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USCIS switches back to 2008 civics test

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USCIS switches back to 2008 civics test

The Biden administration announced in February that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would revert back to the 2008 version of the U.S. history and civics test required in most naturalization applications. The civics test has long been a landmark to residents applying for citizenship in the United States; the standard exam, part of the naturalization test, went unchanged until recently when it underwent some revisions as part of the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

The 2008 version of the test will replace a longer, more stringent iteration approved by the Trump administration in December 2020, referred to as the 2020 civics test. All naturalization applicants will take the 2008 version in 2021. Here’s what to know about both exams and how to interpret this change within the framework of the larger Biden-era immigration policy shift.

2020 civics test: what it was and why it’s out

  • Last December, the Trump administration introduced a new U.S. history and civics test to replace its 2008 predecessor.

  • The 2020 version increased the number of possible questions applicants had to prepare for from 100 to 128 while increasing the number of questions asked of the applicant during the interview from 10 to 20. The score required to pass the test was 60%, unchanged from 2008, meaning the applicant was expected to get 12 of 20 questions correct.

  • Critics regarded it as unnecessarily detailed and complex and noted that the language of the test indicated a conservative political bias.

2008 civics test: what to know and how to prepare 

  • The 10-question test became available again on March 1, 2021, replacing its Trump-era successor.

  • As always, the civics test is an oral test. The USCIS officer administering the test will ask no more than 10 questions out of the 100 provided on the study guide.

  • Applicants must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test – again, the 60% minimum went unchanged.

  • The USCIS provides a study guide for this test (and its 2020 counterpart) on its website, with links to accompanying audio files of the test questions for applicants to better prepare for the oral component of the exam.

  • The USCIS advises that some answers “may change because of elections or appointments.” Applicants should know the most up-to-date answers to questions of that nature.

To accommodate those who filed their naturalization application between Dec. 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021 and may have studied for the 2020 civics test, the USCIS will give those applicants the option to take either the 2020 civics test or the 2008 civics test. The 2020 civics test will be phased out completely on April 19, 2021.

If you have questions about how this change could affect your case, contact Ibrahim Law Offices and hear directly from a member of our team. 

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