Biden Administration Cancels Trump-Era Version of Citizenship Test

February 22, 2021 Updated: February 22, 2021

The Biden administration is canceling the use of a version of the U.S. citizenship test introduced by the Trump administration.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is dropping the 2020 version of the test, which critics claimed was too hard, and will revert to the version developed in 2008.

“We determined the 2020 civics test development process, content, testing procedures, and implementation schedule may inadvertently create potential barriers to the naturalization process,” the immigration agency said in a statement.

The action, officials said, is consistent with Biden’s Feb. 2 executive order mandating officials to review regulations and policies and see if any were inconsistent with welcoming and embracing migrants.

That order “directs a comprehensive review of the naturalization process to eliminate barriers and make the process more accessible to all eligible individuals,” USCIS said.

The 2008 test was developed over multiple years with input from more than 150 organizations, according to the agency. People helping develop the test included experts in English as a Second Language, educators, and historians.

Epoch Times Photo
Student Maria Valenzuela, 75, reviews possible test questions with the help of fellow students during a US citizenship test preparation class for immigrants, in Perris, Calif., on June 16, 2016. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

The same agency under President Donald Trump announced late last year a new version of the test, which is given to people seeking to become a U.S. citizen.

“USCIS revised the civics test as part of a decennial update to ensure that it remains an instrument that comprehensively assesses applicants’ knowledge of American history, government, and civic values,” it said at the time.

Officials said the updated version, which included more questions on U.S. history and civics, was developed with experts in the field of adult education.

The percentage required to pass the test, 60 percent, didn’t change. But the number of questions did: the older test asked applicants 10 questions, while the newer one had them answer 20. Applicants taking the 2020 version were also told to study 128 questions, up from 100.

Prospective citizens who filed for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, and before March 1, can choose whether to take the 2008 version or the 2020 version.

After March 1, all applicants will take the older version.

While some cheered the reversion, others criticized it.

“The Trump administration sought to update the civics test to reflect higher standards of citizenship. The Biden administration intends to ignore these suggestions and is not providing an adequate explanation for the rollback,” Matthew Tragesser, press secretary at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told The Epoch Times via email. “It is unclear what reverting to the 2008 version does to advance merit-based immigration in this country.”

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