Naturalization Test Exemptions: Do You Qualify?

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What You Need To Know About the Naturalization Test

The naturalization procedure entails a two-part exam that US citizenship applicants must pass. Both English and civics tests are typically required to become a US citizen.

The civics test assesses a candidate’s geographic, historical, and political understanding of the US. On the other hand, the English test aims to assess a candidate’s proficiency in the language. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides the guidelines for interested applicants and any exemptions.

Understanding if you are eligible for exemptions and how to apply for them can be confusing. Applicants may need an experienced immigration lawyer to guide them through the naturalization process. At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we offer crucial information and support during naturalization.

Read on to learn more about naturalization test exemptions and if you qualify.


Understanding Naturalization Test Exemptions

Seeking accommodations for the citizenship test or interview differs from requesting an exemption from the test’s civics or English requirements. An accommodation only changes how an applicant fulfills the requirements.

For example, some applicants can take the civics test in their native language. However, it does not excuse them from other qualifications. If necessary and applicable, an applicant may request accommodations and exceptions.

Depending on your age and resident status, you may be eligible for an exemption from the English proficiency test. In addition, those with disabilities or conditions who qualify for naturalization may be exempted from taking the English and civics test. Applicants only need to submit certain documents to receive an exemption in these cases. All in all, these allow equal access to US citizenship.

Who Qualifies for Naturalization Test Exemptions?

Accommodations and exemptions during the naturalization process are available to many categories of applications. These include:

  • English language exemption: Applicants may be exempt from the language portion of the naturalization test if they are:

    • A permanent resident for at least 20 years and 50 years of age or older

    • A permanent resident for at least 15 years and 55 years of age or older

  • Medical disability exemption: Individuals with disabilities or medical conditions may be eligible for an exception to taking either or both of the test’s civics and English portions.

  • Disability accommodations: Accommodations may also be allowed if applicants have physical or mental conditions that make finishing the naturalization process more difficult.

  • Other exemptions: There are other exemptions for applicants who have served in the US military or spouses of deceased service members. These individuals may be eligible for an exception to taking certain portions of the naturalization test.

Before deciding if you qualify for any exemptions or accommodations, consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. They can help you understand the eligibility requirements and assist you with the necessary documents for your application.


Legal Basis for Naturalization Test Exemptions


According to the USCIS policy manual’s Part E – English and Civics Testing and Exceptions within Chapter 2 – English and Civics Testing, the following are the legal bases for naturalization test exemptions.

Age and Residency Exemptions (English)

Applicants may be exempt from the English portion of the naturalization test if they meet certain age and residency requirements. This exemption is sometimes called the 50/20 and 55/15 rule. Citizenship applicants can be exempt from the language portion if:

  • The candidate has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least 20 years and is 50 years of age or older at the time of applying for naturalization.

  • The candidate has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least 15 years and is 55 years of age or older at the time of applying for naturalization.

Applicants must still fulfill the civics requirement even if they are excused from the English language requirement. The candidate may hire an interpreter to take the civics exam in their native or chosen language.

Special Consideration (Civics)

A candidate who is 65 years of age or older and has been a lawful permanent resident of the US for at least 20 years can receive special consideration for the civics test. Special exam forms are given to applicants who meet the requirements for special consideration.

Disability or Medical Exemptions (English, Civics, or Both)

A candidate may be excused from taking the civics or English tests due to physical or mental disabilities.

It would be wise to see an attorney if your case does not neatly fit into one of these categories. Having competent legal counsel will guarantee a smooth citizenship application process. It will also assist you in getting the support you require to move forward with getting exemptions.

The Application Process for a Naturalization Test Exemption

Some exemptions are automatic, like that of age and residency. However, for naturalization test exemptions and accommodations due to disability or medical conditions, applicants will need to take additional steps.

The candidate must include Form N-648 or list their needs on Form N-400 to request an exception. This is for either the civics or English sections or both.

Form N-648 is also known as a Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form is essentially a “disability waiver” and must be filled out by a licensed clinical psychologist or medical or osteopathic doctor.

If an applicant submits multiple Form N-648s during the process, an officer may review any inconsistencies between them. Nevertheless, the assigned officer should allow the applicant to clarify any inconsistencies.

Common Challenges to Obtaining Naturalization Test Exemptions

Getting an exemption from the mandatory naturalization test presents numerous challenges for applicants. Complex scenarios can make things harder for you.

For example, an applicant may have unclear medical conditions that may be harder to prove or justify an exemption. Or they may need more information regarding the process. This may lead to an applicant missing steps that could hinder their request for an exemption in the naturalization test.

Pretending to be a US citizen when you are not might also create issues during the procedure. It is possible to make false claims to US citizenship knowingly or unknowingly. This may impede not just your request for an exemption but also the whole naturalization process itself. 

To avoid jeopardizing your immigration status, seek legal or professional help with the immigration and naturalization process as soon as possible. If you have questions or encounter challenges to your naturalization test exemption or accommodation requests, you can also utilize FOIA requests in your application.


How Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law Can Help You With the Naturalization Process


The citizenship process can be time-consuming. It involves a lot of commitment, labor, and legal support. During naturalization, applicants sometimes realize they need specific accommodations or exemptions but are unsure how to obtain them successfully.

Applicants who need assistance navigating immigration law and understanding their rights should seek legal representation. Immigration lawyers use their experience and knowledge to help applicants through critical steps. Additionally, seasoned immigration attorneys know common pitfalls and strategies to overcome them.

At Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, we take an individualized approach to our clients’ situations. We have assisted numerous applicants and remain committed to offering skillful, informed, and professional legal assistance and representation. Contact us today for a consultation!