The Trump administration has increased the number of questions that immigrants must answer correctly in order to become U.S. citizens.
Currently, the exam features 100 civics questions. Hopeful American citizens are asked up to 10 of these during an interview and have to answer six correctly to pass. But the revised test includes more questions that test the applicant’s understanding of U.S. history and civics, in line with the statutory requirements, and covers a variety of topics. The revised test will not change the passing score, which will remain at 60%. Candidates must answer 12 questions correctly, out of 20 in order to pass.
To sufficiently demonstrate knowledge of civics, the applicant must answer correctly at least 12 of 20 questions (also called test items) from the standardized civics test form administered by an officer. A USCIS system randomly selects the test questions and an officer administers the test orally. The officer does not stop the test when the applicant provides 12 correct responses (or 9 incorrect responses); the officer asks all 20 questions of the civics test. This allows USCIS to gather data on test items to aid in future updates to the civics test.
The updated test includes more questions that test applicants’ understanding of U.S. history and civics in line with the statutory standard than the current test. USCIS added more topics touching on specific amendments to the Constitution, the “rationale for the legislative branch structure,” and an item on “American innovations.” It also includes more “why” questions.
The civics test is administered to applicants who apply for U.S. citizenship and is one of the statutory requirements for naturalizing. Applicants who apply for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, will take the updated version of the test. Those who apply before Dec. 1, 2020, will take the current version of the test.
“USCIS has diligently worked on revising the naturalization test 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. “Naturalization allows immigrants to become fully vested members of American society, with the same rights and responsibilities as citizens by birth, and offering a fair test, which prepares naturalization applicants for these responsibilities, is of upmost importance to our agency.”
USCIS 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.