The Naturalization Interview: What to expect?

You have applied for your citizenship and now an interview has been scheduled. What will happen? What questions will you be asked?   Who can accompany to the interview? The officer who will conduct the interview will introduce themselves and administer an oath prior to the interview. The questions they can ask are related to the following topics:

  • Admission and length of time as a lawful permanent resident (LPR);
  • The number of absences from the United States and the length of the absences since you became a LPR;
  • Biographical information, including military and marital background;
  • The places you resided and your employment history (in the last 5 years) ;
  • Questions pertaining to criminal history and moral character;
  • Any affiliations/membership in groups, clubs, and or organizations;
  • Your readiness to take the Oath of Allegiance; and any other relevant issue pertaining to your N400 application.

The questions (more often than not) will relate to the five years preceding the naturalization application.  The officer will also administer a test that verifies your knowledge of American history/civics and your ability to speak and read English.  The test involves the following:

Reading Test
An applicant should be able to read one out of three sentences acceptably to establish an ability to read in English.

Writing Test
An applicant should be able to write one out of three sentences accurately to establish one’s ability to write in English.

Speaking Test
An officer will talk to the applicant regarding their naturalization application to determine their ability to speak English.

Civics Test
An applicant is asked to answer ten out hundred civics questions during the interview. An applicant should answer six of the ten questions correctly to pass the text.

Needless to say, it is very important to study and be prepared for this portion of the testing in addition to being very familiar with your naturalization application.

Who can be present with you at the Interview? Can I ask that the question(s) be repeated or rephrased if I am not clear on what is being asked?

Your attorney can be present with you for the interview. If you are applying for naturalization based on your marriage to a US citizen, the spouse does not need to be present, but their presence outside the interview room can be a morale booster. An interpreter is also permitted in medical waiver cases (where the applicant has applied for a full or partial waiver for taking the naturalization exam), but the preference is that the interpreter is a third party and not a relative.  During the interview, if you are unsure of what you were asked, it is alright to request that the question be repeated. One should never answer without understanding what they are being asked. One should also wait for the question to be completely asked before responding. It is never a good idea to presume that you already know what the question is.

Is the Interview recorded?

An interviewing officer does have the right to record the interview if they want to. As the applicant, you have the right to request of a copy of the transcript by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. (FOIA).

At the end of the interview, the officer will inform the applicant of the results of examination and explain the next steps. If further information is needed, the officer can either schedule a re-examination or request the information by mail.

What happens if I do not pass the initial examination?

If you do not pass the initial examination, you will have a chance to retake the test. The re-examination is usually scheduled sixty-ninety days after the initial interview. If you are not able to pass the test during the re-examination and receive a denial of the application, you have the opportunity to request a hearing with a USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) officer regarding this denial. You can also reapply for naturalization, should you not pass the test during the re-examination.

Some key aspects of the naturalization interview are as follows:

  • Be very familiar with your naturalization application.
  • Be truthful and ask for the question(s) to be repeated if you are unsure of what is being asked.
  • Be thoroughly prepared to take the American history/civics test and English reading and writing test.
  • If you are unsure about how the interview process works, seek guidance from a qualified immigration attorney.

Preparation is the key to experiencing a successful naturalization interview.

Author: Attorney Shobhana R. Kasturi is a practicing immigration lawyer in the Chicagoland area.

This article authored by Shobhana Kasturi was originally printed in the India Tribune, 2016.

The content of this article is general in nature and not meant to constitute legal advice. The content of this article is not meant to and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any recipients of this article should not take action or refrain from taking action based on the information herein.  Please seek appropriate legal advice based on the facts from an attorney licensed to provide such advice.