New test for US citizenship has become more difficult for immigrants. Is it true?

The naturalization procedure in the United States was already quite complicated. Its final stage was the English language and civics test in the United States.

December 1, 2020 in force test changes entered… Now a person who wants to obtain US citizenship needs to answer correctly at least 12 out of 20 questions. Some of them reveal controversial or specific features of the history and statehood of the United States, such as the Vietnam War or the slave system.

And when you consider that there are only two attempts to pass the test, many immigrants believe that the changes can significantly complicate obtaining US citizenship. Is it so? Let’s look at this material.

How to become a US citizen

The very procedure for obtaining US citizenship is painted literally in the smallest steps. USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) prepared list of 18 items, the answers to which will show whether a person can apply for American citizenship or not.

There are also formal clauses like “I have never defected from the US military” or “I am a person of high moral character.”

But the basic requirements are as follows:

  • Age at least 18 years old
  • Green card availability
  • Residence in the United States for at least five years (in some cases, at least three years)

If the person meets the requirements, you need to submit an N-400 application and pay taxes. After the bureaucratic part, you will be assigned a date interview with a USCIS specialist is a mandatory part of the process. In the process, basic knowledge of the English language and the so-called citizenship test are checked.

There is nothing complicated in English. Nobody will demand perfect grammar knowledge and a large vocabulary. You just need to understand the language in general terms, be able to communicate at the everyday level and read in English. Even a strong accent is not a hindrance.

The Citizenship Test is the second part of the interview. And now she just changed for the first time since 2008.

Why do you need a civilian test and what is it all about?

With the help of the Civics test, the center’s specialist checks whether a person understands the fundamentals of the US government and his responsibilities to the country.

Now, during the civil test, 20 questions are asked, of which at least 12 must be answered correctly. All applicants for citizenship who applied after December 1, 2020 inclusively, will pass the new version of the test, which in total consists of 128 questions against 100 in the previous version.

Experts added 28 new questions and partially changed old ones. AND according to many immigrants, the test is now much more difficult.

What has changed in the new test?

At first, 18 questions were removed or paraphrased from the test, which could be answered with one or a couple of words.

It is interesting here that in the 2008 test it was necessary to know the names of historical documents. And in the 2020 test – the reasons and results of their adoption. In fact, it has become more difficult to find the answer using elementary logic.

For example:

2008 test:

What did the Declaration of Independence do? – What did the Declaration of Independence do?
announced our independence (from Great Britain) – announced our independence (from Great Britain)
declared our independence (from Great Britain) – declared our independence (from Great Britain)
said that the United States is free (from Great Britain) – indicated that the United States is now free (from Great Britain)

Test 2020:

Why is the Declaration of Independence important? – Why is the Declaration of Independence important?

  • It says America is free from British control. “She claims America is free of British control.
  • It says all people are created equal. – She claims that all people are created equal.
  • It identifies inherent rights. – It defines innate rights.
  • It identifies individual freedoms. – It defines personal freedoms.

The question remains the same, but its form has changed. Now the question is not “What is the Declaration of Independence?” But “Why is it important?” The correct answer still includes Free America, but now the answer is far less obvious. Plus, new correct answers appear. For the examiner to count the question, you need to name one of them – you do not need to know everything.

The questions that concerned the system of power in the United States (there are 46 of them) remained practically unchanged. Corrected only some of the wording.

For example, earlier applicants were asked to name one of the three branches of the US government, but now all three must be named.

The same is true in matters of citizen rights. In 2008, an immigrant was asked to name one of the oaths he would take when sworn in as a US citizen, and now two must be named. But there are no major changes.

It should be noted that in the 2008 version, some of the questions about the structure of power had to be specially taught. Because the immigrant hardly knows how many people are in the lower house of the US Congress. At the same time, some formulations were changed in order to test a person’s knowledge more fully.

Secondly, As for the block of questions that concerns the history of the United States, there are interesting nuances here.

One of the most controversial questions in which the trap lies is “What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?” (Which group of people was brought to America and sold as slaves?) If you answered “Black people,” you have lost. The only correct answer is “Africans” or “people from Africa” ​​(people from Africa).

In 2020, more questions were added about famous US historical figures. If in the previous version there was one question about Benjamin Franklin, then in the current version there are also questions about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King. Here you will have to, if not in general terms, understand the history of the United States, then at least learn the correct answers to questions.

And in the current version there are more questions about wars and their causes from the point of view of the US state machine. And this is where the main difference between the 2008 and 2020 test is.

In the 2008 version, almost all of the questions were about facts. For example:

Who did the United States fight in World War II? – With whom did the United States fight in World War II?
Japan, Germany, and Italy – Japan, Germany, and Italy.

And in 2020, there were a little more questions about the causes of events:

Why did the United States enter the Vietnam War? – Why did the United States enter the Vietnam War?

  • To stop the spread of communism – To stop the spread of communism.

Moreover, you just need to know the “official” version of the answer. Even if you have a degree in history and you can give a four-hour lecture about the Vietnam War, the expert will consider the only correct answer “To stop the spread of communism”.

Thirdly, in the 2020 test, almost all questions related to US geography were removed. Now the immigrant does not need to know which states border on Canada or Mexico, and which oceans wash the country. In the current version, it is enough to know the name of the capital and the place where the Statue of Liberty is located.


Objectively, the 2020 citizenship test hasn’t become much more difficult than the 2008 version.

Yes, the wording of some questions has changed and there are a little more of them. 128 versus 100 in the old version. But there is nothing super complicated about them. A person who has lived in the United States for more than five years will already know most of the answers. Unless questions about the state structure will need to be learned.

Yes, now you have to answer 20 questions, not 10. But the passing score remains unchanged. You need to correctly answer 60% of the questions. Now it is 12 out of 20, and before December 1 it was 6 out of 10. At the same time, given the short nature of the questions, the test time will increase by a maximum of 10-15 minutes.

It is also worth considering that USCIS provides all answers to questions absolutely free, and with a proper desire to obtain citizenship, they can be learned without any problems. The actual difficulty of the test has not changed, but the context raises questions. Therefore, an appeal is already being prepared for the new US president to consider the expediency of such changes.

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