August 3, 2016

“According to the Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?”

“Why did the colonists fight the British?”

“What is the rule of law?”

“What is the most important right granted to United States citizens?”

If you were to stop by Thrive’s Refugee Support Center sometime in the past couple weeks, these are the kinds of questions you would hear us talking about. While it might sound like we’re getting ready for a high school history test, we are actually helping some of our clients prepare for their citizenship tests.


Studying for the civics test with some of our Burmese clients in our Refugee Support Center

citizenship (2)

Putting together a puzzle with the kids so their parents can study for their citizenship test!

Refugees can apply for citizenship after they’ve lived in the US for 5 years. It is important that they apply before they reach 7 years in the US, or they could risk losing benefits such as Social Security, Disability, and Food Assistance.

To become a US citizen, each applicant must fill out an intensive 20-page application and go to a biometrics appointment. Once they are approved, they will receive a letter in the mail giving them a date for their citizenship test.

The most important and difficult part of the citizenship test is the civics test, which tests applicants on their knowledge of the US. This test includes the history of the United States, from colonization to the Cold War. It also includes information on the American government system, including things like the branches of government, current leaders such as senators and governors, the different parts of the Constitution, and the rights of a US citizen.

There are 100 possible questions that can appear on the civics test. Each applicant will be asked 10 questions that they must verbally respond to. Out of those 10, they must get 6 questions correct to pass the test. In addition to the civics test, there are reading and writing portions of the citizenship test to determine that the applicant has a good understanding of English.

The citizenship test can be very difficult for those who grew up outside of the US, but it is still a challenge to who have grown up here. In fact, a study at Xavier University found that only 65% of native-born Americans could pass the citizenship test.

At Thrive, we hope to help our clients prepare for their citizenship tests by explaining the history and government of the US. We host citizenship classes every Wednesday, as well as provide continued support for citizenship throughout the week, to help our clients become US citizens.

Written by Katie Ulrich

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