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Can you become a citizen if you struggle with English?

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2023 | Citizenship and Naturalization |

Learning a new language is easiest when someone is still young. As you age and mature, the part of your brain that manages your language abilities tends to become rigid and harder to change. In other words, when you are young and your brain is at its most malleable, learning a new language will be easiest. The older you get, the harder it can be to make major changes to your lifestyle and behavior.

Adults can and do learn new languages, but it will require more effort for them than for someone younger. There are many people who live in the United States and function in society but who still struggle with speaking, reading or understanding English. If you are an immigrant, you or a member of your immediate family may have some difficulty with English communication.

Is fluency in English a requirement for citizenship?

Some people are exempt from the English test requirements

Although an English test and an oral test in Civics are part of the naturalization interview, there are exemptions available. There are two different kinds of exemptions possible.

Those who are older and who have been in the country for many years can bypass the English test. Someone over the age of 50 who has lived in the United States 20 years or longer could skip the English language test and even take the Civics test in their preferred language. The same rule also applies to those who are 55 or older and have been in the country for at least 15 years. There are additional options for those who are 65 or older with 20 years of legal residency.

The second exemption applies to those with disabling medical conditions. Some individuals can qualify for an exemption from testing based on a documented, significant health condition. Those who don’t qualify for an exemption may receive special support to help make the test more accessible. Anyone else will typically need to pass both the English and Civics test to become a citizen.

You can prepare for the test

There are study resources available for the naturalization tests. There are also many schools and public organizations that may offer English language courses and Civics classes that can help those preparing for the naturalization interview. You even get to retake the test once if you don’t pass the first time.

Learning more about the naturalization process will benefit those who want to become United States citizens.