What Happens At A Naturalization Interview?

Curious what the naturalization interview is all about? If you’re getting ready to apply for naturalization, it’s time you prepared for your N-400 interview to be sure you pass the test.

I will say this… I was nervous at my own naturalization interview.

Why? It’s because of the 100 questions that I had been practicing the week before. Although I knew the answers to all the questions, I know that when I’m on the spot my mind tends to blank out on me.

TIP: Download the civics test app for your iPhone or Android!

civics app

I find the app the USCIS has made available to be very useful in practicing the civics questions. It’s made it into a fun game so I highly recommend you download it too.

Case Example:

Jeanne arrived in the US after marrying her husband of 1 year. She arrived on a CR1 spouse visa and became eligible for naturalization 3 years after becoming a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).

She put together her N-400 with the help of her husband and sent it in. Almost a year later she received her interview letter that had the date and time to show up to her local field office. Jeanne was nervous but she had been practicing for the civics test for several months.

If Jeanne wants to pass her civics test, she must study the list of 100 test questions that may be asked at the naturalization interview.

Additionally, you should start gathering the necessary documents that you need to bring with you such as marriage certificate, green card, passport, and birth certificates of any children you have with your spouse.

Related Post: Can I Apply For Citizenship With Expired Green Card?

Naturalization Interview Process

The US citizenship interview is something like the final test in your last class of your final semester…

You’ve been waiting a long LONG time for this day to come and now it’s here and you are nervous. You want to do well on the test so that you pass and get your certificate of naturalization, right?

In other words, you need to study hard and show up on time for your final civics test. You will be graded on the civics test questions and if you pass, you move on to the oath ceremony (kind of like a graduation).

So, let’s review some of the steps in the naturalization interview process.

Related Post: Can I Apply For Naturalization With Pending I-751?

Step 1: Receive appointment letter form USCIS.

After you submit form N-400 and complete biometrics, there is a long waiting period before you will be called for an interview.

Unfortunately, this waiting period has gotten longer and longer since Trump came into office.

But, when the day arrives and you check the mail and see a letter from USCIS, you can jump for joy! Or run home in nervous excitement…

The letter will tell you where you need to show up for the interview as well as the day and time. 

Step 2: Go to your interview on time.

Do not arrive late for your naturalization interview!

Be a bit early or on time so that you can relax and practice those civics questions before you’re name is called.

It might be helpful for you to drive to the location of your interview a few days before the big day. This will ensure you know the route to take and you can account for any traffic hiccups that you notice.

Once you arrive, you will be guided in through security. Be sure to dress professionally or at least clean and neat. 

Guys: button down shirt, khakis, dress pants, polo shirt… no jeans, dirty clothes or smelling of weed.

Girls: blouse, pants, skirt, conservative dress… no jeans, short shorts, tank top or anything you wouldn’t wear to work.

Step 3: Bring your ID and documents that USCIS requested.

Finally, before sitting down for the actual naturalization interview you will need to have the following documents with you when you arrive:

  • Interview appointment letter
    • The first thing that security will ask for is your interview letter. They want to know that the people showing up to the building have a valid reason to be there. Also, you can’t pick your own day and time to arrive so make sure that if the date set by USCIS doesn’t work for you that you try to reschedule it. This may not be possible for you unless you have a good reason why you need to reschedule.
  • Green card + another form of ID (just in case)
    • Try not to forget to bring your green card! This proves that you are currently a lawful permanent resident and it can be used a proof of identification. Some of you may still have your I-751 pending and therefore have an expired 2 year green card. This is fine, and USCIS will know that you I-751 is pending which extends the validity of your permanent resident status anyway.
  • Supporting evidence
    • Bring original copies of your supporting documents. This means your marriage certificate, birth certificate of children born during the marriage and any criminal record documents you may have. You may also want to bring copies of your lease/mortgage and other documents that show both your names on it to prove you are still married and sharing a home.

Step 4: Answer questions about your background and application.

During the interview, the immigration officer may begin with small talk or they may just jump right into asking questions.

Be prepared to answer anything about your past. This can include details about your relationship, your job, your travels outside the US and children you may have.

In additional to personal questions, you will be asked about any criminal convictions that come up during the background check. Be sure that you bring any evidence that the charges were dropped or your records were sealed.

Step 5: Take the English and civics test.

naturalization stats

Finally, it’s time to take a English and civics test!

The English test is very easy but if English is still your second language be sure that you understand the basic sentence structure. 

You will be shown a few sentences and asked to read them out loud. I would say they are amount a 3rd grade level and should be passed by most people who have lived in the U.S. for decent amount of time.

The civics test is a bit harder though…

It includes questions about US history, government and laws. If you don’t study or watch the new or history channel much, god help you!

Download the USCIS civics app to help you practice before your interview. This is exactly what I did and it was definitely the best thing I did to help me pass my test. (I got 10/10 questions correct but who’s bragging?)

Thankfully, you will be told right away if you passed the test!

What score do you need to pass the civics test?

To pass the civics test you will need a score of 6/10 which is 60%. Anything less than this is a failing grade.

Example questions on the civics test:

  • What does the Constitution do?
    • “Sets up the government, and protect the rights of Americans.” 
  • How many amendments does the Constitution have?
    • “Twenty-seven (27).”
  • What is freedom of religion?
    • “The right to practice any religion or not practice any religion.”
  • What stops one branch of Government from becoming too powerful?
    • “The separation of powers/checks and balances.”

Step 6 Receive the final decision.

Generally, the immigration officer that completed your interview will tell you that you passed the test and interview.

“Congratulations, you’ve passed the English and civics test”

Those sweet sweet words will be the best thing you hear after the interview. Don’t jump of joy yet, it’s not over until you have the citizenship certificate in your hands.

At this stage, you may be asked to bring additional evidence before a final decision is made or you may just be told that you will receive a letter from USCIS about your oath ceremony.

Ideally, you won’t be waiting long of the oath ceremony and should get the letter within 4-6 weeks. It can take longer if there are a lot of people applying to naturalize in your area though.

Related Post: Can I Expedite Naturalization Process If I’m 10 Year Green Card Holder?

If You Fail The Civics Test

Unfortunately, not everyone who takes the naturalization test will pass.

If you fail the civics test, you may be allowed to take it again at a later date. This second chance will likely happen several weeks after the first interview.

IF you fail the citizenship test, don’t be embarrassed! An NBC study found the most Americans would fail the civics test if they had to take it!

It’s important that you REALLY practice for the second civics test because if you fail the second time, USCIS will deny your citizenship application.

If Your Citizenship Application Is Denied

There are a number of reasons why your citizenship application can be denied.

One major reason is that you are not eligible to apply for naturalization. You should have already known this before applying if you looked at the minimum requirements to apply for N-400 naturalization.

Other reasons that your citizenship application can be denied are a criminal records, failing the civics test and not showing up for your interview.

I will elaborate what happens when a citizenship application is denied in a future post.

Just know that you will not be able to become a US citizen but will have the opportunity to apply for naturalization again in 5 years as long as you’ve corrected the reason for denial.

Related Post: Top 10 Reasons N-400 Is Denied.

Conclusion: What Happens At A Naturalization Interview

The naturalization interview is an important final step of your immigration journey!

Do not take it lightly. Be prepared and study hard for the civics test. 

Luckily, you are given a second chance if you fail the test but if you fail a second time, you run out of luck and will need to wait 5 more years.

You must understand US history, government and speak and read basic English. This is what it takes to become a US citizen!

After you complete the oath ceremony, you will officially become an American citizen and will get your very own citizenship certificate.

Note: Keep this document somewhere safe as it is the only proof you have that you are a US citizen.

Remember, US citizens are allowed to vote, apply for a US passport and work in some government positions only available to US citizens. (Oh – and become president of the United States!)

Did you know that we offer online immigration courses? Check out the Migrant Academy to learn more.

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