For many people, September conjures up happy memories of heading back to school, new backpack and supplies in tow. For new and aspiring citizens, September has additional significance: It’s when the federal government celebrates Constitution Week, a weeklong observance commemorating the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
From a form-based process to a person-based one
The process of applying for citizenship can be complicated and intimidating. Even a small mistake can result in lost fees or denied citizenship.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) wanted to make the naturalization process more human focused and efficient, so they brought on 18F to help design the resources and forms that guide people through that process.
Using pain points as our starting point
We began by talking to dozens of people who had gone through the naturalization process. We also listened to USCIS customer service center calls, interviewed staff, and visited immigration offices to get a clearer picture of employees’ experiences and obstacles.
Using this data, we helped USCIS radically improve their customer experience by creating resources that allow users to quickly find the information they’re looking for — and save USCIS employees time and money by reducing the administrative burden of processing applications:
- Updates to the Application for Naturalization form (or N-400) make the form easier to follow and describe complex concepts in plain language.
- USCIS customers can enter their immigration status into a new benefit-finding tool to see programs and resources they’re eligible for, along with how to apply.
- Citizenship seekers can log into the improved account system to see their notices and appointments in a single location.
- We released plain-language Constitution Week content letting folks know what to expect from the naturalization process.
- We helped improve the Civics Test study guides, which now use plain language, include more and higher quality images, and feature audio recordings of the questions.
- An English or citizenship prep class locator allows customers to find community-based English as a Second Language (ESL) resources like ESL classes and study groups near them.
Our work on the myUSCIS site has received two awards: one from USCIS and one from the Center for Plain Language.
Related blog posts
Since November, I’ve been working with a team from 18F and USCIS to develop my.uscis.gov, a customer-facing site to help users navigate their relationship with the agency. USCIS approached 18F about the partnership because they wanted to improve the experience for millions of users like my husband and me.