I had my interview today and I passed! Writing the summary now to share with everyone before I forget! : ) My oath ceremony is this Thursday. Here is my updated timeline.
I arrived at the USCIS office parking lot about an hour before my scheduled interview time. The interview notice letter states not to arrive more than 30 min earlier than the interview time. So I stayed in the car for a while making sure I had all the docs etc and sipping my coffee. But I don't think this is strictly reinforced. Anyway, about 30 min before my interview time, I went in. At the entrance, the security officer saw my keychain dangling on my wrist and pointed out that no weapon (=pepper spray) is allowed. I had a pepper spray on my keychain! So I went back to my car to have that removed and came back. They ask people to take out the mobile phone, keys, and any other electronics (including phone chargers) out of the bag and put all of them in a bin. It was basically like an airport security with a metal detector.
Once I passed that, I got my stuff back. Outside, there was a reception desk. I showed my interview letter, and the person there stamped it and instructed me to stand in line in the office ahead. When it was my turn, I went to the window and showed the stamped interview letter. Another person checked me in and gave me a numbered ticket stapled with my interview letter. All this took about 10-15 min. So things were pretty fast.
I had still 15 min or so left until my interview time. So I reviewed the 100 civics questions. About 15 min past my scheduled interview time. I was called in by my name, not by the ticket number. The officer who called my name greeted me and led me to his office where the interview took place.
When we got into the office, he asked me to take an oath basically saying I am telling the truth during the interview and informed me that the interview is recorded. And then we sat, and the interview began. He had a thick pile of papers. He opened it up and asked for my state ID, green card, and current and old passports. So I gave them all to him. He verified and then placed them on the desk. And then he proceeded to ask my name, asked me to verify the address, my signature on the N400 form (the original that I mailed in). Then he started to go through all the questions on the N400 form I filled out. All of this proceeded very quickly and smoothly. So I just answered as he asked each question.
At the marital status, I marked mine as married in the application, but wrote two different addresses at different states for me and my husband. So when the officer asked me to confirm my marital status, I confirmed my answer, and then volunteered to add additional explanation although the office didn't ask for this. (I am sharing this for those on a similar boat, because I couldn't find any helpful info on this when I was preparing. So if this is not relevant to your case, feel free to skip.) My situation is that I was married for almost 10 years and then moved away for a new job at a different state and had a long-distance marriage for over a year. The original plan was either for me to move back or for my spouse to join me. But we started having marital issues after a year. So we have been living in different states but have not made any legal status change yet like separation (in MD this is a formal legal status that one has to file paperwork for, so that's why I didn't mark separated in my application) or divorce. So I explained this to the officer. And he listened to me, said okay, and simply moved on to the next question. I think that probably because my application is under 5-year rule, this was not relevant to my case. But I wanted to make sure that the officer gets the correct and accurate information at the interview and I do not misrepresent anything. So I did what I thought would be the most straightforward thing to do.
At Q9, I asked if ACLU counts for the membership organization. I told him I had started monthly donation and I received my card that says member but I wasn't sure if that counts. He said sure, and he wrote that into my form.
At Q23, I also asked if traffic tickets or a ticket by a park ranger counts. And I explained that I had two traffic tickets in the past and also got a ticket recently issued by a park ranger because I let my dog off the leash not knowing that that was not allowed. He said sure. So I explained the three tickets I got. I also had a piece of paper prepared that I listed all three ticket info with date, location, and outcome (e.g. Traffic ticket, 1/1/2011, NYC, NY, Fine paid) along with copies of each ticket/fine receipt or some type of information. (I thought of doing this last minute because originally I didn't think that traffic tickets would count, but I figured it is better to be safe than sorry. So I looked up and found my old traffic ticket record online from the city clerk's office and printed it out. I had a recent traffic ticket as an original and also printed out the receipt of the fines I paid online. I also made a copy of the ticket from my dog being off the leash issued by a park ranger. I had to mail the original ticket with the check since they accept the fine only in the form of a check via mail.) The officer commented that traffic tickets don't really matter since it is more like a formality. But he took all of my papers I had and wrote in the ticket information in the box on my N400 form Q29.
After that, I continued answering all the questions in N400. Then he started the civics questions. He didn't give any indication whether I answered correctly or not. I caught after another question that I gave a wrong answer to the previous one. So I gave him the correct answer. And he made note of that. But again he didn't show any sign of whether my answer was correct or not. I think I was asked 6 or 7 questions in total but am not entirely sure. The ones I remember are: Who is in charge of the executive branch; why did the colonists come to America (the one that I initially answered wrong and then corrected); one of the four amendments made regarding who can vote; one right or freedom from the First Amendment. Then he asked me to read a short sentence. After that, he asked to write a short sentence : "California has the most people."
Then he told me I passed the test and he is recommending my case for approval. He showed on his computer screen two dates/times and asked me which one works better for me. So I picked one. He gave me back my state ID, green card, and current and old passports. And he gave me two pieces of paper. One is the interview result that shows that I passed and my case is recommended for approval. The other one is N445 that shows the date/time of my oath ceremony. He said to make sure to fill out and sign the N455 and bring it to the ceremony along with the green card. And he walked me out to the door.
Other than going through the N400 application and presenting my IDs and passports, (and the traffic ticket info I volunteered), I wasn't asked to present any tax returns or any other additional documents. I brought my tax returns from 2009 to current and did not include them when I was mailing my application. Those all stayed in my bag during the interview.
The whole interview took about 15 minutes, and I was back in my car 45 minutes after my scheduled interview time. Everything went smoothly and no surprises. I feel like I over-prepared, but I am glad I thought of the traffic tickets and prepared the list in advance. Everyone I interacted with at the office was courteous and professional. : )
Thanks for sharing your experience and information in this forum!
Hope my experience is helpful to others and let me know if you have any question that I can answer. Good luck everyone! I will report back after my oath ceremony this Thursday.