How to prepare for the N400 Interview for US Naturalization
Becoming a US citizen is a life-changing event, making it crucial to do as much as you can to get your naturalization application right and improve your prospects of a successful outcome.
Applying to naturalize as a US citizen involves several steps, including submitting an online form with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), enrolling your biometric information, attending an interview and, provided your application is approved, attending a citizenship ceremony.
For many naturalization applicants, the most worrying part of the process is the interview, since you will have to answer questions to prove you meet the citizenship criteria. Being prepared can help alleviate some of the nerves and give you the best chance of being approved.
In this guide, we look in detail at the N400 interview for US citizenship applicants, with advice on what to expect and how to prepare.
What is form N400?
N400 is the form used to apply to USCIS to naturalize as a US citizen.
To apply for naturalization, you must first create a USCIS account before submitting your online application using Form N-400. At this stage, you will have the opportunity to answer a few questions using the online eligibility tool to check that you qualify. For example, if you are applying on the basis of lawful permanent residency for at least 5 years, or at least 3 years if married to a US citizen, you must have met a continuous residence requirement, although you can file your form up to 90 calendar days before completing this requirement.
Importantly, the questions asked when using the eligibility tool are solely intended to help you determine whether you may be eligible to submit your application for naturalization. This tool does not determine if you are actually eligible for US citizenship. In addition to meeting the lawful permanent residence requirement, your eligibility will also depend on things like your ability to establish good moral character and loyalty to the US constitution, as well as your ability to meet the English and civics requirements, where required.
If you are unsure whether or not you are eligible to apply for naturalization, or whether you qualify for an English language exemption or medical disability exception, you are strongly advised to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist before applying. After you submit your application, USCIS will review the information contained in your Form N-400 and the documents submitted in support, together with your answers given during interview, to determine if you are eligible for naturalization as a US citizen.
If your application is denied, you will not be entitled to any refund of your fee. The cost to file Form N-400 is $725, including an $85 fee to enrol your biometric information, where applicable. You will be asked by USCIS to enrol your biometrics at an Applicant Support Center a few weeks after submitting your application and prior to attending your N400 interview. You will be required to provide your fingerprints, photograph and signature at this appointment. It is only after your biometrics appointment that your interview will be scheduled at a local USCIS field office, unless you qualify for a special accommodation.
Applicants aged 75 years or older will only need to pay a $640 filing fee, but not the biometrics fee. There is no additional fee to schedule or attend your N400 interview.
Once you have filed the completed form and paid the application fee, you will need to schedule your naturalization interview.
What is the N400 interview?
The N400 interview is the penultimate stage of the application process when applying to naturalize as a US citizen, prior to pledging your oath of allegiance at a citizenship ceremony. The primary purpose of the N400 interview is to help USCIS evaluate your application and verify that the answers given in your application are true, and to ensure you meet the requirements for naturalization, including an English and civics requirement.
During your naturalization interview you will be asked various questions about your application and background. You will also be required to take an English and civics test, unless you qualify for an English language exemption or medical disability exception. The English test comprises three key components — reading, writing and speaking — while the civics test covers important aspects of American government and history.
What to expect during the N400 interview
To be eligible to apply to become a US citizen through naturalization, you must meet certain statutory requirements. The interview stage of the application process provides USCIS with the opportunity to ensure that you meet those requirements. Unless exempt from meeting the English language requirement, or where a medical disability exception applies, you will also be required to take the English and civics test at your N400 interview.
For the English part of the naturalization test, you must demonstrate a basic understanding of the English language, including reading, writing and speaking. Your ability to speak and understand English will be determined by the interviewing officer during the course of your interview. For the reading test, you must correctly read aloud one out of three sentences in English while, for the writing test, you must correctly write one out of three sentences.
The civics portion of the naturalization test is an oral test, where the interviewing officer will ask up to 10 questions taken from the official list of 100 civics test questions that can be found on the USCIS website. To pass this test, you must correctly answer 6 questions.
To rely on a disability exception from either or both the English language and civil requirements, you must have uploaded Form N-648 (Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions) when submitting Form N-400. This must have been completed less than 6 months before by a licensed medical/osteopathic doctor or clinical psychologist.
If you want to apply for a disability exception, your disability or impairment must affect your ability to read, write or speak the English language, or to learn US civics, even with accommodations. You cannot qualify for a disability exception based on illiteracy. Your disability must also have affected you for at least one year, or be expected to last longer than one year. If you qualify for a disability exception, an interpreter who is fluent in English and the language of your choice must accompany you to your interview.
When it comes to English language exemptions, you will be exempt from taking the English language test (although you will still be required to take the civics test) where you are aged 50 or more and have lived in the US as a lawful permanent resident for periods totalling at least 20 years at the time you file your Form N-400, or where you are aged 55 or more and have lived in the US as a lawful permanent resident for periods totalling at least 15 years.
If you are 65+ and have lived in the US with lawful permanent residency for at least 20 years at the time you file your Form N-400, you will be exempt from the English language requirement. You will also take a simplified version of the civics test, where you will only be required to study 20 questions that have been marked on the list with an asterisk.
What should you bring to your N400 interview?
When applying to naturalize as a US citizen, you will need to submit evidence in support of your application. This must include ‘required evidence’, but can also include ‘additional evidence’. The required evidence refers to mandatory documentation that you must upload before submitting your online application, where these documents will help USCIS to confirm that answers given in response to certain questions are true.
In contrast, additional evidence is the documentation that you can provide to help support your application or to help explain any of your responses given on Form N-400. You can either upload your additional evidence online prior to submitting your application or bring this with you to your N400 interview. However, including these additional documents while preparing your online application can make the overall process much easier.
Importantly, having submitted your application, you may be asked by USCIS to respond to a ‘Request for Evidence’ (RFE). In these cases, you must upload the evidence requested within the prescribed timeframe using your online account, and not simply attend with this evidence at interview. Failing to provide any additional evidence requested by UKVI could result in delays. It could also result in a denial of your application for naturalization.
Other documents that you will need to attend your N400 interview with include:
- your interview appointment notice
- your Form I-551 (Permanent Resident Card)
- a state-issued identification, such as a driver’s licence
- all valid and expired passports and travel documents issued to you that document your absences from the United States since becoming a permanent resident.
Typical N400 interview questions
The questions that may be asked during interview can vary, depending on the basis upon which citizenship is sought, and your personal circumstances, although questions will be centred around any answers given in your Form N-400. It is therefore useful to print off a copy of your completed application form and take this with you to your N400 interview.
The questions for your civics test, where applicable, can be found on the USCIS website and are divided into the following three headings (together with three sections per heading):
American Government (Section A: Principles of American Democracy, Section B: System of Government & Section C: Rights and Responsibilities) — where questions include “What is the supreme law of the land?”, “Name one branch or part of the government?” or “What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?”.
American history (Section A: Colonial Period and Independence, Section B: 1800s & Section C: Recent American History and Other Important Historical Information) — where questions include “Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?” , “Name one problem that led to the Civil War” or “Name one war fought by the US in the 1900s?”.
Integrated civics (Section A: Geography, Section B: Symbols & Section C: Holidays) — where questions include: “Name one state that borders Canada?”, “Why does the flag have 13 stripes?” or “When do we celebrate Independence Day?”.
What happens after your N400 interview?
Following your N400 interview, USCIS will provide you with a written notice of decision. In some cases, the interviewing officer will not be able to make a decision on the day of your interview, where your case will be continued. This may include an RFE and/or to attend a second interview. If you failed the English or civics test, a second interview within 60-90 days of your first interview will be scheduled to retest you on the failed part. USCIS will deny your application if you fail the test(s) a second time.
If your application is denied, you may request a hearing to appeal this decision, although if you decide not to appeal, or fail to appeal within 30 days of the decision date, the denial decision will be final. Your written notice will set out instructions on how to appeal.
If your application is approved, you will be required to take an oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. USCIS will send you notification of the date, time and location of your oath ceremony. If you cannot attend the ceremony on the day scheduled, you should follow the instructions on your Form N-445 (Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony) on how to notify your local USCIS office and ask for your ceremony to be rescheduled. In some cases, your oath ceremony can take place on the same day as your interview, provided your application is approved. Otherwise, USCIS will schedule this for around 2-6 weeks later.
Prior to attending your scheduled ceremony, you must complete the questions on the reverse of Form N-445 relating to your activity since your N400 interview, such as getting married, travelling outside the US or committing any criminal offence. You will be required to attend your ceremony with your completed questionnaire, along with the other documents listed on the front of that form, including your Permanent Resident Card.
At the oath ceremony, having returned your Green Card and pledged your oath of allegiance, you will be given your ‘Certificate of Naturalization’ and become a US citizen.
Tips to prepare for your N400 interview
It can take several months from submitting your application to naturalize as a US citizen to attending your N400 interview. However, it is essential that you use this time to prepare.
At your biometrics appointment, you will be given a study booklet to help you revise for the English and civics tests. There is also an online ‘Citizenship Resource Center’ on the USCIS website, where you will be able to find free study materials to help you prepare for both your interview and tests. These include civics flash cards, videos and interactive practice tests, as well as the location of English and citizenship preparation classes to attend in your local area. Additionally, you can download the civics test mobile app on your phone.
Importantly, when taking the civics test, where applicable, some answers may change because of recent government appointments and elections. You must answer the question with the name of the official that is serving at the time of your N400 interview. As you study for the test, you must ensure that you know the most current answers to these questions, as the interviewing officer will not be able to accept outdated answers. You are also encouraged to respond to questions using the official guideline answers, even though USCIS is aware that there may be alternative correct answers to the civics questions.
If you have a query about US naturalization, contact our team of specialist US attorneys.
N400 interview FAQs
How long does it take after N400 interview?
You may be able to swear an oath of allegiance the same day as your citizenship interview, provided your application to naturalize as a US citizen is approved. Otherwise, you will be sent a notice with an oath ceremony date.
Is there an interview for N400?
Applying to naturalize as a United States citizen using Form N-400 involves several steps. These steps include submitting an online form with US Citizenship and Immigration Services, enrolling your biometric information and attending an N400 interview.
Case is in line for an interview N400 – how long?
Having submitted your application using Form N400 to naturalize as a US citizen, you may be waiting several months before an appointment date is scheduled for you to attend your citizenship interview, and to take the English and civics test.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.