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People can get U.S. citizenship in several ways. People born in the U.S. or its outlying possessions are citizens
automatically at birth. People born outside the U.S. can get citizenship through a process called naturalization,
or might automatically be U.S .citizens if they have a parent or parents who is/are U.S. citizen(s).
A U.S. Citizen:
- can vote
- can have a U.S. passport
- can receive U.S. government's protection when abroad
- can petition for green cards for one's children and close relatives.
- cannot be deported or lose citizenship (even if s/he commits a crime or chooses to live elsewhere in the world)
unless s/he has misrepresented him/herself to get citizenship or was ineligible at the time.
The basic requirements for naturalization are that you:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have been a lawful permanent resident for at least the last five years (or three years, if married to a U.S. citizen).
You'll need a "green card:" an I-551 or I-151.
- Have been present in the U.S. for 2-1/2 of the past five years (or 1-1/2 of the past three, if married to a U.S. citizen), and haven't been outside the
U.S. for one year or more within the last five years (or three years, if married to a U.S. citizen).
- Have been a resident of the state from which you are filing your application for at least three months.
- Be able to speak, read and write ordinary English.
- Be able to pass a U.S. history and government exam.
- Be a person of "good moral character" (this will be difficult to establish if you have failed to pay child support,
taxes, or have been convicted of certain crimes, among other things).
- Take an oath of loyalty to the U.S.
Preparing for Citizenship
- Assess students' language skills and their knowledge of US history and
government. Skills assessed should include listening, reading,
writing, speaking/pronunciation, vocabulary, and civics knowledge.
- Review the naturalization process with students.
- Form practice groups or pairs according to student ability level and civics knowledge.
- Teach vocabulary in context. Applicants may be asked to define any word
used in a question-whether the question is personal, eligibility-related, or civics-related.
Applicants must also know any special vocabulary relating to their unusual circumstances; eg."I had to go home
for my grandfather's funeral."
- Help your student to read and fill out the N-400 form (as well as
other necessary forms-consult the Citizenship Office website for details.) Decide when to submit it. Bear in mind that it
can take quite a while to get an appointment.
- Practice responding physically and orally to a spoken question or command;
eg."Have a seat." "May I see your green card?" Responses must be appropriate and intelligible.
- Demonstrate and practice how to ask for clarification; eg. "I'm sorry.
Could you repeat that?" "Could you explain that, please?"
- Practice answering personal-information questions using past, present, and future tenses.
- Practice dictation with your students. They will be required to write
one or more dictated sentences. The writing does not have
to be perfect but must demonstrate that the applicant has a
comprehensible amount of writing skills. Statements given for dictation will not be in context
and may not be true. No script is available for study, but vocabulary used should not exceed tenth grade level.
- Use games and flashcards to help students with memorization of the
100 civics questions.
- Watch and discuss the video "Will They Pass?" with your students; see Resources.
- Role-play the interview with your students. This type of practice in a "safe" setting will build confidence for the actual Citizenship interview.