Applicants for naturalization may need to take some more time to study for their U.S. citizenship examinations.
The U.S. Department of Citizenship & Immigration Services, the agency that handles naturalization applications, announced that the number of civics and history questions on the exam increased on Dec. 1.
The number of questions evaluating applicants’ knowledge of history, the U.S. government system and civics increased from 10 to 20, with applicants required to answer at least 12 correctly.
The agency reviews the test every 10 years with an eye toward possibly making revisions. The new test was administered for the first time last summer in a pilot test.
The citizenship exam will continue to be administered in Spanish to applicants who are 65 years or older and who have had permanent legal residency in the United States for at last 20 years. It will be given in English to all other applicants.
A guide for the new exam can be seen on the USCIS website, in the section titled Citizenship Resources Center.
Meanwhile, USCIA announced that it has made revisions to its policy manual to clarify that applicants are not eligible for citizenship if they were previously admitted as permanent U.S. residents under illegal circumstances. Spelled out as ineligible for citizenship is anyone who gained residency through error, through fraud or otherwise without compliance with the law.
The head of a nonprofit organization in San Luis, Ariz., that helps people apply for residency and naturalization, predicted the changes will discourage would-be applicants for citizenship.
“I see it as a way to make it difficult for them to pass the exam and to discourage permanent residents from applying for citizenship, since not only did the number of questions on the exam increase, but they also announced they will revise the conditions under which (applicants) are approved for residency,” said Iveth Lopez, director of Pueblo Immigration.
She said the announcement could imply the agency will be reviewing all previously approved applications for residency to determine if any were improperly granted.