Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

In general, a naturalization applicant must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage. An applicant must also demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and principles and form of government of the United States (civics). These are the English and civics requirements for naturalization. [1] 

B. Background

Prior to 1906, an applicant was not required to know English, history, civics, or understand the principles of the constitution to naturalize. If the court determined the applicant was a “thoroughly law-abiding and industrious man, of good moral character,” the applicant became a U.S. citizen. [2] As far back as 1908, the former Immigration Service and the Courts determined that a person could not establish the naturalization requirement of showing an attachment to the Constitution unless he or she had some understanding of its provisions. [3] 

In 1940, Congress made amendments to include an English language requirement and certain exemptions based on age and residence, as well as a provision for questioning applicants on their understanding of the principles of the Constitution. [4] In 1994, Congress enacted legislation providing an exception to the naturalization educational requirements for applicants who cannot meet the requirements because of a medical disability. Congress also amended the exceptions to the English requirement based on age and residence that are current today. [5] 

On October 1, 2008, USCIS implemented a redesigned English and civics test. With this redesigned test, USCIS ensures that all applicants have the same testing experience and have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of English and civics.

C. Legal Authorities


1. [^] See INA 312. See 8 CFR 312.

2. [^] See In re Rodriguez, 81 F. 337 (W.D. Tex. 1897).

3. [^] See In re Meakins, 164 F. 334 (E.D. Wash. 1908). See In re Vasicek, 271 F. 326 (E.D. Mo. 1921). 

4. [^] See the Nationality Act of 1940, Pub. L. 76-853, 54 Stat. 1137 (October 14, 1940).

5. [^] See the Immigration and Nationality Technical Corrections Act of 1994, Pub. L. 103-416 (October 25, 1994).

INA 312, 8 CFR 312 - Educational requirements for naturalization

INA 316, 8 CFR 316 - General requirements for naturalization

INA 332, 8 CFR 332 - Naturalization administration, executive functions

INA 335, 8 CFR 335 - Investigation of applicants, examination of applications

INA 336, 8 CFR 336 - Hearings on denials of applications for naturalization


No appendices available at this time.

Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

May 21, 2020

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk between the AFM and the Policy Manual.



Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

October 08, 2019

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].



POLICY ALERT - Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy Guidance

January 07, 2013

USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.


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