On Sept. 27, 2007, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the 100 questions and answers that comprise the civics component of the new naturalization test. The new test will be administered beginning in October 2008 to all citizenship applicants.
The 100 new civics items on the new test were selected after USCIS, a panel of history and government scholars, and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers conducted a thorough review of the responses to the 142 items on the pilot test. According to USCIS, the revised naturalization test will help strengthen assimilation efforts by emphasizing fundamental concepts of American democracy, basic U.S. history, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and will also promote patriotism among perspective citizens.
The purpose of the revision is to increase the range of acceptable answers to questions so applicants can learn more about a topic and select from a wider range of responses. For example, one of the new questions that allows for a range of answers, is “What is one power of the federal government?” Another example is “What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?”
USCIS posted the 100 new questions and answers on their website at www.uscis.gov/newtest.
For those who are eligible and interested in becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, the following is a brief overview the process:
What are the requirements to become a Naturalized Citizen?
-Applicant must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing;
-Applicant must have five years of continuous residence as a lawful permanent resident in the United States;
-An absence from the United States of longer than one year breaks the continuous residence requirement.
-An absence of six months or less does not break the continuous residence requirement.
-An absence of more than six months but less than one year raises a rebuttable presumption that the applicant abandoned their lawful permanent resident status. The burden shifts to the applicant to demonstrate that the continuous residence requirement has been met.
Persons married to U.S. citizens must reside in the United States for three years instead of five. The couple must be married and living together for the entire three years and the U.S. citizen spouse must have been a U.S. citizen throughout this period of time.
A person granted lawful permanent resident status through a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petition can apply for naturalization based on the three-year continuous residence requirement. This applicant is exempt from the marital residence requirements.
-Applicant must reside within the state or USCIS district where the application will be filed for at least 90 days prior to the filing of the application;
-Applicant must be physically present in the United States for at least one half of the total required period of continuous residence;
-Applicant must be a person of good moral character;
-Applicant must pass an English and Civics exam.
How do I apply?
The applicant must file a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, with the appropriate USCIS Service Center, along with the filing fee of $675, along with 2 passport-style photos and a copy of their lawful permanent resident card.
Several other documents may be required depending on your case. If you have questions, you should consult with an immigration attorney.
After USCIS receives an applicant’s Form N-400, a receipt notice is issued assigning the case a specific identification number.
Next, USCIS will issue a fingerprint appointment notice to the applicant. The applicant must appear at a local Application Support Center at the designated day and time for fingerprinting.
The applicant will receive an interview notice indicating that the applicant should appear at the local USCIS office for his or her naturalization interview. Currently, naturalization applicants are receiving notices that they have been scheduled for an interview three months after filing.
What happens at the Interview?
At the interview, the USCIS officer will review the applicant’s Form N-400. The officer will verify all of the information provided to USCIS as well as verify whether the applicant wishes to change his or her name.
The officer will ask a series of questions regarding the applicant’s eligibility and desire to become a U.S. citizen (found at pages 8-9 of the Form N-400).
Once the application is reviewed, the officer will conduct the Civics and English exam. The Civics exam consists of 10 questions (either oral or written). The applicant must get 6 out of 10 correct to pass. The English exam consists of reading one English sentence aloud and writing one English sentence. Upon successful completion of the exam, the officer will indicate whether the applicant’s case will be referred for approval and provide information on the scheduling of an oath ceremony.
The Oath Ceremony
The oath ceremony is where the applicant becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen by taking the oath of allegiance. Typically, the oath ceremony is scheduled two to three months after a successful interview.
After the oath ceremony, the applicant will receive his or her Certificate of Naturalization evidencing that he or she is a U.S. citizen. The Certificate of Citizenship can be used to apply for a U.S. passport through the U.S. Department of State.