Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. In order to apply for naturalization, you must meet several requirements, described in more detail here. As part of the process, you will submit an N-400 Application for Naturalization to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. Once the USCIS office has reviewed your application and all the supporting documentation, they will send you an interview appointment notice. Below are some pointers for how to prepare for your naturalization interview.
Gather the relevant documents
The first step in preparing for the interview is to gather all the relevant documentation. The following is a basic list of the documentation you should bring to the interview. You should also review the interview appointment notice from USCIS carefully and bring all documentation requested on the N-400 interview appointment notice.
- Identity documents: Legal permanent resident card, State-issued ID (ex: driver’s license) and current & expired passports
- Immigration documents: Complete copy of the N-400 form that you filed with USCIS and the supporting documents.
- Civil documents: Original or court certified marriage certificate and birth certificates for all children. If you are naturalizing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, please also provide death or divorce certificates for all prior marriages for you and your spouse and your spouse’s birth certificate or certificate of citizenship or naturalization certificate. If you are applying for naturalization as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces provide your discharge certificate (Form DD 214).
- Proof of Good Moral Character: Tax returns you filed with the IRS for the past 5 years
- Proof of Residency & Presence in the U.S.: If you have taken any international trips since you filed your N-400, bring an updated list of dates of travel outside the United State. If you have been outside the U.S. for more than 6 months bring documentation to prove you maintained continuous residence in the U.S., such as evidence of your continued employment in the U.S. or evidence of your permanent residence in the U.S.).
- Criminal documents: Bring originals or court certified copies of all documents relating to any arrests or convictions, such as arrest probation and/or parole records, court dispositions and proof of completion of any alternative sentencing programs.
Review your N-400 Application
Once you have gathered all your documents, the next step is to review your N-400 and all the supporting documentation you submitted to familiarize yourself with the information. As part of the naturalization interview the officer will ask you questions about what is on the form, so it is helpful to review this information ahead of time.
Prepare for the Civics & English Tests
As part of the naturalization interview, the immigration officer will test your English reading and writing skills and will also administer a short test on U.S. civics. For the English reading test, the officer will have you read 3 sentences. For the writing test, the officer will say 3 sentences and you will need to write them down. The civics test is an oral test with 10 questions. You must get at least 6 of the 10 questions right in order to pass. USCIS provides several free resources on its website to help applicants prepare for the English and civics tests. Please note that some applicants are exempt from taking these tests. Additionally, if you have a disability, you can request reasonable accommodations from USCIS when you submit the N-400 form.
Attend the interview
Once you have gathered and reviewed all the relevant documents and studied for the tests, you will attend the interview. It is very important to pay attention to your interview date, as missing your interview could have extremely negative consequences on your naturalization application. At the interview you should arrive at least 15 minutes early and bring your appointment notice and all the relevant documentation discussed above. You should be prepared to discuss and confirm all information presented on the N-400. The immigration officer may also ask about other topics such as recent trips outside the U.S., memberships in any organizations, your criminal history, military service, past marriages and your feelings about the U.S. constitution. The USCIS website includes a brief video that describes the naturalization interview and includes a mock interview to help applicants understand the interview process. At the end of the interview, the officer will provide the applicant with a document that describes the Naturalization Interview results. The officer may either recommend the application for approval or indicate that a decision cannot be made at this time.
The final step to naturalization is to attend the oath ceremony. After the officer recommends the application for approval, the applicant should receive a notice in the mail with instructions for attending the oath ceremony. Some applicants will receive a notice at the end of their naturalization interview with the oath ceremony details on it and some applicants may even be able to participate in the oath ceremony on the same day as the naturalization interview. Practices vary between USCIS offices.
It is very important to prepare for your naturalization interview to ensure a positive result. While immigration officers generally focus on the information in the N-400, they can ask about anything in your immigration history, including the circumstances under which you got your green card. If any information comes up in the interview that leads the officer to think that you are not eligible for naturalization or to question your eligibility for the underlying green card, this could have serious consequences for your status in the United States. If you have any immigration issues that you think could impact your naturalization process, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney prior to submitting your naturalization application.
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Ian E. Scott, Esq. is the Founder of Scott Legal, P.C. He can be reached at 212-223-2964 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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