our latest new American

DullahDullah Hassan is America’s newest citizen.

Well, almost (more on that later).

Hassan, the 20-year-old freshman who graces the cover of the latest edition of the magazine, passed his citizenship test Monday. He originally was scheduled to take it in October (before the magazine came out), but it was postponed due to the government shutdown.

On a chilly morning in a nondescript office building in Fairfax, Virginia, Hassan passed the reading, writing, and civics tests that turned out to be much easier than he anticipated. In the car on the way to the Washington field office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, he crammed in some last-minute studying on his iPhone.

He wasn’t particularly nervous or anxious. Hassan has lived in America for nearly a decade now. He speaks English fluently, and he’s well versed in the country’s history. He was confident.

After going through a metal detector to enter the building (belts had to come off, but shoes could stay on), Dullah had to show his official test time and date notification, his green card, and provide scans of his fingerprints (actual ink prints had been taken months earlier). Following a short wait in the DMV-like waiting room, he was called into the office of a test administrator and placed under oath.

Aida Hernandez, the USCIS official who interviewed Dullah, had him sign an attorney waver, then mentioned that there was a slight problem. Applicants are required to be residents of the area in which they’ll be sworn in for at least 90 days before filing their official citizenship application. Dullah grew up near Atlanta and didn’t come to Washington until August, meaning he didn’t meet the D.C. area residency requirement.

Hernandez told him that if he passed the test, he’d have to take the oath in Atlanta. Hassan, an unflappable kind of kid, took the hiccup in stride.

The first set of questions Hernandez asked Hassan included:

  • Are you a member of a terrorist organization?
  • Do you owe taxes?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
  • Have you ever sold or smuggled narcotics?
  • Have you ever helped assist in smuggling anyone into the country?

“No,” Dullah (thankfully) replied to them all.

His reading sample was straightforward: “Who elects Congress,” he said with no problem.

Hernandez asked him to write the sentence “Congress meets in Washington,” before moving on to the civics test. Six questions were selected from the 100 possible ones Hassan studied. He went six-for-six, correctly answering:

  • Name three of the 13 original colonies
  • Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
  • Name one state that borders Mexico
  • Who is the commander in chief of the military?
  • What are the two major political parties?
  • Which party is the president a member of?

“You passed, congratulations,” Hernandez said. And that was it. No balloons, no music, no fanfare. Hassan’s technically not a citizen until his swearing in, but during the walk back to the car he smiled and said he was “relieved.”

He planned to celebrate by eating a big lunch on campus, registering for classes next semester, and perhaps taking a nap. When you’ve experienced as much as Dullah has, nothing seems like too big of a deal.

His newfound status is, perhaps, more exciting to his girlfriend. Samantha, who attends Emory University, texted him: “I’m going to be dating an American!”