Becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization typically requires that an immigrant take and pass a set of tests. However, an immigrant who applies for naturalization can skip the English portion of the U.S. citizenship test under certain circumstances.
You must meet specific requirements to be eligible for an English test exemption. Depending on your age and the amount of time you’ve spent in the U.S., you may qualify. However, even if you are allowed to bypass the English test, you will most likely be required to take the civics portion of the exam.
Why Does the U.S. Require an English Test?
Immigration law requires both an English and civics test for all those requesting to become citizens of the United States. English is the official language of the United States. All the documents you need to interact with the government are in English, as is all business.
Thus, United States officials want to see if you can read, write, and understand English to function in the country as a full citizen and perform responsibilities like jury duty. However, certain exceptions could let you skip the English test during naturalization.
The Requirements for Skipping the English Test
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides exceptions and accommodations for naturalization requirements. The USCIS states you may skip the English portion of the test if:
- You are at least 50 years old at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a green card holder in the United States for at least 20 years. This exception is commonly known as the 50/20 exemption.
- You are at least 55 years old when you filed for naturalization and have lived as a green card holder in the United States for at least 15 years. This is known as the 55/15 exemption.
There is also an exemption to the English test if you have a disability, either physical or mental, that prevents you from taking it. However, your doctor will need to fill out Form N-648, available through FileRight.com’s Immigration Solutions page, to vouch for your disability.
Accommodations for Disabilities
Form N-648 is meant for people completely unable to take the English test because of a physical or mental disability. However, you may be capable of handling the examination with appropriate adaptations for your needs, which you can describe in a special section on Form N-400.
When you make the USCIS aware of your needs prior to the interview, they can provide testing accommodations like:
- Giving you extra time to complete the test or allowing for additional breaks during the administration of the exam
- Supplying as a sign language interpreter or other assistance if you are deaf or hard of hearing
- Allowing family members in the exam room to provide emotional support and signature assistance
- Accepting nonverbal answers if you do not use speech to communicate
- Administering the exam at a different location if you cannot appear at the local field office because of your disability
Will I Still Need to Take the Civics Test?
Even if you are exempt from the English test, you must still take the civics portion of the citizenship test unless your disability makes you unable to do so.
You will have the option to take the civics portion of the test in your native language. In that case, however, you will be required to bring an interpreter with you who is fluent in both English and your native language. Unfortunately, the USCIS will not provide an interpreter for you.
Also, if you are 65 years old or older and have lived in the United States as a green card holder for 20 years, you will be given special consideration concerning the civics requirement. For example, the USCIS will choose your civics questions from a smaller list of 20, which you can study ahead of time.
Apply for Naturalization With FileRight
FileRight.com simplifies the naturalization process by checking your application for common errors and offering a chance to speak to an immigration lawyer about your petition.
Answer a few straightforward questions, and our software automatically puts the information into your Form N-400, U.S. citizenship application. We take the guesswork out of your naturalization process.
Get started right away by taking the U.S. Citizenship Qualification Quiz to see if you are eligible.