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Staying Legal : A Guide to Phase 2 of the Immigration Amnesty Law : Schooling, Tests and Exemptions

March 13, 1989

The law requires that most applicants demonstrate a basic knowledge of the English language and of the history and government of the United States. This requirement can be fulfilled by attending special classes or passing an examination. But many others do not have to meet this requirement or can do so without attending a special class. Exemptions

The following people do not have to show any knowledge of English or U.S. civics:

- Minors under 16 years of age on the application date for permanent residence.

- People older than 65 on the application date for permanent residence.

- Those physically or mentally incapable of taking the exam.

- Those older than 50 who can prove they have lived in the United States at least 20 years. - Those who can present a high school or university diploma from this country.

Those who have attended a state-approved high school and studied English and civics for at least 40 hours.


Hundreds of schools in Southern California are offering special courses in English and civics to help amnesty applicants fulfill the law's requirements. This supplement provides the addresses and telephone numbers of most of these schools.

Those who attend these classes are required to take a course with a minimum of 60 hours of instruction. To obtain a certificate of "satisfactory pursuit," the applicant must attend a minimum of 40 hours of classes. Those who have such a certificate will not need to take a separate exam to become permanent residents.


Any of the following documents will show that you have met the English and civics requirements:

- High school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED).

- Certificate from an INS-certified school demonstrating that the applicant has "satisfactorily pursued" the subjects required by the law.

- Transcripts showing that the applicant has attended a state-accredited school and received a minimum of 40 hours of instruction in English and civics.


There are several government-approved examinations you can take, instead of going to special classes. You can be tested by the INS official conducting the permanent residency interview. You can make an appointment to go to a government legalization center for the test. Or you can take a test at many of the schools conducting the special amnesty classes.

Applicants taking the "citizenship" test will be given several questions from a list of 100 questions that can be obtained in advance at any legalization center. These questions will be limited to the material in the federal textbooks.

Those who fail this test may take it again within six months, even if it falls beyond the one-year application period.

A simpler "proficiency" test is also offered on videotape. This consists of 15 multiple-choice questions. To pass, you must answer nine correctly. There are four versions of this test.

This test, which resembles the test for a driver's license, is given in groups. The questions are presented on a videotape in English and the applicants answer on written questionnaires.

This test is administered at legalization centers on Thursday nights, and an appointment is required. It may be taken at any time. In addition, some private groups, including Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, are planning to administer this test for a fee.

A different test, made up by the Educational Testing Service, is given at many schools and agencies. It consists of 20 multiple-choice questions and a short dictated sentence to test command of English.

To take this test, you must pay a $10 fee, which allows you two chances to pass. You may take the test as many times as necessary.

The tests will be corrected in Princeton, N.J., and only the names of those who pass will be forwarded to the government.

Some sample questions from these tests are given on page 11.


The INS has published textbooks on English, history and government that are used in the schools. Another option is to obtain these books from the government, study on your own and then take the exam.

The following books are written at sixth-grade level: "U.S. Government Structure--Level I," price $3.50; "U.S. History, Level I," $6.50.

The following books are written at 10th-grade level: "U.S. Government Structure--Level II," price $3; "U.S. History, Level II," $5.50.

These study guides can be obtained at the Federal Government Bookstore, 505 S. Flower St., Los Angeles.

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