If you have submitted your citizenship application and have finally received your interview notice after a 6-7 month wait, then you are probably excited and nervous about what to expect. I’m going to focus on what the interview process will be like, the types of questions that USCIS will ask during a citizenship interview, and generally things that you should do to prepare if English is not your native language.
What will the start of the interview be like?
If you are at the citizenship step, you might have already been to the USCIS office for a previous interview or for some other reason. This will be similar in that once you arrive you will make your way through security and then go to the floor of your interview appointment.
Once you arrive to the correct floor you are going to hand in your interview notice and wait until your name is called. In the waiting area you might see other people cramming for the citizenship exam and learn more history and civics right up until their name is called.
After they call your name and lead you to the interview area, you are going to be sworn in. They will ask you to remain standing while they swear you in. They may even small talk with you in the beginning. That does help to get some of the nervous energy out of the way, but it also helps for them to get a sense of your English skills. This is a good time to point out that if English is not your first language you should try to take some neighborhood ESL civics classes that help you with English and the civics exam section of naturalization. If you are very fluent in English, then the help studying for the citizenship test will be useful--and if you are not very fluent it will help you become comfortable with having the types of conversations in English that you will have with the immigration officer. Make sure to engage in the small talk and demonstrate your command of the English language. Regardless of whether you attend classes or not, remember that if there is something the officer says that you do not understand you can ask them to repeat the question.
How long does the interview typically take?
Usually less than half an hour. The officer will start by going through your citizenship application and even asking you a few questions from it. They may not ask the questions the same way that they are written on the form, but you should feel good about talking about these particular areas:
- Your allegiance to the US and the constitution.
- The reasons why you want to become a citizen.
- What citizenship means to you.
- The rule of law and the democratic process.
The interview ends with you signing your application and your photos. The officer may congratulate you and state that they are approving your application. They also will give you a time frame for when you will receive your oath ceremony notice in the mail. This is typically about a month to 45 days after the interview.
If the interview does not go too well and you did not pass you will get a notice indicating what their reasons for their decision was. You may be given a second chance to meet with the officer in a month or two. If you receive a denial notice that is for a different reason, you will have an opportunity to appeal the decision--but in some cases it is faster to reapply with the additional information and it is about the same cost. Speak to an immigration lawyer if this applies to you.
Remember that even though the officer might tell you that they are approving your application, you are NOT a citizen until the oath ceremony takes place and they hand you your naturalization certificate. Please do not get into any sort of criminal activity or other trouble. You will have to fill in a questionnaire before the ceremony that asks whether anything has changed with your case since your interview took place. If there are not any changes then you will be able to go through the oath ceremony that day, so please try not to mess up your chances before the ceremony.
What happens at the ceremony?
You are allowed to bring family and friends to the ceremony. It is a great occasion and many people there will be dressed up. A USCIS officer will give a short speech and they will show a video about the United States. Before it ends, everyone will recite the pledge of allegiance as US citizens. You can take photos during the ceremony and it is a proud moment for all of the persons involved.
USCIS.gov has good resources for the citizenship exam. You can find the full 100 questions that they can choose 10 from to ask you about during the interview.
I hope this information is helpful. As always, feel free to contact me if you need any assistance of have any questions.