A young friend of mine, a new mother, is going through the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. She is married to an American citizen, and their son is a citizen by birth. I’m intrigued with her path to citizenship and what it takes to qualify for naturalization.
The premise of U.S. citizenship is the fundamental value that all people are created equal.
And, importantly, citizenship allows people of all backgrounds, whether native- or foreign-born, to have an equal stake in the future of the United States.
Through her marriage, Katie meets some basic eligibility requirements: She’s been a permanent resident for more than three years, in “marital union with the same U.S. citizen spouse.”
And, like all who apply for American citizenship, Katie is required to be “a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.”
Katie must prove herself through oral and written testimony in at least one in-person interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
USCIS will conduct security and background checks — like those I’ve undergone to volunteer in schools and work in certain industries — and will review Katie’s complete immigration record.
Fortunately for her, Katie is already fluent in English, which is a requirement for her U.S. citizenship. Katie is also studying for an oral exam to demonstrate her knowledge of U.S. history and government ... in other words, civics. What I remember about civics tests is that I got a “C” in grade school (which was also the term when I got a “C” in classroom behavior).
Here are some of the questions ... how would you do?
* The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
* How many amendments does the Constitution have?
* Who was president during World War I?
* The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. Quick – what are those three words?
If you took more than a few seconds — as I did, thinking instead of the Declaration of Independence — to come up with “We, the People,” then you’re not alone. And my guess is that Katie knows a lot more right now about American history and government than many of the rest of us do.
Makes you think, doesn’t it, about what American citizenship really means?
As a citizen, Katie will join you and me in a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Katie is fortunate because her loving marriage allows her a smoother path to citizenship than many other immigrants share.
And as a native-born American, I’m delighted to speak up for citizenship for Katie and many others who are becoming part of our nation’s legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity.
Welcome to your new home, Katie.
P.S. James Madison was one author of the Federalist Papers; there are 27 amendments to the Constitution; and Woodrow Wilson was our U.S. president during World War I.