What Happens At The Citizenship Interview?

What to expect and how to conduct yourself at a naturalization interview.

The process of applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen is that each applicant must appear for a personal citizenship interview with immigration officials. If you've already submitted your naturalization application (on Form N-400), you will, within several weeks or months, first be called in for biometrics (to have your fingerprints taken) and then be notified when to appear for your interview.

The interview will be held at the office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that serves the region in which you live. You will receive only one interview notice, so it is important to check your mail and immediately inform USCIS if you change your address.

Purposes of the Citizenship Interview

The citizenship interview serves many purposes, including allowing USCIS to:

  • review your application
  • test your ability to speak, read, and write English
  • test your knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics), and
  • make a decision on whether you are eligible for citizenship.

Up to this point, USCIS may have quickly looked over your application to make sure it's complete, but it won't have reviewed it for substance.

What Exactly Will Happen

When you arrive for your citizenship interview, you will wait with a number of other people until your name is called. Then, a USCIS officer will lead you to his or her desk, and probably ask you to sit down. Just when you’re comfortable, the officer will probably ask you to stand up and raise your right hand in order to swear to tell the truth during the interview.

The interview itself usually takes about 20 minutes. The officer will go over the N-400 that you filled out, and ask you some questions about the same information on the form. Part of the purpose here is to see whether you actually speak and understand English.

You will also be tested on your English reading and writing abilities, and on your knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics).

At the end, you will hopefully be approved for citizenship – though you won’t become a citizen at that moment. You’ll be scheduled for a swearing-in ceremony at which a judge will officially make you a U.S. citizen, and you’ll receive a certificate showing your new status.

Preparing for the Exam

USCIS provides abundant resources on how to study for the English and U.S. history and government exams, on the “Study for the Test” page of its website.

The English Test

  • You will be given three sentences in English and you have to be able to read one of the sentences to the satisfaction of the USCIS official
  • You will be given three sentences to write in English and you will have to write one sentence legibly
  • Your ability to speak will be determine while you answer questions and speak to the official during the interview

The Civics Test

The civics test will consist of the official asking you ten questions about U.S. history and government. You will have to answer six questions correctly.

See "Preparing for the Naturalization Interview" for more on how to get ready and what you'll need to bring.

If You’re Not Approved at the Interview

If the USCIS official needs more documents before making a decision on your case, he or she may give you a form that describes what documents are needed and where to send them.

If you fail either of the tests during the interview, another interview will be scheduled within 60 to 90 days of the first interview and you can take the tests again. If you fail either test a second time, your request for naturalization will be denied.

If you are denied naturalization, you will receive a written notice in the mail. You will receive instructions on how to proceed if you want to appeal the denial. However, appealing a case means convincing USCIS that it made a mistake. In most cases, it’s easier just to reapply, by submitting a new N-400 and going through the rest of the process again.

See an Immigration Lawyer For Any Red Flags

If there is anything in your application which may lead to a denial of citizenship, you may want to speak to an immigration lawyer before submitting your application or at least before your interview. If your request for naturalization is denied, it would be wise to seek the advice of an immigration lawyer before you request a hearing or reapply.

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