Posted by Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Each September, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and the weeklong celebration of Constitution Week offer an important opportunity to reflect on the meaning and importance of U.S. citizenship. It’s a special time for me and the entire workforce of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As the federal agency responsible for naturalization and citizenship, USCIS has the privilege of welcoming America’s newest citizens.
In addition, we are proud to announce grants totaling $9 million for 42 organizations charged with expanding citizenship preparation services for permanent residents.
This funding will support immigrant-serving organizations across 27 states and the District of Columbia. The program fosters civic integration and helps permanent residents prepare for successful citizenship. More than 19,000 permanent residents have received assistance through this grant program since it began in October 2009. The full list of this year’s recipients, along with a description of their programs, is available on our website.
Citizenship is important because it unites Americans – all races, ethnicities, beliefs, or countries of birth – under shared civic principles based on the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Please join me in this opportunity to cherish the important rights and responsibilities we share together, as citizens of this great nation.
When you go online to download and fill out immigration forms, ensure that you know the difference between official government websites and websites run by private businesses.
Government agencies use “.gov” in their Web addresses, while private businesses do not.
You May Think You Paid the USCIS Fee, When You Really Didn’t
Some private websites that charge to prepare immigration forms mimic the look and feel of official government sites, leading users to mistakenly believe they are dealing directly with the government and paying USCIS fees. Many copycat sites add to the confusion by charging applicants the same amount for preparing an immigration form that USCIS charges for filing that same form.
As a result, some applicants have sent forms to USCIS without submitting the filing fees. These applicants mistakenly believed they had paid the USCIS filing fee when they paid the private firm for preparing the forms.
In fact, USCIS has received applications with copies attached to them of cashed electronic checks that the applicants submitted to private businesses. Contrary to what the applicants believe, these electronic copies are NOT proof of payment of USCIS fees. And when filing fees are not paid, USCIS cannot process these applications and instead must return them.
We encourage you to carefully check any website that offers assistance in filing immigration forms—and to clearly understand what services you are paying for.
Remember: You are NOT paying the USCIS filing fee when you pay a private business for help with preparing forms. Be particularly wary of paying for help from any Web page that claims to be an “official” site or that mimics the look of a government site but does not have “.gov” in its Web address.
You can always visit our website, www.uscis.gov/forms, to download our forms FOR FREE and to learn how and where to file forms and submit filing fees to USCIS. Be sure to read the instructions that accompany each form.
Preparing for the Naturalization Test: The Citizenship Resource Center
At USCIS, we know that the decision to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most meaningful decisions in an individual’s life. USCIS has a lot to offer for those wishing to become citizens. The form required to apply, the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization is available for free on our website, or you can order it by mail or phone at 1-800-870-3676.
During the naturalization interview with a USCIS Officer, you will be tested on your knowledge of civics and your ability to speak, understand, read, and write English.
Your ability to speak and understand English will be determined by a USCIS Officer from your answers to questions normally asked during the eligibility interview on the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400.
For the English portion, you will be given both a reading test and a writing test. You must read 1 out of 3 sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to read in English. You must write 1 out of 3 sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to write in English.
For the civics portion, you will be asked up to 10 questions from the list of 100 questions. You must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test.
Certain applicants, because of age and time as a permanent resident; or others because of a disability, have different English and civics requirements; see the “Exceptions & Accommodations” web page for details.
Preparing for the Test
Under the “Study for the Test” section of the Citizenship Resource Center, you can find free study materials for the English and civics portions of the test:
After reviewing the educational products we offer, try the Naturalization Self Test as a means to test your knowledge. Please note that the actual civics test is NOT a multiple choice test, but an oral test. This “Self Test” was prepared as a learning tool to help you assess your progress.
What Happens if You Don’t Pass?
You will be given two opportunities to take the English and civics tests and to answer all questions related to your naturalization application in English. If you fail any of the tests during your initial interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed (English or civics) between 60 and 90 days from the date of your initial interview.
What is the Pass Rate?
For those applicants taking both the English and civics tests, the overall national pass rate as of June 2011 is 92 percent. To view scoring guidelines and background data, and other information, visit the “Applicant Performance on the Naturalization Test” page.