10 Things USCIS Checks at Your Citizenship Interview

  • POSTED: February 2, 2012
  • POSTED BY: LawrenceGruner




Q.  I  have my U.S. Citizenship Interview scheduled next month. Can you tell me what to expect? What will USCIS be checking when I go to my naturalization interview?


A.  When you apply to become a naturalized U.S. Citizen USCIS will thoroughly check your background and your application.  If things do not go well not only can your case be denied but, many people do not realize this, you can also lose your permanent residency (green card).  Therefore, you need to make sure that you have prepared your case well. USCIS will be asking you about the following things:

1. Your Application

After you have arrived at your interview you will likely be brought into a simple government office.  The officer will have a desk, a computer, printer, and immigration books.  You will be told to remain standing and you will be sworn in by the Immigration Officer.  The officer will ask you to show proper identification.

Once this is done  the immigration officer will go through your naturalization application, with you.  He will be reviewing your application, in full,  line by line.  Thus, make sure that your application is accurate before you file it with USCIS. You should also review your application before you file your case and you need to re-check it before you go to your interview to make sure it is absolutely accurate.

If you have made a mistake on your application then make sure you bring it to the attention of the interviewer very early in the interview.  It is much better for you to volunteer any mistakes than to have the Immigration Officer find the mistakes in your application (as it can appear that you are lying if you are not forthcoming).

2. How You  Received Your Green Card

The interviewing officer will be looking at your immigration history in detail. He will want to know how you received your green card.

For Example: If you obtained your green card through marriage USCIS will ask you about your marriage.  Additionally, the Immigration Officer will want to know if you are still married or were you ever separated or divorced from that

green card through marriage application form

spouse. If you are divorced or separated they will ask you why and when you separated or divorced. USCIS wants to make sure that you were still together when you received your permanent green card.  If this is not the case then you should contact us so that we can review your situation to make sure you will not have any problems (888-801-6558)

If you got your green card through your employer they will ask you questions about your employment. Questions will concern when you worked there and if you still work there. USCIS wants to make sure that you were working there when you received your green card.

If you received your green card based on Political Asylum then USCIS will want to confirm the information on your asylum application. You should review your asylum application, if possible, prior to filing for naturalization. You will be asked if you were arrested before? Are you a member of any groups? USCIS will want to know  if you ever went back to your home country after you were granted political asylum. Note: If you did go home you need to speak with an immigration attorney before filing for Naturalization.

3 Your Knowledge of U.S. History and U.S. Government

You will be tested on your knowledge of US History and form of government. After you apply for US Citizenship, USCIS will schedule you for fingerprinting (biometrics). At your biometrics appointment USCIS will give you a handlout to study with the information on the US History exam.   Here are the U.S. Citizenship test questions and answers if you want to get a head start on your studies.

You will be given a quiz on US History and US government during the interview.  This is done orally. There will be up to 10 questions.  These questions (see below) are generally generated randomly by the computer.  In order to pass the examination you will need to answer 6 correctly (the exam and other rules surrounding your knowledge of US history can change). 

When you are asked a question it is OK to pause a moment before you answer.  Make sure you understand the question before you answer.  If you do not understand the question it is fine to ask the Immigration Officer to repeat the question. Remember you must answer at least 6 questions correctly or you will fail the test and not obtain your U.S. Citizenship.   We can help you by giving you expert advice or preparing the documents in your citizenship case if you would like 888-801-6558.

4. Your Travel

You should bring all of the passports that you have used since entering the United States to your interview. The Immigration officer will go through your passport to make sure you listed the correct travel dates on your application. (Prior to filing the case you should  review your passport and other travel documents to make sure you list your travel accurately). If you don’t have your old passports the officer may ask you to prove your physical presence in the United States through bills, taxes and other evidence.  

There are 2 travel related issues that USCIS does look at when you apply to become a U.S. Citizen: Continuous Residence and Physical Presence. 

Continuous Residence

With Continuance Residence you must show that you maintained your residence within the United States for the required time period.  You must have 5 years worth of continuous residence immediately preceding the date you file your N-400.  The 5 year requirement is reduced to 3 years if you received your green card based on marriage to a United States Citizen and in some situations this requirement can be waived completely.

If you have a trip that is less than 180 days in length you will not disrupt this requirement.  However if you have had a trip for 180 days or longer you should speak to an immigration attorney prior to filing your case.  Also, if you had multiple trips, with just a short return to the U.S. in between, you should speak to an immigration attorney.

Physical Presence

You must have been physically present in the United States in order to obtain your U.S. Citizenship.  If you are filing based on the 5 year waiting requirement then you must have been physically present for 30 months over the 5 year period immediately preceding the filing of your N-400.  If you are filing based on the 3 year waiting requirement then you must have been physically present for 18 months immediately preceding the filing of your N-400.  This requirement can be waived for certain applicants.

Physical presence is cumulative.  You would add each and every day you were outside the United States to come up with your total time outside of the U.S.  USCIS does not like it when it appears that you are not treating the United States as where you live (i.e. it appears that you are really living abroad)


5. Your Ability to Speak English

There is an English language requirement when you apply for naturalization.  An applicant must also be able to read and write a simple sentence in English. (A sample sentence might be something like:  I like to drink coffee or I want to go to the store today.)You also have to be able to demonstrate the ability to speak English throughout the interview. The interviewer will be taking notice of how you speak and whether or not you understand his or her questions.

You may be exempt from the English requirement based on your age and how long you have had your green card. If this is your case then you will need to bring an interpreter with you to your interview. You should review your specific situation with an experienced Immigration Attorney.

Here are the situations, listed on the USCIS website, when you may be exempt from the English requirement:

“You Are Exempt From The English Language Requirement, But Are Still Required To Take The Civics Test If You Are:

  • Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for 20 years   (commonly referred to as the “50/20” exception).
  • Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (commonly referred to as the “55/15” exception).


  • Even if you qualify for the “50/20” or “55/15” English language exceptions listed above, you must still take the civics test.
  • You will be permitted to take the civics test in your native language.
  • If you take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter with you to your interview.
  • Your interpreter must be fluent in both English and your native language.
  • If you are age 65 or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, you will be given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.”

6. Your Family Situation

If you have minor children and you don’t live with them you will need  to show that you financially support them . You can show this by providing the following evidence: a notarized affidavit from your ex-spouse stating that you do in fact provide support for these minor children; by providing copies of cancelled checks showing support; or by providing other proof  showing money transfers in support of the children. If there is a court order of support concerning your minor children then you will need to prove that you are complying with the court order and paying the amount ordered by the Court.

Please note that if you owe back child support you may not be able to naturalize. Consult with an attorney if that is your situation. 888-801-6558

If you were married, divorced, or have children then you must bring documents to your interview which establish these relationships (marriage certificates, birth certificates and divorce decrees).

7. Your Membership in Various Groups or Organizations

At your naturalization interview you will be asked about, religious organizations, work organizations and political groups in which you are a current member in which you have ever been a member of in the past. Be careful in this area.  This is an area where individuals can run into serious problems.  If you think USCIS might have a problem with the organizations you belonged to in the past it is likely that this is true.  If this is your case, before you file for naturalization, review your case with an experienced immigration attorney.

8. Your Criminal Records

You will have to provide the certified final disposition of your record from any criminal court if you have been arrested in the past. If you are currently on probation you will not be able to naturalize. If you have been on probation or were arrested during the last five years your application may be denied.

If you have ever been arrested then you need to speak with an immigration attorney prior to applying for naturalization. Some arrests can lead to removal (formally called deportation) and or a loss of your permanent residence (green card).  Many times USCIS only learns about a criminal conviction only when you renew your green card or apply for naturalization.  Thus, be very careful about applying for naturalization if you have a criminal matter (especially if you had the criminal matter after you received your green card).

9. Your Belief in the U.S. Constitution

You will also be asked if you believe in the U.S. Constitution. You will also be asked if you are willing to take an oath to the United States and if you are willing to fight, if necessary, for the United States. If you don’t have a commitment to our system of government and are not willing to defend our country you may not be able to naturalize. As part of your commitment to the United States any male who lived in the USA between the ages of 18-26 must have registered for selective service.

If you did not register for selective service you may need to obtain a waiver or you may need to wait to file your naturalization case.  If this is your situation review your matter with an immigration attorney prior to filing your case.

10. Your Documents

You need to bring your green card, passport (even if it has expired) any re-entry permits you may have, and your local state identification (e.g. a drivers license) with you to your interview.

In addition,  USCIS may also ask you to bring other documents with you to your naturalization interview. These documents will be listed in your appointment letter. Carefully read your appointment letter completely before you go to your interview. If you do not bring the documents listed above then you risk having your case delayed or denied.  Do not take this risk.  Make sure you bring all of the documents to your interview.

In summary be very cautious when you are applying for U.S. Citizenship. It is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced Immigration Attorney prior to filing your application.  Please do not rely on advice from friends, chat rooms online, paralegals, immigration consultants or notarios concerning your U.S. Citizenship case.  The stakes are too high.

Finally, it has become more difficult to enter the federal buildings where these interviews are held.  You should plan on arriving earlier than you would expect (it may take 45 minutes or longer to enter the building) and you may be barred from bringing your cell phone into the building with you.  Therefore, if you do not know the practice at the federal building where your interview is being held you may wish to keep your cell phone at home or hidden in your car.

If  you would like to review your situation, free of charge, please contact our office at 916-760-7270 or 888-801-6558 or email us at attorneygruner@gmail.com   We will evaluate your situation and determine if you are eligible to file to become a U.S. Citizen.  We can help you from consulting with you, preparing your documents, advising you on your case to handling your case from start to finish.

If you have received value from this blog post and would like to help someone else please consider a contribution to World Vision or another charity of your choice.  Even a small gift can really help someone in need.

Lawrence Gruner is a Sacramento Immigration Lawyer  and is a fiance visa attorney with almost 20 years of experience. His office handles cases throughout California, the United States and the World. His office handles fiance visa cases, marriage green card cases and U.S. Citizenship cases. You may reach our office at 916-760-7270 or toll free at 888-801-6558 . Attorney Gruner would be happy to review your situation and your options.

This post is under Citizenship and Naturalization Attorneys Sacramento. The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. Laws do change and additional laws may apply in your case. Every case is different. Please contact our office or the office of another immigration attorney to review your matter prior to filing any documentation with USCIS.





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