The process of becoming a United States citizen involves multiple distinct stages. You typically need to enter the country legally through work or family relationships. Asylum seekers and students can also sometimes qualify to live in the United States.
After entering the country legally, you then live here for multiple years before you can apply for naturalization. The naturalization interview involves both a Civics test that focuses on history and government, as well as an English language test. Some people worry about whether they can pass these tests.
The English language is notoriously difficult for people to learn, especially once they are already adults. Even those who have lived in the United States for years may still struggle to communicate effectively in English. The requirement to write, read, speak and comprehend spoken English can intimidate some people and prevent them from applying for naturalization. Can some adults become citizens without taking the English test?
Long-term residents are sometimes exempt
Those who have lived in the country for years and who otherwise meet the requirements established by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for citizenship can move forward with naturalization proceedings even though they are not fully proficient in English.
Someone over the age of 50 who has lived as a lawful permanent resident in the United States for at least 20 years can potentially exempt themselves from the English language test. Applicants who are 55 years of age or older and who have been lawful permanent residents for 15 years or more could also qualify for citizenship without English language testing.
Finally, those who are over the age of 65 and who have been lawful permanent residents for 25 years or more will not only qualify for an exemption from the English language test, but they may have specialized Civics testing in the language of their choice. Those with medical disabilities may qualify for support or exemption from testing depending on the circumstances.
Special circumstances can be harder to manage
The average immigrant finds USCIS paperwork to be intimidating. Those who need to apply special rules may be even more nervous.
Learning about the rules for naturalization can help you feel more confident and make use of the help available to you as an immigrant.