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SEMINAR HELPS WITH CITIZENSHIP

A federal agency will host it today in Tampa.

Consider yourself pretty good at civics?

Let's try a little test:

Name one author of the Federalist Papers. How many voting members are in the U.S. House of Representatives? If the president and vice president can no longer serve, who becomes president?

Those are just three of 100 possible questions that could appear on the new test that takes effect for all immigrants applying for citizenship after Oct. 1.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or CIS, will hold a free seminar today in Tampa for qualified legal immigrants who want to become citizens.

The class is the third of its kind and part of a nationwide push to get immigrants to apply for citizenship. Within the past month, the agency held classes in Miami and Orlando.

"We want to tell them about eligibility requirements, the process itself and that it's all moving very quickly," said Sharon Scheidhauer, a spokeswoman for CIS.

Agency officials said applicants' wait time, which varies by region, is now four months in Tampa, Scheidhauer said. It had been more than a year or two.

Many eligible immigrants don't take the citizenship plunge for fear of the English and civics portion of the test or the cost: $675 in application fees.

To pass, they must answer six of 10 questions correctly during the interview out of a possible 100 supplied on the CIS Web site along with answers. They also must be law-abiding permanent residents living in the United States for five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen.

More than 700,000 immigrants in Florida are eligible to apply for citizenship, Scheidhauer said. If they all applied tomorrow, the agency, which operates mostly on applicant fees, would pull in $475.5 million.

For immigrants afraid of the test, which is considered more difficult than the old one, Scheidhauer wants to reassure them that passage rates are higher on the new exam: 91 percent, compared with 84 percent under the old test.

Following years of criticism over what were considered inane and simple questions on the citizenship test, immigration officials rolled out the new exam in stages. Starting this past fall, applicants who filed for citizenship after Oct. 1, 2008, took the new test. Those who applied earlier, but who had scheduled an interview after that date could choose between the old and new. Now all new applicants must take the retooled exam.

Among the benefits of citizenship: the right to vote, serve on juries and run for office.

Now, the answer to those questions: The Federalist Papers writers were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and Publius. There are 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. The speaker of the House assumes control if the president and vice president can't serve.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

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There'll be a quiz

Could you pass the citizenship test? The following are sample questions and answers from the test?

Who does a U.S. senator represent?

All people of the state.

Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?

Print money; declare war; create an army; make treaties.

Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?

Provide schooling and education; provide protection (police); provide safety (fire departments); give a driver's license; approve zoning and land use.

What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

U.S. diplomat; oldest member of Constitutional Congress; first postmaster general of the United States; writer of the Poor Richard's Almanac; started the first free libraries.

Who was the president during World War I?

Woodrow Wilson

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

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IF YOU GO

Citizenship help

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will host a free seminar tonight to help eligible immigrants become more familiar with the naturalization process in becoming citizens. Officials will share free materials and instructions on steps to become a citizen; a brochure about the test; flashcards on English vocabulary and civics questions. They also will conduct a mock interview. The seminar is from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 3012 Cherry St., Tampa. For information, visit uscis.gov.

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