Citizenship Interviews: What to Expect

Updated on April 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • The U.S. Citizenship Interview is a crucial step in obtaining a green card.
  • Questions cover personal details, family history, relationships, military service, immigration status, work and education history, residences, travel, and tax obligations.
  • Studying for the interview involves preparing for speaking, reading, writing, and civics tests.
  • Sample questions include greetings, personal information, physical attributes, family history, relationship history, military service, immigration status, work and education, residences, trips abroad, income tax obligations, and additional inquiries about understanding and mental health history.

There are a few things that may stress us out in life – but if there is anything that might cause us a lot of anxiety, that’s an interview. During an interview, we have to always answer honestly whatever question that we are addressed – and make everything sound as natural as possible. The wrong answer might send us down the bad path and prevent us from advancing any further.

This applies to citizenship interviews as well. People in the United States take their visa-giving process seriously, and only those that are seen as worthy of entering the United States will pass their interviews. If they sense that there is something even remotely wrong with a visa seeker’s answer, then there is a high chance that they will not give out the visa.

Some of the “wrong answers” might simply be honest mistakes, mostly because the one interviewed did not know any better. This is why you need to carefully prepare for your visa interview, as you never know what question might come up where you may hesitate – causing the officer to think that there might be something wrong with your application.  

What Is the U.S. Citizenship Interview?

The U.S. Citizenship Interview is a very important stage of obtaining your green card in the United States. In this interview, the USCIS officer will determine whether you are eligible for entering the United States on a visa or not, based on the information that you have provided so far.

Based on those documents, during the interview, you will be asked a series of questions. Some may be part of the documentation that you have provided, others are standard trivia questions that may or may not be part of the paperwork that you provided.

These questions are generally made available right away to the average person by simply visiting the USCIS website. While people are advised to not learn them robotically and remain as truthful as possible, they serve as pretty good guidelines for those that wish to get ready for that interview.

Who Has to Take the U.S. Citizenship Interview?

Anyone can take the U.S citizenship interview as long as they are eligible for naturalization. There are various websites where you may see whether you are eligible for a green card or not – and depending on your result, you may submit your paperwork. Obviously, if you wish to become a citizen of the United States and no longer just a permanent resident, there is no way around it; you will have to take the interview.

Steps to Prepare for Your Citizenship Interview

Your citizenship interview is one of the last steps that you will have to go through in order to become an eligible member of the United States. However, before you earn your “badge” and get your green card, there are certain steps that you might have to prepare for – all of which will lead to your citizenship interview.

1. Complete Your Visa Application

After reviewing the application instructions, you might want to download the application for naturalization and submit it along with the pictures and necessary documents. Make sure that your address is the current one and that it won’t get changed anytime soon.

2. Appear for the Biometrics Appointment

Once your application has been submitted, you will also receive a notice in regards to when your biometrics appointment is going to be. Make sure to appear there at the appointed time and date, and that you bring these documents with you:

  • Your biometrics appointment notice
  • Form I-551 also referred to as the Permanent Resident Card
  • A second type of identification that has your picture on it (e.g. your passport or your driver’s license)

After the biometrics appointment, your fingerprints will be sent to the FBI where they may conduct a background check on you. At that point, you will also receive a booklet into how to prepare for your civics and English test.

3. Prepare for the Actual Naturalization Interview

At this point, you may want to throw an eye on some sample interview questions and think about potential answers for all of them. Do not overthink the answers. Generally, the first honest thing that comes to mind is usually the right one.

Moreover, since the questions will be held in English, you might also want to study for your English and civics test. Join a class, or study under a tutor. Whatever method you choose, do your best to become as fluent as possible before the scheduled date.

4. Attend the Interview

Upon entering the interview room, make sure that you have packed the following paperwork:

  • Your appointment notice for the interview
  • Your permanent resident card (Form I-551)
  • An ID form issued by the state (e.g. your driver’s license)
  • Every valid or expired passport, as well as the documentation that recorded your absences from the United States ever since you became a permanent resident

You might need to bring other documents as well, which is why you might want to read the M-477 – which is also called the Document Checklist. After taking the civics and English tests, as well as answer the questions, you will be informed further on of the results

5. Take the Oath

Preparations to become a U.S. citizen are not done. Like every other true American, you will have to take the Oath of Allegiance. You are not seen as a citizen unless you swear that naturalization oath at your ceremony. Once that is done, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization.

How to Study for Your Citizenship Interview

While the process of becoming a citizen of the United States culminates with the interview during which you will have to answer a set of questions, you will also have to take the civics and English test – that is, unless you qualify for a waiver. That being said, here is what you will have to study for:

  • Speaking Test: The USCIS officer will determine your speaking skills during the interview by using the Application for Naturalization – also known as Form N-400.
  • Reading Test: You will have to read aloud a sentence out of three in order to demonstrate your speaking ability. You might want to check the USCIS reading test vocabulary list for that.
  • Writing Test: You will also be given one out of three questions to prove that you are able to correctly write in English. You may also use the USCIS writing test vocabulary list for that.
  • Civics Test: The civics test has 100 questions from which you will have to study, all of them have already been provided by USCIS (see this link here). You only have to find the answer to the questions that have already been given to you.

Most of the research has already been given to you by USCIS. Now, all you have to do is perform some research on the Internet – or go old fashioned by paying a visit to the library.

Sample Citizenship Interview Questions

When you are attending your citizenship interview, you may come across a variety of interview questions – some of them being more important than others. Here are the most frequent questions that you tend to come across during the interview – but bear in mind that these might not be the same for every applicant. The officer might ask you a variety of other questions, which is why you might want to do extensive research on possible questions.

1. Greetings from the USCIS Officer

  • Hello, how are you?
  • Are you feeling well today?
  • How are you today?

2. The Placement under Oath

  • Do you swear to tell the truth and only the truth, as God bears witness?
  • Do you understand the meaning of “oath”?

3. Personal Information Questions

  • Could you please tell us your name?
  • Have you gone under any under name before?
  • What is your date of birth?
  • Do you have plans for legally changing your name?
  • What is your place of birth?
  • Can you tell us your age?
  • As you of Latino or Hispanic origin?

4. Questions about Your Physical Attributes

  • What is your current height?
  • What is your hair color?
  • What is your eye color?

5. Questions about Your Family History

  • What is the name of your mother?
  • What is the name of your father?
  • Is either of your parents U.S. citizens?
  • When have they gained U.S. citizenship?
  • Were they legally married by the time you turned 18 years old?
  • Do you have any children? How many?
  • What are the names of your children?
  • Where is the birthplace of your children?
  • Do your children currently live with you? If not, where are they living now?
  • Are your children biological, stepchildren, or adopted?
  • When are the birthdays of your children?

6. Questions about Your Relationship History

  • At this point, are you single, divorced, married, or widowed?
  • When did you get married and where?
  • What is your spouse’s name?
  • Is your spouse a citizen of the United States?
  • What is the original nationality or citizenship of your spouse?
  • When does your spouse celebrate his or her birthday?
  • Is your spouse part of the military?
  • What is the current place of employment of your spouse?
  • Where is the location of your spouse’s place of employment?
  • How many marriages have you previously gone through?
  • When has your previous marriage come to an end?
  • How many marriages has your spouse been through?
  • Why did your spouse’s marriage come to an end?

7. Questions regarding Military Service?

  • Have you ever been part of the United States military?
  • Did you ever leave the U.S. in order to avoid being called into service?
  • Have you ever left the military before you were discharged?
  • Did you ever apply to be exempt from the military?
  • Did you receive your permanent residence card at any point between the ages 18-28? If so, have you registered for Selective Service?
  • When have you registered for the Selective Services – and if you didn’t, why not?

8. Questions about Your Immigration Status

  • Do you have citizenship for your country of origin?
  • When have you received your approval for a permanent residency (green) card?
  • How long have you been a permanent resident of the United States?

9. Questions about Your Past and Current Work Places and Education

  • Where is your current workplace?
  • What job are you currently doing?
  • Have you worked anywhere else in the past 3-5 years?
  • During which period have you been working there (year, month)?
  • Where have you last attended school and what was your school’s name?
  • During which years have you attended that school?

10. Questions about Your Past Residences

  • Where do you live right now?
  • How long did you live there up until this point?
  • Have you lived anywhere else over the past 3-5 years?
  • When have you been living there?

11. Questions about Your Trips Abroad

  • How many times did you leave the U.S. ever since you received your green card?
  • Why did you take those trips?
  • Have any of your trips lasted more than six months?
  • When have you last traveled outside the United States?
  • What were the countries that you visited?
  • Do you remember which day you came back to the United States?

12. Questions about Your Income Tax Obligations

  • Have you ever skipped filing an income tax return ever since you received your permanent resident status? If the answer is yes, do you see yourself as a U.S. “non-resident”?
  • Did you ever claim to be a “non-resident” upon filing for your taxes since you became a holder of a green card?
  • Do you owe any tax money to a local, state, or federal government?

13. Other Possible Questions

  • Do you understand the reasons for having to go through this interview?
  • Was there ever a time when you were institutionalized in a mental hospital or were declared legally incompetent?

Read More

Wrap Up

The citizenship interview questions are slightly different compared to those for a regular green card. However, as long as you answer honestly and don’t purposely hide valuable information or lie, there should be no reason why you shouldn’t get your green card – obviously, as long as you meet the requirements. Remember, you should study – but do not robotically memorize everything.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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