The Naturalization Interview & Establishing Legal Eligibility for Citizenship
The last stage in establishing eligibility for U.S. citizenship is the naturalization interview. This will involve answering questions from a USCIS officer and passing tests related to civics and the English language. Some foreign nationals choose to bring an attorney to their interview, which does not require advance notice. The attorney will need to give a Form G-28 Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative to the USCIS officer when they arrive at the interview, which will show that they are representing you. Having a lawyer may not be especially helpful unless your application involves a complex legal matter. If you believe that USCIS may suspect that you do not meet a certain requirement for citizenship, you may want to hire a lawyer to help you explain to the USCIS officer how you meet the requirement at issue.
You should make sure to arrive early at the USCIS office. This will allow you to get parking, pass the security checkpoint, and find the room where your interview is scheduled. Failing to appear at the interview could result in the denial of your application. However, you may need to wait for some time before your actual interview. USCIS tends to schedule multiple applicants at the same time, which means that delays are common. The interview will take place in a private area of the office, and you will sit across the desk from the USCIS officer. As a preliminary matter, the officer will ask you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth.
Documents to Bring
The interview appointment notice
Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card (green card)
State-issued I.D., such as a driver’s license
All valid and expired passports and other documents that indicate travel to and from the U.S.
Other applicable documents included in the Form M-477 checklist
Reviewing the N-400 Application
The USCIS officer will want to verify the information on your Form N-400 and the related documents. They will repeat some of the questions that are on the form, so you will want to review the form in advance to make sure that your responses are consistent. This part of the interview also tests the foreign national’s command of English.
You should not be surprised if the officer asks whether anything has changed since you submitted the form. You should tell them honestly about any changes to your circumstances. These might include another trip outside the U.S. or a job change, among other examples. Certain types of changes may carry more serious consequences. If you got your green card through a marriage to a U.S. citizen, you may no longer be eligible for citizenship if you divorced them between the application and the interview. You also may not be eligible for citizenship if you have committed certain crimes between the application and the interview. In some cases, you might face the risk of deportation proceedings, so you may want to consult an attorney before going to the interview if you are in either of these situations.
Simply asking the officer to repeat or clarify a question will not disqualify the applicant.
As with completing Form N-400, you should make sure to tell the truth to the USCIS officer during the interview, even if you are not sure if the truth will undermine your eligibility for citizenship. If you do not understand a question, you can ask the officer to clarify. You should not guess at their meaning or make up an answer. Lying to the officer can result in the denial of your application, even if you are otherwise eligible.
Tests of Civics and English
The same USCIS officer who conducted the main part of the interview may conduct the tests of civics and the English language, or a different officer may conduct the tests. If you fail the civics test, USCIS will schedule another interview for you within the next 90 days, at which you can try again. If you do not understand a question during the English test, you should feel free to ask the officer to repeat it or ask it differently. USCIS understands that repeating questions may be necessary and will not hold it against you unless the officer determines that you do not understand English after many attempts to ask the question. In addition to the formal English test, part of the officer’s evaluation of your English-language skills will be based on your ability to follow instructions and answer questions throughout the interview.
After the Interview
Sometimes the USCIS officer will determine at the interview that the foreign national meets the requirements for citizenship. They will inform them of their approval on the spot and may give them information about the naturalization ceremony. You will formally become a citizen at this ceremony. In other cases, the officer does not make a decision on the spot and may ask the foreign national for more evidence to clarify an issue. Or they may need to consult with a supervisor about whether you meet a certain requirement.
If you are denied citizenship, you should review the reasons for your denial and decide whether you want to appeal the denial or file a new application. Reapplying only makes sense if you can provide new information with your application that will address the basis for your denial.