The citizenship interview is the stage of the process for becoming a U.S. citizen when the U.S. government determines your eligibility to become an American, based on all of the information and documentation you’ve provided up to this point. During the interview, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer will ask questions about your naturalization application (Form N-400), as well as questions you’re required to study for the citizenship test, which takes place on the same day as the interview.
If you’re nervous about this step, don’t be! As long as you fulfill the requirements for naturalization and prepare adequately for the interview, you’ll be in good shape.
In this guide, you will learn what to expect before, during, and after the interview and how to properly prepare. Make sure to also check out our guide to the questions that are commonly asked during the citizenship interview.
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When is the interview?
After completing the first and second steps of the naturalization process — applying and getting biometrics taken — USCIS will send you an appointment notice with the date and time of your interview. It’s important to show up at least 30 minutes early to allow yourself enough time to complete the check-in process. (Our guide to the naturalization timeline has more details about this step.)
IMPORTANT: USCIS can reschedule the interview if you’re unable to attend on the original date — as long as you provide sufficient written notice to USCIS beforehand. Beware, however, that rescheduling is likely to cause a months-long delay. (Boundless has more information about rescheduling.)
If you simply don’t appear for your interview and don’t contact USCIS beforehand, they will shut down the processing of your application. If that happens, you will need to contact USCIS within one year to get your application moving again. Otherwise, your application will be automatically denied.
Where does the interview take place?
Your appointment notice will indicate which USCIS field office you must go to for your interview. The ZIP code you provided in the “Current Physical Address” section of your Form N-400 determines each applicant’s USCIS field office (see more info).
IMPORTANT: Every time you move to a new address, you must notify USCIS within 10 days of relocating by submitting Form AR-11 (officially called the “Alien’s Change of Address Card”) or completing a change of address form online. Updating your address helps to ensure that you won’t miss important notices from USCIS, including your appointment letter.
How long will the interview last?
A typical citizenship interview lasts about 20 minutes, but the exact timeframe varies by applicant.
What should I bring?
In addition to the appointment notice you received, you will need to bring supporting documents to your interview. (See our guide to the documents required for the U.S. citizenship interview for a complete list.)
What kinds of questions will I be asked?
Before the interview, the USCIS officer will review your Form N-400 and your “A-File,” which is basically a collection of records documenting your immigration journey (see this guide for more info about A-Files). The questions in the interview will focus mainly on the contents of these files, but more so on your answers on Form N-400 than on your A-File (see this preview of typical interview questions).
How should I prepare for the naturalization interview?
See “How to Prepare for the Citizenship Interview” below.
Can someone go with me to my interview?
You may bring a representative, an interpreter, and/or a family member or friend with you, depending on the reasons why you need their support during the interview (see below for more details).
How should I dress?
USCIS does not have formal requirements for interview attire, and what you choose to wear for the occasion certainly won’t affect the outcome of your application. Just keep in mind that you’ll be meeting face to face with a federal officer who has plenty of discretion on the outcome of your application, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and think “business casual.”
If all of this sounds complicated and intimidating, don’t worry! We’ve joined forces with RapidVisa to help you complete your citizenship application and guide you all the way to the finish line. Together we’ll help you stay on top of interview preparation, follow-on forms, and every other important milestone along the way.
When you arrive at the USCIS field office, you’ll enter through a security checkpoint and show your interview appointment notice, as well as a photo ID. You’ll then wait with other applicants for your turn to be interviewed. Once your name is called, a USCIS officer will place you under oath and begin asking questions.
The interview is also the first part (the speaking test) of the English component of the citizenship exam. That part of the test begins as soon as you greet the USCIS officer, who will be evaluating your ability to communicate verbally in basic English. (In some cases, different USCIS officers may separately conduct the interview and the test.)
You can ask the officer to repeat or clarify questions until you understand them. As you respond to questions, keep in mind that the officer will be looking for two things:
- Consistency between your verbal responses in the interview and your written responses in Form N-400
- Your ability to comprehend basic English (as part of the English speaking test)
If your responses in the interview do not match those in your application, the officer may change the information in your application to reflect your verbal responses. But don’t worry — the change(s) won’t necessarily count against you.
The officer may also choose to record the interview, but either you or your representative (if you have one) can later submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain a copy of the record. The recordings are routinely used for training purposes at USCIS. They can also serve as evidence to support the USCIS officer’s decision to deny an application. But don’t be nervous! As long as you have a clean background and provide all of the information that USCIS needs, you should have nothing to worry about
At the end of the interview, you’ll receive a notice with results of both your interview and citizenship exam. If USCIS has everything it needs from you, they may also decide on your citizenship application the same day. (If you’re lucky, your Oath of Allegiance ceremony may happen then, too.) Otherwise, they’ll have up to 120 days after your interview to make a decision.
You can expect one of three outcomes on your application: approval, denial, or continuation (see this guide for more details). Applications are typically “continued” when:
- USCIS needs more information or documentation from you.
- You did not pass the citizenship test (or a portion of it).
If your application is continued
The results notice you receive at the end of your interview will indicate next steps. Usually, this means USCIS will send you an official “Request for Evidence” (RFE) for the missing or unclear information or documentation, and/or they’ll schedule a second interview to take place between 60 and 90 days from the date of your first interview.
During this second interview, the USCIS officer will review any new documentation or clarification you submitted in response to an RFE and/or re-examine you on any portion of the test you didn’t pass.
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As mentioned earlier, the USCIS officer will draw interview questions mostly from your responses on your citizenship application.
Keep in mind that you will also take the citizenship exam on the same day. The interview is basically the first component (the speaking test) of the English portion of the citizenship exam. (See our guide to the naturalization exam for preparation help.)
Other useful tips to help you succeed
Keep track of changes. Make sure to note any changes that occur between the time you file Form N-400 and attend your interview (for example, if your name changes or you become entangled with the law). USCIS routinely ask such questions to determine whether you are still eligible for naturalization.
Be completely honest. Honesty is always the best policy when interacting with a USCIS officer about your background. If a USCIS officer discovers that you intentionally lied during your interview, they may deny your application or, worse, place you in removal proceedings (deportation).
Dig up old files. USCIS officers may also ask questions based on the contents of your A-File — essentially, your immigration history (see this guide for more info). If you’ve kept track of your communication with USCIS since before you became a green card holder, make sure to review those communications thoroughly.
Most people likely don’t keep track of such records, in which case there are two helpful ways to prepare:
- Review your supporting documents, especially court and police records if you’ve ever had an encounter with law enforcement.
- Request a copy of your A-File by submitting a FOIA request, particularly if you’ve had a long and complicated history with USCIS (for example, if you’ve ever been placed in removal proceedings) or if another government agency has run a background check on you before. Bear in mind that a FOIA request can take one to four months, or longer, to process, depending on the complexity of your request.
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There are three types of people who can accompany you to your interview, depending on your circumstances:
If you want to make sure that USCIS honors your rights during the interview
You can bring an attorney or a representative. They must complete and sign Form G-28 (officially called the “Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative”), which you must submit to USCIS with your naturalization application.
During the interview, your attorney or representative may ensure that USCIS honors your legal rights. They may not answer any interview questions on your behalf.
If you decide not to bring an attorney or representative, you must sign a “waiver of representation.”
If you’re exempt from the English test
You can either bring an interpreter or ask USCIS to choose one for you if you don’t need to take the English test. The USCIS officer may also conduct your interview in your preferred language if they are fluent. If you bring your own interpreter, they must complete an “interpreter’s oath and privacy release statement” and provide a copy of their government-issued ID upon arriving at the USCIS field office.
During the interview, the interpreter may not provide any opinion or answer any interview questions on your behalf.
If you have a disability
You can bring a family member or legal guardian, but the USCIS officer conducting your interview can decide whether to allow their presence during your interview. It’s generally a good idea to ask for prior permission by contacting the USCIS field office assigned to you before your interview.
Do you need special accommodations during your interview? We’ve joined forces with RapidVisa, and together we will ensure the appropriate documents and forms, such as the G-28, are included with your application. Get started now!