USCIS Removes a Trump Era Hurdle To Naturalization

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On Dec. 1, 2020, during the final days of the Trump administration, USCIS implemented a revised naturalization civics test (2020 civics test) as part of a decennial test review and update process. However, USCIS has determined that the 2020 civics test development process, content, testing procedures, and implementation schedule may create unnecessary barriers to the naturalization process. This action follows the framework of President Biden’s Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems, which directs a comprehensive review of the naturalization process to eliminate barriers and make the process more accessible to all eligible individuals.

The 2008 civics test was thoroughly developed over a multi-year period with the input of more than 150 organizations, which included English as a second language experts, educators, and historians, and was piloted before its implementation. USCIS intends for this change to make the process as accessible as possible, in keeping with President Biden’s request to review the naturalization process thoroughly.

There will be a transition period during which both tests are being offered. The 2008 civics test requires applicants to study 100 questions about American government and history and must answer 6 out of 10 questions (or 60%) to pass. In the 2020 version of the civics test, applicants would be required to study 128 questions and answer correctly 12 of the 20 questions (or 60%) to pass. In its announcement, USCIS acknowledged that applicants who filed their application for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, and before March 1, 2021, may have been studying for the 2020 test; therefore, USCIS will give these applicants the option to take either the 2020 civics test or the 2008 civics test. The 2020 test will be phased out on April 19, 2021, for initial test takers. Applicants filing on or after March 1, 2021, will take the 2008 civics test.

The test items and study guides can be found on the Citizenship Resource Center on the USCIS website. USCIS has also updated the Policy Manual accordingly; see Volume 12, Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing.

The information provided in this client alert speaks only to the information and guidance we have available as of the date of publication and is subject to change. We will continue to follow further issued guidance and regulations and endeavor to post those updates via our website. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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