Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03031342 (posted Mar. 13, 2003)"
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Bureau of Citizenship and
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Maria Elena Garcia-Public
Phone: (202) 307-3550
March 13, 2003
BCIS Takes First Step Toward Development of New Citizenship
WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Today, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
(BCIS) announced the launch of a pilot project to standardized the English,
government, and United States history tests administered to citizenship
applicants. The first phase of the two-stage pilot focuses on the English
language portion of the test. The BCIS is working with a professional test
development company on the effort.
“The long-range goal is to devise a test that will be fair, consistent, and
meaningful for naturalization applicants nationwide,” said William R.Yates,
Acting Associate Director for Operations, BCIS. “The priority at the new
Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services is ensuring that we not only meet
but exceed our customers’ expectations and that includes creating a level
playing field for those seeking to become new Americans.”
As part of the English language pilot, consenting citizenship applicants will
be asked to answer one test question at the end of their regularly scheduled
naturalization interview. The pilot will include questions designed to
gauge reading, writing, and speaking skills. The applicant’s
response will not affect the outcome of the interview.
Five cities are slated to participate in this first phase of the
naturalization test pilot - Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Antonio, Atlanta, and
Newark. A BCIS team arrived in Newark today in order to train the officers
who will administer the pilot and brief community-based organizations on the
test redesign effort. Over the next three weeks, the team will travel to
the other designated cities to implement the pilot in those
qualify for U.S. citizenship, applicants must demonstrate a basic understanding
of English, including an ability to read, write, and speak the
language. They must also be able to show that they know the
fundamentals of U.S. history and government.
Currently, citizenship applicants are quizzed on these topics as part of the
naturalization examination interview. The test questions are generally
culled from a lengthy pre-approved list, but there is no standardized testing
format or method for administering the questions. As a result, the test
content and process can vary from officer to officer and from office to
“Whether you’re a citizenship applicant in Sacramento or
San Antonio, you should have the same set of expectations about what kind of
test you will experience,” said Gerri Ratliff, the BCIS project director for the
test redesign effort. “Not only is it a matter of fairness, but it will
also help ensure that applicants come into the test fully prepared.”
The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform headed by former Congresswoman
Barbara Jordan recommended that the naturalization testing process be
standardized and the content be revamped to make it more relevant.
The goal is to have a new naturalization test in place by late 2004.