How To Prepare For Your US Citizenship Interview (COMPLETE Beginner’s Guide)

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How To Prepare For Your US Citizenship Interview (COMPLETE Beginner’s Guide)

What Is The US Citizenship Test? 

Welcome to the complete guide on how to prepare for your citizenship interview with USCIS. This interview will take place approximately five months after you file your form N-400 Application for Naturalization with USCIS, and it includes three parts. The first part is the English test, otherwise known as the reading and writing test. The second part is the civics test, which includes many aspects of U.S. government, politics and history.

And the third are your actual naturalization and eligibility questions. How well you perform on each of these individual sections will determine whether or not a USCIS immigration officer will refer you for approval for naturalization. So it is important to understand how to prepare, what documents you need to bring with you, and what to expect on the day of your interview.

Preparing For Your Interview

First, let's talk about why it is so important for you to prepare for your N-400 interview properly. It is the job of the USCIS officer who is assigned to your application to make sure that you are actually eligible to become a U.S. citizen on the date of your interview. And in order to do so, they must make sure that all of the information that you have provided in your application is true and correct, and that you continue to meet all of the eligibility requirements. As they go through your N-400 with you, they will probably ask you to repeat much of the same information and compare against what you have written down on your form versus what you are verbally saying, looking for any sort of inconsistencies or questions that your responses may raise. By doing this, they'll be looking for any signs possible that you may not be eligible to naturalize. And if you don't know what the answer is or if you give an answer that is inconsistent with what you have already written down, then it may raise a red flag for the officer.

Firstly, it is important for you to be prepared by reviewing all the information that is in your form before the date of your interview. And the best way to make sure your answers are consistent is to make sure that you make a full and complete copy of your N-400 before you file it with USCIS. And make sure that you carefully review this form before your interview date.

You may not just want to commit your own answers to memory, but you will also want to anticipate the areas of trickiness that the officer may question you about. These areas of trickiness, a.k.a. pitfalls in your case, may include such things as travel history, (including the travel dates before and after you filed your application date), and any criminal history that you may have had, and anything else that may show that you do not have good moral character in order to naturalize.

And according to USCIS, here are the eligibility requirements in order to naturalize:

- You’re a lawful permanent residence for at least three years or five years, depending on your eligibility category

- You are at least 18 years old

- You have had continuous presence in the United States for the required period

- You have maintained physical presence in the United States for the required period

- You have had good moral character for the past three years or five years, however, this can be discretionary

- You have knowledge of English, and U.S. history, government and politics; and you have an attachment to the U.S. Constitution.

So don't be surprised if the officer asks you more questions around these areas in order to see whether or not you may be ineligible.

Depending on your English level and your comfort with speaking English, you will want to practice your answers in English before your interview. Not only will the officer be looking for inconsistent answers and responses that may indicate ineligibility, but they will also be looking to see how good your command of the English language is. Technically, even though it's not a written rule, your English test portion starts the minute that the officer sees you and begins to speak with you. They will start assessing you right away.

And the perfect way for you to start practicing your English before your N-400 is to start discussing the questions and responses in English, as the interview will mostly be about your N-400 questions anyway. Some examples of these N-400 questions will include:

- Basic information such as your birth date, your place of birth, your race and nationality

- Your family history, such as your mother's name, your father's name, and whether they are U.S. citizens

- Relationship history, such as whether you are married, single, or divorced, or widowed, your current spouse's name, their current citizenship status, and where they work, the dates of your previous marriage

- Your international travel history, including whether you have taken any trips abroad for six months or more, when your last trip may have been outside of the United States, which countries you visited, and how long were you outside of the U.S. on this trip

- Employment and education history, such as the place of your current employ, the employer's name, and your current title

- Your previous employment history prior to this, and even where you went to school

- Your allegiance to the United States, including whether or not you support the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. government, whether or not you will obey the laws of the U.S., and if necessary, would you be willing to defend the U.S. and bear arms on its behalf.

Now, when you answer these questions, it is very important that you be as honest as possible in your responses. Not only will you be under oath, but also USCIS will be comparing your answers with not just what you put down on your N-400 application form, but also with all of your previous immigration history, including visa applications and previous applications for a green card.

And they will also be searching public records online to see what you may have out there. So if they catch you being dishonest, you can kiss your chances of naturalizing goodbye! And be sure to keep track of any changes that may have occurred in your life since submitting your N-400 application. Make it a point to let the officer know upfront at the date of your interview whether you had any changes in employment, travel history, or marital status.

For example, if you recently got arrested by the police five days after submitting your application, then that would be a serious piece of information that you should want to let the immigration officer know because it could potentially affect your application. And failure to disclose such information may actually be considered to be a misrepresentation or fraud. It's also a good idea to get copies of your previous immigration applications to review the information that you have submitted in the past, and make sure that there are no problems for you.

USCIS will be comparing the answers that you give in your N-400 to these previous applications as well. And if there are any inconsistencies, you will be asked to explain. If you don't have access to these old applications, you can submit a FOIA request to USCIS to obtain copies. However, keep in mind that FOIA responses can take between 6 to 12 months to obtain.

In addition to answering questions about your N-400, you will be given an English and civics exam. So not only do you want to carefully review your N-400 responses, but you will also want to prepare for the actual test itself. The English test has two parts: the reading and writing part. However, the unofficial third part is the speaking part.

We have already discussed the speaking portion, so I will not cover it again. The reading portion will consist of one sentence that will be displayed to you upon an iPad, which you will have to read out loud. This sentence will typically relate to a U.S. history, civics, or politics question, and the vocabulary comes from a specific reading list provided by USCIS.

I'll include a link to that here. Note that while you are allowed to make some pronunciation mistakes, you should not leave out any of the words that are written on the sentence. And don't worry if you do have an accent, as long as you are still understandable it will be okay. And typically the sentence will come to you in the form of a question.

Some of these examples include:

- Who was the founding father of the United States?

- Which is the largest state in the United States?

- How many branches of government are there?

In order to pass your reading test, you just need to read out loud your sentence. And then the writing portion will appear. The writing portion will typically consist of the officer speaking out loud, the response to the question that you just read out loud.

Therefore, if you were asked to read out loud the question “Who was the founding father of the United States?” The officer may then instruct you to write “The founding father of the United States is George Washington.” You will also be instructed to write down this sentence on the iPad that is in front of you, where you had just read the question out loud.

It's okay if you don't spell every word correctly. However, you should aim to write down every single word that you hear the officer saying out loud. And as soon as you write down the sentence, you can let the officer know that you are done, and they will evaluate to see whether you have written down the sentence correctly or not.

And as long as you have written it down, then you will pass the reading and writing portion, and will move on to the civics exam. The civics portion of the test is the final portion of the citizenship test, and it is designed to test your knowledge of U.S. government, history,. and politics. The officer will ask you up to ten questions out of a list of 100, and you must verbally state your answers in a response.

The 100 questions can cover topics such as: the principles of American democracy, the system of U.S. government, U.S. citizenship rights and responsibilities, American history, American geography, American symbols, and American holidays. Note the trend. This is all about the United States of America. Some of these questions can include: What is the economic system in the United States? Answer: It is a capitalist economy.

What are two rights that only a US citizen has? Voting in a federal election and running for federal office. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? Thomas Jefferson. You can phrase your answer and response however you like, as long as it contains the words necessary for the answer itself. Once you can answer at least six questions correctly, you will have been considered to have passed the test, and move on to the next portion of your interview.

USCIS has a list of 100 questions online as a study guide. I'll include a link to that here. And just like with the N-400 interview, you want to make sure you start practicing for your citizenship test as early as possible. I would recommend as soon as you file your application. USCIS provides loads of practice information and tools, including a practice test.

So study in whatever way that works for you, just make sure you study and prepare! Coming up, we're going to include all the documents that you need to bring for your interview and what to expect on the day that you arrive. But first, before I do so, I did want to let you know that I am accepting new clients.

If you would like our help on your case, call us at 212-248-7907 to schedule a case evaluation. I'm based in New York, however, I work with clients all over the U.S.

Preparing Your Documents

In addition to studying for the citizenship test, you always want to make sure that you bring the most important documents that USCIS is going to require of you on the day of your interview.

Some of these documents you may have already provided to USCIS along with your N-400. However, you will need to make sure that you bring the originals of these documents on the day of your interview, because USCIS must authenticate your original document with the photocopy that you submitted to ensure that no fraud was committed in submitting the documentation.

Some of the original documents that you want to bring with you on the day of your interview are going to include:

- Your passports, including your current and expired passports

- Your actual green card

- Your marriage certificate and any divorce certificates

- The birth certificates of your children

- Any original criminal certificates of disposition for any arrest that you may have ever had

- If you had had any official name change, you will also want to bring official proof of your name change.

- If you are filing based upon the three year rule due to having been married to a U.S. citizen for the past three years, then you will also want to bring updated marital information to show that you have a bona fide marriage, including such documents as tax returns for the past three years, joint bank or rental statements, proof of having children together, and any photographs to show that you have a bona fide marriage.

- If you pay child support, you will want to bring proof that you are current on your child support obligations.

- If you are underneath any tax payment plan with the IRS, you will want to bring proof that you are current on a payment plan.

- If you are a man between the ages of 18 and 31, you will want to bring proof of your Selective Service registration.

- You will definitely want to bring any records of encounters with law enforcement that show the outcome of that interaction.

- If you were a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, then you will want to bring a certificate of your discharge as well.

USCIS goes into a lot more detail about what sort of documents you need to bring with you. I'll include a link to that here. Note that if you have any documentation in a foreign language, you will want to bring a translation with you. And note that I did not say that you must bring your birth certificate because USCIS does not actually require this for your N400. They already have had copies of this with your previous application for a green card. However, if you feel more comfortable to bring it with you, bring it with you.

So, when the day of your interview actually arrives, what will happen?

What To Expect At Your Interview

First, be sure to arrive at least 30 to 15 minutes prior to the appointment time, so that you have enough time to go through security and settle down before the officer comes down to call out your name. When you arrive at the building it is a federal building with federally appointed security guards. Therefore, you will have to go through metal detection and be screened for any explosives or weapons. I would advise you to wear comfortable shoes that can be quickly put on and off, and avoid wearing belts so that you minimize the time spent getting through the security checkpoint. Then you will go to the waiting area for USCIS.

Usually your appointment letter will indicate what for a room number you must go to. Then you must check in with the immigration officer at the reception desk, who will then instruct you to wait or take a number. When the officer conducting your interview is ready, they will eventually come out and call you by your name and you will follow them back to their office.

At this point, you can officially think of your test as having started. Then when you are in the officers room, they will place you under oath by asking you to swear to tell the truth, and then you will sit down. In my experience, most interviews will start first with the citizenship test portion. Therefore, you will first go through your reading test, and then your writing test, and then the civics exam. While interacting with the officer, it is a good idea to sit up straight and make eye contact when the officer is speaking with you. And be respectful of the officer, even if they seem intimidating or like they're not being so nice. If you feel like they are mistreating you, then ask your lawyer to step in. However, if you are going to the interview with a lawyer, hopefully the lawyer will do this for you.

Once you have finished the test portion of your interview, then the officer will go through every single question that is on your N-400 application. When you have finished answering their questions, then they will ask you to sign your application through the same iPad on which you did your English test and civics test. Normally, at the end of your interview, the officer will hand you a piece of paper that will say whether or not you have passed the test, and also whether or not your case is recommended for approval or whether it is being held for review.

If you have been recommended for approval, congratulations! You will normally receive your oath ceremony within 3 to 6 weeks after your interview date. And if you are lucky enough, you may even have your swearing in ceremony the same day as your interview. I know of a few officers that allow this, and if that's the case for you, then that's great.

Otherwise, you will have to wait to come back to USCIS on a later date. And if you choose to change your name through naturalization, then you will have to wait for a date where your ceremony will be held at a court. If you did not happen to pass your test, then you will typically be allowed to take the test one more time.

USCIS will schedule those between 60 to 90 days after this interview date. And if your application is being held for further review, that is usually because USCIS may require additional documentation from you, or because you may have a criminal history that needs to go through a supervisory review before being recommended for approval. Normally, the whole process on the day of your interview will take up to 30 minutes.

But once you have passed your interview, you must still wait for your swearing in ceremony in order to become a U.S. citizen. But you just can show up to your swearing in ceremony and expect it to go smoothly, and you still need to bring the right documentation with the updated information that may still impact your ability to swear in.

Find out what you can expect at the oath ceremony in my video here, click here to watch, and I'll see you there.

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