One of the requirements to become a U.S. citizen is to pass the civics test during the U.S. citizenship interview. The current one hundred (100) civic questions were created in 2008 and have been used for the past twelve (12) years. USCIS refers to these as the 2008 version of the civic test. In July 2019, USCIS announced that it is revising the current naturalization test with improvements. The goal is to create a meaningful uniform and efficient test that will assess applicant’s knowledge and understanding of U.S. history, government and values.
USCIS will administer the 2020 version of the civics test and the 2008 version of the civic test at the same time for a certain period of time. What version an applicant takes will depend on when the applicant filed the N-400, Application for Naturalization.
What has not changed for the N-400 interview?
- The naturalization test has two main components: the English test and the Civics test. The English portion has not changed as applicants will still need to demonstrate an understanding of the English language including the ability to read, write, speak and understand basic English.
- For the reading section, an applicant must be able to read out loud one of the three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to read in English. For the writing section, an applicant must write one of three sentences correctly to demonstrate an ability to write. Finally, an USCIS officer will determine an applicant’s ability to speak and understand English during the interview by reviewing the N-400 application and asking the applicant related questions.
What has changed for the N-400 interview?
- Currently, in the 2008 version, there is a set of 100 questions that an applicant will need to study. During the interview, the USCIS officer will ask an applicant to answer 10 out of the 100 civic questions. The applicant must answer six questions correctly to pass the current 2008 version of the civics test.
- The 2020 version increases the set of questions to 128. During the interview, the USCIS officer will ask the applicant to answer 20 of the 128 civics questions. Now, an applicant must answer 12 questions correctly to pass the 2020 version of the civics test.
- If an applicant is 65 years old or older and they have been a permanent resident for over 20 years, they may be eligible for an exemption from the English test and can take the civics test in the language of their choice. In addition, an applicant would only need to study twenty (20) questions out of the 100 or 128 questions depending on the version. Either way, USCIS officer will only ask the applicant to answer ten (10) out of the twenty (20) civics questions. An applicant must answer six out of ten correctly to pass the civics test.
- If an applicant submits their application before December 1, 2020, the applicant will take the 2008 version of the civics test even if their interview is after December 1, 2020.
- If an applicant submits their application or after December 1, 2020, the applicant will take the 2020 version of the civics test.
What if I fail the naturalization civics test?
- Applicants are given two opportunities to pass the naturalization test, if an applicant fails any part of their test for their first interview, they will be retested for only the portion of the test that they failed between sixty (60) and ninety (90) days from the date of their initial interview.
- If an applicant failed a second interview, they will have to start their application all over again. This is why it is important to study and prepare so that an applicant passes the first time.
The New Citizenship Test Questions Are More Complex
- Some of the questions have been made more difficult.
- For example, while applicants previously may have asked to identify one of the branches of government, they may now be asked to identify all three branches of government.
- These significant changes may drive up backlogs and make the citizenship process more difficult.