professional, will seek to obtain compensation for all costs incurred in relation with an out-of-town assignment. But that is not something that is at all regulated by AIIC.

Some interpreters may choose to do homebase-hopping and not charge extra when working in another city or country. But it's probably not going to be seen as being very professional by others who operate on the same markets.

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answered 03 Nov '11, 10:35

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

edited 03 Nov '11, 20:52


Under AIIC rules, is it possible to work in a city different from my professional address under some circumstances? YES.
An association cannot regulate contrary to the law. AIIC does not. Unless any other legislation prevents you from doing so, free competition allows you to offer your services anywhere. The professional domicile/address is used for administrative reasons in AIIC and in collective agreements.

Would it be fair to accept the job without charging the travel/hotel expenses and per diem allowances? PROBABLY NOT Fairness is however a personal judgement, made according to one's own moral code.

But rather than according to 'fairness' perhaps you should ask whether it's 'professional' to do so.

A professional association should expect its members to act professionally and should help them to do so. AIIC promotes 'best practices' and helps those new to the market. It therefore proposes the many different elements which should (not must) be in a contract between a service provider and a contractor. The member must decide which clauses are necessary to each contract.

If a member chooses to disregard such elements as travel expenses they are likely to be out of pocket very soon, considered unprofessional by their peers - and probably also by the contractor who may wonder why a so-called professional is charging them so little if they're patently not working at their usual 'place of business'.

In the case of the question, it would probably be both 'fairer' and more 'professional' to suggest a local colleague to the client, if there is one. You can then continue to enjoy your holiday with your family or friends - and nevertheless make your client happy.

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answered 12 May '12, 16:02

Linda's gravatar image


Thank you very much, Linda :-).

(12 May '12, 19:40) msr

If you work outside your professional address without getting compensated for your travelling time and/or travel & accommodation expenses, other (local) interpreters – who will stay idle at home - may consider that this is unfair competition. It is up to you to decide whether you want additional work at any cost or whether you’d rather take care of your reputation. It is a question of ethics and solidarity. Two principles that cannot be regulated but that are still very alive (or should be) on the free-lance market.

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answered 12 May '12, 08:58

Danielle's gravatar image



This is a particularly thorny question given the difference in professional practice in many countries, traditions within AIIC and the actual laws and regulations in place. For example, in the UNITED STATES not only is it perfectly legal to "homebase-hop" as Vincent Buck puts it, it would appear to be ILLEGAL to ban, prohibit, or discourage an interpreter from doing so. Moreover, even accusing an interpreter of unethical behavior in such cases would appear to be illegal in the U.S.! The reason is that in 1997, the Federal Trade Commission issued a ruling that referred specifically to the matter of professional address, banning, among other aspects:

"Prohibiting, restricting, regulating, impeding, declaring unethical, interfering with, or advising against any form of price competition in the United States, including, but not limited to, ..... accepting any particular lodging or travel arrangements;....

Discouraging, restricting, or prohibiting interpreters from performing interpretation, translation, or other language services within the United States free of charge or at a discount, or from paying their own travel, lodging, meals, or other expenses."

Of course, these rules are applicable only in the U.S. In other jurisdictions, the criteria may be very different. As always, it behooves the traveling interpreter to know the law!

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answered 23 May '12, 23:27

Tezajovy1's gravatar image



As replies so far have indicated, the behaviour in question would hardly meet with collegiate applause... but I go one step further and respectufully submit ( although acknowledging that professional ethics alone should be more than enough to guide one's professional behaviour .. and collegiate disapproval should be enough to enforce them, should one's flesh be feeble) that in light of the following principles, quoted from aiic's Code of Ethics:

  • "This Code of Professional Ethics (hereinafter called the "Code") lays down the standards of integrity, professionalism and confidentiality which all members of the Association shall be bound to respect in their work as conference interpreters;
  • Acceptance of an assignment shall imply a moral undertaking on the member's part to work with all due professionalism;
  • Members of the Association shall not accept any job or situation which might detract from the dignity of the profession.They shall refrain from any act which might bring the profession into disrepute;
  • It shall be the duty of members of the Association to afford their colleagues moral assistance and collegiality;
  • Members shall refrain from any utterance or action prejudicial to the interests of the Association or its members;"

... the answer to the original question " Would it be fair to accept the job without charging the travel/hotel expenses and per diem allowances?" IMHO should be NO, it would not be fair.. and in aiic neither professional, collegial, ethical, integrous nor respectful of the diginity of the profession, rather conducive to disrepute thereof and thus prejudicial to the interests of the Association and its members... as I would hope aiic's competent body would adjudicate if such matter was brought before it, should it be deemed that the unmitigated facts of the case amounted to a violation of one or several of these principles.

Indeed, despite the fact that in aiic's Professional Standards the precepts regarding these issues are conditionally worded, ie

  • "Travel: Contracts should include a clause covering travel arrangements, as appropriate;
  • Rest Days: Travel conditions should be such that they do not impair either the interpreter's health or the quality of her/his work following a journey. After a long journey, or after a journey involving a major shift in time zones, scheduling of rest days should be considered;
  • Accommodation and Subsistence: Contracts should include a clause covering accommodation and subsistence arrangements, as appropriate;"

..."should" - again IMHO - does not imply, inasmuch as we're dealing here with a contract between a service provider and the acquirer thereof, that the contractual expression of said provisions may be nought, rather that for aiic affiliates they must be reasonable... and if need be, that's precisely what the competent body must determine, in the light of whatever circumstances prevailed.

May I further draw your attention to the fact that, contrary to the conditional wording of these precepts, those regarding professional address are prescriptively worded, ie

  • "Professional Address: Members of the Association shall declare a single professional address. It shall be published in the Association's list of members and shall be used, inter alia, as a basis for setting up regions.(...) any change in professional address (...)shall not be permitted for a period of less than six months. Any such change must be notified to the secretariat at least one month before the intended date (...)." other words, said principle is NOT limited to agreement work and, again - as always - IMHO, this means both that all aiic affiliates must have one declared professional address for any given date (changeable only according to procedures set out) and that any FL work away from it should be covered by clauses covering travel, accomodation and subsistence - likewise for rest days, if any.

If an aiic colleague practices any undeclared professional address, s/he's therefore liable - other than to the displeasure of colleagues... which by the way takes more resolve than voting rules... - to aiic action... and one - not the single one but one - of the things that distinguishes a professional address from the rest of the world is of course the fact that travel, accmdt., susbst. and maybe rest are involved if one works away... ergo must professionally be reasonably charged.

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answered 12 May '12, 10:43

msr's gravatar image


edited 13 May '12, 16:04

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck


I'm downvoting this answer, not only because it is characteristically convoluted but plain wrong. The official AIIC answer to "May I work in a region/city different from my professional address (without charging for travel/accommodation) (under AIIC rules)" is clearly YES.

Only suggesting otherwise would indeed be illegal, since AIIC has always made it clear that it fully accepted the 1997 FTC ruling .

For all I know there's nothing preventing AIIC interpreters from working for free, or even at a loss if they so wish. Doing so would clearly be very stupid and self-defeating in the medium-term, but that's another story, the ins and outs of which having nothing to do with AIIC rules but with the basic tenets of economic operation.

(12 May '12, 11:24) Vincent Buck

I agree with Vincent. I believe that awareness raising is more efficient than false threats. Thank you in advance for not using this Q&A site for aiic-internal discussions.

(12 May '12, 11:38) Angela

With warm regards, I do not apologize for alleged convolutedness, dear Vincent - unfortunately not every subject can be disposed of in a few lines nor invoking but one-liners… and I tried to draft mine as clearly as I could - but I do respectfully recommend that you refrain from asserting that there is an official (sic) aiic answer , unless you produce such an authoritative thing; furthermore, I envy your certitude in deeming my opinion to be "plain wrong", insofar as it covers only my interpretation of texts in replying to a question, w/o prejudice to aiic’s rulings, past or future and if any, on the matter.

FTC's ruling says what it says, aiic texts likewise: I tried to offer my construct of how they may be jointly interpreted, in support of what we all deem to be the “right” answer to the question put.

(12 May '12, 11:48) msr

@msr. It's not me speaking when I say you're wrong. It's not me saying I'm right either. I commented and care to repeat that your answer is wrong because such has been the authorised opinion of all lawyers that AIIC has consulted on the matter over the years. Now I'm sure you knew all that but got carried away by your love of hermeutics. I would however respectfully suggest that there are better and safer topics for you to give free reign to your interpretative instincts.

(12 May '12, 12:13) Vincent Buck

...oh dear, too verbose again, here goes my comment-turned-answer.

I do plead guilty as charged on my love of hermeneutics :-), I agree with you when you say that there are safer (dunno as to better, I quite like this one) topics for my "interpretative instincts" - and I gratefully note your acknowledgment thereof ;-) - ... I do not, however, get to choose which topics are allowed to be debated here, you - inter alia - do... and in this case not only allowed it but replied to it: I'm sure you do not mean to imply that only those answers you agree with should live on, and will therefore resign myself to living with your displeasure, however painful, in the form of down-votes, drawing some consolation from having them explained and being allowed, this time round and for the time being, to "live" on.

This topic was brought to my attention when bumped up the list by Danielle's reply - with whose wise and "aiic-free" reply I concur - and the original question together with your reply prompted me to draft what I have always believed in this regard, well before and irrespective of FTC - and, I may add, IMHO in no contradiction with the latter: as I see it and hope to have spelled out, the reasons why aiic (if called upon to do so) can act in these matters are not monetary but ethical... whether it should, is - fortunately! - above my paygrade.

I firmly believe in our Code of Ethics and do NOT believe that there's any gain to be had from letting the profession and our partners believe that aiic has no ethical teeth, quite the contrary; although I equally firmly believe that in an ideal world professional ethics need no enforcement, because universally respected, our world, unfortunately, is however far from ideal...

As to you not being you when you speak/write in your individual capacity - as do all of us here - and your right/wrong judgements of the opinions of others depending on third opinions proferred as to the legality of possible actions, necessarily predicated on the grounds quoted... I take good note and sincerely thank you for taking the trouble to explain.

(12 May '12, 13:11) msr
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question asked: 03 Nov '11, 10:14

question was seen: 14,647 times

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