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Exemptions and accommodations for the naturalization tests

No matter how long ago you obtained your green card status in the United States, you probably still remember the anxiety and frustration of the process. Perhaps you had to remain behind while other family members waited for you in the U.S. Once you received your visa, you may have felt relieved and excited to begin your new life.

If you are preparing to become a naturalized citizen, you can expect similar challenges, and you may fear you will not be able to meet them. However, you may be relieved to know that the government will make certain accommodations for qualified applicants.

The English exemptions

One of the most intimidating parts of the naturalization process for many applicants is the requirement to speak English. Your interview will be in English as will the civics, reading and writing portions of your citizenship test. Despite the years you have lived in this country, you may feel insecure that your grasp of the English language is sufficient to pass the test. You may qualify for an exemption if you meet one of these requirements:

  • You have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 20 years and are 50 years or older.
  • You have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 15 years and are 55 years or older.

If you meet either of these two requirements, you can request an exception for the English portion of the test. Immigration authorities may also permit you to bring an interpreter for the civics part of the exam. The person who acts as your interpreter must be fluent in your native language and in the English language. You may qualify for a simplified version of the civics test if you are 65 or older and have been a permanent resident for 20 years or longer.

Other exceptions

Anyone seeking citizenship who has a physical, mental or developmental impairment that would prevent him or her from successfully completing the civics or English portion of the test can obtain a certified form from a physician testifying to the disability or impairment. If the applicant can complete the naturalization process with reasonable accommodations, such an exception is not necessary. Texas immigration authorities may provide extended testing time, sign language interpreters or other options.

If you feel you need an accommodation for your naturalization test, you will have to submit the appropriate forms in a timely manner. It may help you to have legal assistance to minimize the chances of mistakes that could delay the day of obtaining your citizenship.

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