Understanding the Citizenship Test

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 What is a Citizenship Test?

A citizenship test is the exam that a foreign-born national must take in order to achieve the full status of U.S. citizenship. The citizenship test is typically administered to those who are lawful permanent residents, also known as green card holders, for a certain period of time and who want to become a U.S. citizen through the process of naturalization.

In general, the citizenship exam tests a foreign-born national’s knowledge of the history and government of the United States, as well as their command of the English language. The reason as to why the exam also tests English is because it is the most commonly used language among citizens of the United States.

Some other examples of subjects that may be tested on the citizenship exam include, a foreign-born national’s knowledge of former U.S. presidents, the three branches of the U.S. government, and various conflicts throughout U.S. history, such as the American Revolution and the Civil War.

In most instances, the citizenship test is taken at almost the end of the naturalization process. It is usually given right after an applicant has submitted all of their forms, attended all of their interviews (if necessary), and undergone all background checks. Whether an individual passes the exam or not, will determine if they will be allowed to move forward to the final stage of the process: the swearing-in ceremony.

To learn more about the process of naturalization and the citizenship exam that is given before a person can be sworn-in as a U.S. citizen, you can visit the website for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) agency, which provides further information and additional sample questions. Alternatively, you can also contact a local immigration law attorney for any legal assistance you may need to complete the naturalization process.

How Can I Prepare for the Test?

As previously mentioned, the materials for the citizenship test can be found on the website for the USCIS. The USCIS has a special section to prepare applicants for the exam, such as study guides, sample questions, and practice exams. In some cases, it also may be helpful for a foreign-born national to either hire a tutor or to ask a friend who is already a U.S. citizen to help them study for the exam.

An experienced attorney can also ensure that a foreign-born national who is applying for the naturalization process submits all of the necessary paperwork before they register and start studying for the U.S. citizenship test. This can be a valuable step to take before the exam since there is no point in studying for it if an individual’s application to become a U.S. citizen through the process of naturalization is not approved.

It is important for all foreign-born nationals to note that preparing and studying the material for the U.S. citizenship exam may take a long time. Thus, an applicant will want to make sure that they are in fact eligible to take the U.S. citizenship test before they begin the process of studying or hiring a tutor for help.

In some instances, the citizenship test may even be waived by the U.S. immigration authorities. However, these exemptions are only applicable in very special circumstances. Therefore, a foreign-born national should find out if they are qualified for such an exemption by speaking to an immigration law attorney and having them perform research on their behalf for the proper answer.

For example, a foreign-born national who has a medical disability may be exempt from having to take the English, civics test, or possibly both. In addition, persons who qualify under the following factors may be exempt from the English portion of this exam:

  • Foreign-born nationals who are 65 years of age or older and have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing their application;
  • Foreign-born nationals who are 55 years of age or older and have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 15 years at the time of filing their application; and
  • Foreign-born nationals who are 50 years of age or older and have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing their application.

One last piece of vital information about the U.S. citizenship test is that any individual who is caught cheating, attempting to cheat on the exam, and/or engaging in any sort of fraudulent practice may face steep fines and a possible prison sentence.

What If I Don’t Pass the Citizenship Test?

In the event that a foreign-born national does not succeed on their first attempt to pass the U.S. citizenship test, then they will be given another opportunity to do so. In most cases, an individual will have a chance to retake the citizenship test within 60 to 90 days from the date that they initially took the first exam.

If a foreign-born national fails the citizenship test on the second attempt, then they may be required to re-apply for U.S. citizenship. This means that they will need to re-submit all of their documents as well as will have to pay all of the submission fees once again.

Although failing the citizenship test will not change an individual’s lawful permanent resident status as a green card holder, it will unfortunately interfere with their ability to become a citizen of the United States. In other words, an individual must ultimately pass the citizenship test in order to be sworn-in as a U.S. citizen.

In cases where an individual believes that the citizenship test was administered improperly or that there was an error with their test score results, then they may be able to challenge such issues by taking a few next steps. If an individual should find themselves in this situation, then it may be in their best interest to contact a local immigration law attorney as soon as possible to further assist with the process of challenging their citizenship test results.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with the U.S. Citizenship Test?

As discussed above, the U.S. citizenship test can be time-consuming to study for since the material is often challenging and many applicants must first have command of the English language in order to fully understand it. It is absolutely essential for foreign-born nationals to prepare and study hard for the U.S. citizenship test since whether they pass or fail the exam is the last step that will determine if they can become a U.S. citizen or not.

Despite the fact that the process of preparing and studying for the U.S. citizenship can be long and detailed, an immigration law attorney cannot help you study or prepare for the exam.

On the other hand, if you encounter an obstacle before or after taking the exam, such as failing to file the proper paperwork with your naturalization application or challenging an error with the results of your exam, then you should speak to a local immigration lawyer immediately for further legal advice.

An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to confirm that your application is not missing any important information and can guide you through the process of challenging a test score result. Your lawyer will also be able to assist you in fixing any errors with your application as well as can help you fight any notices you receive that claim you are ineligible to take the U.S. citizenship test.

In addition, if you need to appear in court or at any other related proceedings, your lawyer will be able to provide legal representation in any of these situations as well.


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