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Immigration & Naturalization Law

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U.S. Citizenship Interview

After submitting your citizenship application and waiting a few months, you will receive an appointment notice for your naturalization interview. In it, you will be given an English and civics test. As a final step, your application will be reviewed.

The following guide explains how to best prepare for the big day. An immigration attorney by your side can give you legal advice and create peace of mind on the day of your U.S. citizenship interview.

How Am I Notified About the Interview?

Notification of your citizenship interview is a letter that will arrive at the address you indicated on your application. Suppose you have changed your address since you applied. In that case, it is essential to notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.) with a change of address form so that the letter reaches your correct address.

If you submitted your naturalization application through a law firm, they would also receive the notification.

If you have an electronic account with U.S.C.I.S., you can view this notice in your account. This is useful if you lose a physical copy of your notice that arrived in the mail.

What To Bring To the Citizenship Interview

You should bring the following to the interview:

  • Letter of summons to the interview.
  • Green card.
  • Identification document: This can be your driver’s license or state identification card.
  • Passports: You must carry all your passports since you became a permanent resident.

In addition to this, there are specific documents that you should bring. This depends on your situation:

  • Marriage: If you are applying for citizenship for being married to a U.S. citizen or resident, you must bring proof that your spouse is a citizen or resident. You must show a marriage certificate and evidence that your marriage is legitimate. Examples are tax returns, bank accounts, and birth certificates for joint children.
  • Arrests: If you have been arrested, you should bring arrest reports, court sentences, probation reports, and all legal documents related to your case.
  • Taxes: If you have a payment agreement with the I.R.S. or haven’t filed a tax return because you are not a resident, bring all the documents that explain these situations.
  • Selective service: If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 31, bring proof that you registered with the Selective Service System between 18 and 26.
  • Loyalty oath: If you cannot take the oath of allegiance for religious reasons, bring a letter from your church that explains why your religious beliefs prevent you from taking the oath.
  • Minor children: If you have minor children who do not live with you, bring proof that you pay alimony to them.

You must bring an official translation of any document not in English.

Finally, bring your immigration lawyer and interpreter, if you have them. The attorney cannot be your interpreter. They must be different people.

What To Wear and How To Dress for the Citizenship Interview

There are no official dress requirements for naturalization, but it is recommended to dress professionally or business casual. If you can, avoid jeans and shorts.

English Quiz

The English language test is one of the three parts of your interview. They will assess your ability to read, write, and speak. You can expect:

  • Reading: As part of the English reading test, you will be asked to read certain parts of your application or other text. What you read is directed by the immigration officer.
  • Writing: For the basic English writing test, you will need to write one or two simple sentences.
  • Speaking: Your ability to communicate is assessed in the speaking test when you answer the interview questions asked by the U.S.C.I.S. officer.

You do not need to be fully bilingual in your native language and English to pass the English. However, if you are not comfortable with your level of English, many cities offer free or low-cost English classes.

The following people may have eligibility for English language exemptions:

  • 50/20 rule: People over 50 years of age and who have been green card holders for at least 20 years can get a waiver for the English language requirement.
  • 55/15 rule: People over 55 years of age and who have a permanent resident card for at least 15 years should not take the English test.

These people must still take the civics test. If they are unable to take the test in English, they must bring an interpreter if they want to use their preferred language.

Civics Test

The civics portion consists of ten civics questions about U.S. history topics and the U.S. government. You must correctly answer at least six of these civics test questions. These are common U.S. citizenship test questions and answers, and you can even find a list of civics questions and other study material on the U.S.C.I.S. website. Study the civics requirements and acceptable answers ahead of time, using civics flash cards or whatever civics exam system works for you.

People who have a physical or mental condition that impacts their ability to learn or understand this information do not have to take this citizenship exam. You need to fill out Form N-648, Medical Disability Exception.

If you miss too many correct answers or fail the English portion of the test, you will be called for a second appointment. This appointment takes place between 60 and 90 days after the first. If the applicant fails a second time, their application will be denied.

Questions About the Application

In this interview part of the naturalization test, the officer will review your Form N-400 application with you sheet by sheet. They will ask you about:

  • Names: They will give you the ability to change your name, but this change will only take effect on the day you are nationalized.
  • Citizenship status.
  • Children and the father of your children.
  • Current and former spouse.
  • Jobs from the last five years: It is important to be clear about the name and location of your employers as well as the name of your job title.
  • Addresses of the last five years.
  • Civic participation: You should list all the organizations you have been a member of in your home country and the U.S., such as churches, political parties, student organizations, and charities.
  • Criminal record: You will be asked if you have had any convictions or arrests and about specific crimes, which can speak to the moral character requirement.
  • Tax payment.
  • National background checks: You will not be admitted as a citizen if they consider you a threat to national security.
  • Loyalty oath ceremony: They will ask if you are willing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States on the day of your naturalization ceremony.

Since the naturalization process takes many months, it is good to have a photocopy of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, to send to the U.S.C.I.S. You don’t want to forget what your application says on the day of your citizenship interview.

Suppose something has changed since you submitted your application. In that case, you should say so and bring any additional documents or additional evidence relevant to the situation:

  • Example 1: You left the country since you sent in the application. You must inform the travel officer and show a passport to prove the dates of absence.
  • Example 2: You had a childsince you submitted the application. You must bring the birth certificate of your new child.

Final Citizenship Decision

At the end of your interview, the officer will communicate their preliminary decision to you. The alternatives are:

  • Approve your application: If that is the case, you will receive a notification summoning you to your swearing-in ceremony.
  • Deny the application: The officer will deny the application if you do not meet the conditions to obtain citizenship. Common grounds for denial are that the person is in deportation proceedings, has committed certain crimes, has been out of the United States for longer than allowed, did not pass English or civics tests, or has not met tax obligations or alimony.
  • Make no decision: If the officer cannot decide, you will be asked for more evidence about your case or be summoned for a new interview.

If you are denied the application, you have the right to request a hearing before an immigration officer. A licensed immigration attorney will be a good ally at this hearing and throughout the process of becoming a U.S. citizen when legal issues arise.