Salud Carbajal | Credit: Courtesy of Salud Carbajal's Office

As part of the Biden administration’s latest efforts to roll back former president Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the 2008 version of the naturalization civics test would be restored on March 1, three months after a modified version of the exam was enacted. 

The newer citizenship exam, which was implemented on December 1, 2020, by the prior administration, increased the total number of questions from 100 to 128 and included “more questions that test the applicant’s understanding of U.S. history and civics in line with the statutory requirements.” 

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Under President Joe Biden’s directive to reassess immigration guidelines, however, the federal agency determined that “the 2020 civics test development process, content, testing procedures, and implementation schedule may inadvertently create potential barriers to the naturalization process,” and that all applicants filing for citizenship on or after March 1, 2021, will take the 2008 civics test. 

Prospective applicants who filed for the exam between December 1 and March 1 will be permitted to take either the 2008 civics test or the 2020 civics test, and the newer version will be permanently eliminated on April 19, 2021. 

Rep. Salud Carbajal, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was 5 years old, welcomed the decision to revert to the previous version of the exam, explaining that the assessment was developed over several years with input from experts and has been used by both Democratic and Republican administrations. 

“Immigrants spent the entire Trump presidency under attack. The Trump administration’s decision to change the civics test to be longer and more difficult was one move in a long string of anti-immigrant policies,” said Carbajal, a Democrat who represents California’s 24th congressional district, including all of Santa Barbara County. “I’m glad to once again have a president who treats immigrants with respect.”

“The day I became a U.S. citizen was one of the proudest days of my life,” he continued. “I’m hopeful this change will give more immigrants, who came to this country in search of a better life and a shot at the American dream, the chance to obtain their citizenship without facing unnecessary barriers.”

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