Becoming a citizen of the United States requires that you undergo the naturalization process. You usually have to live in the United States as a permanent resident or green card holder first. One of the final steps in naturalization involves taking two tests administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There are two major areas covered in these tests. One is Civics, and the other is the English language. The testing process requires that people be able to read and write in English, as well as the ability to answer questions in English. Unfortunately, English is a hard language to learn, and the ability to learn a new language diminishes as a person gets older.
Worries about the naturalization test could stop long-term residents from seeking citizenship. Thankfully, there are some exceptions available for those who want to naturalize but worry about the test requirements.
Older, long-term residents are sometimes exempt
If an applicant is at least 50 years old when they apply for naturalization and have had a Green Card for 20 years or more, you can potentially avoid the English language test. The same is true for anyone aged 55 or older when they apply for naturalization who has had a green card for 15 years or longer.
Some people call these the 50/20 and 55/15 exceptions. Anyone who qualifies for one of these exceptions will still have to take the Civics test but can skip taking the English language test.
Those with physical disabilities may be able to avoid testing
It can be hard to administer a test fairly to someone who has developed mental or physical disabilities. Learning a second language could also be prohibitively difficult for deaf and blind individuals. Some individuals with disabilities may be able to avoid taking both of the tests in some cases. Other times, they can ask for modifications and accommodations that help them take the test.
Most other permanent residents wanting to naturalize will need to prepare for and pass the tests required by the USCIS. Those who have to take the naturalization tests and those who qualify for an exemption may need support while applying for naturalization. Assistance with your paperwork and information about your legal rights can improve your chances of successfully becoming a United States citizen.