Becoming American

I have lived in the United States for some 12 years. I married a US Citizen, my children are US Citizens, so I figured it was about time I joined their club.

Friends kept warning me that “you never know what can happen” and the most compelling message from well-meaning advisors: “you should always have the same citizenship/s as your children.” Was I worried my husband might flee with the kids and deny me access, like those awful stories on the 10pm news? No, I am pretty comfortable in the thought that my children will stay glued to me for as long as they can, G*d bless them and their attachment issues.

But it did make sense not to worry about renewing my Green Card every so many years: and it did feel odd having to stand in a separate immigration line to my kids and husband when I travel with an Australian passport and they all have US passports. It’s the little things that made me to push ahead, plus, it seemed like only a little effort  and about $675 to make the application.

Now the fun begins. I have a couple of days to cram the history of the United States, from colonization to present day, with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the structure of government, wars spanning the 1800s and 1900s, a smattering of geography, a bunch of presidents and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in between.

I happen to know from watching late-night talk shows – Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments come to mind – that the average American, born and schooled in this fine country, could NOT, even on a very good day and with clues, answer most of the test questions laid out in the printed 29-page Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the New Naturalization Test publication that citizenship candidates are handed after their fingerprinting and biometrics ‘meeting” with immigration officials.

My husband is a bit of a history buff and could answer most of the questions correctly, but I suspect he’s not the norm. Here is a sampling of the questions: how do you rate?

Who is Chief Justice of the United States now?

The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers?

When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

When was the Constitution written?

What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

What territory did the US buy from France in 1803?

How many amendments does the Constitution have?

The House of Representatives has how many voting members? They are elected for how many years?

These are just a few of the questions that most people probably have to think about, just a little, lest the number get muddled of the memory is hazy. And I’m willing to bet many, many people wouldn’t even have a clue, but perhaps I am underselling the population. Either way, it’s a task for those thousands of people who, every year, choose to pledge loyalty to the United States, many who speak or read little English and probably weren’t taught about the Civil War in school, and haven’t heard Star Spangled Banner at a hundred baseball games.

I’ll admit, I plan to study the book before I go.

Failing the civics section of the test (it’s not multiple choice unfortunately) is not an option. There are 100 questions; I will be asked 10 and have to answer six right to “pass”. There is also an English writing and verbal test, which I hope not to worry about, given that English is my first language and writing is my living.

But hey, I am not getting cocky about any of this. One dear friend has already made it clear that I will be mocked mercilessly for years to come if I don’t walk out of my interview a citizen. I consider myself warned!

3 thoughts on “Becoming American”

  1. I am certain that only one person (of course, excludinig you) that you and I know would be able to answer all the questions correctly.

  2. We became Aussies even though we didn’t have to because we wanted to vote in the Republic referendum (the kids are Australian). But we could stay Kiwis. Do you have to renounce Australian citizenship to become American? Is there dual citizenship? What are the implications back here if you give up your Australian citizenship?

    1. I can have dual citizenship thankfully. Kids have both, and eventually Mo will go for Australian citizenship, so we will all be on the same page!

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