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Changes in U.S. Citizenship / Naturalization Requirements

In this video, Cathy Yorio outlines the changes in the test to become a U.S. citizen beginning in October 2008.

She begins with a fill-in-the-blanks sample test checking knowledge of U.S. history. For example, "Who was the first president to visit a foreign country while in office?" (Theodore Roosevelt)

Changes in the test are coming in the next year or two as follows:

  • Apply before October 1, 2008 and scheduled before October 1, 2008 – current test
  • Apply before October 1, 2008 and scheduled after October 1, 2008 – can choose to take old or new test
  • Apply after October 1, 2008 – must take new test
  • Scheduled after October 1, 2009 – must take new test

Go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services web site (USCIS) for more information. Click on “Learn about Citizenship,” “Naturalization Information,” and “The Redesigned Test.”

New fee for N-400:

  • $595 plus $80 for biometrics
  • 75 years and older, no biometrics fee
  • Military applicants, no fee

Changes in the test include:

Civics Test

  • Must answer 6 of 10 questions asked
  • Questions stress “big ideas” not trivia
  • Revisions aim: Americans who know about democracy, not just the colors of the flag; help applicants learn more about their rights and responsibilities
  • New questions on geography; requested by teachers to give context to historical events
    • Example: Name one U.S. territory.

English Test

  • Speaking
    • No changes
  • Reading
    • Applicants will have up to 3 chances to read a sentence in English.
  • Writing
    • Applicants will have up to 3 chances to write a dictated sentence.

USCIS has released new vocabulary lists for both the reading and writing tests containing all words found in the new tests. The content items will focus on civics and history topics.

New study materials will be available in early 2008.

The USCIS analyzed the new questions using the following criteria:

  • Does the item involve critical thinking about the government and history?
  • Does the item offer an inferred or implicit concept of government, history or other areas?
  • Does the item provide a geographical context for historical or current events?
  • Does the item help the applicant utilize the system? Is it useful in their daily lives?
  • Does the item help the applicant better understand and relate to our shared history?

Questions were also analyzed for linguistic characteristics: questions are appropriate for someone at a high beginning level of English.

Cathy gives examples of revised questions on the USCIS pilot test. For example, "What is the 'rule of law'?"

She left a U.S. government CD for the LVR library. The contents are also available in the "materials" sidebar on this page.

Finally, the presenter gave some sample practice exercises including a quiz about George Washington and a "Jeopardy" game.

This presentation was part of the Fall 2007 Conference PDF held October 20, 2007 at the Literacy Volunteers of Rochester office.

About the Presenter

Cathy Yorio has been with the Family Learning Center Portable Document Format, part of the Rochester NY City School District, since 1981. She’s an instructor in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Adult Basic Education.

Her first love is ESOL. Her early interest in the subject was awakened on her grandparents' farm near Frenchville, Pennsylvania. The spoken language in the village was French.

For the last 15 years, she’s presented various topics at the National Convention for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Two years ago, Cathy started teaching a course to prepare people for the test to become a U.S. citizen – also at Family Learning Center. In preparation, she took the test herself.

If there are two types of people, cat people and dog people, Cathy is a dog person. She has two West Highland White Terriers named Angus and Hopper.

You may contact the speaker via .

Other Credits

Deanna and Jim Tiefenthal operated the video cameras and sound board. Jim, an LVR volunteer for about 10 years, introduced the speaker, did the video editing, and transferred the program to the web.

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