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How To Prepare For The USCIS Citizenship Interview (With Study Help!)

Every foreign national who wishes to become a naturalized citizen of the United States must attend an interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of the citizenship application process. 

It can be intimidating, but don’t let fear hold you back. 96% of applicants pass the test! When you know what to expect and what you need to do, you can get peace of mind. We’ve been helping immigrants navigate the application and interview process for years.

Here are our best tips on how to prepare for the USCIS citizenship interview in a way that maximizes your chances of success, and some study help resources that may benefit you!

How To Prepare For The USCIS Citizenship Interview (With Study Help!)

First – what is the interview like?

How long does it last? 

Typically, the interview, which will take place at a USCIS field office, will last less than half an hour. Delays are common, so expect to wait for a while before you are seen; but you should arrive early, so you are not late!

What happens first?

A USCIS officer will ask to see your identification. They will place you under oath, and proceed to ask you questions about your background, your residence, your character, the evidence of your case, your willingness to take the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S., and more. See a list of sample questions here. They are testing not only your ability to communicate in English, but also seeing whether your Form N-400 (citizenship application) is accurate and up-to-date!

When do I take the tests?

Then, there will be two tests. The first is the civics test, which is administered orally. The USCIS officer will ask you 10 questions about the American government, history, and geography.

Now, the rules for what you can be tested on are constantly changing; at the time this article was published (2023), applicants who file for naturalization after April 19, 2021 will be given the 2008 version of the test, which has 100 possible questions. You need to answer 6 out of the 10 given you correctly to pass.

The next test is the English test, which is a written test (although the entire time you have been conversing with the USCIS officer, they have been measuring your English). You will be given one sentence (out of three) to read out loud, and you must do it correctly to demonstrate your comprehension of the sentence. You also must write one sentence (out of three) so that the USCIS officer can understand it. These sentences will be related to American history and government.

Then your interview is over! (Keep reading to find out the 3 ways it can end.)

Tips on how to prepare for the USCIS citizenship interview

Study!

Like any test – and this interview is a big test! – studying is the best way to pass! You will be tested on your proficiency in the English language and your knowledge of American history and government. Here are a few things you should do to study well:

  • Make a plan

There is a quote that goes “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, and that’s true of the citizenship test! It’s not enough just to “study”. This is potentially the most important test of your life, but your busy life can quickly get in the way of you studying, and before you know it, the test day will arrive. So make a plan for how you will study!

Will you spend an hour every day working through resources (some mentioned below?) Or maybe twice a week, you will take a few hours to meet up with a study group? Maybe you will take a class on how to prepare for the USCIS citizenship interview (highly recommended!)?

Will you practice speaking in English only for two days of the week, even at your home? Will you only listen to English music and watch shows in English (or with English subtitles) before your test? Will you volunteer somewhere so that you can get more exposure to the English language? What is your plan going to be?

  • Know all of the answers There are 100 possible questions you could be asked on the civics portion, and you have no idea which 10 the officer will choose – you need to know them all, without hesitation! You also need to know the vocabulary that could be involved in the English portion.

It sounds like a lot, but there are so many different memory tools you can use to help you (like flashcards, YouTube videos, workbooks etc.), and you have all of the questions available to you to help you study! Many resources are free, though there are many to purchase as well.

Here are just a few of the many, many resources that you have to choose from.

 

  • Get a good night’s rest

You don’t want to go into the test tired! You need your brain sharp. Prioritize getting a good night’s sleep before the test if at all possible!

Practice!

Don’t merely study English – if conversing, writing, or reading in English is difficult for you, or you feel like you will be scared to talk to the USCIS officer, the best thing you can do is to practice, practice, practice your English before the test! Force yourself to be constantly speaking to people in English – at the grocery store, your neighbors, your coworkers. Spend time reading English books and writing down your thoughts in English – maybe start to keep a journal. Just a little bit of writing and speaking every day can go a long way! It may feel unnatural, but the more you practice, the more confident you will feel going into the interview!

Gather all the right documentation. Keep track of any changes between your interview date and when you submitted your Form N-400. 

What do I need to bring?

You should bring the following with you to the appointment:

  • Your interview appointment notice
  • Your permanent residence card (green card)
  • Your driver’s license or other state-issued ID
  • Your current and expired passports and travel documents
  • Your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or death certificate of spouse – whatever is proof of your current marital status
  • Tax returns from the last 5 years (or 3, if you are filing on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen).
  • You may also need other supporting documents if you have a unique situation (you can find examples here).

What documents will be reviewed?

You may be most worried about the test, but one of the most important parts about how to prepare for the USCIS citizenship interview is making sure you and the officer have all the right documentation and that everything is completed fully and correctly. Your Form N-400 and your “A-File” (a collection of records related to your immigration journey so far) will both be reviewed.

Study your answers!

The officer will ask you questions about your Form N-400, and potentially about your A-File, so you should make a copy of both and review your answers before the interview! Study this the same way you study for your test – though, because it is all your personal information, it should be much easier!

Note changes, and be prepared to explain them.

You will need to note any changes that have happened since you filed your Form N-400. (For example, if your name changed, or if you moved, or changed jobs, or changed addresses, or if you traveled abroad) You will likely be asked to explain these changes, so have your answers and any necessary supporting documentation or proofs ready!

Be honest – tell the truth!

Honesty is always the best policy, even if you think the answers may get you in trouble or may not be what the officer wants to hear. If it is discovered that you lied during your interview, or if your answers are inconsistent with the evidence the officer has, your application may be denied.

Know your rights! 

You have rights during the citizenship interview! One of them is the right to have your attorney accompany you to the interview. Your attorney can make sure that your rights aren’t abused during the interview, and they can also explain points of weakness or tension in your case in a way that doesn’t disadvantage you (for example, if you have any prior history of arrests or convictions).

You also may have the right to certain exemptions. For example:

  • You may be able to skip the English test entirely and take the civics test in your native language if you are:
    • Age 50 or older at the time of filing Form N-400 and have lived as a permanent resident in the U.S for 20 years or more. This is known as the 50/20 exception.
    • Age 55 or older at the time of filing Form N-400 and have lived as a permanent resident in the U.S. for 15 years or more. This is known as the 55/15 exception.
  • If you are age 65 years or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing, you can take a simplified version of the civics test.
  • If you have a physical, mental, or developmental disability, you can submit Form N-648 for an exception, prepared by a licensed medical doctor or a licensed clinical psychologist with a certain time frame.

There are 3 possible ways the interview can end! 

1. Your citizenship application can be continued.

If you failed either part of the test, or both, you do get a second chance! Your application will be continued. USCIS will schedule you for another interview – a re-take – within 60 to 90 days!

The good news is that you only have to redo the part that you failed (English or civics). The bad news is that if you fail a second time, your application will be denied.

If you pass both tests on the first try, the USCIS officer may still determine that there is a need for additional documentation. They will give you a Form N-14, Request for Additional Information, Documents or Forms. From there, a final decision will be made.

2. Your citizenship application can be denied.

Even if you pass the test, your Form N-400 may still be denied. There are many reasons why citizenship applications are denied. Invalid payments, failure to disclose criminal history, failure to demonstrate good moral character, and submitting incorrect documentation or incomplete information are some of the most common reasons.

Receiving a denial can be devastating after all of that work, but don’t lose hope! You have 30 days to request a hearing and challenge the decisions by submitting Form N-336. If you have been denied and have so far been working on your own, you absolutely need to contact an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible in order to prepare, and ensure you have the best chances at a successful appeal.

3. Your citizenship application can be granted.

This is the outcome you hope for! Your USCIS citizenship interview was successful, and you will become a naturalized citizen of the United States! You have to take the Oath of Allegiance in a ceremony. In some cases, this can happen on the same day as your interview, but in most cases, you will receive a mail notification with the date, time, and location of your oath ceremony. You will take the oath and receive all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that go along with U.S. citizenship.

Nervous? Let us help!

At Weldon Law Group, PLLC, we help good people make their home in the greatest country in the world. We know that preparing for the USCIS citizenship interview can be overwhelming, but hopefully this article gave you an idea of where to start and what to keep in mind.

It is imperative that you have a lawyer helping you through this process; you don’t want to receive a denial because you didn’t seek out professional guidance! Don’t try to prepare for the USCIS citizenship interview alone. Our immigration attorneys can give you complete confidence going into your interview. Call today to schedule a free consultation and take your next steps!