Naturalization Test Doubles Number of Required Civics Questions

Naturalization Test Doubles Number of Required Civics Questions, Leaves Passing Percentage at 60%

USCIS announced on November 13, 2020 that a revised civics test required for immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship will be implemented on December 1, 2020. The revised naturalization civics test has been in progress since 2018, “relying on input from experts in the field of adult education to ensure that this process is fair and transparent,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow.

The new test includes additional questions, increasing the test bank from 100 to 128 questions that test the applicant’s understanding of U.S. history and civics. In the announcement USCIS stated that the variety of topics “provide the applicant with more opportunities to learn about the United States as part of the test preparation process.” The passing score will remain at 60%, but the number of questions will increase from 10 to 20 questions. Candidates must answer 12 questions correctly to pass.

Highlights

  • Increases the general bank of civics test questions from 100 to 128, the number of test questions for the exam to 20 (from 10), and accordingly, the number of correct answers needed to pass the civics test to 12 (from 6). The test score required to pass (60 percent correct) will not change.
  • Confirms that USCIS will continue to administer 10 test questions (with required 6 correct answers) to applicants who qualify for special consideration because they are age 65 or older
    and have been lawful permanent residents for at least 20 years.
  • Provides that officers will ask all 20 test items (or 10 to special consideration applicants), even if the applicant achieves a passing score.

The USCIS website has been updated to reflect the additional test items and study guides.

Background

For many immigrants, U.S. citizenship is the ultimate accomplishment. Naturalization can take decades if you first entered the country as a student or foreign worker. As the wait times for green cards have steadily increased (to over ten years for some categories), citizenship remains elusive for many. In order to become a U.S. citizen after immigrating, an individual must be a green card holder for a minimum of three to five years (depending on how the green card was obtained), and then they must pass civics and English tests to demonstrate their commitment and loyalty to the United States.

In 2019, former USCIS Director Francis Cissna issued a memorandum titled “Revision of the Naturalization Civics Test” to associate directors and program office chiefs to notify them of upcoming changes to the civics test. The memo also stated that the test will be revised every ten years going forward, formalizing a process that has been done intermittently in the past. The last major revision happened in 2009 when USCIS implemented standardized test forms for the English and civics test requirements.

Naturalization Applicants

Green card holders applying for citizenship prior to December 1, 2020 will be given the current version of the test. All applicants after that date will be required to take the new test.

In the announcement, USCIS stated the agency “will maintain the current guidelines for statutorily established special considerations for applicants who are 65 years old or older and have at least 20 years of lawful permanent resident status. These applicants will be asked 10 questions and must answer a minimum of six questions correctly in order to pass.”

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