By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
Almost at the U.S. immigration finish line? This is a general outline of how we prepare clients for their naturalization interview at the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti.
Common scenarios that require the attention of a lawyer tend to be applications where the applicant has a) a prior criminal record, 2) break in continuous residence, 3) previous misstatements to USCIS or 4) any other grounds of removability or inadmissibility.
Some applicants with strong cases still want the security of a lawyer in their corner.
If you’re our client, the guide below is how we’ll prepare for your case. If you’re applying on your own, you can use this guide for general informational purposes. Above all, note that this is a generic guide that will not be sufficient to prepare for all naturalization cases!
Consult a qualified immigration lawyer to discuss your particular case.
Review the Interview Notice
Your interview notice has detailed instructions on what to bring to your interview. Read the entire notice. Calendar the interview date and time, and prepare to arrive at the building at least half an hour ahead of time. Security lines can be long.
While most naturalization interviews last between 20-45 minutes, some last longer and you can also be stuck waiting several hours before your interview starts. Schedule to be at USCIS at least four hours for your interview.
For example, if your interview is scheduled for 8:30 AM, make sure to arrive at the USCIS field office by 8:00 AM at the latest. Be ready to stay there until at least 12 noon - four hours.
Will You be Represented by a Lawyer?
By law, applicants can be represented at the interview by a lawyer that they choose and pay for.
Your lawyer can appear either in person at the interview with you or remotely via telephone.This means a lawyer halfway across the United States in Los Angeles can represent you in a different city and state, thousands of miles away.
Do you need a lawyer? That depends on the complexity of your case and your comfort level in attending the interview alone and risking a denial.
If you’re not already our client, you can click here to book a consultation with Malakouti Law to have your case screened for problematic issues.
Gather the Necessary Documents
The interview notice will list a number of documents that the applicant must bring to the interview. While notices can vary, the vast majority of interview notices will require you to bring at least:
A copy of the interview notice
Your green card
Government issued photo ID
Make sure you have all the requested documents in hand well ahead of your interview date.
Review Your N-400 Answers Carefully
At your interview, the USCIS officer will verbally ask you the N-400 application questions.
Therefore, read your N-400 application answers again as soon as you get your interview notice. This serves two purposes. First, you’ll be reviewing your answers so that you remember them for the interview.
Second, you’ll be able to see if you made any mistakes on your N-400 that need to be corrected. You can correct them at your interview. In my experience, the most common mistakes on an N-400 tend to be:
forgetting to list some international trips
incorrect dates on residence addresses
Incorrect dates employment periods
Make a list of what answers need to be changed. At the interview, you can tell the USCIS officer that you have changes to make on the application and then you can say what they are.
Note: Some N-400 changes could make you ineligible for naturalization. If you’re not sure if a particular changed answer will put your case in danger, contact an experienced immigration lawyer for a consultation.
Review Weak Areas of the Case
Some naturalization cases have weak areas. This means there’s an element or part of your case that could put you at risk for being denied. There are dozens of reasons an application could be denied, but some are more common than others.
Common weak areas I see are:
Difficulty proving “continuous residence”
A criminal charge or conviction that could prevent a finding of “good moral character”
A ground of removability (i.e. something that makes someone subject to deportation)
A previous material misrepresentation (i.e. a lie to immigration) lurking under the surface
With our clients, we find out all the details of the weak area, and devise a strategy for how to deal with the weakness legally and ethically. Then we practice with our clients how to address those issues if they come up in the interview. In all instances, questions must be answered truthfully.
On some occasions, such as when we anticipate a challenge to the applicant’s continuous residence, we often prepare documentation and a short three page letter to bring with us to the interview and possibly hand it to the adjudicator, if we believe it necessary to secure an approval.
Prepare for the English & Civics Exam
At your interview, you also have to pass an English and U.S. civics exam.
For the English exam, you must show you can understand and answer the USCIS’s officer’s questions in English. Additionally, you’ll be given a sentence to read and be told to write a sentence.
For the civics exam, you’ll be asked to correctly answer 6/10 questions from a total bank of 100.
What Happens After the Interview?
(Albert Einstein receiving his certificate of naturalization in October, 1940)
After your interview, several things can happen. If your case is approved, you’ll be scheduled for an oath ceremony, receive a naturalization certificate and be able to apply for a blue U.S. passport afterwards.
If you are a client of ours, we’ll work hand in hand with you through a final decision on your naturalization case.
If you’re curious about becoming a client, keep reading…
Consult With the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti
If you want to plan out the next immigration and citizenship steps for yourself and your family, you don’t have to guess. Book a consultation with a qualified immigration lawyer who has helped many people become naturalized U.S. citizens, including applicants with difficult cases.
In our private consultation, we’ll do a full screening of your naturalization case and tell you exactly how strong we think the case is. If we see weaknesses, we’ll tell you so, and what we think can be done to help improve your chances.
We don’t sugarcoat things - just straight talk, which is what applicants need.
At the end of the consultation, if it makes sense to consider hiring us to represent you at your naturalization interview, we’ll tell you exactly what our representation will include, how we’ll work together, and of course a price quote of how much it will cost to represent you. Book a consultation here if you’d like to discuss your case.
The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.