The New Citizenship Test!

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The new citizenship test takes effect on December 1st. This is the naturalization process.

Of course, there are US citizens who don't have to naturalize. Some people are born in the US, and some people get their status through a parent. If they're born abroad, they must have a parent who is a US citizen. The test only applies to people who are naturalizing, in other words, someone who has a green card and they're applying to become a US citizen.

The benefits to being a citizen over a permanent resident are various:

  1. You can't lose your status
  2. You can't be deported so it's a safer status, although permanent residence is a lifelong status.
  3. You can petition for more family members. US citizens can petition for spouses, children, regardless of their age or marital status, their siblings and their parents. Permanent residents cannot petition for siblings, married children or parents.
  4. You can vote as a US citizen, which as we all saw very recently is very, very critical. Every vote definitely counts.
  5. You can live anywhere you want in the world when you're a US citizen. You don't have to maintain any type of residence in the United States once you naturalize. You could retire in Mexico if you want and continue to receive your social security benefits.

There are lots of benefits to becoming a US citizen and anyone who qualifies should do it!

To begin the process, you file the N-400 application. We've seen the processing times for a naturalization process grow during the Trump administration. Biden has announced in his first 100 days plan that his administration plans to start speeding up the naturalization process. Hopefully, we'll start to see a shorter timeframe on the naturalization process.

The Way It Works

First, you file your application, then you get a receipt notice in the mail. Afterwards, you schedule your biometrics appointment for a few months later, and that's where they take your fingerprints and your photo. Once they check your background and ensure that you don't have a criminal history, you're eligible to move forward.

At your biometrics interview, you will be given the citizenship test booklet that you can use to study for the exam. The guide contains a list of questions and all the words that you have to know how to read or write. For most, the citizenship test is in English and you have to be able to speak and read and write English, although there are some exceptions to that.

There are three ways that you can take the exam in your native language. It depends on your age and time with residency.

  1. If you are over the age of 50 and you've had your green card for longer than 20 years (a.k.a. the 50/20 rule).
  2. If you're over 55 and you've had your green card for longer than 15 years, (a.k.a. the 55/15 rule).
  3. If you're over 65 and you've had your green card for longer than 20 years, then you take a reduced test where you only have to study 20 questions.

If any of those apply to you, you qualify to take the test in your own native language and you don't have to take the test in English. You also won't have to read or write. Previously, the test had 100 possible questions and they gave you a booklet with every possible question. In the exam, they chose 10 questions randomly, and you had to answer six correctly. So if you'd missed two or three, you’d still pass. If you didn’t pass the test either because your English wasn't good enough or you failed the civics test, you got one more chance to take the test and they’d call you back a few months later to retake the test. We've had several clients that have passed through that over the years, and most of them were successful in round two because they got a sense of what it's like and how they need to study.

Hot Tip: Don’t just study the test, the questions, and the things you need to know how to read and write. It's also really useful to study your form. The N-400 application is over 20 pages and it contains lots of information about the applicant like your work history, your travel history, your family members and where they all live, as well as a bunch of questions about your eligibility. The officer at the exam is going to review those questions with you in English. If he or she gets the sense that you don't understand what the form says, they start to really question your language ability.

The New Citizenship Test

A new citizenship test took effect on December 1st. This is another one of the Trump administration's attempts to create barriers to legal immigration. They've added 28 questions to the test, which makes the test a total of 128 possible questions. The amount of questions that they ask in the interview have also doubled. They will now ask 20 questions and you have to get 12 correct.

The new test does not apply to everyone who has interviewed on December 1st or later. It goes by the date that you filed your application. So if you filled the N-400 form before December 1st you still have the chance to take the previous test.

If you filed on December 2nd or after, you will be given the new citizenship test, so study the new questions. Yes, it's slightly more difficult, but in my experience, this is not a difficult test for people. They give you all the possible questions and answers in the guide. As long as you study and practice, you are going to pass the test.

I advise using flashcards. It's a really great way to study for the citizenship test. You can create your own flashcard by writing the question on one side and the answers on the other side. Use them to quiz yourself. If you know the answer on a card, it goes in one pile. If I didn't get it right, or I felt a little unsure, it goes in another pile. Then you take the pile that you didn't know that well, and you keep practicing with those flashcards until you know them all really well.

Please don’t worry so much about the new test. Yes, the Trump administration is trying to make it hard for immigrants to become citizens, but you are smart and capable! This is not a hard test.

So if you qualify for citizenship, don't let this new test stress you out. You deserve this.

There are lots of benefits to becoming a US citizen. We are here to help you every step of the way!

We never send our clients to their exams without representation. Make sure that you're talking to a lawyer who's going to be with you at the interview to make sure that the officers are behaving appropriately and that your rights are respected.

The new test went into effect on December 1st. Don't let it stress you out if you qualify. If you want to apply for citizenship, get started!

Basic Citizenship Eligibility

  1. You are over the age of 18.
  2. You have had your green card for more than five years or more than three years if you're married to a US citizen.
  3. You can demonstrate good moral character, for example: you don’t owe taxes or child support, or you don’t have serious criminal incidents in your past. If you do have an arrest within three or five years ago, you might be able to qualify depending on what the conviction was. We consider those on a case by case basis.

We're here for you. If you have a confidential question, call us or text us to 512-599-8500 or send us a Facebook message and we'll be happy to guide you through that.