My Naturalization Interview

The next to last part of applying to become a US citizen is the naturalization interview, where they make sure you are a worthy enough person to have the right to become a citizen of the US.   Mine was scheduled for today, at 7:45 AM.

So I get up at 6AM, and set off.   They say don’t arrive too early.   I get to the Federal Building (300 N Los Angeles St, Downtown LA) at around 7:30.   There’s a short line outside, and it’s raining.  The guard directs me to the end of the line.   I did not bring an umbrella.

I’m in the line for about 10 minutes, not raining too hard luckily.   Then through security – there’s a sign saying “No cameras”, but they don’t seem to mind cell phones with cameras built in.   I proceed to the 6th floor, into a moderately large room with many people of all ethnicities.  I give my form to the lady behind the window, and take a seat.

People get called every minute or so.  Many people seem to be couples, or maybe people with lawyers.   Many people are practicing their civics questions.   I use the flash cards on my iPhone for a while, but I’m already about 99% sure I’ve got them all, and I only need 60%.

My name gets called after about 45 minutes, and my interviewer, Mr Rivera, takes me back to his office, on the way there he makes a copy of my greeen card and my drivers license.  When in his office I have to be placed under oath, standing up, right hand raised, promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

He then asks a bunch of questions, like: “have you ever been arrested for drunk driving” and “have you been a communist”.   He asks me if I pay my taxes, and then if I’ve brought my tax returns with me.   I did not.

He then turns to his computer and prints out the actual test part of the interview, consisting of ten questions, that he asks verbally, of which I have to get six right.   My six were (with my answers):

  • Who is in charge of the executive branch? (The President)
  • Name one right guarenteed by the first amendment? (Freedom of speech)
  • Why did the first colonists come to america? (Freedom of religion)
  • Describe one amendment to do with voting (Women’s right to vote).
  • What was the main US concern during the cold war (Communism)
  • If the President is incapacitated, who takes over (The Vice-President)

That’s it.  There were four more questions, but all you have to do is get six right, so they stop when you do.  We then moved on to test my mastery of english, which was a two part exam, firstly reading – where he gave me a piece of paper, on which was written:

Which state has the most people?

Which I read aloud, then he gave me another piece of paper, and told me to write “California is the state with the most people”, which I did.    There were spaces on both pieces of paper for multiple attempts, but I managed to get it first time!  I think that because it was obvious I could read and write, he was just doing the minimum required to get the paperwork done.   The tests both went into my file.

It seemed like we were done, but he then informed me that they need to keep my tax returns on file, as I was self employed.   He then told me I could bring it in today or tomorrow, or mail it in – but mailing it in could take a really long time to process.   So I said I would bring it in today.

So, another 45 minute drive home, then I printed out five years of federal tax returns, sorted out the bits that were needed (1040, including the bit on self-employment tax).   He kept saying I’d need business tax returns, but I think he thought I ran a small business.

Anyway, drove back, the room is now totally packed, must be 400 people in there, but I tell the guy at the window I’m returning with documents, and he goes back and tells  Mr Rivera, who comes and gets me after about five minutes.

Then that’s about it.  He examines my tax returns, seems to think they are in order, adds them to my file (which is now about two inches thick – they use a LOT of paper).  He rustles through the file for a while, then eventually gets out his big APPROVED stamp, and stamps a few pages, hurrah!

So then he gives me a piece of paper (N-652) saying I was approved, and tells me the Oath Ceremony will be in a few weeks, and I’ll get a letter.   I can also apply for a passport directly after the ceremony.

Not too bad really.  Pity they did not make the information about bringing tax returns more apparent, but it just added two hours to the process, and was just annoying rather than a problem.   One thing I was worried about as I arrive was that I just brought my current passport, and not the one I entered the country with originally.   But he asked for neither, so all was well.    If in doubt though, bring everything.