American know-how

People who want to become naturalized citizens have a lot of red tape to endure, and the actual citizenship test is not simple -

People who want to become naturalized citizens have a lot of red tape to endure, and the actual citizenship test is not simple -

July 04, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

About 640,000 individuals become naturalized American citizens every year, said Chris Bentley, spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Washington, D.C.

It's not easy. Citizenship is not a right. It is not automatic.

"It is something to be earned," Bentley said.

Requirements include legal residence and good moral character, according to the agency's Web site at

Applicants must show that they are "attached" to the principles of the Constitution. They must be able to read, write, speak and understand words in ordinary usage in English, and they must "demonstrate a know-ledge and understanding of the fundamentals of history and principles and form of the government of the United States."

That knowledge is demonstrated by an oral test of 10 questions. An applicant must answer six correctly in order to pass, Bentley said.


The USCIS Web site has samples of the types of sentences an agency officer might ask an applicant to read aloud or write during the interview. A U.S. history and government self-test and sample questions - and answers - also are available online.

Try it. It might not be easy - even with an all-American education.

Some of the typical history and government questions are listed below, along with answers.

If you're a citizen by birth, you might never have had to show how well you know your country, beyond social studies class.

If you do well, congratulations.

It's not easy, yet hundreds of thousands of people per year are willing to make the effort - often using English as a second language.

Citizenship is the reward at the end of the journey, Bentley said.

America is one of the only countries in which a naturalized citizen can become a full-fledged member of the democracy, he added.

The presidential office of the United States is the only thing a naturalized citizen can't achieve.

What do you know about America?

Thirty typical citizenship test questions from the list of 100 online at

1. Who elects the president of the United States?

2. For how long do we elect the president?

3. Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?

4. What do we call a change to the Constitution?

5. How many changes or amendments are there to the Constitution?

6. What are the three branches of our government?

7. Who makes the laws in the United States?

8. Who elects Congress?

9. How many senators are there in Congress?

10. Can you name the two senators from your state?

11. For how long do we elect each senator?

12. For how long do we elect representatives?

13. What is the supreme law of the United States?

14. What is the Bill of Rights?

15. Who becomes president of the United States if the president and the vice-president should die?

16. Who is the chief justice of the Supreme Court?

17. Can you name the 13 original states?

18. How many terms can a president serve?

19. According to the Constitution, a person must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible to become president. Name one of these requirements.

20. Who selects the Supreme Court justices?

21. How many Supreme Court justices are there?

22. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

23. What is the minimum voting age in the United States?

24. Name three rights or freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

25. What is the introduction to the Constitution called?

26. Who has the power to declare war?

27. In what month do we vote for a president?

28. Name one right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

29. How many times may a senator be re-elected?

30. How many times may a congressman be re-elected?

Answers to citizenship test sample questions span country's history

1. The Electoral College

2. Four-year terms

3. Thomas Jefferson

4. Amendment

5. 27

6. Legislative, executive and judiciary

7. Congress

8. The people

9. 100

10. Maryland: Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes

Pennsylvania: Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter

West Virginia: Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller

11. Six-year terms

12. Two-year terms

13. The Constitution

14. The first 10 amendments of the Constitution

15. Speaker of the House of Representatives

16. William Rehnquist

17. Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Rhode Island and Maryland

18. Two

19. Must be a natural born citizen of the United States; must be at least 35 years old by the time he or she will serve; must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years

20. Appointed by the president

21. Nine

22. July 4, 1776

23. 18

24. (a) the right of freedom of speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly and requesting change of government

(b) the right to bear arms (the right to have weapons or own a gun, though subject to certain regulations).

(c) the government may not quarter, or house, soldiers in the people's homes during peacetime without the people's consent

(d) the government may not search or take a person's property without a warrant

(e) a person may not be tried twice for the same crime and does not have to testify against himself

(f) a person charged with a crime still has rights, such as the right to a trial and to have a lawyer

(g) the right to trial by jury in most cases

(h) protects people against excessive or unreasonable fines or cruel and unusual punishment

(l) the people have rights other than those mentioned in the Constitution and power not given to the federal government by the Constitution is a power of either the state or the people

25. Preamble

26. Congress

27. November

28. Freedom of: speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly and requesting change of the government

29. There is no limit

30. There is no limit

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