The thought of attending a naturalization interview can be quite stressful, especially if you are not sure of the kind of questions to expect. If you have advanced to the interview stage of your VISA application, you should approach it with the seriousness it deserves. Failing a naturalization interview can be disappointing, so it is good to prepare in advance.
Even though you are encouraged not to memorize the naturalization interview questions, and your response stays as natural as possible, to be well prepared, it is helpful to go over the standard questions. You can find some of these questions on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
U.S. Citizenship Interview With A USCIS Officer, Explained
The purpose of the naturalization interview is mainly to determine your eligibility for U.S citizenship, along with your knowledge of the United States, including the country’s history and government, and other crucial factors. The USCIS agent in charge of your interview will also go through your Form N-400 application and your immigration file.
This step ascertains issues such as legal residence in the U.S or the country you currently reside. Other than that, this interview will test your English speaking skills, so it is vital to work on your ability to speak, read and write in English.
How To Prepare Your Naturalization Interview
Your citizenship interview, like all other interviews, deserves proper preparations. Some of the steps you may take to be prepared include:
1.Fill in Your VISA Application
If you are already a permanent resident of the United States, download the application for citizenship by naturalization after going through all the instructions carefully. File it along with all the necessary documents (read more), and make sure you fill in all required spaces. Go through your contact details and addresses to ensure they have been filed correctly.
2.Attend Your Biometrics Appointment
The USCIS schedules the biometric appointment to take your fingerprints, photo, and signature. The time, date, and location of your appointment are usually communicated well in advance, and you are required to carry some form of identification.
Form 1-551, also known as the permanent resident card, is an excellent example of the kind of identification you may need for this interview. For further identification, you should also carry your passport or driver’s license.
Once your biometrics screening results are approved, you will receive a booklet on preparing for the U.S. civics test (read more) and the English test.
3.Prepare For Your In-Person Citizenship Interview
Since the interview is in English, you might want to take a speaking and writing test. If you are not fluent in the language, you may seek the help of a tutor for your test if possible. At this point, you can also go through sample interview questions while thinking about the potential answers.
When And Where Does The Naturalization Interview Take Place?
After your biometrics appointment, the USCIS will email you an interview appointment notice with the time and date. Usually, citizenship interviews are conducted at the U.S. Embassy in your country or the USCIS center serving your local area.
Below are some of the questions to expect at your Citizenship interview.
Hello, How Are You Doing Today?
The USCIS agent in charge of your interview will begin with greetings and basic well-being questions. Ensure that you maintain an upright posture and face the interviewer directly. Other questions relating to your well-being may include:
• How are you?
• Are you okay today?
• Keep your answer brief and straightforward.
Do You Swear To Tell The Truth And Nothing But The Truth As God Bears Witness?
This question constitutes taking an oath; hence you’re obligated to be completely honest. Suppose you are lying while under oath; it can be considered both a criminal and civil offense. In this case, taking an oath means that you will answer all the interview questions as honestly as possible.
The interviewer may follow up with the question, ‘Do you understand what an oath is? Ensure you read up on what an oath is before taking your interview.
What Is Your Name?
This question falls under the personal information questions category. You are expected to respond with your full name as it appears on your birth records, government records, and the documents you have submitted to the immigration offices.
Some follow up questions in this category may include:
• What is your place of birth?
• How old are you?
Do You Plan On Legally Changing Your Name?
This question establishes whether you will be going by the name appearing on your birth and immigration record once you are granted citizenship. If you have considered changing your name, answer this question honestly. It is possible to legally change your name when applying for United States citizenship by naturalization. However, you are required to fill out Part 1, Question D of your Form N-400 with your new chosen name.
What Are Your Physical Attributes?
This question can be broken down into two or more categories or as your interviewer deems fit. Examples include:
• What is your height?
• What is the color of your hair?
• What is the color of your eyes?
What Are Your Parent’s Names?
The purpose of this question is to establish your family history relevant to the U.S immigration process. Follow up questions relating to your family include:
• Is either of your parents U.S Citizens?
• Were your parents legally married before you turned 18 years old?
The answers to these questions answers are archived for future reference, assuming you want to help your parents immigrate to the U.S after you become a citizen. They also ensure that you fall into the child-parent relation categories expected for U.S immigration applicants. These categories include:
• Natural mother or natural father
• Stepmother or father, if he or she married your parent before you turned 18 years old
• Adopted father or mother, if the adoption process was done before you were 16 years
Are You Currently Married, Single, Divorced, or Widowed?
In many cases, if you are married and applying to become a citizen, you will soon begin the process of helping your spouse immigrate if they do not live in the United States. It is, therefore, obvious that the USCIS officer will want to know your status for documentation and reference if and when you begin the immigration process for your spouse.
If you are divorced or your spouse is deceased, you need to respond to this question with an accurate answer. It is also essential to have copies of either the death certificate or the divorce decree if required later in the immigration process.
Additional questions seeking to establish your relationship history include:
• If you are married, when did you get married?
• Is your spouse a citizen of the United States?
• Is this your first marriage? If not, how many times have you been married before?
Remember, you do not need to memorize these questions or their answers. You risk forgetting what you meant to say while trying to respond with a rehearsed answer. Instead, be natural and truthful.
Do You Have Any Children?
Children are considered immediate relatives in immigration petitions. Once you receive a permanent resident card, your children, unmarried and under the age of 21, become automatic Green Card holders (read more). You can therefore see why this question is pertinent in the citizenship interview.
Additional questions regarding children include:
• How many children do you have?
• What are the names of your children?
• Are you currently living with your children? If not, why? Where are they currently living?
• What are your children’s dates of birth?
Have You Ever Served In The United States Military?
This question is direct and straightforward. If your answer is No, the interviewer will move on to other questions. If you answer Yes, you may get additional questions relating to your military service.
Generally, suppose you apply for citizenship while serving or after serving in the U.S Marines, Army, Navy, or Air Force. In that case, you are eligible for some exceptions and special opportunities in your immigration process. Therefore, the interviewing agent will seek to understand how well you qualify for these exceptions based on whether you have served in a military capacity.
Other questions relating to military service include:
• Did you, at any point, leave the U.S. to avoid being drafted into military service?
• Have you ever applied to be exempted from the military?
• If you were part of the military, when were you discharged?
• If you left the military without being discharged, what were your reasons?
Are You A Legal Citizen Of The Country You Are Immigrating From?
By asking this question and, by extension, other questions covering your immigration process, the USCIS agent interviewing you is testing your knowledge on the minimum requirements for U.S. citizenship (read more).
The USCIS officer may follow up with questions regarding age requirements, your residency in the U.S. if you are a Green Card holder, law enforcement incidences, and military service registration.
Do not be intimidated by these questions; when you are truthful, the answers should come naturally. If you do not know the answers to some of the questions, do not guess. Let the interviewer know that you are unsure.
What Is Your Current Level Of Education?
While your education level is not important in determining whether you will be granted U.S. citizenship, it can affect your employment while in the U.S. This question is especially relevant if you apply for a student VISA or you wish to study in the U.S.
Your level of education aside, the interviewer may inquire about the names and locations of the schools you attended and the specific years.
Are You Currently Employed?
When asked this question, you are expected to mention your current employer’s name and the position you hold in the company. If you are self-employed or unemployed, respond with the relevant answer when the USCIS officer enquires about your previous employers and years of employment.
If you have had many previous employers and an extensive employment record, do not be worried if you have trouble recalling all the names and dates. Remain calm, and take your time to answer the questions with as many accurate details as you can. Remember to stick to the details relevant to the question.
Also, remember to match the answer to your question with the information given on your application forms. The interviewer will check to see if there are any discrepancies. That is why it is important, to be honest. You will have a much harder time recalling a lie than you do the truth in most cases.
Other questions in this category include:
• Where is your current workplace?
• Have you held any other job in the last 3-5 years?
Where Do You Currently Reside?
This is a direct question that you should have no problem answering. Make sure that the address you give is the same as the one listed on your citizenship application documents.
The USCIS officer may follow up with questions such as:
• How long have you lived there?
• Have you lived anywhere else in the last 3-5 years?
Have You Received Your Approval For Permanent Residency (Green Card)?
The USCIS officer will ask you if you have already received your green card, which in this case, would have been mailed to you. If your case has been approved, but you are yet to receive a Green Card, the interviewer will, more often than not, inform you.
Have You Travelled Outside The United States Since Receiving Your Green card?
If you are a current resident of the U.S. applying for citizenship by naturalization (read more), you will likely answer questions on your travel history. The answers will help the agent determine your eligibility.
Other questions on your travel history include:
• Have you stayed outside the United States for more than six months?
• When did you take those trips, and what were your reasons?
• Which countries did you visit?
• What specific day did you come back to the U.S?
As earlier mentioned, you do not have to answer these questions perfectly, especially if you have an extensive travel history.
Do You Owe The Local, State, Or Federal Government Any Tax Money?
It is important that you pay your taxes as a Green Cardholder. Paying taxes is one indicator of good moral standing with the U.S. government, a key qualifying factor for U.S. Citizenship. However, if you are in tax arrears or have not paid your taxes, let the interviewing agent know. This does not directly bar you from becoming a citizen.
Usually, the agent will ask follow-up questions to make sure that you are making the right arrangements to clear your arrears or pay your taxes.
The USCIS officer may also ask if you have claimed to be a ‘non-resident’ on a local or federal tax return since you acquired a Green Card.
Have You Ever Been Arrested Or Convicted Of Certain Crimes?
Even though not all crimes bar you from becoming a U.S citizen, many do. Some crimes raise the question of whether or not you have the moral character required to become a U.S citizen. In most cases, crimes such as sex trafficking, murder, child pornography, kidnapping, and sexual assault are considered grounds for disqualification.
If you have a previous arrest or have been convicted of a crime before, consult an immigration lawyer before your interview. The lawyer will assess your case and inform you whether it could lead to disqualification.
Regardless of the crime, you are expected to remain honest throughout the interview. The crime aside, lying to the USCIS officer while under oath is enough reason to deny your application for U.S. citizenship. Besides, most of the time, the interviewers already have your records before asking these questions.
To conclude your interview, the agent may ask whether you understand the reasons for being interviewed and why you want to become a U.S. citizen. This question shouldn’t be much of a problem to answer, especially if you’ve already sat through the whole interview. After the interview, the USCIS officer will make a decision and you will be informed.
What Happens If I Fail My Citizenship Interview?
If you do not pass the citizenship interview, you may schedule another one within 60-90 days after the one you just concluded. If you fail the second time, the USCIS may deny your application for citizenship through naturalization. You may appeal the denial, but you are unlikely to overturn the results if you were unable to meet the eligibility criteria.
Therefore, to avoid denials by increasing your chances of approval, it is always advisable to seek legal advice from a professional immigration attorney from a good law firm, who is familiar with the U.S. immigration policies enforced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can always count on the experience of such an attorney to help analyze your case, identify possible loopholes, and provide solutions.
Read more: U.S. Citizenship Processing Fees