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Do you have a Naturalization Interview coming up? Here's how to prepare!

Posted by Christopher Keen | Dec 04, 2018 | 0 Comments

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First off, read the appointment notice and “Naturalization Interview Document Checklist”.  The appointment notice comes on a form I-797C Notice of Action, a form similar to others you may have received.  It will be titled “REQUEST FOR APPLICANT TO APPEAR FOR NATURALIZATION INITIAL INTERVIEW”.  Another document, the “Naturalization Interview Document Checklist” will also be included with the first document and outlines what you need to bring.

INTERVIEW NOTICE

Make sure that your name is the name on the form.  The letter is long and contains lots of fine print.  Carefully note the date, time and address where the appointment will take place.  The notice clearly states if you fail to appear your application will be denied.

Keep the notice in a safe place, as you will need to bring it with you to the interview.  

Plan to leave so you arrive in plenty of time to the interview.  The notice itself tells you not to arrive more than 30 minutes early.  Arriving early does not mean your interview will be held earlier.  The Officer will call you in for your interview when he or she is ready (and it may be a long time after the scheduled hour).  

At the Salt Lake City USCIS office, the waiting room is large.  You will submit your Interview Notice at Window 4, located on the left side of the waiting room.  If your attorney has not yet arrived, and you place the notice in the box, then you may be called for your interview before your attorney arrives.  You may want to wait for the attorney to arrive before placing the appointment notice in the box.  

At the Salt Lake City USCIS office, there are four "windows" where some officers may be working.  That is not where the Naturalization Interview takes place.  Rather, an officer will come out of one of the doors, call your name, and take you back to his or her office to conduct the interview.  Your spouse or other family member is not allowed into the interview.  In some cases where the interview may be done in your native language, an interpreter may come in. 

What to do if you cannot attend the interview

This is a very important interview.  You should attend at the date and time assigned if at all possible.  You can't choose a new interview date. It will be issued by USCIS and the new date may be as equally inconvenient to attend.  If there is a good reason you cannot attend the time of the interview, you can request to reschedule the interview by sending in the interview notice and a written request to the local CIS office handling the interview. You need to make the request before the date and time of your interview.  

What to do if the attorney does not arrive

Hopefully this never happens to you, but you must be prepared in case there is an emergency, a traffic accident, or weather delay and your attorney isn't present and it's time for your interview.  Note that while the applicant has a right to have an attorney in these interviews, the attorney role is limited in some ways.  If the attorney is not present, and the case is being called, the applicant can elect to proceed without the attorney being present.  The USCIS officer will have the applicant sign a consent to proceed without the attorney and will place that form in the applicant's file.  You can decide whether to proceed with or without the attorney.  If your case has some tricky legal issues that the attorney could help explain, you may want to wait.  Otherwise you may decide to proceed without the attorney.  

What to bring

The interview notice provides a long list of documents to bring.  I won't go over each individual item in this article, but will summarize what you need to bring.

  1. Identification Documents.  The notice points out that a government issued I.D. is required.  Your original Driver's License, Greencard, and current passport should be brought.  In fact, all your passports you have ever used should be brought to your naturalization interview where available.
  2. Tax Returns. Bring a copy of the last five years of taxes.  This means the form IRS 1040.  If you owe taxes be sure to bring the proof that you have been making the requirement regular payments. 
  3. Marriage documents. If you're married, bring a copy of your marriage license.  If you are naturalizing after three years of becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident, you must prove that you are still married and living with your US Citizen spouse.  You should bring relevant documents evidencing that you are still living together; for example, joint tax returns, joint lease agreements, joint bank statements, and other evidence, as applicable. Otherwise you need to wait five years to naturalize.  Bring all divorce decrees (certified copies).

Documents related to your Children.  If you have children, bring their birth certificates.  If you have dependent children not living with you, bring proof that you are supporting your children.  Paying child support is a strict requirement for becoming a US Citizen.

Criminal related documents.

If you have been arrested, cited, convicted, or been otherwise involved in criminal proceedings, it's important to bring certified documents relevant to your case. 

Carefully check the list contained in the letter you have received from USCIS.  Failure to bring the necessary documents may cause a delay in the decision on your case.  If there is a necessary document that is missing, the officer will usually give you the chance to bring it or send it in at a later time.  

What if you moved after filing the application?

Sometimes the processing times for naturalization applicants take a long time.  If you move while your application is pending, you need to file a change of address with USCIS.  If you move out of the area that belongs to the USCIS office that will handle your case, you may have to conduct your interview at the new USCIS office.  Jurisdiction is a serious matter in naturalization cases and you need to be examined in the USCIS office that is assigned to your current living area.

How the interview proceeds

A naturalization interview is in two parts; First, the examination.  Second, the Form N-400 Naturalization Application review.  Different Immigration Service Officers do this in different orders.  Sometimes the examination is first, other times the application review is first.  The officer will put the applicant under oath, will examine identification, and then will proceed with the interview.  

Part 1:  The Examination

In order to become a USC, unless an exception applies (out of the scope of this article), one must 1.) read, write, and speak English and 2.) pass a civics exam.  The examination portion of the interview will test for these requirements. 

Unless certain exceptions exist, an applicant must be able to read, speak, and understand English, which is why the interview is conducted in English. Speaking English is tested just by the officer speaking with the applicant.  The written portion of the exam is usually done by the officer handing the applicant a piece of paper, and asking the applicant to write a short statement such as, “The President lives in the White House,” or “Congress works in Washington D.C.”.  The spelling and punctuation does not have to be perfect, just understandable.  The reading portion simply involves the officer handing a paper to the applicant and asking them to read a line. 

The Civics portion of the exam involves the officer asking the candidate up to ten of the 100 civics questions.  If the candidate answers 6 correct, he or she has passed that portion of the exam.

If the applicant fails the exam, there is a second chance.  A new interview date will be set, and the applicant can have more time to study and practice, and return for another opportunity!

Part 2:  The application

Form N-400 is the document that the applicant submits to USCIS to request naturalization.  The application will be reviewed with the applicant by the officer, and there is another place the applicant will need to sign at the end of the interview.

It has probably been a long time since the applicant has seen the form since it was submitted, so the applicant should carefully review a copy before the interview, to familiarize themselves with it again and to make any changes or updates such as trips abroad, new children, etc. 

The applicant will have the opportunity to make changes on the application before signing it again at the interview.  The number of changes will be tracked by the officer and will be told to the applicant. 

Some points to remember:

Answer questions honestly. Listen carefully to the question.  Answer the question.  Don't expound or give additional information.  If you don't know the answer, then say you don't know.  If you don't understand, then say you don't understand.     

In naturalization matters, the applicant does not become a US Citizen at the time of the interview.  Unless of course the officer is allowed to perform the oath.  An oath has never been given to one of our clients at the time of the interview at the Salt Lake City USCIS office. 

If the person has passed the examination, and is otherwise eligible, the officer will tell the applicant that they will be receiving a notice in the mail.  That notice will inform the applicant when and where the oath ceremony will take place.  Some oath ceremonies are at the USCIS offices in a large meeting room. Others are at a court house, at the Provo Freedom Festival, in Zion National Park, and other variety locations.  One cannot usually choose the day or location.  

The Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, called Form N-445, is an important document.  Not only does it state the date and time and place of the Oath Ceremony, it contains a place for the applicant to sign.  On the reverse side, there are some attestations that must be signed by the applicant on the day of the oath ceremony.  It is important that the applicant not sign and date the paper before the date of the oath ceremony because the information has to be attested to between the time of the interview and the date of the oath ceremony.  These questions are:

  1. Whether your marital status has been changed;
  2. If you've traveled outside the U.S.;
  3. If you've committed a crime and not been arrested;
  4. If you've been arrested or cited for any crime or traffic violation;
  5. If you've joined any organization;
  6. If you've claimed exemption from military service;
  7. If you're still willing to bear arms and serve the country;
  8. If you've committed any other violations that make you ineligible for Naturalization.

Remember you have to turn in your Greencard the day of the oath ceremony.

What Next?

You are now a US Citizen!  What now? 

  • Apply for a US Passport;
  • Register to Vote;
  • Update your status with the Social Security Administration;
  • You may be eligible to file petitions for qualifying family members!

About the Author

Christopher Keen

As the founding attorney for Keen Law Offices, LLC, J. Christopher Keen received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Brigham Young University. He then went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. Since that time, he has been admitted to practice before all of the state courts in Utah.

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