Becoming a Citizen

In the last fiscal year, 1,044,689 people completed the long and often arduous passage from residency status to full citizenship in the United States. On this weekend before the Fourth of July, we spotlight the process of naturalization, including sample questions from the quiz applicants take.

Steps To Naturalization

1. Application filed

INS officials check each application to insure requirements have been met; applicants must be at least 18 and must have been a legal resident for at least five years. Waivers are granted for children, spouses of citizens and veterans of U.S. armed forces.


2. Fingerprinting and FBI check

Applicant is rejected if there’s a record of certain crime convictions, including for murder or any drug violation (except possession of a small amount of marijuana.)

3. Interview and test

Applicant must show familiarity with English words “ordinary usage.” Civics and history test is administered. (To the right are sample questions issued by the INS.)


4. Application approved

If all requirements have been met, applicant is recommended for naturalization. Date of oath ceremony is set.

5. Oath Ceremony

The oath of allegiance begins: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state of sovereignty...”


California leads in naturalization

In the period from Oct. 1, 1996, to Sept. 30, 1997, there were 378,014 people--more than one-third of the national total--naturalized in California.

Percentage of citizens naturalized in California vs. other states fiscal 1996-1997:

California: 36%


All other states: 64%

Top 10 countries of origin fiscal 1996-1997

1. Mexico: 217,418

2. Cuba: 62,168


3. Vietnam: 47,625

4. Philippines: 45,210

5. Former Soviet Union: 36,265

6. El Salvador: 33,240


7. China: 30,656

8. India: 28,932

9. Dominican Republic: 27,293

10. Columbia: 26,115



1. What do the stripes on the flag mean?

2. What country did we fight during the Revolutionary War?

3. Who elects the president of the United States?


4. For how long do we elect the president?

5. What do we call a change to the Constitution?

6. What are the three branches of our government?

7. What are the duties of Congress?


8. How many senators are there in Congress?

9. For how long do we elect each senator?

10. For how long do we elect the representatives?

11. What is the Bill of Rights?


12. What is the capital of this state?

13. Who becomes president of the U.S. if the president and the vice-president should die?

14. What are the 49th and 50th states of the union?

15. How many terms can a president serve?


16. According to the Constitution, a person must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible to become president. Name one of these requirements.

17. Who selects the Supreme Court justices?

18. How many Supreme Court justices are there?

19. Why did the pilgrims come to America?


20. Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?

21. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

22. Who wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner”?

23. What is the minimum voting age in the U.S.?


24. Who was the president during the Civil War?

25. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

26. What special group advises the president?

27. Which president is called the “Father of our Country”?


28. Who helped the pilgrims in America?

29. What is the name of the ship that brought the pilgrims to America?

30. What were the 13 original states called?

31. Who has the power to declare war?


32. In what year was the Constitution written?

33. In what month do we vote for the president?

34. What is the introduction to the Constitution called?

35. Name one right guaranteed by the first amendment.


36. Who is the Commander in Chief of U.S. armed forces?

37. In what month is the new president inaugurated?

38. How many times may a senator be re-elected?

39. How many times may a congressman be re-elected?


40. How many states are there in the U.S.?


1. They represent the original 13 states

2. England


3. The electoral college

4. Four years

5. Amendments

6. Legislative, executive, and judiciary


7. To make laws

8. 100

9. Six years

10. Two years


11. The first 10 amendments of the Constitution

12. Sacramento

13. Speaker of the House of Representatives

14. Alaska and Hawaii


15. Two

16. Must be a natural-born citizen, must be at least 35 by the time he/she will serve, must have lived in the united states for at least 14 years

17. Appointed by the president

18. Nine


19. For religious freedom

20. Thomas Jefferson

21. July 4, 1776

22. Francis Scott Key


23. 18

24. Abraham Lincoln

25. Freed many slaves

26. The Cabinet


27. George Washington

28. Native Americans

29. The Mayflower

30. Colonies


31. Congress

32. 1787

33. November

34. The preamble


35. Freedom of: speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly, and requesting change of the government

36. The president

37. January

38. No limit


39. No limit

40. 50

Source: U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service; Researched by DAVID COLKER / Los Angeles Times