USCIS Announces Revisions to Naturalization Examination Beginning December 1, 2020


On November 13, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced important revisions to the civics examination component of the naturalization test.

Unfortunately, these changes will make it more difficult for at least some immigrants to successfully become U.S. Citizens.

As you may be aware the naturalization test consists of two components. The first is English proficiency – applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency as determined by their ability to read, write, speak and understand English. The second requirement is the civics examination – an oral examination requiring applicants to demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government.

As part of the civics examination a USCIS Officer asks the applicant up to 10 of 100 possible civics questions. To successfully pass the examination applicants are required to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly.

With the new revisions applying to applications filed on or after December 1, 2020, USCIS will increase the number of civics test questions that will be asked from 10 to 20 and applicants will be required to answer 12 questions (instead of 6) correctly in order to pass.

What exactly do the new changes include?

The USCIS policy alert published on November 13, 2020 entitled “Civics Educational Requirement for Purposes of Naturalization,” outlines the changes that will be made to the naturalization civics examination beginning December 1, 2020.

Changes to the Naturalization Examination 

Apply to naturalization applications filed on or after Dec 1. 2020.*

  • Increases the general bank of civics test questions from 100 to 128 (the possible questions that may be asked)
  • Increases the number of test questions that will be asked for the exam to 20 (from 10)
  • Increases the number of correct answers needed to pass the civics test to 12 (from 6)
  • The test score required to pass (60 percent correct) will not change

Applicants with special consideration aged 65 or older

  • USCIS will continue to administer 10 test questions (with 6 correct answers required) to applicants who qualify for special consideration because they are age 65 or older and have been lawful permanent residents for at least 20 years
  • Officers will ask all 20 test items (or 10 to special consideration applicants), even if the applicant achieves a passing score

When will the revisions become effective?

USCIS will begin to administer the newly revised examination to U.S. legal permanent residents who file for citizenship through naturalization on or after December 1, 2020.

Those who file their naturalization applications prior to December 1, 2020 will not be subject to the new examination.

Applicable Test for Applications Filed On or After December 1, 2020

(the effective date of the new revisions)

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.

Passing the New Civics Test

An applicant passes the civics test if he or she provides a correct answer or provides an alternative phrasing of the correct answer for at least 12 of the 20 questions.

Failing the New Civics Test

An applicant fails the civics test if he or she provides an incorrect answer or fails to respond to 9 out of the 20 questions from the standardized test form.

The Takeaway

Applicants who are eligible to apply for naturalization should file their applications prior to December 1, 2020 to avoid the more challenging civics examination. This means that your naturalization application must be received by USCIS prior to December 1, 2020.

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