Preparing for the Naturalization Interview

What happens during a naturalization interview at USCIS.

By , J.D.

The naturalization interview is an important step in completing the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Some weeks or months after submitting your application on Form N-400, and after having attended your fingerprint (biometrics) appointment, you will receive a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) giving you a date, time, and place for your personal interview.

What if you can't make that date? Do your best to rearrange your schedule. Postponing this date and rescheduling can take months. Nevertheless, you can ask USCIS to reschedule.

Below, we discuss how to prepare yourself for this interview.

Documents to Bring to Naturalization Interview

USCIS will send you a list of documents to bring to your interview. Depending on what's relevant, these might include your green card and other forms of photo identification, all passports and travel documents you've had or used, proof of your valid marriage (if you got your green card through marriage), proof that any trips you took outside the U.S. are not a sign that you actually resettled elsewhere ("abandoned" your residence), and so on.

You'll also need to bring documents proving any changes to the information on your N-400, for example showing a name or address change since the time you filed the form.

For your own sake, bring a copy of the Form N-400 that you submitted to USCIS, to refer to during the interview.

Citizenship Interview Questions

The USCIS officer will begin by explaining the purpose of the interview. That person will request your driver's license or some other document that verifies your identity. The officer will then ask you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth during the interview.

Next, the USCIS officer will ask you general questions regarding topics such as your background or other information on your N-400. This is partly just to double check the information. During this time, however, the officer will also be carefully listening to see whether you understand the English language (one of the citizenship requirements).

English and Civics Exams

Unless you have been exempted from taking the English exam (based on age or disability), the answers you provide during the interview will be included as part of your English test. You will also be required to read a sentence out loud, so that the officer can evaluate your understanding of it. The officer will also say a sentence out loud and ask you to write it in English.

The officer will ask you several civics questions, concerning U.S. history and government (unless you're exempt due to age or disability). You must correctly answer 60% of them in order to pass this part of the test. Specifically, the total list of questions includes 100 possibilities that the officer can choose from, and you must answer six out of ten correctly in order to pass. The questions are publicly available through the USCIS website, on a page called The Naturalization Test.

The questions and answers usually don't change much year by year, except when it comes to questions about the names of elected government officials.

Following the testing, you will be given Form N-652, which will tell you the results of your examination. If you failed one of the exams, you will not be denied citizenship on the spot, but will be called back for another try within 90 days.

At the End of the Naturalization Interview

The USCIS officer will consider all of the documents you've provided as well as the interview and test results in order to make a final determination on your case.

If the officer can't make a final determination at that time, he or she may ask you to submit follow-up documents, such as proof of your marriage to a U.S. citizen who helped you get your green card having been bona fide, not a sham. Be sure to follow up within the deadline.

You should also, in such circumstances, strongly consider hiring an attorney to help make sure to address USCIS's concerns and give you the best possible shot at having your case approved.

Once you are approved for citizenship, the officer will schedule a time for you to attend your swearing in ceremony. There, you'll take your oath of allegiance to the U.S. and become a U.S. citizen. Note that swearing allegiance to the United States doesn't necessarily stop you from keeping your original citizenship.

Seek Legal Counsel

If for some reason you do not pass the naturalization interview or your application is denied, you should definitely contact a competent immigration attorney. Contacting one in advance is also recommended, as the attorney can help you prepare for the interview and tests. The attorney can even accompany you to the interview. See Applying for U.S. Citizenship: How Much Do Lawyers Cost and Are They Worth It? for other applicants' experiences.

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