[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 243 (Tuesday, December 19, 2006)]
[Pages 75971-75972]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-21548]



U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

[CIS No. 2397-06; DHS Docket No. USCIS-2006-0060]
RIN 1615-ZA42

Proposed Revised Content for English, U.S. History and Government 
Test for Naturalization Applicants

AGENCY: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: This notice announces that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration 
Services (USCIS) will be conducting a pilot of a redesigned 
naturalization test. Applicants for naturalization must, among other 
things, demonstrate an understanding of the English language, a 
knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and the 
principles and form of government in the United States. Currently the 
naturalization testing process and test content vary in each USCIS 
district office. USCIS plans to revise the naturalization testing 
process to ensure that the naturalization testing process is uniform. 
Thus, a newly redesigned English reading and writing test, as well as 
the U.S. history and government test, will be pilot tested in the 
following, randomly selected sites:
    Albany, New York sub-office; Boston, Massachusetts, District 
Office; Kansas City, Missouri, District Office; Charleston, South 
Carolina sub-office; El Paso, Texas District Office; San Antonio, Texas 
District Office; Miami, Florida District Office; Denver, Colorado 
District Office; Tucson, Arizona Sub-Office; and Yakima, Washington 
Sub-Office. Based on the evaluation of the pilot, the final test will 
be implemented nationally beginning in 2008.

DATES: This notice is effective January 3, 2007.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn L. Thai, Department of Homeland 
Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of 
Citizenship, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW., Room 5200, Washington, DC, 
20529, telephone (202) 272-1721.



    Applicants for naturalization must, among other things, demonstrate 
an understanding of the English language including an ability to speak, 
read, and write, words in ordinary usage. 8 U.S.C. 1423(a)(1); 8 CFR 
312.1(c)(1)-(c)(2). Another requirement is that applicants for 
naturalization must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the 
fundamentals of the history, and the principles and form of government 
in the United States. Under USCIS regulations, an applicant for 
naturalization may satisfy these requirements by passing a citizenship 
test. 8 U.S.C. 1423(a)(2); 8 CFR 312.2(c). Certain applicants who meet 
specific age and length of residence thresholds or who have a physical 
or developmental disability or mental impairment may be exempt from the 
English and civics requirements.
    In 1997, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (the Commission) 
recommended that the former Immigration and Naturalization Service 
(INS) \1\ standardize the naturalization testing process. The 
Commission recommended that the naturalization tests be revised to 
better determine if applicants have a meaningful knowledge of U.S. 
history and government and can communicate in English. Also in 1997, 
the Department of Justice (DOJ) began to reengineer the naturalization 
process. With respect to naturalization testing, DOJ determined that it 
should develop a more uniform approach to testing, including standard 
and meaningful test content, standardized testing instruments and 
protocols, standard scoring, and standard levels of passing. The former 
INS began to redesign the testing process, with a goal of developing a 
new process that would be uniform, fair, and meaningful. The redesigned 
naturalization test USCIS plans to pilot is the culmination of test 
redesign efforts resulting from the Commission's recommendations and 
work in this area since that time.

    \1\ On March 1, 2003, INS transferred from the Department of 
Justice (DOJ) to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), pursuant 
to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-296). INS' 
adjudication functions transferred to USCIS.

Current Testing Procedures

    Currently USCIS District Adjudications Officers (DAOs) examine an 
applicant's English language skills and knowledge of U.S. history and 
government during the naturalization interview. DAOs generally test an 
applicant's ability to understand the English language while verifying 
that the information on his or her application for naturalization (Form 
N-400) is correct. The preferred manner of testing an applicant's 
reading ability by asking the applicant to read up to three sentences 
out loud and they test the applicant's ability to write in English by 
dictating from one to three English sentences to the applicant and 
having that applicant write in English what was dictated. Test content 
for the reading and writing portion of the test is taken from either 
former INS textbooks (United States History--1600 to 1987 (former INS 
publication M-289) and U.S. Government Structure (former INS 
publication M-291)), and from sample sentences in the Guide to 
Naturalization (M-476), which is available on USCIS' Web site, http://www.uscis.gov.
    DAOs test an applicant's knowledge of U.S. history and government 
by asking up to 10 fundamental civics questions. For the U.S. history 
and government test, DAOs ask questions from either former INS 
textbooks or from a list of 96 questions published on the USCIS Web 
site. Each office's testing method may vary in terms of how the test is 
prepared and administered, and how the results are collected and 
evaluated. Test formats also vary among offices, even among offices 
that use the same test methods.

USCIS Plans To Revise the Tests and Testing Procedures

    USCIS has worked with community-based organizations and other 
stakeholders to help ensure that the new test and testing procedures 
are developed and implemented fairly and consistently. USCIS' redesign 
project revises the English and U.S. history test items, and the test 
administration procedures.
    During the redesign process of the U.S. history and government 
test, USCIS considered multiple perspectives, including views of U.S. 
history professors and experts, USCIS officers, and community-based 
organizations. It also reviewed State and local history standards, 
adult learning standards, citizenship preparation courses, and the 
current government authorized textbooks and other sound civics 

[[Page 75972]]

    Based on this review, USCIS is planning to retain the current U.S. 
history and government test format of asking 10 questions. Applicants 
need to answer six questions correctly to pass. However USCIS intends 
to replace the current trivia-based content of the questions with 
questions that will test applicants on the fundamentals of American 
democracy such as the rule of law, separation of powers, and 
unalienable rights. Making the test more meaningful will encourage 
civic learning and patriotism.
    While redesigning the content of the English test, USCIS considered 
multiple perspectives, including the views of Teachers of English to 
Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), selected English experts 
knowledgeable on adult learning standards (principally the National 
Reporting System (NRS) for adult education), USCIS officers, and 
community-based organizations. After considering these perspectives, 
USCIS intends to continue the current format for English testing. 
Applicants are asked to read a question and write a dictated sentence. 
However, USCIS intends to change the content of the dictation. 
Applicants will no longer be tested on everyday English sentences and 
phrases; under the revised procedures, the content for the reading and 
writing questions will be structured on civics.

Pilot Test

    USCIS plans to conduct a pilot test in 10 randomly selected USCIS 
district and sub-offices, beginning in early 2007. The pilot test will 
be given to approximately 5,000 applicant volunteers. During the pilot, 
all applicants at the 10 selected pilot sites will be asked whether 
they want to participate in the pilot test, which will accompany the 
naturalization interview. If the applicant elects to take the pilot 
test and passes it, the adjudications officer will note in the file 
that the applicant has passed the reading, writing and civics test 
sections, and the current test will not be administered. Failure to 
pass the pilot test will not affect an applicant's eligibility of 
admission to citizenship. If the applicant elects to take the pilot 
test but fails the reading, writing and/or civics test section(s), the 
DAO will, without prejudice, administer the corresponding current test 
section(s) in the same sitting. If the applicant fails a given section 
of the current naturalization test, the applicant will be allowed 
another opportunity within 60-90 days to take the failed section(s) of 
the current test again. USCIS expects the pilot test to take 
approximately 5 minutes to administer to each willing applicant. The 
total length of the pilot test evaluation period is estimated to last 
up to 4 months. USCIS plans to collect and evaluate test administration 
procedures, scoring rules and procedures, and training procedures. This 
information will be gathered through information collected on each 
pilot testing situation, focus groups with DAOs who administer the 
pilot test as well as through observations of applicants taking the 
revised test.
    Once all the information from the pilot test is collected, 
evaluated, and considered, USCIS will finalize a redesigned test. USCIS 
will produce study guides and work with community-based organizations 
to prepare applicants for the redesigned naturalization tests.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Examinations designated to test the aptitude, abilities, or 
knowledge of the person tested, and the collection of information and 
identification or classification in connection with such examinations, 
are not considered information collections under 5 CFR 1320.3(h)(7).

    Dated: November 21, 2006.
Emilio T. Gonzalez,
Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
 [FR Doc. E6-21548 Filed 12-18-06; 8:45 am]