When a Naturalization/Citizenship Application (Form N-400) is accepted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”), an applicant must first attend a Biometrics appointment. Once the Biometrics appointment is done, USCIS will schedule a Naturalization/Citizenship interview with the Applicant.
The goal of the interview to review the Applicants background, their English language skills and question them about civil/historical facts about the US, to make sure they can properly participate in the US.
USCIS Officers are very skilled and careful with this process. Once a Permanent Resident is Naturalized and receives Citizenship, they will no longer face the same scrutiny regarding their travel and criminal activity that Green Card holders face. It will also be extremely difficult to take Citizenship away or send the Applicant back to their home country. Thus USCIS Officers are very careful as to whom this privilege is granted.
What do you do when you arrive at your Naturalization/Citizenship Interview appointment date?
When it is the Applicant’s turn to be interviewed, the Officer will come to the waiting room and call the Applicant’s name and request that they enter the interview room. The Officer will introduce him/herself and explain the purpose of the interview. They will also ask for the Applicant’s identification to confirm that they are the actual Applicant. If an attorney is present, the Officer will also ask to see the attorney’s identification, bar card, and potentially their Form G-28.
An Applicant should always bring original or certified copies of all of the documents requested, as well as photocopies of them in case the offer requests it. If applying for Naturalization based on a marriage to a US Citizen (3 year requirement), the required documents to prove the relationship must be brought. To see a list of required documents, please visit: “What Documents Do I Need To Bring To My Naturalization/Citizenship Interview?”
What happens during the Naturalization/Citizenship interview?
The interview will start with a swearing in, where the applicant will promise to be honest, and end with the giving of an oath of allegiance. Oaths can be waived or changed depending on the individuals beliefs or ability to understand the oath.
During the interview, the USCIS Officer will ask about an Applicant’s background, place of stay in the US, the length of their permanent residence, travel outside of the US and absences from the US or potential abandonment of permanent residency, immigration history such as how the Green Card was obtained and whether it was done legally and properly, family and marital history, English skills, personal and moral character matters, and questions about US history and government. The last set of questions will be 10 questions asked orally from a list of 100 previously provided to the applicant.
This interview is done under oath so the Applicant must be truthful. Lying in any way can cause a denial, and lead to future refusals for reapplying. Citizenship can potentially be taken away in the future if a lie is discovered.
Furthermore, the Applicant in most cases must also affirm their acceptance to bear arms in protection of the United States.
If the Applicant does not understand a question, they should ask the Officer to repeat it. An Applicant should not answer a question they do not understand. If they do not know an answer, they should say that they do not know the answer.
If the questioning becomes inappropriate or out of hand, request to speak to a supervisor. Do not argue or fight with the Officer.
Moral and Criminal Issues
Moral Character questions related to the questions listed in the Form N-400. The Officer will review issues related to taxes, child support, arrest history, Selective Service registration, false statements, claiming US citizenship or voting in the past, alcohol or drug abuse, previous removal proceeding and other issues.
If the applicant had any criminal history, the Officer may ask the Applicant to write a statement regarding the event. In such cases, it is best that the Applicant have an Immigration Attorney with them that has prepared them properly as to this situation.
The Naturalization/Citizenship interview English test.
Part of the interview will include an English language exam, testing the Applicant’s ability to speak, read and write the English language. Certain exemptions from this test are available for some older or long-term permanent residents.
The ability to speak English is tested throughout the interview by being able to answer questions given by the Officer. The ability to read will be based on the Applicant correctly reading aloud sentences given by the officer, done in a way that shows understand of the language.
The officer will also ask the Applicant to write English sentences in a manner that would be understandable to the Officer. Spelling, capitalization or punctuations errors will not cause a failure, unless they show an inability to understand the meaning of the sentence.
What happens after the Naturalization/Citizenship interview?
After the interview, the Officer will either grant, continue, or deny the naturalization application by giving a Form N-652 (Notice of Examination Results). The Officer will ask the Applicant to make sure that the spelling of their name and biographical information is correct and will get the Applicant’s signature. If there is an error it should immediately be noted to the Officer. It will be extremely difficult and expensive (if not impossible) to correct the record later.
If the Applicant failed one of the above tests, the Officer can request that the case be continued and the Applicant given another opportunity to test. If the Applicant fails then, the case is denied.
If the Applicant failed to give all the required documents, the officer can give a Form N-14 (request for additional information). If the documents requested are not given in time, the application will be denied.
If the application is denied, a written notice explaining the denial will be given. In rare cases, the applicant may be able to be reopened. It is best to discuss such a case with an Immigration Attorney.
The Oath Ceremony
After a successful interview, and before US Citizenship is granted, the Applicant must participate in a separate Oath Ceremony. Some offices allow a same day Oath Ceremony after the interview, but others require scheduling for a future date due to the large number of Applicants. Expedited Oath Ceremony requests are possible, but must be requested in writing.
Please remember that an Applicant is not a US Citizen until after the Oath Ceremony and receiving a Naturalization Certificate. Many Applicants have been scheduled to appear for the Oath Ceremony only to receive a denial letter shortly before that date.
At the Oath Ceremony please bring your appointment letter and your Green Card. Both will have to be turned in. The Oath Ceremony can be waived if the Applicant is under the age of 14 (if child doesn’t understand what he/she is giving an oath to).
Missing and Rescheduling a Naturalization/Citizenship Interview or Oath Ceremony
With good cause and proper notice, the interview or oath ceremony can be rescheduled. However if these appointments are missed twice, the Applicant can be cancelled for abandonment.
The Applicant may already be a Citizen
If one or both of the Applicants parents are citizens, the applicant may already be a citizen and should have filed form N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship.
Name changes for a Naturalization Applicant
If the Applicant’s name had been legally changed, they should bring proof of the legal name change with original or certified court or other records to the interview.
If the Applicant is changing their name with the Form N-400, they must attend a Judicial Oath Ceremony before a Judge.
After the Oath Ceremony (The Certificate, Social Security, Passport)
After the Oath Ceremony, the Applicant will be given a Naturalization Certificate. Although it is written on the document that copies should not be made, it is best to have a copy prepared and kept for your own records, in case the original is lost. Copies can legally be used later when Petitioning for Green Cards for family members or requested copies of the Naturalization Certificate.
The Applicant should also contact the Social Security office to inform them that they are now a Citizen to help with future benefits.
Foreign passport does not have to be relinquished, but Green Card(s) and travel documents must. If the green card lost, the Applicant must write a sworn affidavit that states they no longer have the card.