I've been to many naturalization ceremonies and have always enjoyed watching the excitement of newly minted U.S. citizens as they recite the Oath of Allegiance.
That proud moment comes only after they've passed the required citizenship test. The oral exam requires basic knowledge of U.S. history and government and enough English to communicate. To help aspiring citizens get ready for the test, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Smithsonian Institution recently launched an interactive website.
Called "Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship," the site is at www.americanhistory.si.edu/citizenship.
It uses videos and other multimedia tools to display relevant artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution's collection. Information on the site covers 15 themes, including symbols and holidays; voting; U.S. geography; the president; the courts and Congress.
"It brings to life the country's history through objects and illustrations and other engaging visuals," said Daniel Cosgrove, a USCIS spokesman. "It really does a great job in going beyond rote memorization and allowing people to really learn the history."
The civics portion of the citizenship test includes 100 questions from which the officer administering the test can draw.
A person applying for citizenship will be asked 10 questions and must answer six of them correctly in order to pass, Cosgrove explained. The new Web study aid incorporates information from those 100 questions.
The launching of the Web tool is the latest effort by the USCIS to demystify the process of becoming a citizen. An estimated 8 million people in the United States are eligible for citizenship and have not applied.
"The citizenship test was never designed as a barrier to U.S. citizenship," Cosgrove said. "It was designed as a tool for people to learn about our history and civics to help them integrate better. In other words, it gives them a stake."
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488