Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A look at the Canadian citizenship test

My tagline reads "American by birth, Canadian by choice," but I have to admit that I'm not quite there yet. It is true that I've chosen to be Canadian, but I'm actually still in the last stages of the citizenship process. This morning I finally got to take my citizenship test, which is the last step before being allowed to take the oath. I thought some of you Canadian-born Canadians might be interested in hearing what it's like for the rest of us, so I figured I'd write it up.

A few weeks ago (after over a year of patient thumb-twiddling), I received a letter telling me to be at the Edmonton Citizenship and Immigration Canada offices by 9:15 on August 17th. I was far from the only one, though; when I got there this morning at 8:55, the whole area outside was already filled with fresh-faced wannabe new Canadians, all clutching their "A Look At Canada" study guides. This is a little booklet that immigrants receive immediately upon applying for citizenship, to help us prepare for the test. It's written in very simple language, but it's actually pretty informative, and the ideologies behind it are really quite endearing (how much do I love that they actually have a sustainable development section?). In any case, I'd guess that there were about 75 people there in total, and they varied in age, but most looked to be in their thirties or forties. I was one of only two Caucasian faces in the bunch; most seemed to have been of Chinese, Korean, or Japanese origin, but the whole range of visible minorities were represented. Two were in wheelchairs: one older woman, and one woman about my age.

We'd been told to bring with us two pieces of picture ID, our permanent residence cards, and all of the passports we've ever had, current and expired. They let us in at 9:00, and we had to line up single-file (which made for a rather long line), and as we went up one-by-one, they checked our signatures against our driver's licenses and permanent residence cards, and our pictures against our faces. In my case, they also spent a lot of time checking the stamps in my various passports against the list of dates I'd said I'd been out of the country in the last eight years; apparently the sheer amount that I travel had set off some red flags! Eventually, though, I was given a clipboard with a pen and told to go in the other room and sit down in seat #90. I was one of the first people in, so I had about 45 minutes to sit there and read through my study guide again while the others filed in. They staggered the seating in the room so as to make cheating less likely.

Once everyone was inside, a CIC worker (most of whom seem to be immigrants themselves, incidentally) came around and told us that we were going to be given a written test that had twenty questions, and we were expected to get twelve right. We would have thirty minutes to complete it, and the questions were all multiple choice. We were told that we could ask questions before the test and after the test, but not during the test, so a few people asked things like how long they could expect to wait before taking the oath (1-4 months) and what would happen if they didn't pass the test (they could retake it orally with an immigration official). I raised my hand and asked if there was any chance that if a federal election was called within the next month or so, if they might put a rush on that oath thing. Everyone laughed, but unfortunately the answer was no. (Dammit.)

After all that, the actual test was uneventful, and in places, even funny. It was all based on information from the study guide, but it was mostly really basic stuff like "which provinces originally joined together in Confederation" and "what are the levels of government". My favourite question was the one about what the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship are (one of the possible answers was "be loyal to Canada and drive a car"). In any case, I was arrogant enough to stop by the passport office (conveniently located just downstairs from Citizenship and Immigration Canada) and pick up an application before heading back to my bus. Here's hoping.

17 comments:

Canadian Perasma said...

Yay for you! I know how long the road is. I was lucky to be born American and Canadian simultaneously but I'm dealing with CIC for my father. We're not at approval in principle stage yet. ::Sigh:: But congrats on taking the test I bet you had to wait a long time to do that!

LeoPetr said...

Kudos, comrade.:)

I cheated by becoming a landed immigrant at eleven and thus not needing a test. Easy, breezy. Still took four years to get a citizenship though.^-^

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

CP--

It really was a long time! Especially in Edmonton, since we didn't have our own citizenship judge until just a few weeks ago. My application's actually been sitting around this office since April, believe it or not. Insanity.

Leons--

The test was actually the easiest part of the whole process, believe it or not, so you didn't get spared much. (If you're interested in seeing what the test is like, this practice test is actually pretty similar to the sort of thing I was asked.)

Mike said...

I feel so luck to have been born here. I had a look at the practice test when a friend from El Salvador took it (she is a citizen now AND has Top Secret Clearance). I'm not sure I could pass and I got 89 in Canadian history in Highschool!

Good for for you IP and good luck.

Joe Visionary said...

Did they show you the secret handshake yet?

Arrogant Polyglot said...

IP, nice to see you back. Question: did they offer the test in any languages other than French or English?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

AP,

No, they only offer it in English and French. Since they require you to speak one or the other in order to become a Canadian citizen, the test is used in part as proof of that ability.

Trevor J. said...

Just wondering if having to pledge allegiance to the Queen in the citizenship oath gives you pause at all? Until it was amended a few years back, our equivalent Australian oath used to call for something similar, and from memory it was Americans and, especially, the Irish, who were the most resistant to the idea. (And so would I be, but as an Australian by birth, I've never had to take the oath, of course.)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Trevor--

That's a very good question. I don't have any particular issues with pledging allegiance to the Queen. I'm definitely of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school when it comes to the monarchy in Canada.

The real issue for me is pledging allegiance forever to any country at all, since I'm not a fan of any sort of blind patriotism. If Canada changes into something I don't want to be a part of sometime in the future, I want to reserve my right to leave it just as I did my country of birth. But I have no problem swearing allegiance to *this* Canada, and that's the way the oath will read in my mind.

scruss said...

Pretty much the same as my experience when I took the test on Monday. I was amazed by the number of people who either didn't turn up, or who didn't have all their papers with them.

msamerica said...

Born in '62 in Seattle,WA to one American and one Canadian parents. Landed immigrant in '73 in Canada, permanent resident in Canada 2004. Now I'm writing a test to become a Candadian tomorrow; shouldn't this be a given?

Anonymous said...

Thanks god I became canadian .. after all these years of waiting and hoping .. it end ups with a great feeling .. although I\\\'ve passed my citizenship test in March 2006 but believe it or not I\\\'m still feeling great and proud of this acheivement which changed my live to the best .. all the best for you guys and hope you pass the test and become canadians .. I AM CANADIAN .. oh yeh :)

harsha said...

i've found a free Canadian Citizenship Test!

got 52% :-(

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I have been all over internet trying to find "as much" as I can have of canadian citizenship free test on-line, (still looking..:) I'll write my test on Jan. 7th/2008, in Regina-SK and I want to achieve 100% not less, but the "nervous" factor can be a problem for me..Anybody knows how long after the test the Citizenship ceremony will take place??..month???..or just weeks??, i assume that all depens of how many new canadians they'll have for a single ceremony, so, perhaps they make us wait until they have at list 50 or 70 people..right??
Aprecciate your feed-back.
Thanks!!!

Martin said...

Hi, my wife took the test in mid-November, and only today the letter arrived to take the oath on Jan 28th. I took the test last week, so I guess I'll have to wait a little more :)

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to taking the test, but I want to know if my kids will loose their American citizenship if I include them in my application.

Cal

mihonik said...

I've found a citizenship test online for free. I made 5 mistakes from 20 questions.
http://canadacitizenshipquiz.blogspot.com/