The Biden administration has announced to do away with the stringent Trump-era citizenship test and revert to the easier 2008 version, making the US naturalisation process more accessible to all eligible individuals. The new process comes into effect on March 1, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said in a press release on Monday. On December 1 last year, USCIS implemented a revised naturalisation civics test, called the 2020 civics test, as part of a decennial test review and update process.
The civics test is administered to applicants who apply for US citizenship through naturalisation and is one of the statutory requirements for naturalising.
Applicants must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States.
The previous Trump administration had introduced some changes to the 2020 civics test. It increased the number of questions from 100 to 128 and the correct answers in the multiple-choice questions had political and ideological overtones.
Announcing the reversal of the Trump policy, USCIS said the 2020 civics test development process, content, testing procedures, and implementation schedule “may inadvertently create potential barriers to the naturalization process”.
“This action is consistent with the framework of the 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,” it said.
The federal agency asserted that the 2008 civics test was “thoroughly developed over a multi-year period with the input of more than 150 organisations, which included English as second language experts, educators, and historians, and was piloted before its implementation”.
USCIS aspires to make the process as accessible as possible as directed by President Joe Biden’s request to review the process thoroughly, it said.
The decision to naturalise demonstrates an investment in and commitment to the US, USCIS said, adding that it is committed to administering a test that is an instrument of civic learning and fosters civic integration as part of the test preparation process.
Applicants who filed their application for naturalisation on or after December 1, 2020, and before March 1, 2021, likely 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, it said.
“There will be a transition period where both tests are being offered. 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,” USCIS said.
(With PTI inputs)