Naturalization Ceremony, Grand Canyon National Park, by Grand Canyon NPS (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

As we celebrate Citizenship Day, a Citizenship Test Working Group of immigration and education experts has delivered the following recommendations to the Biden administration for reducing barriers to naturalization. The recommendations in our letter focus on the English language requirement of the Citizenship test.

September 17, 2021

Director Ur Jaddou
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security
20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20529–2140


Dear Director Jaddou:

On Citizenship Day 2021, the undersigned 9 members of the Citizenship Test Working Group, a subset of…

Applicants take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, Yellowstone National Park (Public domain)

Excerpts of comments submitted today to USCIS re barriers to naturalization:

According to 8 CFR Section 312.1 (Literacy requirements for naturalization), an applicant for naturalization should be able to “demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language.”

The ability to speak English is further defined as follows:

Literacy examination — (1) Verbal skills. The ability of an applicant to speak English will be determined by a designated immigration officer from the applicant’s answers to questions normally asked in the course of the examination.”

And in…

By Jackson Lanier — Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

January 2021 was already going to be a time of transitions for programs that prepare immigrants to become naturalized citizens. In addition to updating the answers to some civics test questions to reflect recent election results, we need to prepare for a transition to a new version of the civics test that poses challenges for our students and programs. And then came the January 6 attack on the U.S. …

“Statue of Liberty” by Alberto Cruz CC0 1.0

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a significant revision of the civics test that immigrants take in order to become naturalized citizens. The revised version will be required for all applicants with a filing receipt date of December 1, 2020, and after. The reading, writing, and speaking portions of the test remain the same, but the civics test of U.S. history and government knowledge is substantially changed, lengthier, and arguably more difficult.

New test item content: More difficult

The content of the new civics exam is a combination of current questions (some exactly the same; some modified) and new questions related to U.S. history…

Bill Bliss

Bill Bliss is a language and civics educator at Language & Communication Associates in Massachusetts.

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