Becoming a Citizen: Be Careful

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The daily newspaper Austin-American Statesman reported on their July 5th edition that the cost of applying for U.S. citizenship would go up to $675 after the month of July.  This is no surprise to readers of Hola America.  In fact, they told us about the price changes for the application process five months ago (Feb. 7 edition).  You may check out all the fees on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service website at www.uscis.gov (note that it ends with “.gov and not “.com” or “.org”).
But the cost is only part of the challenge.
The applicants should also be prepared to take the American history and government exams, and of course, speak English – unless the applicant falls under a special category, such as being 50 years of age or older.  When I read through some citizenships test study guides, I found many similarities but also some areas that confuse the reader.  For example, all the guides
had a list of potential question that are supposed to be memorized – a phrase or word such as the thirteen colonies, 1787, red, white, and blue, and Electoral College.  But in the future there will be new requirements that will ask for a deeper knowledge than what is asked for today.  If those changes are put in place, you may refer to them on the web with the USCIS and/or at www.icirr.org for the Illinois Coalition for immigrant and Refugee Rights or ICIRR, where you will also find a link for The New Americans Initiative, another excellent site.
Even worse, after checking out some of the citizenship literature and writing to help immigrants prepare for the test, I found that it would be difficult for many immigrants who don’t have good education in their countries of origin to study and they do it with only the available materials. The level of reading that is required for the preparation guides (in English) – based on my evaluation using known reading standards – are out or reach of many immigrants.
There is even information that is confusing and not valid on some of these study guides.  One guide that I looked through says that 36 states now allow the applicants to take the history and government exam before the interview; the guide gave 5 phone numbers to call to get more information.  But when I called all 5 numbers, none had service.  So it makes you wonder if those places are still active.  Do the exam sites still exist?
Finally one guide did recommend that the immigrant could get three small books – “United States History: 1600-1987,” “U.S. Government Structure,” y “Citizenship Education and Naturalization Information” – from the government press, that have all the answers necessary to any question on the test.  But when I called 202-512-1800, there were no copies available and they didn’t know when they would have more available.   The USCIS also offers resources that may be purchased from them and you may browse on their website.
So even though there are plenty of resources for sale available, immigrants should be careful.  Start with the official sites like that of USCIS official government sites, state or federal government sites.  Much of the information is given free of charge.
@ Copyright 2007 LuchaCiudadania.  All rights reserved.
Note:  Doug Dixon taught American history and government for years in public schools and universities before becoming a professor in education.

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