Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Could You Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test? for Anyone Not Born Here, Becoming a U.S. Citizen Takes Years-And Hard Work

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Could You Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test? for Anyone Not Born Here, Becoming a U.S. Citizen Takes Years-And Hard Work

Article excerpt

If you were born in the United States, American citizenship is something you probably take for granted. You have what's called birthright citizenship, meaning your citizenship is automatic.

It's a different story for immigrants. Who among them get to be American citizens? That issue--long a matter of debate--has heated up recently in response to a series of executive orders issued by President Trump. These include orders to start building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border (see p. 6) and to temporarily block people from some majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Despite the current controversy, the U.S. has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world, and many of them seek to become citizens. About 700,000 a year complete the lengthy process of becoming naturalized.

Applicants for citizenship must have immigrated legally and been permanent residents of the U.S. for five years; must not have committed any serious crimes; and must undergo identity and security checks. They also have to prove they can read, write, and speak basic English.

Finally, they must pass a civics test covering U.S. government, history, geography, and culture. Applicants are asked 10 questions from a list of 100 and must answer at least 6 correctly to pass.

How well would you do? Find out by answering these questions from the actual exam. (That test has open-ended questions, but we've made ours multiple-choice.)

31% Percentage of Americans who can't name any of the three branches of the U.S. government


American Government

1. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

(A) the Declaration of Independence

(B) the Articles of Confederation

(C) the Bill of Rights

2. What is one right or freedom protected by the First Amendment?

(A) religion

(B) privacy

(C) public trial

3. What is an amendment?

(A) an inalienable right

(B) a change or addition to the Constitution

(C) a new law

4. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

(A) Congress

(B) the president

(C) the chief justice

5. Who makes federal laws?

(A) Congress

(B) the Supreme Court

(C) the Cabinet

6. How many U.S. senators are there?

(A) 50

(B) 435

(C) 100

7. Who is commander in chief of the military?

(A) the president

(B) the vice president

(C) the Speaker of the House

8. How old do citizens have to be to vote for president?

(A) 16 and older

(B) 18 and older

(C) 21 and older

9. What's the supreme law of the land?

(A) the Bill of Rights

(B) the Constitution

(C) the Declaration of Independence

10. What's the name of the current chief justice?

(A) Neil M. Gorsuch

(B) John G. Roberts

(C) Anthony M. Kennedy

11. How long is a U.S. senator's term?

(A) two years

(B) four years

(C) six years

12. If both the president and the vice president can no longer serve, who becomes president?

(A) the Speaker of the House

(B) the First Lady

(C) the Secretary of State

13. What are the two parts of Congress? …

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