Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Biden rolls back Trump’s tougher citizenship test

Story at a glance

  • Select applicants for U.S. citizenship will be able to take the 2008 citizenship exam as opposed to the updated 2020 version.
  • Both tests require a 60 percent passing rate, but the 2020 version includes more questions.

President Biden’s latest move toward a less stringent immigration system will feature a change in the required civic examination citizenship applicants must take.

Announced in a Policy Alert on Monday, the civics examination requirement implemented in December 2020 will switch to an earlier version implemented in 2008. The 2020 civic exam featured 128 possible questions on the exam. With Biden’s new order, it will switch to the 100 possible questions seen in the 2008 version.

Some content will be altered as well. The policy alert did not specify what these changes would be.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website has study materials designated for both the 2020 and 2008 tests. Both are oral examinations, where a USCIS officer will ask an applicant a various amount of questions. The 2008 examination features 10 questions from a list of 100 questions, whereas the 2020 version includes 20 questions from a list of 128 possible questions.

Whether an applicant chooses the 2008 or 2020 examination, they will need a 60 percent score to pass. 

“Multiple commenters noted that there was little advance notice before implementation of the 2020 civics test, which raised concerns about limited time for study and preparation of training materials and resources,” the alert read. “Due to the comments and in keeping with the Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, USCIS will revert to the 2008 test.”

Officials at the USCIS will administer a 2008 version of the civics exam to applicants who filed for naturalization before Dec.1, 2020, and those who file on or after March 1, 2021.

Applicants who filed for citizenship within these dates will be given the choice as to which version of the civics test to take.

This follows the Biden administration beginning to process asylum cases that were stalled during the Trump presidency under the Migrant Protection Protocols.