What Tests Do I Take to Become a U.S. Citizen?
In order to gain your U.S. citizenship, you have to pass the naturalization test. This test will challenge your understanding of U.S. history, the structure of the U.S. government, and require you to be able to read, write, and speak the English language.
Study materials for each part of the test can be found on the USCIS website. Further on the website, USCIS has provided a video that will give you a sample of what both the eligibility interview, English exam, and Civics test will be like.
Your U.S. Naturalization Interview
Both tests will be administered during your naturalization interview. During the interview, you will be put under oath and required to answer questions about:
- Your personal history
- The information which you have provided
- Your current living situation
- Your personal character
- Your beliefs concerning the Constitution
- Your willingness to take an oath to the US
This is not an extensive list, and the USCIS officer can ask you a number of other questions that are designed to ensure that you are truly eligible for US citizenship. Remember, you are under oath so it is important to be honest with your answers.
What to Bring to the Interview
When it is time to take your interview, USCIS will send you the necessary information through the mail. The notice will explicitly tell you when and where your interview will be held. It is very important that you make sure you receive this notice as you will not receive a second one. When you attend your interview, make sure that you are fully prepared. You should bring several types of identification, including:
- Permanent resident or Alien Registration Card
- Passport, even if it has expired
- State ID card
- Reentry Permits, if you have any
If USCIS requires you to bring any additional documents, they will be specified on your appointment letter. It is crucial you are prepared to bring these, as if you don’t, it may lead to your case being delayed or denied.
Rescheduling the Naturalization Interview
Further, if you find you cannot attend the scheduled interview but need to move it to another date, you need to do so as quickly as possible. You will need to contact the office and explain why you cannot attend the original date. You should be aware that this may add several months to your process, so if you are looking to gain citizenship quickly it is crucial that you be able to attend the original interview.
If you miss your interview without having previously told USCIS that you could not attend that date, USCIS will close your case file. Although they will notify you of the fact that your case has become closed, you should be aware that it can become permanently closed.
Therefore, it is crucial that you make contact with USCIS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after they have closed your other case. If you do not do so, they will administratively deny your application.
U.S. Civics Exam
USCIS requires that you be able to answer questions concerning American history and government. USCIS has published one hundred questions along with their answers, and this will be available to you prior to you actually taking the test.
Therefore, you will just have to memorize the answers to these questions.
When you actually take the test, your interviewing USCIS officer will pick ten out of the one hundred questions that have been published. You only have to correctly answer six out of the ten to pass. USCIS reports that 92% of applicants pass this part of the test.
These questions can be found on the USCIS website. Some current questions include:
- Who is in charge of the executive branch?
- What is the name of the national anthem?
- What is one power that the Constitution grants to the federal government?
- What did Susan B. Anthony do?
- What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
Civics Exam Exceptions
If you find that you are unable to memorize these answers due to your age or a disability, USCIS can issue exceptions. You may be eligible for an age exception if you are at least 65 years old and have been a permanent resident of the U.S. for at least 20.
If you qualify, a different test may be issued to you. This test is simpler, and you are only required to study twenty questions, rather than the usual one hundred. You will then be asked to answer ten questions, and again only need to answer six correctly to pass.
If you have a mental or physical disability, you also may be able to receive a waiver. If you find yourself in such a situation, your doctor will be required to fill out a form N-648 that details your disability and explains why you cannot learn the required material.
U.S. English Exam
This portion will require you to prove that you can speak, read, and write the English language. This will be demonstrated during your eligibility interview on form N-400, and it is important that you attempt to prove the quality of your English skills to the interviewer. During the interview, the USCIS officer will conduct the interview in English, and then judge your skills based upon how you respond to their questions.
Further, the officer will ask you to read a short statement that is written in English. In addition, the officer will dictate a sentence to you and require you to transcribe it. For the reading portion of the test, you must be able to read one out of the three sentences provided to you correctly. Additionally, for the writing portion, you are required to be able to write one out of the three sentences accurately.
If you do not understand the question or the instructions, you should ask the officer to either rephrase the question or repeat it. USCIS officers have been instructed to rephrase the question or repeat the question until they believe you either understand the question or do not comprehend English.
English Exam Exceptions
Similarly to the U.S. Civics portion of the testing process, you may find that you are eligible for the age exception. There are two ways in which you may acquire the advanced age exception.
In order to qualify for the first age exception, you must be at least 50 years old and have lived in the U.S. with a green card for at least 20 years. Your stay in the U.S. does not have to have been consecutive. In such a case, you are then permitted to have your interview done in your native tongue. Typically, this is known as the “50/20” waiver.
The second option, known as the “55/15” waiver, allows anyone that is at least 55 years old and has resided in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 15 years to have their interview in their native language as well. Again, the 15-year stay in the U.S. does not have to have been continuous.
Further, if you have a physical or mental disability that inhibits your ability to learn English, you may be able waive the English language requirement. Like with the age exceptions, you can also have your citizenship interview conducted in your native tongue. It is important to note that you cannot just request such a waiver. Instead, your doctor must fill out a form N-648 that states your disability and explains why it prohibits you from learning the English language.
If you are granted an exception and do take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter to your eligibility interview. Further, your interpreter must be fluent in both your native language as well as English.
It is important to note that even if you qualify for an exemption from the English language portion of the citizenship evaluation, you are still required to take the civics test. However, as a result of your exemption, you will be allowed to take the civics test in your native tongue.
Following the U.S. Naturalization Interview
USCIS will give you a form N-652 after your interview. It will outline the results of your evaluation and will either grant, continue, or deny your application.
If your application has been granted, this means that USCIS has chosen to grant you US citizenship. It is possible you will be able to attend the oath ceremony the same day as your interview. If it is not scheduled for the same day, you will receive a notice that describes the details of your oath ceremony.
If your application says it has been continued, the USCIS officer chose to pause your case.
Typically, this is due to the fact that you have failed the English and civics test, or you did not provide USCIS will all of the necessary documents. This will add time to your process as you will either be asked to attend a second interview, or provide additional documents.
If they ask you for a second interview, USCIS will schedule it typically within 60-90 days of your first interview. During the second interview you will be tested again, and if you fail your application will subsequently be denied.
If USCIS asks for more documents, they will provide you with a form N-14 that outlines exactly what information they require, as well as the due date. If you do not provide the information on time, USCIS can deny your application.
If Your U.S. Naturalization Application is Denied
If your application has been denied, you do have some options. Your letter of rejection will describe the process for requesting a hearing if you feel that USCIS made the wrong decision. It will also include the necessary form to go ahead and request the hearing. You must file the form, which is N-336, within 30 days after you received the rejection letter.
Additionally, if you were unable to naturalize because you did not pass the English or Civics exams, you may reapply for naturalization in the future. It may also be helpful to discuss your denial with an attorney before you reapply.