U.S. Citizenship & Naturalization Interview Experience
Are you nervous about your pending naturalization interview? Possibly even afraid? Well, you’re not alone. Most people are. After all, this a big step towards gaining U.S. citizenship.
A big part of you anxiety towards the interview is no doubt from fearing the unknown. We have written this article to help remove some of the mystery surrounding the naturalization interview experience, so that you can enter the interview more calm, confident, and collected.
Before the Interview
Prepare for your interview.
Before the interview, you or your registered attorney will receive a notice from USCIS telling you the time, date, and location of your naturalization interview. It will also include a list of materials that you should bring with you to the interview. Among these items are:
- The appointment notice;
- Your permanent resident card (green card);
- You passport and/or any other document you used with any entries into the U.S.;
- A valid state issued identification card.
Other evidence that is necessary will depend on your particular circumstances:
- If you are a male between the ages of 18-25, then you must bring proof of your registration with Selective Service.
- If you are applying for naturalization as a spouse of a U.S. citizen, then you must bring your marriage certificate, proof that all of your and your spouse’s prior marriages are legally terminated (if applicable), and your spouse’s birth certificate or naturalization certificate.
- If you are applying for naturalization as a member of the U.S. armed forces, then you must bring your discharge certificate or form DD 214.
- Note: even if any copies of the above evidence was submitted as evidence with your N-400 application, you should still bring all the originals with you to your interview.
If you are unable to attend your interview on the date it is scheduled, then you can request a new date by writing to the District Director of the USCIS Office where your interview is scheduled. You should only do this if it is an important reason to miss the scheduled interview. Also, keep in mind that this may delay your naturalization process for several months.
If you have a disability that prevents you from going to a USCIS office, then you may request that USCIS conduct the interview at your home–simply call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
Prepare for your English and Civics tests.
You will take both your English and Civics tests at the interview, so in the weeks before your interview, you will need to prepare for these tests by:
- Learning the English you will need to know for the exam; and
- Learning the facts you will need to know for the exam.
You will want to be comfortable with this material and to know how to read and write some of the material. For more information on the English you will want to know for the exam, check out our page on English vocabulary you need to know to pass the citizenship exam.
For more study materials and details about the tests, visit USCIS’s website.
Does this test seem too burdensome? You may, in limited circumstances, be able to waive part or all of the test. Find out if you’re eligible here.
Day of your interview.
Plan to arrive to your appointment 15-20 minutes early. You may even be able to get in and out of the whole process early if it is a slow day at USCIS.
Dress nicely. Proper attire shows the USCIS interviewer that you take the interview seriously and that you respect him or her. Men: at least have a clean pair of slacks and button down shirt tucked in. Ladies: slacks or a dress with a nice blouse. Think church clothes or job interview clothes.
Eat a good meal. You are typically not allowed to have food or drink in the USCIS offices, so you will want to eat before your interview. Eating beforehand will help calm your nerves. Also, it will save you from the embarrassment of your stomach growling in the middle of your interview.
Be ready for the security check. Upon entering the USCIS building, you will have to go through security. To make this process easier and hassle free:
- only bring what you need for your interview and your keys into the building (try to leave your phone locked in your car, so you do not risk it ringing in the middle of your interview);
- have your identification card and your appointment notice ready to show the security officer;
- be polite to the security officer; and
- do not joke around with the security officer (joking about contraband can lead to a long and uncomfortable search of your person, and make you late to your interview)
Once you go through security, you will be directed to the waiting room. You will want to check in with the officer behind the customer service desk by presenting him or her with your appointment notice. You will be asked to have a seat until your name is called.
During the Interview
It is important to remember that each interview is unique. While you will certainly go through each of the steps below, they may be in a different order. For instance, the USCIS officer may swear you in first and then give you your English and Civics test.
Oath to tell the truth.
Once you are called to enter the USCIS agent’s office, he will likely introduce himself and then ask you to take an oath that you swear to tell the truth during the interview.
He will ask you to stand (or to remaining standing) and to raise your right hand. Then he will ask whether you swear to be truthful during the interview. The conversation may be along the lines of:
Officer: “Do you swear or affirm that that these statements you give today will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
You: “Yes, I do.”
Officer: “Do you swear that all the information on your application [your N-400], the documents you submitted and the information you give today is the truth”?
You: “Yes, I do.”
Review you naturalization application (N-400).
You will then be seated and the officer will review your N-400 with you. This process is to ensure that the information provided is accurate. It also gives the interviewer a chance to see how well you know English. It may be a good idea for you to review your copy of your N-400 in preparation for your interview.
While reviewing your N-400, the interviewer will ask you basic questions like:
- What is your name?
- When is your date of birth?
- Where were your born?
- Are you married?
The interviewer may also inquire about events that have happened since the date of filing your N-400, such as:
- Since filling your N-400 have you made any trips outside of the United States?
- Since filling your N-400 have you been charged or convicted of any crimes?
It is important to have documents relating to these questions, and it is advisable to speak with an attorney about how these changes could affect your eligibility to naturalize.
If at any time you do not understand a question, you should politely ask the officer to repeat the question or to ask the question in different words.
After reviewing your application, you will sign a series of documents including your application. The interviewer will ask you to review the form and let them know if the information is accurate.
The naturalization tests.
Next you will do your Civics and English tests.
The Civics test is taken orally. The interviewer will ask you up to ten questions and you must get at least six correct to pass.
The English portion contains both a written and a reading section. Each portion contains three problems and you must get at least one right in each section to pass.
After your interview
If, after your interview and passing the naturalization test, the interviewer recommends that your application be approved, you will get a notice in the mail for your naturalization oath ceremony—the final step in the naturalization process.
In some circumstances, you may be able take the oath on the same day as your interview. To learn more about the naturalization oath ceremony, check out our article What is the U.S. Naturalization Oath Ceremony Like?
The naturalization interview is a straightforward event. The better you prepare for your interview, the more smoothly it will go. Being polite and professional will go a long way. If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us today. If you feel that the process of preparing or attending the interview alone is to overwhelming, then consider hiring an immigration attorney to help you prepare and even attend your interview with you.
Final Tips for Your Naturalization Interview:
- Make the right impression. Smile, sit up straight, speak clearly and confidently, make eye contact.
- If you do not understand a question, then politely ask the officer to:
- repeat it;
- speak more slowly;
- speak louder; or
- to rephrase the question.
- Try not to let you interviewer’s mood affect your performance. People have bad days. Your interviewer has a checklist approach conduct your interview. So long as you are polite and do your part, you will be fine.
- Never argue with or lie to your interviewer.
- Relax. If you can keep your nerves in check you will perform much better on the day of your interview.
- Practice makes perfect. Practice, practice, practice. Know you application cold. Review you civics practice questions and learn the English you’ll need to know for the interview and the exam. Check out our free naturalization resources.