Biden admin scraps tougher Trump-era citizenship test

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USCIS to offer both 2008 and 2020 versions of civic test until April 19.

In another reversal of Trump-era policies, the Biden administration is scrapping a tougher citizenship test for immigrants introduced  weeks before his exit, reverting to the 2008 version of the test.

Announcing the reversal Monday, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said the 2020 test developed by the previous administration “may inadvertently create potential barriers” to citizenship.

Those preparing to become US citizens must demonstrate a basic understanding of English and pass a civics test about the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States.

But the Trump administration expanded the pool of potential questions test takers might be asked from 100 to 128. It also upped the total number of questions applicants would be asked and must answer correctly from 6 out of 10 to 12 out of 20.

The USCIS will offer both versions of the test until April 19 in order to assist those that have been preparing to pass the Trump administration’s version of the test.

READ: USCIS announces new civics test for American citizenship (November 16, 2020)

In addition to the changes to the test, the Trump administration also raised the cost to apply to take it from $640 to $1,160.

Rolling out the Trump test on Dec. 1, 2020, just seven weeks before his exit, USCIS touted it “as part of a decennial test review and update process.”

However, in an about face on Monday, USCIS said it had “determined 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 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, the immigration agency said.

“USCIS aspires to make the process as accessible as possible as directed by President Biden’s request to review the process thoroughly.”

READ: Judge halts Trump’s wealth test for green cards (July 30, 2020)

Applicants who filed their application for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, and before March 1, 2021, likely have been studying for the 2020 test, the agency said.

Therefore, USCIS will give these applicants the option to take either the 2020 civics test or the 2008 civics test. 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.

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 (PDF, 444.11 KB) accordingly; see Volume 12, Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing.

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