Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 4.26.19
Just Outside Washington


On Citizenship

We have recently been deluged with information, opinions, and lies about migrants to the U.S. This made me curious, how would someone, who was a migrant and had legal residency, become a citizen.

Most Americans were born in the United States, and are citizens automatically, as is specified in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. Others, who were born elsewhere, can become citizens through naturalization. Being born here is easier.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), people applying to become citizens must satisfy certain requirements:

  • Must have been permanent residents for five years (three if married to a U.S. citizen),
  • Be of 'good moral character' (meaning no felony convictions),

  • Be of 'sound mind' in the judgment of immigration officials,
  • Have knowledge of the Constitution,
  • Be able to speak and understand English, and
  • Needless to say fill out and submit the required forms.
Applicants must also be interviewed and pass a simple citizenship test. This is a ten-question oral test designed to be an explanation about the principles of American democracy, such as freedom. The ten questions are drawn from a list of 100 questions, which are listed with answers on the USCIS website. An USCIS interviewer asks the questions of the applicant, who must answer at least six correctly in order to pass.

But wait, we are not done yet; there are fees. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website has a whole list for special circumstances but to keep it simple: in 2007 application fees were $595 with an additional $80 computerized fingerprinting fee, which was expanded to be a biometrics fee of $85 in 2010. In December 2016, the application fees were increased again to $640. Several critics have said they think the fees are too high and deter permanent residents from applying.

The final step is the citizenship ceremony, which has been described as a meaningful ritual by many immigrants. Most citizenship swearing-in ceremonies take place at USCIS offices and many during Independence Day ceremonies, which adds significance. I reviewed the 100 questions, which are the basis for the citizenship quiz of ten questions. And, I went through and answered them. I did not get 100 percent. I suggest that you give the 100 questions a go and see if you think that studying these questions is an adequate basis in American civics for a new citizen. The answers are on the USCIS website:



A: Principles of American Democracy
1. What is the supreme law of the land?
2. What does the Constitution do?
3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
4. What is an amendment?
5. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
6. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
9. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
10. What is freedom of religion?
11. What is the economic system in the United States?
12. What is the 'rule of law'?

B: System of Government
13. Name one branch or part of the government.
14. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
16. Who makes federal laws?
17. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
18. How many U.S. Senators are there?
19. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
20. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?
21. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
22. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
23. Name your U.S. Representative.
24. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
25. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
26. We elect a President for how many years?
27. In what month do we vote for President?
28. What is the name of the President of the United States now?
29. What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now?
30. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
31. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
32. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
33. Who signs bills to become laws?
34. Who vetoes bills?
35. What does the President’s Cabinet do?
36. What are two Cabinet-level positions?
37. What does the judicial branch do?
38. What is the highest court in the United States?
39. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
40. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
41. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
42. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?
43. Who is the Governor of your state now?
44. What is the capital of your state?
45. What are the two major political parties in the United States?
46. What is the political party of the President now?
47. What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?

C: Rights and Responsibilities
48. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
49. What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
50. Name one right only for United States citizens.
51. What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
52. What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
53. What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
54. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?
55. What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
56. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
57. When must all men register for the Selective Service?

A: Colonial Period and Independence
58. What is one reason colonists came to America?
59. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
60. What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
61. Why did the colonists fight the British?
62. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? 63. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
64. There were 13 original states. Name three.
65. What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
66. When was the Constitution written?
67. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
68. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
69. Who is the 'Father of Our Country'?
70. Who was the first President?

B: 1800s
71. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
72. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
73. Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.
74. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
75. What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?
76. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
77. What did Susan B. Anthony do?

C: Recent American History and Other Important Historical Information
78. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
79. Who was President during World War I?
80. Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
81. Who did the United States fight in World War II?
82. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
83. During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
84. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
85. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
86. What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
87. Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.


A: Geography
88. Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
89. What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?
90. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
91. Name one U.S. territory.
92. Name one state that borders Canada.
93. Name one state that borders Mexico.
94. What is the capital of the United States?
95. Where is the Statue of Liberty?

B: Symbols
96. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
97. Why does the flag have 50 stars?
98. What is the name of the national anthem?

C: Holidays
99. When do we celebrate Independence Day
100. Name two national U.S. holidays.