Biden Makes It Easier to Naturalize

By David North on July 6, 2021

While conservative forces, such as the majority of the Supreme Court and many GOP-dominated state legislatures, have attracted much attention as they make it harder to vote, the Biden administration has been quietly making it easier to naturalize, expanding the potential voting population a bit in the process.

The vote-discouraging process will affect millions, the naturalization changes will touch a much smaller population.

Some of the liberalizing changes in the citizenship-acquisition process, announced recently by USCIS, are so narrow that they have only a tiny impact, such as a decision to make it easier for a non-citizen veteran of the U.S. military living outside the U.S. to naturalize. There are not a lot of non-citizen veterans, and most of them live in the States.

Others are more obvious, such as the USCIS decision to go back to an even easier naturalization test than the one adopted by the Trump administration some months ago, a subject to which we will return.

And, if you read the really fine print, you will see that USCIS is processing citizenship applications much faster in the first few months of the Biden administration than in the last months of the Trump administration.

The Biden people are not announcing that last development – you must compare two different USCIS statistical documents to get the picture. I have seen nothing in print about this matter.

The USCIS statement on new naturalization processes cited above includes this sentence:

USCIS processed over 180,000 naturalization applications between March and April 2021.

I assume that this means that 180,000 applications were decided in this two month period. That’s a rate of 90,000 a month.

What the press release does not do is to establish any benchmark for the 90,000 a month rate. One has to look at tiny type in a regular report from the agency whose unfriendly format we have criticized in the past (it has 424 cells in it when it covers three months, and many more when the full year is reported). This is most recently the “Number of Service-wide Forms By Quarter, Form Status, and Processing Time Fiscal Year 2021, Quarter 1.”

On this table one finds that in the last three months of Calendar Year 2020 (which were the first three months of Fiscal Year 2021) USCIS was making decisions (mostly favorable) on about 50,000 naturalization cases a month. A move from 50,000 a month to 90,000 a month is an 80 percent increase, a very substantial change.

As for the citizenship test, one should bear in mind that all the questions and all the correct answers are a matter of public record which should make passing the test a breeze, unless one’s English is limited. The Trump-era test had a few more of these open-book potential questions, and demanded that a few more of them should be asked. Now it has been eliminated and the earlier, even easier test has been re-instated. For more on the Trump test, see here.