The interview is the final step to becoming a United States citizen. The interview typically takes place between seven and 15 months after your application is approved. You will receive an appointment letter with the date, place, and time your interview will be conducted.
The interview process is generally the same for all visa types. You will meet with an officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who will review your information with you and administer the exam. If you applied for a family-based visa, your spouse or sponsor may be required to attend and participate as well. If you do not attend the interview, your application will be denied.
There is much to prepare before the citizenship interview, including practicing for the exam. Take this step in the naturalization process seriously, as the USCIS officer you will meet with is the final determination in whether you receive lawful permanent resident status.
What Should I Do Once I Receive the Interview Notice?
Once you receive notice from the National Visa Center (NVC) that your interview has been scheduled, you must complete the following requirements before attending the interview:
- Medical examination: You must schedule and complete a medical evaluation and any required vaccinations with an embassy-approved physician in the country where your interview will take place. Examinations from non-approved doctors will not be accepted. Once completed, the physician will either send the results directly to the embassy or provide you with a sealed envelope with the results. If you are given the envelope, do not open the letter. Deliver it to the consular officer who will open it during the interview. Additionally, each family member applying for a visa with you must also complete a medical examination as well.
- Gather documents: All applicants need to bring additional documentation to the interview. Bring either the original or a certified copy of all civil documents you previously submitted to the NVC; you do not need to bring the financial evidence you submitted. Personal and civil documents vary among countries, and the required documents may also vary. Consult with your attorney or choose the U.S. Embassy or consulate from the USCIS website to locate what additional information is required. Make certain you have all the necessary information or the consular officer will not be able to process your visa and you may be required to reschedule the interview.
- Review your documents: A large portion of your interview will be focused on the documentation you provided, especially the Form N-400 application. Review the application carefully to make certain you understand the information and that it is correct. The officer will ask several questions relating to the information on the form in order to gauge your ability to understand and speak English. In preparation, ask another English-speaking person to quiz you before the interview.
- Prepare life changes: There could be significant time between when you submitted your application and the interview, and many applicants experience life changes during this time. For instance, you may have gotten married, changed jobs, traveled outside the United States, or had another child. During the interview, the USCIS officer will ask you if there have been any changes to the information you submitted. Review the form and gather any documentation to provide as proof, such as a birth certificate. Generally, life changes do not hinder your naturalization process, however, there are two conditions that could affect your eligibility: divorcing your sponsor and being arrested for committing a crime. These could not only result in denial of citizenship, but you could also be deported.
You should also bring your passport, driver’s license, or another form of government-issued identification. You should also bring a copy of your appointment notice (Form I-485), a copy of your adjustment of status application and accompanying forms, and a letter from your employer on a company letterhead if you are applying for an employment-based visa. Also, your immigration lawyer can also instruct you on what information you should bring.
What Should I Expect During the Interview?
The purpose of the interview is for the USCIS officer to go over your information and ask you questions to determine whether you are eligible for United States citizenship. It should be noted that the officer will most likely have garnered additional information about you from other sources. For that purpose, assume the officer knows everything there is to know about you, and do not lie under any circumstances. Some applicants have been known to provide false answers if they fear the answer will harm their chance of citizenship. Even questions the officer may ask that have no relevance to their decision, you could be denied for not being truthful at some point during the interview. If you find you do not know or do not understand a question, do not make up an answer. Inform the officer and ask for further clarification or for another question.
The interview focuses on your ability to understand, speak, and write in English and your knowledge of American civics:
- Speaking test: This portion of the test begins as soon as you meet the USCIS officer. They will be gauging whether you can understand, respond, and follow instructions in English and will ask questions regarding your application and citizenship eligibility.
- Writing test: For the written test, the officer will tell you three sentences. You are required to write at least one sentence correctly to demonstrate your ability to write in English.
- Reading test: Similar to the writing test, the officer will ask you to read three sentences aloud to show your English reading comprehension. You must write at least one sentence correctly to pass.
- The civics portion of the test covers United States history and government. The test is given orally, and you must give spoken answers in English. The officer will choose 20 questions out of a possible 128 and you must answer 12 correctly to pass.
There are many ways to study and prepare for the exam portion of the interview. The USCIS website has numerous study materials and multiple practice tests that you can take as many times as you like. Many education institutions offer immigration classes, and you may also find local study groups in your community.
Should you have a significant number of incorrect answers, the officer will stop the interview. If this was your first interview, you have the opportunity to retake the exam in a second interview within 90 days. You are only allowed to retake the interview one time.
You should also work with an immigration lawyer who can help you gather documents, advise you on what to expect, and help you prepare for the interview and exam. In some instances, the lawyer may also attend the interview with you.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Prepare for Their Immigration Interview
Those who apply for U.S. citizenship work diligently to prepare for their final interview and exam. Our experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can help you navigate the process, compile the required documentation, and prepare you for the interview. Call us today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.