AIMS AND OBJECTIVES To study a group of immigrants' experiences regarding interactions with primary health care through an interpreter. BACKGROUND Approximately, 230 million people are resettled outside of their own home country. Thus, more than 3% of the world's population are migrants. It is a major challenge for health care providers to satisfy immigrants' needs for individualised health care services. DESIGN Qualitative study. METHODS Focus group interviews were conducted with four groups of immigrants (n = 24) from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and Somalia. The group interviews were audio recorded, transcribed and analysed, and the text was categorised using the content analysis method. RESULTS Participants' expectations of the interpreter-mediated consultations were high, but not always fulfilled. Interpreters being late, lacking professionalism or lacking knowledge in medical terminology and the use of health care professionals or relatives as interpreters were some of the problems raised. CONCLUSION A well-organised, disciplined interpreter service with professional and competent interpreters is needed to overcome problems regarding clinical consultations involving interpreters. A satisfactory language bridge has a significant impact on the quality of communications. CLINICAL IMPLICATION Interpreter services should be well organised, and interpreters should be linguistically, culturally and socially competent, as these factors may have a significant impact on consultation outcomes. Using relatives or staff as interpreters can sometimes be a solution but often results in an unsatisfactory clinical consultation.