In the United States, an immigrant who has held a green card for at least five years may become a citizen through the process of naturalization. While it is not necessary to become a naturalized citizen in order to live and work in the country, it does offer more rights and protections to persons not born in the United States than if they were not naturalized. By becoming a naturalized citizen, immigrants gain most of the rights as native-born citizens. This includes the right to vote and to run for elected offices, serve on a jury and to travel under a U.S. passport. Naturalized citizens can apply for government jobs, grants, scholarships and benefits. It also makes it easier to bring other family members to the country.
Once certain residency requirements are met, the process begins by submitting an Application for Naturalization Form N-400 to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If everything is in place, an interview will be set up at which point the applicant will be given the citizenship test. This test is meant to discover the applicant’s knowledge about the country’s workings and culture and is one of the final hurdles to becoming a naturalized citizen.
The citizenship test consists of an English test and a civics test. The English portion of the test is broken down into speaking, reading and writing. The USCIS Officer oversees the speaking portion during the eligibility interview. For the reading portion, the applicant will be given sentences focused on civics and history topics. They must correctly read one out of three out loud. The writing test also focuses on civics and history topics. Much like the reading test, in this part the applicant must correctly write out one out of three sentences. The civics test is the largest component of the testing. There are 100 civics questions for the applicant to study. These questions cover topics focused on American history and geography, the branches of government, an understanding of the Constitution and the economic system, and knowledge of American symbols and holidays. During the actual test, the applicant will be given up to 10 questions from the list of which six must be answered correctly in order to pass.
Should an applicant fail any part of the citizenship test on the first try, they will have another opportunity to pass that portion. The USCIS Officer will schedule the retest between 60 to 90 days following the initial interview. If the applicant is still unable to pass, they will need to start to entire naturalization process over again. This is why it is important for applicants to study for all sections of the citizenship test prior to taking it. A couple great online tools to help study for the citizenship test can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learners/study-test and http://www.usa-citizenshiptest.com. The USCIS website offers resources that have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.
The purpose of the citizenship test is to show that an applicant not only is fully committed to obtaining the rights afforded to citizens, but also to take on the responsibilities that being a United States citizen brings. It is necessary to have a basic understanding of not only the English language, but also the history of the country and the functions of the government.