All individuals applying to become naturalized US citizens must appear before the USCIS for a citizenship interview. These interviews are held at regional immigration offices, and applicants receive advance notice of the interview notifying them of the date, time and place.
The purpose of the citizenship interview is to review the submitted N-400 application, update any changes (work, address, phone number, etc.), assess the applicant’s ability to read, write and speak English and test their knowledge of American civics. The interview also provides the officer an opportunity to decide whether the applicant is eligible for US citizenship – some approvals are granted right at the conclusion of the interview.
Over the course of the interview, the immigration officer will review the applicant’s submitted documents. The officer will ask questions as they look over the filed paperwork, partly to make sure it is accurate and partly to assess the applicant’s English proficiency. After the officer is satisfied, the interview will move into the formal testing stage.
In evaluating English skills, the applicant is expected to read, write and verbally recite a series of sentences provided by the interviewing officer. For those concerned about this portion of the interview, the USCIS has gone to great lengths to provide a plethora of no-charge study guides and videos. This free information can be accessed here.
In assessing the applicant’s knowledge of US civics, the applicant will typically be asked 10 questions, of which six must be answered correctly. As with English proficiency, the USCIS provides free study guides for the civics exam that can be accessed here.
If the applicant fails either the English or the civics tests, the USCIS will schedule a second interview to reassess their skills. Failing the test a second time, however, results in denial of the application.
Please note that some applicants will not have to take the English portion of the test based on age, residency and\or medical-based conditions. For the full list, refer to the “Exemptions” section below.
Documents to Bring
- Permanent resident card and photocopies of the front and back
- Current and expired passports
- Driver’s license/state-issued ID card
- Copies of tax returns for the past five years (3 years if married to a US citizen)
- Copies of all correspondence to and from the USCIS
- Copies of submitted N-400 and all documents that were passed on for evidentiary support (marriage/birth certificates, divorces/annulments, and the like)
- Know the interview location and arrive on time
- Make sure you have collected and reviewed the submitted documents
- Be honest with all of your answers
- Dress professionally
- Try to relax and engage in the conversation with the interviewing officer
Some individuals are not required to take the English test if they fall one or more of the categories noted below:
- If an applicant is 50 years old and has lived in the US as a permanent resident for at least 20 years, they are exempt from having to take the English test. The civics test (in the language of their choice) is still required.
- Similarly, applicants over who are at least 55 years old and have resided in the US as a permanent resident for at least 15 years are exempt from having to take the English test. As before the civics exam is still required.
- Medical exemptions are also available for those with physical or mental disabilities that have lasted or are expected to last at least 12 months. If so, a Form N-648 must be filed along with the application for naturalization.