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23 May 2016

USCIS Awarded for Clear, User-Friendly Web Content

By Kathryn Catania, chief, Plain Language and Content Division, Office of Communications, USCIS

Immigration law can be complex.  That’s why we are working hard to make the world’s biggest immigration system easier to understand.  And step by step we’re making progress. In fact, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just won our first ClearMark Award from the Center for Plain Language -- for our online naturalization resources.  We shared the award with contractors from 18F. The three judges commented: “It is particularly nice that a government agency takes this initiative and shows that it really is possible to have clear writing, contemporary design, and a very thorough approach to user-involvement in the processes.”

Additionally, USCIS’ redesigned International Immigration Offices web pages received an Award of Distinction in the category of before-and-after, long. It was the only finalist from a government agency in that category. 

For the past nine years, the USCIS Plain Language Program has grown and we have made tremendous strides improving how we communicate with our diverse customers and stakeholders. Many of the people looking for information on our website speak English as a second or third language. By using active voice, headings and common words, defining jargon and abbreviations and keeping the main message up front, we make it easier for our customers to find, understand and use the information we provide. Whether it’s a letter to a specific customer, form instructions or information on uscis.gov, our goal is to improve the experience of the reader through clear and accurate writing and user-focused design.

Winning a ClearMark is a great addition to existing kudos for the Department of Homeland Security. DHS has an A+ for compliance with the Plain Writing Act of 2010 in the Center for Plain Language’s current Federal Plain Language Report Card.

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