PREPARING FOR YOUR US CITIZENSHIP INTERVIEW

After preparing and filing my client’s N-400 applications for US citizenship, I am then asked what they should do to prepare for the actual citizenship interview. I actually spend a couple of hours with each of my client’s before the actual interview and conduct an intensive practice session to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Although every client is different, I am going to give you a general set of guidelines to help you prepare. These are as follows:

1. Get to the Service center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled interview. The last thing you need aside from the nervousness you may feel is to be running late to the interview. Take a test drive by the Service center before the day of the interview so you exactly know where it is and the time it will take for you to arrive there.
2. Do not forget to bring any original documents along with a copy for the USCIS Officer. At the minimum this will require bringing your state issued identification, permanent residence card and passport. If you have a criminal record, then bring certified copies of the arrest report and criminal conviction.
3. Dress appropriately. A jacket and tie or a formal gown isn’t necessary, but neither is a t-shirt and blue jeans. Dress as you would for a job interview.
4. Answer the Officer respectfully. A Maam or Sir goes a long way in deferring to the authority the USCIS Officer who has in the ultimate outcome of your application.
5. Go to the USCIS website and download the civics and English test questions about a month before the interview. The civics book has one hundred questions and answers of which you will be asked five from the book. Usually the book gives you a few correct answers for a question, you usually need to know only one, but read each question and answer carefully.
6. The English portion is your ability to understand and respond accordingly to the questions that will be asked of you during the interview. You may be asked to write out a sentence in English and to respond to additional questions by the USCIS Officer. If you a not extremely proficient in the English language, and do not qualify for an exemption from the language requirement, then it is important to hone your English skills from the moment you submit your N-400 application. There are many free ESOL language courses offered across the USA as well as free internet courses available. If you speak your native language in your household, try to only speak English and watch English television shows.
7. Take a deep breath and relax before you go into the interview room. If for any reason you are not proficient with the language, civics or English requirements, you will usually be scheduled for an additional interview within 90 days to try again.
8. If you pass, you will then be given a notification that you passed the interview and that you will be scheduled for the next swearing in ceremony to formally become a US Citizen. This is usually within three weeks from your interview date.
9. If you do have an issue related to a criminal conviction or lengthy overstay over 6 months out of the US, please retain an Immigration Attorney to attend the interview with you.

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Considerations Before Applying For US Citizenship

I have clients that have been permanent residents in the U.S. and now want to apply for their naturalization. I always ask them some two very important questions before they apply. These questions are:

1. How did you become a permanent resident? The reason for this questions is to find out if they obtained their residency through marriage or an employer. If it had been through marriage, is the resident still together with the U.S. citizen and if not, why? Remember during an USCIS naturalization interview, if an immigration officer suspected the marriage was for fraudulent purposes, you could wind up in removal. Also, if residency was obtained through an employer, what evidence do you have to show that you were employed for a reasonable amount of time.

2. Have you been arrested or convicted of a crime since obtaining your permanent residency? With the increased attention to residents with criminal convictions, some of those arrests or convictions could classify you as an aggravated felon, or having committed crimes of moral turpitude also subject to removal from the U.S.

If you have any of these issues related to your residency, please contact an immigration lawyer before attempting to file your N-400 for Naturalization. The USCIS does a complete criminal search through all US law enforcement databases and you cannot hide any criminal history from them.