Concerns are rising among aspiring immigrants in the United States as the authorities plan to modify the citizenship test, potentially hindering their dreams of becoming US citizens. While the changes are yet to be implemented, individuals with lower levels of English proficiency may face increased challenges. The naturalization test, a vital step towards citizenship, is mandatory for those seeking legal permanent residency.
Former President Donald Trump made the test more difficult to pass in 2020. However, when President Joe Biden assumed office, the citizenship test was reverted to its previous version, last updated in 2008. In December, US authorities confirmed that the test was due for an update after 15 years, with the new version expected to be introduced late next year.
The proposed changes by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services include the addition of a speaking section to assess applicants’ English skills. Officers would present photos depicting ordinary scenarios and request verbal descriptions from the applicants. Currently, an officer evaluates an applicant’s speaking ability by asking personal questions during the naturalization interview. However, this process is relatively easier as the applicant has already answered such questions in paperwork, and the answers to personal questions are generally well-known.
Another proposed change aims to transform the civics section on US history and government from oral short-answer format to multiple-choice questions. Experts suggest that the new test would demand a more extensive knowledge base, making it more challenging.
In December, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services stated that the proposed changes “reflect current best practices in test design” and aim to standardize the citizenship test. They emphasized conducting a nationwide trial of the proposed changes in 2023, providing opportunities for public feedback.
It is worth mentioning that over 1 million individuals obtained US citizenship in fiscal year 2022, marking one of the highest numbers on record since 1907.