The Path to U.S. Citizenship


Citizenship: some are born into it. Others spend years trying to earn it.

In the United States, if you’re born here, or have a parent who is a citizen at the time of your birth abroad, you’re automatically a U.S. citizen.

For those not born with citizenship, the path is more complicated. The most common way to earn citizenship after birth is when a Green Card holder (permanent resident) applies for naturalization (the legal process by which a non-citizen becomes a citizen). Among other requirements, applicants seeking citizenship must be able to read, write, and speak English and understand U.S. civics.

Naturalization: The Citizenship Test

Perhaps the most difficult part of the naturalization process is the in-person interview and test with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer. The test determines an applicant’s ability to speak, read, and write in English, as well as their understanding of U.S. government and history.

To test reading, one must read aloud one out of three sentences correctly. To test writing, one must write one out of three sentences correctly. To test civics knowledge, one will be asked 10 out of 100 possible questions that they must answer six correctly.

This is where Neighborhood House comes in.

Citizenship Class at Neighborhood House

The Citizenship Class at Neighborhood House gives applicants experience practicing study materials with their peers and knowledgeable instructors.

The class was developed to help Neighborhood House participants interested in citizenship prepare for this step in the naturalization process. Current volunteer instructors Deb and Carol teach two classes a week.

Because the citizenship test includes speaking, reading, and writing components, the class is structured the same way. Students spend time learning the 100 possible questions they may be asked and answer aloud in English. They also practice reading and writing the possible sentences that may be used in their test. (Yes, spelling and capitalization matters.)

In addition, the USCIS officer conducting the test will quiz the applicant on their citizenship application. The officer may ask for past home addresses, dates when they lived at a particular address, and more, so Deb urges her students to review their application prior to their interview.

The only class requirement is basic English skills. And although the class is designed for those interested in earning their citizenship, some students have joined simply to learn more about United States history and government.

Classes are held Monday and Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Wellstone Center. Students can register any Monday night at 6:30 p.m. or any Friday morning at 9 a.m. English Language Learner students are encouraged to also enroll in English classes.

Mutiatu’s Story

Citizenship class student Mutiatu (moo-TEE-uh) is working diligently with instructors and family to be as prepared as possible for her test. Get a glimpse into her last citizenship class before her interview.