Preparing For The Naturalization Interview

By Priscilla Yang

We can all agree that interviews are nerve-wracking, especially one that will determine a person’s ability to become a naturalized citizen, but there are a few ways to prepare for success. A person will be more prepared for an interview if they take time to (1) understand the process and (2) practice for the big day.

Steps To Becoming A U.S. Citizen

Becoming a naturalized citizen consists of roughly six steps. First, when an immigrant wants to become a U.S. citizen, he or she must determine if he or she is eligible to apply. Some of these requirements include:

  • Being at least 18 years old when filing the Application for Naturalization
  • Lawfully admitted permanent resident
  • Lived in the U.S. for at least five years, or three years if eligibility requirements met to file as a spouse of U.S. citizen
  • Lived in the U.S. at least three months before filing

Second, the applicant has to complete the Application for Naturalization, also known as Form N-400. The application must be sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with a series of documents including a photocopy of his or her Permanent Resident Card and a check or money order for the application and biometric services fee. (For a full checklist, please refer to the document checklist, Form M-477, from the USCIS website). After the application is submitted, USCIS will send a receipt notice back. Applicants will be given notice of their biometric services appointment – date, time and location.

The third step is going to the biometric services appointment. Biometrics are taken in order to confirm an applicant’s identity and to run background and security checks. Once everything is complete, the applicant is scheduled for an interview.

Step four is the interview. An interview consists of a Civics Test and an English test. During the interview, an applicant will also be asked general questions about their application.

Step five is receiving notice from the USCIS. Essentially, the USCIS will inform an applicant by writing if they have been approved, need to provide additional information or were denied. Sometimes applicants are approved the same day as their interview.

Lastly, (step six) if approved, an applicant will take the “Oath of Allegiance.

Preparing For The Interview

Now that we understand how to become a U.S. citizen, we can focus on preparing for the Naturalization Interview. An applicant can become familiar with what they will be tested on by using the study materials provided by the USCIS. This material can be accessed online at: www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship. The Civics Test consists of three sections: American Government, Integrated Civics, and American History. An example of a question from the study material is: “What is an amendment?” Applicants will be asked up to 10 questions out of the 100 total questions from the study materials. In order to pass, an applicant must get 6/10 of the questions correct.

The English Test consists of a reading, writing and speaking test. To pass the reading test, an applicant must be able to successfully read one out of three of the sentences given. The same goes for the writing test – an applicant must be able to write one out of three of the sentences given. The speaking test is determined by the USCIS Officer when he or she asks questions pertaining to the applicant’s answers on the naturalization form.

To be successful, applicants should allocate at least two hours, two times a week to study (of course, more is better). Having a designated study space and studying at the same time and on the same day, each week is ideal. Study cards are recommended when studying for the Civics Test because they can be used in a group setting or alone. There are flash cards available and ready for print at: www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learners/study-test/study-materials-civics-test. There are also reading and writing flashcards available from the USCIS website. Moreover, it’s important to note that applicants who are at least 65 years old and have been a permanent resident for 20 years or more only have to study the questions that have an asterisk on the 100-question civics study material.

When studying the material, one good study tip is to not skip over the questions that you already know the answer to. According to the American Psychological Association, “students who retest themselves by recalling information they could remember earlier do twice as well on an exam as students who skipped retesting themselves on familiar material.” Another good study tip is to keep track of how many questions and which questions you get right and wrong. By doing so, it allows you to get a better picture of how you’re scoring overall as well as which questions to spend more time on.

One very important thing that people forget to do is conduct mock interviews. This is something that can substantially help an applicant be comfortable during the real interview. Sometimes it’s funny when you’re role-playing, but having a general idea of how the real interview will play out eases one’s nerves. An applicant can do this by having someone pretend to be the USCIS Officer.

Studying can be difficult when you don’t know where to start, but if you use basic study methods, are consistent with studying, understand the interview process and practice for the big day, you’re more likely to pass the naturalization interview. Remember to access the material provided by the USCIS online.