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Do I Have To Take The Citizenship Test in English? | Naturalization Exemptions

Below is a transcript of a podcast we put out on June 9, 2015.  You can subscribe to the US Citizenship and Family Immigration Podcast on Itunes.

"Hello and welcome to the Lee and Garasia podcast on immigration. My name is Paris Lee. I'm an immigration attorney with over 17 years of experience. Immigration is all that I do and hopefully I can tell you something today that you probably already didn't know about the immigration process.

Today, we are going to talk about US Citizenship--in particular, the naturalization test. One of the questions that we often get is: "Can I become a citizen without taking the test?" And the people who ask these questions are normally people whose English is not very good or people who are asking on behalf of their family members or friends whose English may not be very good. The answer is that for most people, they do have to take the test in order to become a naturalized citizen. There is an exception for those who might have a medical disability: they would be exempt from the test but for most people, they do have to take the test. It doesn't depend on how old you are, although I will get into that in a little more detail, but you could be 100 years old, you will still have to take the test. But there are certain exemptions to the naturalization test that USCIS does provide for certain people.

So, you are exempt from the English portion of the test if you are at least 50 years old and you've been a permanent resident for at least 20 years. This is commonly known as the "50/20" exception or alternatively, if you are at least 55 years old and you have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years, you would also be exempt from the English portion of the test. This is called the "55/15" exception. So what this basically means is that if you are at least 55 and you have had the green card for at least 15 years, or like I said, 50 years old and 20 years green card, then you don't have to take the test in English: you can take the test in your native language. If you speak Spanish then you can take the test in Spanish. If you speak in Gujarati, you can take the test in Gujarati, ok but you still do have to take the test.

When I talk about the test, that is the history component of the test whereby the English officer will ask you normally 10 questions out of 100 possible questions and you have to get 6 out of 10 correct, basically 60%. If you are 65 or over and you've had your green card for at least 20 years, then you can take a special consideration test where you only have study 20 questions and the officer will ask the questions from those 20 questions. You need to get 6 out of 10 correct, as in the regular test. So that is what the exemptions are for the English portion of the test. The officer would normally ask the questions in English and the questions would be interpreted through an interpreter either in person or by phone to the applicant who would then answer the question in his or her own native language.

If you have any more questions about immigration or what we've talked about today, please contact us. You can always call our office 732-516-1717, you can also e-mail us, you can find us on the web, our e-mail address is [email protected]. Our web address is and you can also find us on Facebook. Thanks for listening, have a nice day!"

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    • Avvo Rating 10.0 | Superb
    • Client Distinction Award | 2016 Martindale-Hubbell Client Distinction Award
    • New Jersey State Bar Association | Paris Lee Chair - Immigration Section 2015-2016
    • Nationally Recognized | Newsweek Nationwide Showcase | Top Attorneys 2013
    • New Jersey Chapter | American Immigration Lawyers Association | Angie Garasia | Chapter Chair 2015-2016
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190 State Route 27
Edison, NJ 08820

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