World

New US citizenship test is tougher, with political tilt say immigration experts

MUMBAI: The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has revised its civics test, a mandatory requirement for those who want to become American citizens.
According to the USCIS, applicants who apply for citizenship on or after December 1, 2020, will take the updated oral version of the test. The immigration agency states that the revised test includes more questions that test the applicant’s understanding of US history and civics, in line with the statutory requirements, and covers a variety of topics that provide the applicant with more opportunities to learn about the US as part of the test preparation process. Several immigration experts are of the view that the test is tougher and has political hues.
Indian-born individuals are typically the second largest group to be granted US citizenship. During the twelve-month period ended September 30, 2019, 61,843 Indians were granted US citizenship, which constituted 7.5% of the total number of new citizens during the period. In the previous year, 52,194 Indians (which was 6.85% of the total new citizens) had acquired American citizenship.
The revised test will not change the passing score, which will remain at 60%. Candidates must answer 12 questions correctly, out of 20 in order to pass. In this context, Doug Rand, co-founder, Boundless Immigration, a technology company in the immigration space, has tweeted, “Superficially, the 60% threshold for correct answers is the same. But studying the new 128 (more complicated) questions will be harder than studying the old 100 (more straightforward) questions. And scoring 12 out of 20 will be harder than scoring 6 out of 10.”
He is of the view that the new civics test is unnecessary, unjustified, overly complex and shamelessly ideological. “This is an obvious attempt to throw one more obstacle in front of immigrants legally eligible for US citizenship. The Biden administration can and should immediately restore the current test,” adds Rand.
Applicants who fail the civics test are afforded another opportunity to take it again during a second appointment.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at American Immigration Council, a not-for-profit organisation, agrees that the overall tilt of the new questions are subtly more political than before.
In a series of tweets, he gives various illustrations. “Not all the changes are benign. The answer to ‘Who does a US senator/congressperson represent?’ has been changed from ‘all people of the state’ to ‘citizens of their state.’ That’s a bad change. It’s completely untrue and Trumpian.” The backdrop relating to this question is that President Trump, had sought to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count.
The current guidelines continue for applicants who are 65 years old or older and have at least 20 years of lawful permanent resident status. These applicants will be asked 10 questions and must answer a minimum of six questions correctly in order to pass, explains USCIS.
“USCIS has diligently worked on revising the naturalization (ie: citizenship) test since 2018, relying on input from experts in the field of adult education to ensure that this process is fair and transparent,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “Naturalization allows immigrants to become fully vested members of American society, with the same rights and responsibilities as citizens by birth, and offering a fair test, which prepares naturalization applicants for these responsibilities, is of utmost importance to our agency.”

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