Citizenship tests are always a challenge, and the test for US citizenship has an especially tough reputation. But what does the American citizenship test actually involve?
How Do I Apply For Citizenship?
If you were born in the USA, but now live abroad, or if you are of American parentage, obtaining US citizenship will obviously be an easier process.You won’t need to take a test because you’re already eligible. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services state that in order to become a citizen at birth, you must:
– Have been born in the United States or certain territories or outlying possessions of the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States OR
– Have a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of your birth (if you were born abroad) and who meet the other requirements.
To become a citizen after your birth in these circumstances, you must apply for ‘derived’ or ‘acquired’ citizenship through your parents
If you don’t fall into these categories, you’ll need to apply for naturalization. To do this, you’ll need to pass Citizenship test, which focuses on the English language and civics; that is, American history and culture. You’ll need to demonstrate your loyalty to the constitution and show an understanding of key aspects of American life.
What Do I Need To Know?
The English Test
The English test has three components: reading, writing and speaking. The Immigration Service says that your ability to speak English will be determined by a USCIS Officer during your interview. For the reading section, you must read one of three sentences correctly. For the writing test, you’ll need to write one out of three sentences correctly. If you don’t understand a question, you can ask the official to repeat it.
You can find some practice materials here, plus the US government provides some study tools.
The Civics Test
There are 100 civics questions on the naturalization test. During the interview, applicants will be asked up to 10 questions from this list of 100, in English. You must answer correctly six of questions to pass. As with the English language component, the US government provides access to study materials, which you can access here.
Questions might concern the constitution and its amendments, the bill of rights, the names of current politicians and officials, aspects of American history, or quotes from famous people. You will need to remember a lot of dates, so don’t forget to practice!
You may also be asked about your political history; one applicant reports that she was asked if she had ever been a member of the Communist Party. It is crucial to be completely honest with officials.
Charlies, a successful applicant from the UK, says:
“The big surprise at my interview was that she did all the test stuff first, before we got onto anything else. I had to write an English sentence to her dictation, which turned out to be one of the questions in the test; and then she had me answer it and write that too, and that counted as my first correct answer. The other questions I only had to answer verbally, and they were so easy I don’t remember which she actually chose. Then she did the interview, and it was clear from the start that she wanted to say yes at the end, rather than no.”
What Happens If I Fail The Test?
The Immigration Service says that you will be given two opportunities to take the English and civics tests. If you fail either of the tests at your initial interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed between 60 and 90 days from that date.
What If I Have A Disability That Could Affect Taking The Test?
Do note that there are some exemption clauses with regard to the test.
You can be exempt from the English Language Requirement if you are:
– Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for 20 years. This is commonly referred to as the “50/20” exception, OR
– Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years. This is commonly referred to as the “55/15” exception.
However, you’ll still need to take the civics test. There are a few things to note:
– You’ll be permitted to take the civics test in your native language.
– If you take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter with you to your interview, who must be fluent in both English and your language.
– If you are aged 65 or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, you will be given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.
There are also some clauses relating to physical or other disabilities, medical issues and your employment abroad. The Immigration Service says you may be eligible for an exception to the English and civics naturalization requirements if you are unable to comply with these requirements because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment. You can read more about exemptions and accommodations here.
How Long Must I Wait Before I Gain My Citizenship?
Generally, the naturalization process takes about 90 days from filing to interview, but this may vary. If you pass the test successfully, you’ll be invited to a swearing-in ceremony. Ilona Bray, writing in What To Expect at Your Naturalization Interview, says that in some parts of the United States, you have a choice between going to a court-run or a USCIS-run ceremony. If this is the case, the officer will show you the schedule and ask you to choose a date. Remember to choose a court ceremony if you’re requesting a name change, as only a judge can approve this.
Most USCIS offices will notify you about the swearing-in ceremony by mail, which will typically take place only a month or two after your successful interview.
Bear in mind that sometimes the officer can’t make a decision after the interview but might need to ask you for more documentation. They may also need approval from a supervisor if they have any uncertainties about whether you are entitled to citizenship. Ensure you comply with any deadlines for responding to requests for more evidence.
Have you done the US citizenship test? Share your experiences in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!