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What Happens At A Citizenship Interview?

Many people mistakenly believe that one becomes a United States citizen by merely filing an N-400 Application for Naturalization. This, unfortunately, is a misconception. In order to become naturalized, assuming that one has met the eligibility requirements, the applicant must demonstrate an ability to speak and understand English; knowledge of American history and civics; and a capacity to read and write in the English language. As immigration attorneys in New Jersey, we personally represent nearly every client that we file an N-400 application for at his or her citizenship interview if the case is heard in New Jersey (Newark or Mount Laurel). Every applicant–if he or she wishes (and at his or her own expense)–is entitled to have a lawyer present in the room to ensure that the interview is conducted in fair manner. For many people, the naturalization test may be the most important test in their life. With this in mind, we would like to offer a few tips:

  • Applicants must of course arrive on time, if not at least thirty minutes early. In New Jersey, this is especially important because it can sometimes take close to 45 minutes to get into the Federal Building in Newark. Obviously, if you are late, you push the examiner’s schedule back, not to mention risk your interview being abandoned or rescheduled.
  • Applicants need to bring proof of New Jersey residence. Driver Licenses or ID cards issues by the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission (MVC) usually suffice. The District Office in New Jersey can only interview residents of New Jersey, not other states.
  • Applicants need to bring all their passports, not just their current ones. Often times, an adjudicating officer may need to verify the trips listed in the N-400 application. If you do not bring the passports, you may not be able to satisfy the physical presence requirement. While USCIS may certainly have the technology and resources to verify your trips, it is your burden as the applicant for naturalization to prove that you have stayed in the United States for the requisite time.
  • If you have ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime, you need to bring an official certified disposition to the interview. Certified dispositions can usually be obtained from the municipal court where your case was heard. If your matter was heard in Superior Court, you may need to obtain a certified Judgment of Conviction.

Depending on the circumstances of your case and eligibility to apply, there may be, of course, additional items that you need to bring, such as bona fide proof of your marital relationship if you are applying based on three years marriage to a US citizen. If you are applying for citizenship or are considering having an immigration lawyer present with you for an interview in Newark or Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we encourage you to call our office for more information.