The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency recently announced that it updated the citizenship test. Already used since Dec. 1, 2020, it now has 128 civic items to study and includes 20 questions instead of the previous 10. To pass the new test, the applicant must answer at least 12 questions correctly, which is the same pass rate of 60% as before.
Along with the already mentioned expansion to 20 questions, some questions were removed. For example, there are no longer any geography questions in the test. The new questions include: Name all three federal government branches (previous applicants only named one). It also changes the wording of an answer about U.S. Senators – they represent “citizens in their state,” instead of the previous “all people of the state.” This latter change has drawn criticism for its accuracy.
Why the big deal?
Answering six questions right from a shorter list may be considered easier by some. Policy experts also point out that the additional questions mean the new test is up to three times longer (totaling hundreds of thousands of more minutes) to verify as correct, which is a big deal for an understaffed agency. This extra time will also create an application backlog.
It should be noted that 840,000 immigrants passed the test in 2019. The naturalization process’s average time has grown from less than six months to more than ten months in 2019, but it is now between 14.5 and 25 months in Houston.
A more well-rounded experience
According to a spokesperson at the Citizenship and Immigration Services, the new test is on a “variety of topics that provide the applicant with a more well-rounded testing experience.” The agency also said that applicants 65 years of age or older who have been in the country for at least 20 years would be provided with special consideration – they will study fewer topics and get a 10 question version of the new test.