Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Naturalization step 2

In response to the Fingerprinting blog post, I received some info from friends who went through similar processes, so I’d like to share the story of one of them. He doesn’t have all the info I would have liked to detail, so some of this is not hard facts. I’ll update this when I have my own experience.

About 3-4 weeks after completing my fingerprinting at the USCIS office in Seattle, I received the interview summons, which was scheduled to about 3-4 weeks later (so, about 1.5 months after the fingerprinting). This was in late 2012, and as loads change over time, your experience might differ. The national average for naturalization is 5 months, with the Seattle office claiming to be at 5.1 months (slightly slower than the average, that is). However, with it being 2-3 weeks from filing to fingerprinting, and another 6-8 weeks, this brings the total to about 8-11 weeks, which is a lot shorter. This means that if you filed on time and you’re lucky, with no holidays to slow down your own process, you might actually be a citizen even before your 5 year period has completed!

The interviews start at 8am at the USCIS office in south Seattle, close to the Boeing museum of flight. I believe the interviews are only scheduled for the morning hours and all are done by noon, though I’m not sure about that. On average, they handle about 60 people there every day (based on regional statistics published by the USCIS), and that’s about the number of people I saw on that day. I believe they were using approximately 10 interview offices, but I might be off, and it’s possible that some days have a different number of offices in use.

After you come in and sign-in, you go to the 2nd floor of the building, where you wait for your turn. They call you by name, and send you to the interview, which is held in a private office. The officers are nice and the entire interview, including the questions takes about 20-30 minutes. Even though the interview includes a test, the officers are nice and don’t try to trip or trick you. The questions they ask during the test are from a pool of 100 questions, and the officer had his on a printed sheet, so it’s possible that the selection is daily or weekly, though it’s hard to say for sure. Once this is done, you step outside and wait for the ceremony and oath, which is done at noontime. You can ask to have it deferred to another date, but you’d be expected to have a very good reason for that, like some medical situation.

If you don't have a reason to skip the ceremony, all those who passed the interview that day get sworn-in at noontime, in the master auditorium on the 1st floor, and usually there would be a few people who did their interview before. These “guests” are briefly checked again to see if they committed any crimes since their interview, or spent a significant time outside the US. The ceremony itself takes approximately 1.5 hours, including taking the oath, singing the national anthem, and getting the certificate of citizenship. The USCIS asks participants to dress nicely (no jeans or shorts), so you might as well dress well for the entire day. If you’re the type of person who sweats a lot under pressure, or this happens in the hot days of summer, bringing a change of clothes might be a good idea. Also, if you have any friends or relatives you’d like to have witness the event or take your picture during, make sure they come to the office before noon, so they have time to go through security and find a good spot in the auditorium.

Good luck!

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