The process of applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen includes that each applicant must appear for a personal citizenship interview with U.S. 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) serving the region in which you live. You will receive only one interview notice, so check your mail regularly. Also, if awaiting your interview notice, be sure to immediately inform USCIS if you move and change your address.
The citizenship interview serves many purposes, including allowing USCIS to:
Up to this point, USCIS might have quickly looked over your N-400 application to make sure it's complete and you paid the fee, but it won't have reviewed it for substance.
When you arrive at the federal building for your citizenship interview, you will have to show your appointment notice and pass through a security check.
Then you will wait until your name is called. Next, 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 lasts about 20 minutes. The officer will go over the N-400 that you filled out, and ask you questions about the same information that's 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, by having to read aloud and write a sentence that the officer dictates to you. And you will have to answer questions showing your knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics).
At the end, you will hopefully be approved for citizenship. You won’t become a citizen at that moment, however. 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.
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 civics test will consist of the official asking you a series of questions about U.S. history and government. You will have to answer 60% of them correctly.
In the past, this meant answering six out of ten questions correctly, out of a possible list of 100 questions. Beginning in December 2020, however, it will mean answering 12 out of 20 questions correctly, out of a possible list of 128 questions.
See Preparing for the Naturalization Interview for more on how to get ready and what you'll need to bring.
If the USCIS official needs more documents before making a decision on your case, he or she might 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. That will likely be impossible if the reason for denial was that you failed one of the exams or don't meet basic eligibility requirements.
In most cases, it’s easier just to correct the earlier problem and reapply, by submitting a new N-400 and going through the rest of the process again.
If there is anything in your application that might lead to a denial of citizenship, or worse yet, a discovery that you didn't qualify for permanent residence in the first place (in which case you might be placed into deportation proceedings), you should speak to an immigration lawyer before submitting your N-400 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.