The latest of these moves is a plan to increase the number of questions and correct answers to pass the naturalization test, according to a late-stage memo of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (CNN). The naturalization or citizenship test has two parts: an English test and a Civics test. According to the USCIS, applicants who file on or after December 1, 2020, will take the 2020 version of the civics test and those that have filed before will take the 2008 version of the test.
The USCIS announced changes to the USCIS civics test last year. “Updating, maintaining, and improving a test that is current and relevant is our responsibility as an agency in order to help potential new citizens fully understand the meaning of U.S. citizenship and the values that unite all Americans,” stated USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli.
The naturalization test helps fulfill the naturalization requirements given in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). According to Section 312 of the INA, the person must have “an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language…” and “a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States.”
Revising a test to make it more relevant is not unusual, but revising it to considerably increase the difficulty of the test is what has happened in this case. With the 2008 version, the applicants had to prepare from 100 questions for citizenship and answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the test. With the 2020 version, not only are the total number of questions 128 instead of 100, but the applicant needs to rightly answer 12 out of 20 questions to pass.
Another change to the test is the way it will be conducted. Previously, the test takers would stop once the applicant answered six naturalization test questions correctly. According to the memo, officers will ask all 20 questions regardless of how many correct answers they have received.