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USCIS Citizenship Education: Resources and Initiatives

Promoting Citizenship Awareness and Civic Integration Among Permanent Residents

Introduction

The USCIS Office of Citizenship promotes instruction and training about the rights and responsibilities of United States citizenship. We provide permanent residents with information and other tools to help them successfully integrate into American civic culture. Established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Office of Citizenship:

  • Develops educational resources and initiatives for immigrants and immigrant-serving organizations;
  • Builds community capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship; and
  • Promotes the importance of U.S. citizenship.

See the four sections below for more information.


Naturalization Test

During fiscal years (FY) 2004-2013, 7.1 million lawful permanent residents became U.S. citizens. In FY 2013, USCIS naturalized almost 780,000 new Americans.

To become a naturalized citizen of the United States, an applicant must meet all eligibility requirements, including (with limited exceptions) the ability to read, write, and speak words ordinarily used in English and to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government.

Applicants meet these requirements by passing an English language and civics test. To ensure the naturalization process and testing requirements are fair, meaningful, and transparent, USCIS redesigned the naturalization test to achieve two basic outcomes:

  • A uniform and consistent testing experience for all applicants; and
  • A civics test that can effectively assess an applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history and government.

The redesigned version, mandatory for citizenship applicants since October 1, 2009, emphasizes the founding principles of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Along with this redesign, USCIS introduced new training requirements for its officers. All new USCIS officers now receive training on test administration, and all officers who administer the test must pass annual refresher training on test administration and scoring guidelines.

Naturalization Outcomes

As a final step in the test redesign process, USCIS conducted a series of records studies to evaluate applicant performance.

  • The research analyzed pass rate data for the old naturalization test (from FY 2008) and new naturalization test (from FY 2010) as well as pass rate data from a previous records study (from FY 2003 and 2004).
  • Based on the Records Study Comparison Report, applicant performance has improved with the introduction of the new test and is generally consistent with the pass rate reflected in USCIS’ ongoing analysis of internal case management data.
  • Cumulative internal case management data show that 91 percent of all applicants who have taken the new test since October 1, 2009, have passed.

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Citizenship Preparation Resources and Public Education

The Office of Citizenship has developed a variety of educational initiatives to promote awareness of the naturalization process, the naturalization test, and the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. Test study materials promote civic learning and build a strong foundation for successful integration into American civic culture.

These initiatives include:

  • Citizenship Resource Center
    This centralized Web resource provides learning materials to help permanent residents prepare for the naturalization process.
  • Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship
    In May 2012, USCIS and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History released Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship. This Web-based learning tool is designed to help immigrants prepare for the civics portion of the naturalization test.
    • Preparing for the Oath is organized into themes related to U.S. history, government, and civics. It includes a short video and self-test on each of the 100 civics questions that USCIS officers may ask when administering the naturalization test.
    • Many questions prompt users to explore an artifact from the museum’s collection or include interactive learning activities.
    • A section for teachers provides materials and strategies to use Preparing for the Oath in the classroom.
  • America’s Literacy Directory
    In 2010, USCIS partnered with the U.S. Department of Education to enhance the Web-based America’s Literacy Directory. It now includes a prominent citizenship class search function and an expanded list of program offerings. More than 1,500 new citizenship programs have been added to this database, which allows applicants to use their ZIP code to search for nearby programs.
  • Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Initiative
    Launched in May 2011, this initiative:
    • Raises awareness of the rights, responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship;
    • Encourages eligible permanent residents to consider the benefits of U.S. citizenship; and
    • Increases understanding of the naturalization process.
  • Naturalization Information Sessions
    Since August 2009, USCIS field offices have partnered with local organizations to host free information sessions that provide an overview of the naturalization process, the naturalization test, and free USCIS educational resources. More than 2,800 sessions have been held across the country so far, attended by about 128,000 people.

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Building Community Capacity to Prepare Immigrants for Citizenship

Supporting organizations that help prepare immigrants for citizenship is critical to the mission of USCIS and the Office of Citizenship. Highlights in this area include:

  • Citizenship and Integration Grant Program
    On Sept. 18, 2014, USCIS announced the award of nearly $10 million in fiscal year 2014 grants designed to promote immigrant civic integration and prepare permanent residents for citizenship. Since the creation of the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program in fiscal year 2009, USCIS has awarded a total of $43 million through 222 grants to immigrant-serving organizations. These organizations have provided citizenship preparation services to more than 93,000 permanent residents in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Civics and Citizenship Toolkit
    The Civics and Citizenship Toolkit contains a collection of civics and citizenship resources for immigrants and the organizations that serve them. Since October 2007, USCIS has distributed more than 48,000 copies to immigrant-serving organizations. In May 2011, USCIS released a revised edition of this free resource.
  • Training Seminars for Citizenship Instructors
    USCIS offers free training seminars for adult educators, volunteers, and teachers. These seminars are designed to enhance the skills needed to teach U.S. history, civics, and the naturalization process to immigrant students. Since October 2007, the Office of Citizenship has held citizenship education training seminars for more than 10,500 participants.
  • Technical Resources for Organizations that Serve Immigrants
    In addition to in-person trainings, USCIS offers several other resources to help program managers enhance citizenship programs and to help instructors better prepare students for the naturalization process and citizenship:
  • Citizenship Outreach Partnerships
    USCIS provides information and resources to state and local governments to help facilitate outreach and engagement, training and technical assistance, and citizenship education in communities. USCIS’ current partners include: the City of Los Angeles, CA; the City of Chicago, IL; and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. USCIS also collaborates with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to provide information, educational materials, and training resources on immigration and citizenship to local libraries.

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Promoting the Importance of Citizenship

USCIS celebrates the importance of citizenship, the achievements of new Americans, and the outstanding contributions of immigrants by:

  • Holding special naturalization ceremonies at historic landmarks;
  • Providing practical information to new citizens about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; and
  • Recognizing Outstanding Americans by Choice.

Highlights in this area include:

  • Collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS)
    On April 21, 2010, USCIS and NPS renewed their official partnership to enhance the meaning and stature of naturalization ceremonies. USCIS and NPS first signed the agreement in September 2006 to connect America’s newest citizens to its national parks. USCIS has coordinated special naturalization ceremonies at many of the 400 NPS sites around the country, including eleven events as part of USCIS’ 2014 Constitution Week celebration.
  • U.S. Citizenship Welcome Packet
    n November 2010, USCIS began distributing the U.S. Citizenship Welcome Packet to individuals who take the Oath of Allegiance each year. The packet provides useful information to help new citizens prepare to fully exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, along with practical tips on applying for a U.S. passport, updating Social Security records, registering to vote, and getting involved in their local community.
  • Outstanding American by Choice Initiative
    Launched in February 2006, the Outstanding American by Choice initiative recognizes the significant contributions and achievements of naturalized citizens. More than 100 men and women have been recognized to date, including:
    • Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State;
    • Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner;
    • Franklin Chang Diaz, former NASA astronaut; and
    • Indra K. Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo.

To learn more about the USCIS Office of Citizenship’s educational programs and initiatives, please visit the Citizenship Resource Center at www.uscis.gov/citizenship.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/24/2014