What Happens If I am Not Truthful at My Naturalization Interview?
If you are applying to naturalize, you must be completely truthful throughout the entire process. USCIS will be carefully scrutinizing you from the application itself all the way through the oath ceremony.
Starting with form N400, you must answer all of the required questions accurately. The naturalization application itself states you are required to swear under penalty of perjury that everything you write down is truthful. If you include any false information on your citizenship application, this is actually a crime that can result in the denial of your citizenship and likely prosecution.
In addition, during the citizenship interview, you are again specifically placed under oath and your USCIS officer asks you to affirm that you will “swear to tell the truth.” Failing to be truthful with your oral testimony at the interview can also lead to denial of your citizenship application, the issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court for a deportation hearing, plus potential prosecution for perjury.
Remember that USCIS will run a full, detailed background check on your past criminal, address and employment history. At the interview they will ask you questions to which they already know the answers. They do this in order to see if you will lie and therefore will commit perjury by stating information that is not true.
Your USCIS officer, however, is instructed to take into account your mastery of English and your educational background when determining whether your testimony is truthful. It’s possible that some applicants may not understand certain, long, sophisticated, legal words (for example: “espionage” or “bigamy”) and so officers are instructed to rephrase certain terms to describe their meaning. You should not get in trouble for perjury for merely misunderstanding a particular word or phrase.
In addition, keep in mind that you could do yourself significant harm by trying to cover up an embarrassing issue from your past. If you made a mistake that affects USCIS’s view of your good moral character, quite often you will be fine and able to naturalize as long as the issue is outside of the required statutory period. However, if you try to hide the existence of this past mistake – and you do so under penalty of perjury during your naturalization interview – you can create a new issue that is now within your current statutory period for showing good moral character.
If you are uncertain about an issue from your past, then you definitely should submit a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA request) to gather your records from USCIS, CBP, or the State Department. These FOIA requests are free and invaluable for confirming your past history so you can be entirely clear and confident in all of your responses to USCIS.
Overall, you must go through the entire naturalization application process with a commitment to complete honesty and integrity. Be sure to be completely truthful in your citizenship paperwork, during the interview, and then right before the oath ceremony where you are asked to confirm that you have not committed any crimes and that you are providing your current green card to USCIS.