What to Wear to an Immigration Interview

It's the rare immigrant who isn't at least a bit nervous about the immigration interview. This is the face-to-face meeting with an immigration officer who will evaluate your credibility and eligibility for the benefit sought. Since this is such an important event, you'll want to put your best foot forward and make a good impression on the interviewing officer. How you present yourself is part of that first impression, and your appearance plays an important role.

Officially, what you wear should have no bearing on the interviewing officer's adjudication of your case. When conducting an interview, immigration officers must be non-judgmental and non-moralistic and set aside any personal biases. Even if the immigration officer feels personally offended by your attire, he or she must put his personal feelings aside and not allow it to have any bearing on his or her determinations. That said, we all know how difficult it is to remain completely neutral. Immigration officers are well-trained to avoid letting their personal judgments affect a case, but interviewees can ease the process by dressing in a professional manner.

What should you wear to an interview? It's quite simple, really. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you were going to a job interview in an office building, or as if you were meeting your partner's family for the first time. In other words, something clean, comfortable and presentable that makes a good impression.

You don't want to wear anything that might be offensive or considered controversial. Your clothing doesn't have to be expensive, but it should be clean and pressed. That doesn't mean you have to spend hours working on the creases in your dress pants, it just means that you don't want to wear anything that looks like you just rolled out of bed in it.

Polishing your shoes so they shine isn't necessary, but do give them a quick wipe if they need it. Don't go overboard with the perfume or cologne (you too, gents!). There's nothing worse than be crammed up next to someone in an a hot, overcrowded waiting room who's wearing too much perfume. Be considerate of those with fragrance allergies or sensitivities and use your scents sparingly.

What NOT to wear:

  • gym clothes such as shorts, sweatpants, tank tops etc.
  • t-shirts with offensive or political slogans/pictures
  • dirty, torn clothing
  • excessive perfume/cologne
  • distracting makeup or hairstyles

What you SHOULD wear:

  • professional, moderately conservative clothing
  • clothing that would be appropriate for a job interview in an office
  • clean, pressed outfits
  • business casual

What is business casual?

Business casual is a comfortable, less formal version of classic business attire. About.com's Guides to Human Resources and Job Searching provide good explanations and examples of business casual attire.

Should men wear a suit?

If you feel comfortable wearing a suit then by all means, feel free to wear one to the interview. If, however, you're not accustomed to wearing a suit, don't feel that you need to get this dressed up; a pair of pants and a nice shirt would be fine.

What about the naturalization ceremony?

Taking the oath to become a United States citizen is an important event in your life. People will be bringing guests and some ceremonies may even have VIPs attending, so you'll want to look your best. There will also be lots of pictures taken. USCIS addresses this issue in its Guide to Naturalization:

The naturalization ceremony is a solemn and meaningful event. Please dress in proper attire to respect the dignity of this event (please no jeans, shorts, or flip flops).

At the minimum, business casual would be appropriate but you could also dress up in a suit or dress if you're so inclined. Leave the tux and ball gown in the closet or you'll likely feel overdressed.

Edited by Dan Moffett