|U.S. Citizenship Test to Change|
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) has announced plans to make the first changes in decades to the English, government, and United States history tests administered to applicants for U.S. citizenship. The first phase of the two-stage pilot program will focus on the English language portion of the test.
"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. During the trial period, the applicants 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 locations.
Basic Understanding of English Required
To 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.
Standardization is a Goal
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 office. [See: Sample Citizenship Quiz]
"Whether youre 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.
What Happened to the INS?
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) was created on March 1, 2003, when the Department of Homeland Security took over control of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). All former services and enforcement missions of the INS and Border Patrol are now being handled by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. [See: INS Absorbed by Homeland Security]