What Should I Expect at my U.S. Citizenship Interview?
As part of the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, you must go through a US citizenship interview. After filing your N-400 application (which can be found here), you will be called in for a biometric or fingerprint appointment. Here, the government will take your fingerprints so it can have them on the official record. After that, you will receive notification in the mail of the date of your US citizenship interview.
It’s important to know that you are only going to receive one notification from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), so it is important to keep a close eye on your mail and immediately notify the USCIS of any address changes.
Why do I have to go through the US Citizenship Interview?
Expect at the citizenship interview for the USCIS interviewer to ask a series of questions to fill in any gaps in your application. No matter how thorough you are, an application is never sufficient enough to paint the whole picture. Think of it like an important job interview. Your application says a lot about you, but the interview says even more.
In general, there are several important things you should expect to discuss at your US citizenship interview:
- Your ability to speak and understand the English language
- Your knowledge of U.S. history and government (known as civics exams)
- What kind of citizen you are based on your application
Think of the citizenship interview as the final step in their decision-making process. The USCIS receives thousands of citizenship applications each year. In order to sift through who should receive U.S. citizenship, they must determine who fits the requirements for citizenship best.
Before the Interview: Study time!
A test? This was not something you would expect at the citizenship interview. No one told you about a test. You haven’t been in school for years. Don’t worry, the USCIS doesn’t expect you to go blindly into the English and civics exams.
They post the list of one hundred or so questions on their website for you to study from. Be aware, though, that you will not be asked every one of these questions. In the vast majority of cases, you will only be asked a few from the list, but it is best to prepare for all of them. There is also a video here that explains more about what to expect during the interview.
During the US Citizenship Interview
The actual procedure of the US citizenship interview is pretty straightforward, but don’t go into it too lightly. It is still crucially important. You show up at the regional USCIS office and wait with many other people for your name to be called. Once your name is called, you will be brought back to the officer’s desk and be asked to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth during the extent of the interview.
After this, you will be asked several questions based on your Form N-400 application that you filed. They aren’t out to trick you into ruining your chances, they just want to get a clearer picture from the information they have been provided. The second purpose of these questions is to test your proficiency with the English language. Then, you will be given the civics exams (the history and government exams).
Once all of this is finished (the process takes about 20 to 30 minutes), the officer will likely decide then whether to approve you for citizenship status. If they don’t, it may be that they require additional documentation to verify something on your N-400 or something you said in the interview.
If the officer does approve you for citizenship, you are still not a citizen yet. That comes at the swearing-in ceremony where a judge will officially make you a U.S. citizen and you will receive a certificate affirming that status.
What happens if you do not pass the English or civics exams? Another interview will be scheduled within 60 to 90 days, but you get a second chance! You will be given the chance to set a date to take the tests again in case you were nervous or confused about something in particular.
However, if you are unable to pass the exams a second time and your application is denied, you are still free to file another N-400 form and try again for citizenship.
We encourage you if you have any questions to schedule a consultation with Road to Status so we can work with you to answer any questions or clear up any confusions you may have. Also, if your case is more complex and you can speak with a licensed immigration attorney. Learn more about Road to Status’ consultation services here.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about applying for U.S. citizenship or checking their eligibility for the benefits of these paths, our blog is a great place to find up to date information and useful resources. Additionally, if your case is more complex and you would like to speak with a licensed immigration attorney, you can learn more about the benefits of an initial consultation before deciding on the best path for you here.