USCIS Citizenship Education: Resources and Initiatives
The USCIS Office of Citizenship promotes instruction and training about the rights and responsibilities of U.S. 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 and Outcomes
- Citizenship Preparation Resources and Public Education
- Building Community Capacity to Prepare Immigrants for Citizenship
- Promoting the Importance of Citizenship
Over 4.2 million people naturalized in the United States between fiscal years (FYs) 2009-2014. On average, nearly 710,000 individuals naturalized each year in the FY 2009-2014 period.
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 that the naturalization process and testing requirements are fair, meaningful, and transparent, USCIS redesigned the naturalization test in 2009 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 citizenship test emphasizes the founding principles of American democracy as well as the rights and responsibilities of U.S. 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.
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.
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. There have been more than 16 million unique visitors to the Citizenship Resource Center since it launched in September 2010.
- The site contains tools for educators such as lesson plans, promising practices, and supplemental classroom materials.
- There are resources to support communities and community-based organizations. You will find information on the USCIS grant program, resources for municipal governments and libraries, and a variety of materials for program development.
- Applicants will find interactive learning activities to prepare for the English and civics portions of the naturalization test. There are also translated versions of several preparation tools for those eligible to take the civics test in their native language.
- 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.
- Class Locator
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. Organizations can add their program to America’s Literacy Directory.
- Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Campaign
- 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 3,700 sessions have been held across the country so far, attended by about 168,000 people.
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. 17, 2015, USCIS announced the award of nearly $10 million in fiscal year 2015 grants designed to promote immigrant civic integration and prepare permanent residents for citizenship. Since the creation of the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program in FY 2009, USCIS has awarded a total of $53 million through 262 grants to immigrant-serving organizations. These organizations have provided citizenship preparation services to more than 130,600 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 41,700 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 12,000 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:
- EL/Civics Online
A free four-part online training module to help educators incorporate English literacy and civics (EL/Civics) content into their adult English as a second language (ESL) classrooms.
- Guide to the Adult Citizenship Education Content Standards and Foundation Skills: A Framework for Developing a Comprehensive Curriculum
This guide provides content and progress standards for the pre-interview, interview and iest, and post-interview phases of the naturalization process. It assists program administrators and teachers in developing a citizenship curriculum and thematic lessons, choosing textbooks, and creating effective learning activities.
- Understanding Key Concepts Found in Form N-400, Application for Naturalization: A Guide for Adult Citizenship Teachers
This guide divides Form N-400 knowledge into eight key concepts: naming conventions, addresses, family relationships, employment and schooling, duration of time, have been/have you ever/were you ever constructions, memberships and associations, and promises and oaths. It explains how each key concept relates to the form and offers sample classroom activities and materials designed to help students master each concept.
- The Professional Development Guide for Adult Citizenship Educators
This guide helps adult citizenship education program administrators and teachers in identifying instructional domains and establishing a system of professional development for adult citizenship educators.
- Expanding ESL, Civics, and Citizenship Education in Your Community—A Start-Up Guide
A “how-to” manual offering recommendations to help organizations design ESL and citizenship programs for immigrants.
- Elements of Program Quality for Adult Citizenship Education
A document describing the key components of a high-quality ESL and citizenship instruction program. Program administrators and teachers can use these elements of program quality when designing, enhancing, or evaluating their adult citizenship education programs.
- Adult Citizenship Education Strategies for Volunteers
Eight short modules teaching basic strategies for volunteers to help applicants prepare for the naturalization interview and test in adult citizenship education classrooms or other learning environments.
- Tip Sheets for Adult Citizenship Educators
Tip sheets providing instructors with basic educational strategies to prepare students for the naturalization test.
- EL/Civics Online
- 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. For more information about USCIS partnerships, visit the Citizenship Outreach Partnerships page. 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.
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 September 17, 2015, 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 on the rim of the Grand Canyon, on the Civil War battlefield at Vicksburg National Military Park, at the foot of the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial, and at several events as part of USCIS’ 2015 Constitution Week celebration.
- U.S. Citizenship Welcome Packet
In 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.