November 29, 2006
New Citizenship Test Questions Proposed: Pilot Test Winter 2006-2007
Beginning this winter, the Department of Homeland Security will be
test piloting a new citizenship test that will center on American ideals
rather than on historical facts. Boston and nine other cities will be
administering a new exam that will replace fact-based questions such as,
“What color are the stars on our flag?” with questions centered more on
concepts such as American democracy and freedom.
The specific questions that may be asked on the new tests have not been
made public as of this date. While the content will be changing, the
format will remain the same. The test will continue to be an oral test
conducted in English, will have 10 questions with six correct answers
earning a passing grade. Since it is a pilot, participants can elect to
retake the regular test, if they should fail the new test. The questions
are expected to be based on concepts found in the nation’s founding
documents, such as the Bill of Rights and/or Constitution.
Proponents of the new test feel that it will better show an
understanding and sharing of American values and ideals and give a
better gauge of the level of assimilation or attachment of an immigrant
to the United States. Supporters feel that the new test is necessary
because citizens should subscribe to a set of shared values. It appears
that Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia also are considering similar
changes to their tests.
Critics of the new test, such as immigrant advocacy groups, feel that
these new types of questions raise the standards to a level unattainable
for immigrants. Many immigrants will be unfamiliar with the historical
concepts of our founding fathers. They are also wary that this change,
occurring at the same time as a proposed review by the U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an increase of the $400 citizenship
application fees, will have a negative effect on immigrants becoming
eligible for citizenship.
Greenberg Traurig will keep you informed as changes become available.