Green Card holders interested in becoming United States Citizens should be aware that USCIS is planning on revising the civics test as part of a new decennial review and revision process. Under this plan, the citizenship test will be reviewed every ten years and if necessary, revised to ensure accuracy, timeliness, as well integrity. The test was last revised in 2009.
Just what form these revisions will take has yet to be determined. The working group charged with examining the current test still has to complete its review. Once the review and proposed revisions are formalized, there will an extensive pilot period to test efficacy before the changes are rolled out and implemented nationwide. The purport of the redesign is "to create a meaning, comprehensive, uniform, and efficient test that will assess applicant's knowledge and understanding of U.S. history, government, principles, and values." Unfortunately, while all this sounds good in theory, no concrete details have been released. Furthermore, the redesign is not necessarily limited to the history test of the naturalization process. The memorandum announcing the revisions indicates that the working group will also consider potential changes to the English speaking portion of the test as well as reading and writing components.
The implications of any changes to the English speaking and comprehension test are enormous. Unlike documenting whether someone has answered six out of ten civics questions correctly, evaluating whether someone speaks and understands English is a much more subjective test, subject to interpretation and discretion. While it would be unfair to critique any revisions without actually seeing them, news of change in this climate sound ominous. Some even suspect that these changes are nothing more than veiled attempts to make the citizenship process more formidable under the guise of efficiency and modernization. In any case, at least with immigration, history bears out that any nationwide changes invariably introduce confusion and wildly disparate results amongst different jurisdictions. It will take time to work out the kinks as well as reveal what changes are incompatible or inefficient, however well-intentioned. In the meantime, countless people may suffer through the process, as personnel learn the ropes and the protocol standardized and uniformly applied. Given the unpredictable nature and questionable motives behind this new push, permanent residents who are eligible may want to strongly consider applying now before any new changes go into effect.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.